Alumni Spotlight - Charles L. Baker, MSSW


picture of Charlie with his wife.

Charles L. Baker, MSSW

Kent School Graduate 1976

 A native of Hazard, Kentucky, Charlie Baker graduated from Carson-Newman College with a BS in Music Education. As an after college adventure, Charlie and a friend hitchhiked across the country to the Northwest. A job as the Day Camp Director of the Seattle Downtown YMCA helped him realize that he loved working with young people.

Baker retuned to Kentucky and found a job at Our Lady of Peace Hospital, where he met Sally, who was working as a Psychiatric Nurse. Soon after the birth of their first daughter (of an eventual three) Charlie accepted a position teaching music in a 1-12 grade school in Buckhorn Kentucky.

While he taught rural children during the school day, he and Sally were also cottage parents at Midway Cottage at the Buckhorn Children's Center. In those days, this was a 24/7 live-in position. In spite of the stress, this cemented Charlie’s passion for a lifetime of work with youth.

 As their girls grew, the Bakers moved back to Louisville, where he held a variety of State Government Worker and Supervisor positions in both community and residential children's services. Charlie was fortunate to receive a stipend for graduate school and earned his MSSW degree with Phi Kappa Phi honors from the Kent School of Social Work. 

Charlie gives credit to Kent for everything he has accomplished as a professional. He thanks the Faculty - David Gochman for befriending a sometimes overwhelmed rural student, to Tom Maher for a deep understanding of American politics, to Neil Cohen for a love of Social Policy, to Stan Frager for a bent towards entrepreneurship, to Ruth Middleman for a passion for Adult Learning, and to Gary Rhodes for a belief in the value of good Management.

 In 1982, Baker returned to Buckhorn as President/CEO of the Presbyterian Child Welfare Agency. Under his leadership, the Agency dramatically increased the quality of its services and expanded from one small campus to provide services to children and families in multiple sites in Kentucky and Ohio, with annual budget growth from $400,000 in FY '82 to $19 million in 2003. In an innovative definition of "community development" the Agency collaborated with local, state and federal organizations to bring public water service to the Buckhorn community.  As a part of the process, the Village of Buckhorn, including the campus and the surrounding community, was incorporated as a city in 1996, and Baker served three terms as Mayor. He retired from his positions, both as Mayor and as CEO in June of 2003.

Baker has been active as a Board Member of the Child Welfare League of America, and has testified before Committees of the United States House and Senate on behalf of children in need. The Child Welfare League of America honored him as Children’s Champion for Work with Rural Children in 2007.

Charlie’s passion continues as an advocate for children, especially those often overlooked in rural America, and served until 2016 as an Adjunct Professor in Social Policy at Kent, where his students named him as a Faculty Favorite in 2009 and again in 2011.

 As an author, Baker has published articles on the topics of management and leadership in both national and international journals, including articles in the Children’s Voice on non-profit management and fund development. He contributed a chapter, Child Welfare in the Rural Setting, to the Allyn & Bacon text, Child Welfare: A Multi-Cultural Focus. In 2002, he was the co-editor of “The Crisis in Rural Child Welfare” A Special Edition of Child Welfare, A Journal of Policy, Practice and Program. Charlie and Sally live in Louisville, KY. They are the parents of three daughters, and the proud grandparents of six granddaughters and four grandsons.