Children’s Advocacy Center in Naples still recovering from Ian

Reporter: Michelle Alvarez Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County says an increasing number of children need its help, but the center needed some help of its own when Hurricane Ian came just after extensive renovations were completed.

“Immediately, we had to relocate,” said Jackie Stephens, CEO of the center.

Six months ago, Ian’s storm surge flooded the Children’s Advocacy Center at 1036 6th Ave. N. in Naples. Stephens says workers are close to moving into a rental space.

“We’re hoping to have a rental unit that’s about half the size of where we are now, unfortunately, so that’s going to be kind of cramped,” Stephens said. “We’re gonna have to be creative.”

The center supports children who have been sexually and physically abused. Workers will require a place for therapy, forensic interviews and family safety visitations.

Employees are currently working from offices elsewhere, causing them to have to cancel some of their programs.

“I have some staff doing therapy out of the United Way offices; I have project helpers [who] stepped up, and they’re helping us as well, you know, to provide our medical exams for abused children,” Stephens said. “And the [Collier County] Sheriff’s Department, we’ve been doing a lot of our work from their offices as well.”

The surge wiped out everything from furnishings and forensic equipment to stuffed animals and hand-stitched quilts. Stephens says they’re moving forward, but it’s been very slow going.

“It’s very frustrating that it does take as long as it has,” Stephens said. “I feel like I wish I had a magic wand, and I could have fixed all of this. But there are so many reasons that it’s just… it’s complicated, and it’s just taken a long time for the recovery.”

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