“I never thought I’d be in this line of work,” said Adam Rosenberg.
The work? It’s tough and emotionally grueling. As the Executive Director of Baltimore Child Abuse Center (BCAC), Adam is charged with protecting and helping to heal the city’s most vulnerable: children who are victims of abuse. A real-life superhero, if you will.
Adam started his career in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office, prosecuting sex offenders. According to him, it was ‘honestly transformative’ — using the law to protect people from the worst thing they could encounter. During that time, he frequently worked with BCAC when meeting victims and their families, and was impressed with the organization. So when Adam decided to leave State’s Attorney’s office, he left a door open at BCAC, asking them to keep him in mind if the Executive Director position every became available.
Four years later it did.
You might wonder how Adam, a dad himself, goes into the office day after day and deals with the very raw experiences of child sexual abuse, violence, exploitation, and trafficking. Surprisingly isn’t nerves of steel that brace him for the stories he hears. It isn’t the Doppio Macchiato with two shots of espresso in a Rocket City mug, either.
It’s laughter, smiles, and loud Disney sing-a-longs.
“Baltimore Child Abuse Center is not a scary place,” said Adam. “It’s kind of amazing. What keeps me going is the joy I hear when kids come in.” And while listening to “Let It Go” for the 1,000th time may grate the nerves of parents everywhere, Adam loves hearing kids belt it out in the center’s brightly colored play space.
“We know that we are doing great work,” said Adam.
Under his leadership — and in concert with his amazing team — BCAC launched the country’s first 24-hour forensic interview program. What does that mean? Within two hours of alleged abuse being reported, a child undergoes an interview with BCAC. That window is critical for three reasons: 1) 60% of abuse is reported after ‘normal’ business hours; 2) in 90% of cases, abuse is being done by someone the child knows, so it’s important that the abuser not have influence over the child before the interview is conducted; and 3) when children are ready to talk, they are ready to talk.
Because BCAC conducts the interview, a child doesn’t have to repeat the process with several agencies. BCAC coordinates with those agencies on behalf of the child, reducing trauma and stress as much as humanly possible.
“The whole emergency system was designed around the professionals and their schedules,” said Adam. “We redesigned the system so it was focused on the child.” He added that under the old model, it could be days before a child was seen or an interviewer had an opening. BCAC’s 24-hour model allows the organization to protect children as quickly as possible. That means his team of forensic interviewers (who are all licensed social workers) stopped working a regular ‘9-5’ from the moment the system was implemented. Their commitment to Baltimore’s kids? Unparalleled.
When he first started at BCAC, the organization was focused on helping victims of sexual abuse. But after the implementation of the 24-hour model, the organization started to expand vertically and horizontally.
“We realized that children who are exposed to violence, that impact on them is as great as if they were victims of abuse. Our interviewing model could be applied to that situation. We then realized that kids need services beyond counseling to get them back to well. Whether that’s 2 months or 2 years or however long it takes,” said Adam.
The organization doesn’t just aim to protect and heal. BCAC is a tireless advocate for abuse prevention, actively working to change the mindset that just because your child — gratefully — is not a victim of abuse, child abuse is something that ‘only affects other people.’
“We’re not bowling alone,’ said Adam. “Preventing child abuse has everything to do with you and your family. We should all be so lucky that our children grow up trauma free, but the odds are that they will interact with others and they may encounter others who have been victims of abuse. Kids and adults need to know what to do.”
BCAC works with youth servicing organizations (think schools, camps, scouts) to help them create a blueprint for child protection by auditing their policies and instituting new policies that promote a culture of protection. Parents play a key role in that culture.
It’s not all work all the time for Adam. He loves kicking back with his wife and kids. He freely admits that although they may aspire to go outside, they usually end up piled on the couch watching Star Wars or making dinner together while listening to music. What’s playing? A healthy dose of 80s indie college rock, John Coltrane, REM, and Buena Vista Social Club.
Unless he’s in the car. Then the kids have control. And it’s probably SiriusXM Hits 1.
(cool) progeny is a proud media sponsor of Be a Hero and the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. Want to support their work? Learn about the Be A Hero After Party on April 28th. Photos by Laura Black.