Over 3,800 reports of child abuse are made each year in Sarasota and DeSoto counties. Danielle Hughes and the Child Protection Center stand for the children’s right to be heard.
Danielle is the Team Coordinator for the Child Protection Team (CPT), a program at the Child Protection Center (CPC) working in partnership with DCF and law enforcement in cases of children who are suspected victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. CPT provides services such as forensic interviews, medical assessments and court testimony, and is the only provider authorized by the state to perform these functions in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
In the aftermath of abuse, children don’t know who to trust or who will stand up for them. CPT helps children find their voice and tell their story. “I’m a safe place for little voices,” Danielle says. She and the team listen, believe, and support these vulnerable children. When a child discloses their abuse, they begin the healing journey by taking their story out of the dark and shedding light onto it. Their voice becomes powerful as they start to heal when they feel heard.
To provide comfort and emotional support to the little survivors, Danielle created a pet therapy program— PAWS. Danielle’s own dog, Harley Duke, inspired her to create PAWS to benefit children in the traumatic and stressful situations faced after child abuse. The dogs comfort children as they testify against their abusers in court, during therapy, and during supervised visitations.
Danielle and the PAWS Program have given a voice to those who need it the most.
- CPT is a legislatively mandated program and is available 24/7 to provide emergency intervention services. From July 2020-June 2021, the team provided a total of 1,204 assessment services.
- CPT was established in 1980 and was the very first program at the Child Protection Center. Pet Advocates Working in the Suncoast (PAWS) has been providing emotional support to children for over 11 years.
- Danielle was named “Child Advocate of the Year” in 2020 by the Child Protection Center. She is the first CPC employee to receive the honor of this award.
- Danielle additionally serves as a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team (CIRRT) Member, Child Death Review Member, Member of the Department of Health’s Quality Assurance Team as well as their Child Forensic Interview Advisory Committee.
- A child is abused every 16 minutes in the state of Florida. If you see something, if you hear something, if you suspect something— report it. 1 (800) 962-2873
Child Protection Center
720 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236