She began her career at Kids House right out of college. Two decades later, she takes the helm. Meet the new CEO of Kids House, Juliette Kong.
There’s new leadership and new energy at Kids House of Seminole, the Wayne Densch Children’s Advocacy Center located off Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Sanford. But the dedicated staff there didn’t have to learn a new name or adjust to an unfamiliar face. More importantly, neither did the children Kids House serves. In fact, the center’s new CEO is one of the most-recognizable, well-respected, and long-tenured child advocates in Seminole County – 19-year Kids House veteran Juliette Kong. She was unanimously voted into the CEO position by the Kids House board of directors in June.
“I know I speak on behalf of our entire board when I say we are incredibly grateful for Juliette’s dedication and contribution to Kids House over the last 19 years,” says Kim Strong, chair of the Kids House board. “Her passion for this organization is evident in her daily interactions with our clients and their families. With a unanimous vote, we named her the new chief executive officer and couldn’t be more excited for the organization’s future with her at the helm.”
Child abuse is the leading cause of death in children under age four, and Seminole County Child Protective Services receives approximately 4,000 reports of suspected child abuse each year. In collaboration with local partners, Kids House helps these children find healing and hope.
Juliette is thankful for the opportunity to serve as CEO of a place that has become home to her, and she brings a wealth of experience across a number of different Kids House departments.
“I am really honored to serve the community by being at the helm of Kids House,” Juliette says.
Her dedication to children’s advocacy began in 2001 when Juliette accepted a position at Kids House as a new college graduate.
“During my undergrad studies, I interned at Healthy Start, a free program that provides education and case management to women and children,” says Juliette. “That internship sparked my passion to advocate for children.”
A young, blue-eyed victim of sexual abuse lit the fire in Juliette’s heart that still burns today.
“When I first started at Kids House, there was this little girl who was severely abused by her mother’s boyfriend,” Juliette recalls. “When she first came to Kids House, she would not speak or make eye contact at all. To see that in a child under the age of five, it absolutely breaks your heart.”
But after a few sessions with a Kids House therapist, there was a major change in the child’s demeanor and a new light in her eyes.
“That changed me inside,” says Juliette. “That hope is what drove me and has kept me here at Kids House.”
With a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice, as well as an MBA, Juliette is well-equipped to serve Seminole County’s children. As a child advocate, she helped create the advocacy program at Kids House from its grassroots.
“Being a part of that was amazing,” Juliette says. “I was able to learn about different partnerships and figure out how to best serve our communities and our kids.”
As a case tracking coordinator, Juliette implemented the tracking system for the agency that is still in place today. As the quality assurance director, she oversaw the organization’s grants and contracts. Then, as the family connections director at Kids House, she collaborated with other child welfare agencies like Embrace Families.
When Juliette rose to become the agency’s associate executive director, she oversaw the four core programs at Kids House: the medical program, child protection team, child advocacy, and mental health. The role also allowed her to work closely with the Kids House board of directors.
“All of those roles led me to being the CEO of Kids House,” says Juliette, “and I appreciate the opportunity.”
As the new CEO, her goal is to continue collaborating with the organization’s many partners, including law enforcement, medical providers, mental-health providers, Seminole County Public Schools personnel, and those involved with the Guardian ad Litem program who advocate for children in the court system.
“We want to expand our brand awareness by working with our community partners,” says Juliette.
That means continuing to educate the public via social media about the many resources Kids House provides. It also means getting creative with fundraising events, because children need support more than ever during the current climate.
“We’re trying to use the social-media platform as much as possible to get prevention material out to parents,” Juliette explains. “We understand this is a really stressful time and we want to help.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, kids and parents are both isolated and anxious. Sadly, Juliette says, that often festers into an environment of abuse.
Another cornerstone of Juliette’s mission is to make sure the public is equipped to report abuse.
“Our most important connection to the community is the abuse hotline: 1-800-ABUSE,” she explains. “That number is the most useful when it comes to reporting. Even though we are somewhat isolated, if you see something, you still have that ability to call in a report.”
Modern challenges require flexibility at Kids House. Coronavirus procedures mean irregular staff schedules and extra safety measures for kids, families, and team members. In such uncertain times, having a familiar leader at the helm promotes stability, continuity, and the most valuable commodity of all at Kids House: hope for the children of Seminole County.
“That’s why we’re here,” says Juliette. “That’s what I lean back on throughout my years here at Kids House.”
To learn more about Kids House, visit KidsHouse.org.
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