For victims of child abuse, the nightmare isn’t over once the authorities are called. Interviews, testimonies, and relocation cause the children to relive their abuse and experience its effects over and over again. It’s a difficult road, and one local charity aims to make it easier.
Gulf Coast Kid's House is a child advocacy center that combines all the professionals and resources needed for the intervention, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases into one kid-friendly facility. Children and their families can receive mental health counseling, talk to child protective services, law enforcement, legal counsel, and medical and mental health professionals.
Executive Director Stacey Kostevicki says the old way of handling abuse cases was too hard on the victims. “Kids were traumatized by the investigation,” she says. “They had to have interviews all over the county to retell their abuse to different authorities. If they were in the hospital, they had to have a bedside interview. We wanted to combine all the right people in one building.”
They provide recorded interviews so children only have to tell their abuse story once, and they advocate for children testifying by closed-circuit TV instead of the courtroom. They also provide medical screenings.
Stacey found her passion for nonprofit work when a college assignment at Florida State required her to do volunteer work. “I spent time at a grief and loss counseling center in Tallahassee called Lee’s Place,” she says. “I just fell in love with the work. I realized how much I wanted to serve people and how many opportunities there are to do that.” She received her Masters of Business while working in the private center and has been GCKH’s executive director since 2010.
The House holds monthly child abuse prevention classes that teach people how to recognize and report abuse. Stacey says they also do custom educational presentations “anywhere, anytime.” To get more involved, you may volunteer (background checks are required) or donate cash, children’s clothing, or toiletries.
“Asking your child to clean out their closet is a great way for parents to get their kids involved early,” Stacey says.
To learn more about ways to get help, visit GulfCoastKidsHouse.org or find them on Facebook. Note: To report a case of child abuse, call The Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE