Young men at the highest levels of risk in Baltimore who have engaged in behavior change, work readiness, and transitional employment programming since July 2018
Participants in Baltimore demonstrating improvements in emotional regulation
Hours of transitional employment work completed by Baltimore participants
Of Baltimore participants have remained engaged in programming for over two years
- In 2016, Baltimore experienced the third highest rate of violent crime in the country, with over 1,780 violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents. In 2017, the city saw 343 homicides and its highest-ever per capita homicide rate.
- The majority of perpetrators and victims of violence in Baltimore were young men of color who had previously interacted with the justice system.
- Baltimore had no strategy that provided long-term services to young men at the highest levels of risk.
- Civic leadership in Baltimore recognized the need for evidence-based programs that worked with youth at the highest level of risk and served as an alternative to traditional policing strategies.
- Roca had demonstrated success for over 30 years in several sites in Massachusetts working with populations at the highest levels of risk.
- The program is a four-year intervention focused on reducing violence and incarceration among youth at the highest levels of risk.
- The program seeks to address trauma, encourage behavior change, reduce involvement in criminal activity, and increase employment.
- Roca’s stage-based approach includes “relentless” outreach to youth at the highest levels of risk, cognitive behavioral therapy, “peacemaking” circles, workplace training, and transitional employment.
- Since 2018, Roca has provided services to over 200 young men in Baltimore who are out of school, unemployed, and unable or unwilling to participate in any other program.
- Roca's arrival in Baltimore has galvanized a high degree of collaboration between the Baltimore Police Department, the Maryland Department of Probation and Parole, and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services. These parties work together on a daily and weekly basis to help Roca identify and safely engage with young men at the highest levels of risk.
- Roca's approach to behavior change, built on a cognitive behavioral therapy curriculum and peacemaking circles, has helped participants address extensive trauma, improve emotional regulation skills, increase work readiness, and decrease levels of criminal thinking.
- In 2019, Roca launched the Roca Impact Institute, which provides training, intensive coaching, facilitated planning, and in-depth feedback to direct service providers in other cities and states after recognizing the challenges of replicating their model in Baltimore.
Keys to Success
- Nearly $17 million in financial support from the City of Baltimore and local philanthropic partners provided Roca with a stable base of funding for its first four years of operation.
- Close partnerships with the Baltimore Police Department, Department of Juvenile Services, and Department of Probation and Parole have enabled Roca to reach young men at the highest levels of risk and provide them with a safe learning environment.
- Roca's "relentless" outreach--often engaging with an individual over ten times before they agree to participate--has allowed them to reach young men previously unserved by any other program.
- Roca's focus on helping young people address the trauma they have experienced is critical to the success of the program.
- Participants often drop out or relapse multiple times throughout their time in the program. Roca continues to engage with them until they have completed the full course of programming.
- Roca's commitment to transparency on all aspects of operations and effectiveness has built trust and support across all stakeholders.
Freddie Gray is killed in the custody of Baltimore Police
Freddie Gray's death at the hands of Baltimore Police leads to weeks of civil unrest. The event generates a public reckoning on police misconduct and Baltimore's lack of services for high-risk youth.
As violence spikes, talks are initiated with Roca
Violence rises dramatically in the aftermath of Freddie Gray's death. Roca is identified as a promising strategy by Baltimore's civic leadership because of its independently proven results for high risk youth. Roca begins a due diligence process to assess feasibility of a Baltimore expansion.
Catherine Pugh is elected Mayor of Baltimore
Catherine Pugh, former majority leader of the Maryland Senate, wins Baltimore's 2016 mayoral election. The race is largely shaped by the continued impact of Freddie Gray's death and persistently high rates of violent crime.
Roca presents to Mayor-elect Pugh's transition team
Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of Roca, presents the Roca model to a joint meeting of the Mayor's education and public safety transition teams. After the presentation, the Mayor-elect's team agrees on the need for a program like Roca in Baltimore.
Roca conducts outreach across Baltimore
Roca meets with public sector leaders, philanthropies, non-profits, community-based organizations, and others across Baltimore. Roca leadership attempts to explain the organization's model, build relationships, and describe how the program serves a different population than existing service providers.
