Defending the defenseless

The director of a Baltimore children's advocacy center says that in the light of Sarah Foxwell's abduction and killing on the Eastern Shore, people are looking for solutions to one of society's most hot-button issues: child sexual abuse.

"We can stack the decks better for children," said Adam C. Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

Rosenberg, 39, a New Jersey native, is a former city prosecutor who heads the center housed on the upper floors of a former Goucher College dorm at 23rd and Charles streets in Charles Village. About 900 children a year come to his bright and airy quarters on the fourth floor. He said their average age is 8 - two-thirds are girls - and all are in need of "comfort, care, medical and psychological attention."

The floor above houses medical-exam rooms so that a child does not have to be sent to another medical facility for examination. Rosenberg said his goal was to concentrate all aspects of child abuse detection and prevention under one roof convenient to families, police and social workers.

Rosenberg describes himself as an advocate for social justice and a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, especially abused children. He was the first male prosecutor to join the Domestic Violence Unit of the Baltimore state's attorney's office, and later prosecuted hundreds of cases involving sex offenders, stalkers and predators, child pornographers and violent abusers as a member of the Sex Offense Unit.

"I was affected by the worst crimes," he said last week. "That's what matters to me. Once here, the children begin a path toward healing, toward physical and emotional wellness, toward a life beyond their abuse."

A graduate of Cornell University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, Rosenberg said his years in court and time later spent at The Associated, the Jewish charities organization, helped in his current role, one that juggles fundraising, administration and a specific knowledge of this type of law.

"In the majority of sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is known to the family," he said, adding that, with the recession, more families are doubling up in living quarters, which can lead to more opportunities for abuse.

In addition to treating children and counseling them and their parents, Rosenberg also leads a public awareness campaign.

He recently bought space on billboards in city neighborhoods. Their message is to confront child abuse because, he says, the best way to stop it is through public awareness. He also advises families to check the child abuse center's Web site,

The nonprofit agency relies upon the financial support of many givers and charitable foundations, as well as some help from governments. Rosenberg mentions the generosity of individuals, including theater owner Clarisse Mechanic, who died last year.

"Our success has happened because of people like Clarisse, who saw our program work and then responded," he said.

He also mentions the volunteers who took an average-looking office space and painted it in bright colors. Project Linus' volunteers, known as "blanketeers," make coverlets for children. Each child at his center returns home with a handmade blanket as well as an arts-supply kit.

Other foundations, including Weinberg, Knott, Casey, Blaustein, as well as Associated Black Charities, the United Way and the Jewish Women's Giving Foundation, support the center.

Each time a child enters the center's colorfully painted offices for help with suspected abuse, a construction paper butterfly goes up on the wall with the child's name. So far this month, there are 61 little butterflies on the wall. And the month is not over.