Ginger Kadlec is supposed to be retired, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she’s thrown herself into a slew of new endeavors recently. The former Interim-Director of Hamilton County’s Chaucie’s Place speaks with passion and vigor on the topic of child abuse and maltreatment which she admits she didn’t know anything about a few years ago. Kadlec, who resides in Boone County, Indiana, almost stumbled into the profession.
“I was involved in the corporate and technology arena for 20 years and my husband and I got to a point where we wanted to spend more time together and travel, so we got into consulting,” explains Kadlec. “But a friend of mine was on the board of Chaucie’s Place, where they wanted me to work an interim role as Executive Director.” That, Kadlec explains, “was something that changed my life.”
Kadlec immersed herself into the work of child abuse and prevention, explaining somewhat regrettably that she was “one of those people that knew child abuse existed, but didn’t know the extent to which it really happens.” But once she knew, Kadlec became a trained forensic interviewer, work that she continues to train others on today as a faculty member of ChildFirst Indiana. It was after her interim stint at Chaucie’s Place that she decided to start what has become BeAKidsHero.com.
Kadlec explains BeAKidsHero is “an effort to raise awareness among teachers, parents, and other caring adults about child abuse prevention.” While hundreds of people start websites every day, Kadlec has put the work and time into really making it grow. “It’s an organic venture, and I just started writing a blog about issues for parents of kids with different ages.” At around 150 posts today, with more each week, BeAKidsHero is a growing library of information on age-specific and appropriate how-to’s, statistics, and guides.
One might question why the Internet needs yet another resource, or how Kadlec could have competed against the libraries of pre-existing material online. But Kadlec didn’t get flustered by it. “There are a lot of fantastic resources out there. But what I’m finding is we’re impacting people in different ways, which helps all those existing organizations and resources even more. It’s a cross-collaboration that lifts each other up, where a rising tide lifts all boats. Helping and sharing each other’s efforts is a good thing for everyone and makes a difference,” adding, “The market isn’t saturated here because this problem isn’t going away.”
Drawing from her past experiences in the corporate technology sector, BeAKidsHero is expanding into the fast-growing podcasting audience. First introduced by Apple at the start of the millennium to bolster content for the iPod, podcasting has swelled to over 1 billion subscriptions on iTunes alone and millions of listeners turn to familiar shows from NPR and ESPN, but also niche material produced by professionals and amateurs alike.
The BeAKidsHero podcast is part of the Dr. Will’s Neighborhood of shows. Founded by Dr. Will Miller, the former comedian and late night show host is a fellow Hoosier who now teaches at Purdue University and is hosting or supporting an expanding array of podcasts on a variety of health and wellness topics, including BeAKidsHero hosted by Kadlec.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to connect with people around the world who are working to protect children,” says Kadlec. “I’ve been really blown away by the global support I’ve received. I had never even been on Twitter when I started this. I had 6 friends following me and now I have 87,000 followers. I just wanted to reach as many people as possible and we’re continually working to that end.”
“I’ve had school districts, like one in Texas recently, that call or email me asking if they can reproduce and share my material with their staff. Schools in particular are hungry for this kind of resource.”
Traditional evergreen text posts on topics like “What to do if your child is abused”, “Reasons that children don’t disclose abuse”, “How predators groom children”, and a popular “12 scary apps” sit intertwined with the podcast series. One show featuring former Miss America Marilyn VanDerbur has received a lot of attention.” “Here’s a person who came from the ‘perfect family’, yet she was raped over 600 times by her father, living a nightmare behind closed doors,” says Kadlec.
A new three-part video series is being prepared for launch in mid-2016 that will help parents talk with kids about child abuse prevention in age-appropriate ways. Also on Kadlec’s radar is writing a series of child abuse prevention books she thinks of as “the Winnie the Pooh of abuse prevention”. “There are some good books out there, but parents and schools specifically have to seek them out,” she says.
“We can impact the epidemic of child abuse,” says Kadlec. “The CDC would be all behind finding a cure for child abuse if everyone knew 1-in-4 children were victims of abuse. It’s not a high-priority and our government isn’t really aware of how bad this is. Few seem aware of what the long-term ramifications on society are because of maltreatment.”
Kadlec sees ballooning website statistics and subscriber rates as one metric of success, but as Kadlec somberly adds, “I’ve had replies from kids across the world who are reaching out to me asking what to do [in an abusive situation]. That makes this all worthwhile, knowing that maybe I’m at least helping one child and telling them they don’t have to put up with abuse and it’s not their fault.”
Kadlec continues to teach other forensic interviewers and gives talks to all ages today. “I really have to give credit to Jan Lutz, the Indiana Chapter, and all the other Indiana CAC directors I’ve worked with. They’ve been so wonderful in helping me stay current. I’m grateful for their friendships and partnerships. We’ve got a really good network here in Indiana of professionals who have their eye on the ball and keeping kids safe.” Speaking from her experiences talking to a global audience, “There are so many other communities where they can talk the talk, but they aren’t necessarily walking the walk on child abuse. Here in Indiana we really are.”