SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Drive by and you can't miss it: a sign of hope for children in Seminole County.
"Kids House is a nonprofit children’s advocacy center house where we work with children that have been victims of abuse," explains Juliette Kong, CEO of Kids House Seminole County.
The mission: to help children who are victims of abuse with all the services they need in a child-friendly, non -threatening environment. Just walk inside these doors and you'll feel it. It's a warm, inviting, and safe place -- even a pooch lending a helping paw -- something many kids who come here hadn't felt in their young lives.
"The main thing is to protect that child, to keep that child safe, and to make sure that child is in the process of healing," Kong added.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and Kids House is teaming up with Wayne Densch Children's Advocacy Center and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office to combat child abuse, especially during the pandemic.
"I think it is no surprise that, as an unintended consequence of COVID-19, we've seen domestic violence and child abuse rise across the country," says Sheriff Dennis Lemma. "Although our reports show a decrease, that decrease comes as a result of not coming in contact with those mandatory reporters -- largely when it comes to children, those school teachers who would normally see a child and ask questions."
Kong says child abuse is the leading cause of death among children under the age of four years old -- something she adds is an unacceptable statistic with unacceptable consequences.
A garden at Kids House is called Faith's Garden, which was built in 2014 to honor the life of a three-year-old girl named Faith, who died of abuse. It’s a peaceful place filled with pinwheels to reflect on those who continue to suffer.
"We are the sign of hope. That's what Kids house is about. When you see that sign we want that child to know this is a new beginning.
If you'd like to make a donation to Kids House Seminole County or find out more about their services, you can go to their website KidsHouse.org.