Story by Courtney Murray, Photos provided by Gulf Coast Kid’s House
Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving over 6.6 million children. This statistic is staggering. One incredible organization located in Pensacola, Florida is doing everything in their power to lower this number to zero. Every child deserves a home filled with love, comfort, support and safety and Gulf Coast Kid’s House strives to provide every child with this. Gulf Coast Kid’s House is a children’s advocacy center serving Escambia County. They are unique in that they provide all of the professionals and resources needed for the intervention, investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases under one child-friendly facility.
Executive Director, Stacey Kostevicki is passionate about their mission saying, “Our goal is to form a more collaborative response to child abuse cases so that we can improve case outcomes and minimize trauma to the children and families we serve.” Working for this incredible cause is life changing. Stacey began her journey with Gulf Coast Kid’s House back in 2006 assisting with marketing and has been an integral part of the organization ever since. They work towards addressing many of the underlying issues as well by providing child victims and their families with mental health counseling at the center. The mission of Gulf Coast Kid’s House is also a mission of the community. They were created out of a community effort to handle child abuse cases more effectively.
Today they are still heavily supported by the community and in turn, support the local community through child abuse prevention efforts provided free to children and adults. Helping these deserving children takes a village and GCKH relies heavily on community support. There are many ways to contribute, from monetary donations or providing new and gently used clothing items for their children’s closet, to volunteering throughout the year to help with their prevention programs and fundraising events. Stacey Kostevicki works at the heart of the organization, “The most rewarding part of this job is supporting everyone working within Gulf Coast Kid’s House,” she described. “They really have the hard jobs – I like to call myself a cheerleader and advocate for the people that do the hard work.” For additional information visit www.gulfcoastkidshouse.org or call (850) 595-5783.
VIP Destin Magazine: What have been some obstacles you’ve faced as an organization and some of your triumphs so far?
Stacey Kostevicki: We have been fortunate that a lot of our obstacles have turned into triumphs. Originally, we only served children age 0-12, but we saw that as an opportunity and worked with the multidisciplinary team at GCKH to grow that age to 0-18. I think we face the same obstacles as many area not-for-profits in that we operate on a lean budget, where every dollar that can go to Programs does. Funding is a never ending obstacle, but we have a dedicated Board of Directors committed to turning that into a triumph every year!
Stacey Kostevicki: I think our biggest moment programmatically is that in January 2017, we became the contract holders for the Child Protection Team (CPT) in the Region (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties). CPT program is a medically directed, multidisciplinary program that works with local Sheriff’s offices and the Department of Children and Family Services in cases of child abuse and neglect to supplement investigation activities. We have worked with this team for years and it’s exciting to be able to contribute directly to their growth and development.
Stacey Kostevicki: We just hosted our 2nd annual Brunch and Bubbles at Portofino Island Resort and it was a huge success! We are going to enjoy a small fundraising lull this summer before we turn our attention toward the Northeast Sertoma Dragonboat Races. They will happen at Bayview Park on September 9 this year and it is always a great day at the park and on the water!
Stacey Kostevicki: We had a big growth year in our operations. Our future focus is on child abuse prevention. The numbers keep getting bigger – so we know our prevention efforts are working…we are getting more reports. We want to educate every child in our community about staying safe and we want to educate the adults about keeping kids safe and knowing how to report abuse if its suspected.
Stacey Kostevicki: Every year we do a Breaking the Silence luncheon, which features one of our families who has been through Gulf Coast Kid’s House. Working with these families is the most touching part of my job each year. I am always astounded at their willingness to share such a painful part of their history. They all say the same thing – that they are proud to share their story and that the hope it helps others. It is the truest form of renewal that I’ve seen.