Thanks to Impact 100 ECCAC Brings Child Safety Matters Programs to Okaloosa and Walton Counties

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July 13, 2018
ECCAC brings much needed Child Safety Matters programs to
Okaloosa and Walton Counties thanks to Impact 100
 
...Except for Okaloosa, Walton and one other county, did you know that every county in Florida has the impressive Child Safety Matters prevention programs in place for child protection and advocacy via the Monique Burr Foundation for Children. But, thanks to the ladies of Impact 100 and their grant of $102,000 to the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC), Child Safety Matters programs are now actively in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Research shows that 95% of abuse of children is preventable through education.
 
ECCAC COO Jennifer Clark spearheaded the project by going through a formal training program in Orlando and starting Child Safety Matters in Okaloosa County grades K through grade 5 last November. She then trained Danielle Jacka who was hired by ECCAC to become the program’s Community Outreach Advocate. Raised in Niceville, Danielle is a local with an extensive education and background working with children in challenging situations. She earned her degree from UWF with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice; was a Guardian Ad Litem; worked with the Department of Children & Families (DCF) as a Child Protective Investigator for several years; and joined ECCAC this past January.
 
Children participating in Child Safety Matters are given two lessons in child safety and prevention. The premise is the more one talks to a child, the more they will remember this important information and be empowered to use what they have learned to stay safe. The premises of the two-lesson program taught are five safety lessons to include…1. To Know What’s Up; 2. Spot Red Flags; 3. Make A Move; 4. Talk It Up; and 5. No Blame, No Shame.
 
According to Danielle, “By a safe adult talking to kids about these sensitive subjects, the kids engage and it gets them to be more aware and talking, which is a good thing. Fairly frequently, children have actually come up to us after a lesson and shared their negative experience of a family member, relative or other persons violating them. Then we can help them. In effect, we’re giving children permission to tell.”
 
To date, just since last November in nine Okaloosa elementary schools, impressive things have happened with the implementation of the Child Safety Matters program making its impact. Just over 3,000 K – 5 students and 7,000 teachers and guidance counselors have gone through the program.
 
As well, ECCAC has been doing Mandated Reporter Training classes for Okaloosa and Walton County EMS and Department of Health staff. Many do not realize it is the law in Florida that if any person 18 and older knows or suspects a child is being abused, they are required to report it to authorities. As a result, there has already been an exponential increase in mandated reporters coming forth with reported incidents.
 
“ECCAC has just touched the surface,” commented ECCAC CEO Julie Hurst-Porterfield. “We have been expanding our Child Safety Matters programs in Okaloosa and Walton counties, as well as introducing a Teen Safety program next year for 6th through 8th graders. Prevention is key – if we can educate the kids and prevent child abuse, abandonment and neglect, then we have truly made a positive difference in their lives. We anticipate reaching 30,000+ children and teens in K-8 in 2019.”

ECCAC’s mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect, protect children in Okaloosa and Walton Counties and restore the lives and futures of these impacted children. Their child-friendly centers house a multidisciplinary team of child protection personnel, prosecutors, law enforcement, DCF, therapists, ECCAC staff and volunteers. The 501-C-3 non-profit organization has provided services to over 11,000 children in the past 17 years.
 
In order to keep Child Safety Matters in place, ECCAC is seeking additional funding and is offering numerous sponsorship levels to companies and individuals. Contact Julie Hurst-Porterfield at julie@eccac.org, or call her at 850-974-8668
for more information.
 
For further information, visit www.eccac.org. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.