Mayor Pugh, Baltimore philanthropic community, and Roca come to four-year funding agreement
The City of Baltimore and its partners commit to at least $17 million over four years and Roca agrees to launch. Ultimately, the City contributes $4 million to the program, along with a $2.2 million commitment in contracts for transitional work. Three foundations, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Abell Foundation, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, commit nearly $5 million. Corporate donors are rallied by Mayor Pugh, eventually contributing $7 million in total and exceeding the initial $17 million goal.
Roca finalizes partnerships with justice system partners
Roca worked with the Baltimore Police Department, the Department of Probation and Parole, and the Department of Juvenile Services for approximately three months to develop plans for referrals, create data sharing agreements, and build trust to ensure open lines of communication.
Roca begins hiring initial Baltimore staff
Kurtis Palermo, Assistant Director of Roca's office in Springfield, MA, becomes the director of Roca's new Baltimore office. He and the Roca national team begin hiring initial staff in Baltimore. JT Timpson, previously with Baltimore's Safe Streets program, is the first senior-level hire.
Roca and partners agree on shared benchmarks and target outcomes
Roca works with City Hall, the Baltimore Police Department, and other partners to create shared short- and long-term benchmarks and target outcomes. Partners also develop protocol to ensure consistent communication and reporting.
Roca finalizes four-year operating plan, safety and risk mitigation strategies, and staff training
Roca national leadership spends the month of June training initial staff members in all aspects of the Intervention Model, including Roca's CBT approach, youth outreach strategies, relationship building skills. Nearly every interaction with youth is tracked in the organization's performance-based management system.
Roca receives its first round of referrals
Roca receives its first round of 142 referrals from the Baltimore Police Department, the Department of Juvenile Services, and the Department of Probation and Parole. Going forward, Roca meets with partners on a weekly basis to review existing referrals, accept new referrals, and update partners on the status of each individual referred.
Roca Baltimore launches operations
Staff members begin conducting outreach to engage young men most at risk of perpetrating or being victims of violence. Work begins in two specific police districts, but work quickly expands to encompass the entire city.
Confronting the problem
- Baltimore had experienced high levels of crime for years
- Freddie Gray's death in police custody and the following civil unrest create immense urgency in finding new violence reduction strategies
- Baltimore's philanthropic community comes to view Roca's evidence-based model as well-suited to Baltimore's challenges, pushes public sector leaders to support its expansion
- Mayor Catherine Pugh enters office highly motivated to launch new programs and services for at-risk youth
Designing the strategy
- Roca's model explicitly targets young men aged 16 to 24 who are most likely to engage in violence. The program had demonstrated success in working with the most at-risk youth in Massachusetts over nearly 30 years
- The program is rooted in helping young men address their trauma, learn life and work readiness skills, and gain employment.
- In every Roca location, close partnerships with the local Police Department and other justice system partners are essential. These partners create referrals to Roca, ensuring that the highest-risk young men are identified, and help the program maintain up-to-the-minute safety protocols.
Allocating the funding
- Funding begins with a commitment of nearly $5 million from three philanthropies: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Abell Foundation, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
- All three foundations made financial support of Roca conditional on the public sector's commitment to funding
- City of Baltimore and its partners commit to a total of $13 million over four years
Implementing the plan
- Roca commits months of work to developing partnerships and protocols with local justice system partners
- Initial staffing team is hired locally and receives a full month of training on the delivery of Roca's CBT approach and intervention model
- Roca's staff begins conducting relentless outreach to at-risk youth and delivering intervention model
- Roca meets regularly with representatives from the Mayor's office, the Police, and other justice system partners to discuss operations and progress
Measuring and refining the approach
- Roca staff track nearly every interaction with young men, creating a robust picture of every individual's progress
- Elevated safety concerns force Roca to implement additional risk mitigation procedures
- Severe poverty among families of Roca participants lead Roca to create additional family support services
- Extreme levels of trauma in participants cause Roca to adjust programming, offer more robust mental health services
- Recognizing the difficulty of replication, Roca creates the Roca Impact Institute to help direct service providers deliver core elements of the Roca model at greater scale