Being a CASA volunteer is a challenge often taken up by retired educators, and for good reasons: They have what it takes to do the job, and CASA work feeds their souls in the same way teaching did. It’s a win-win.
Problem solving… wearing many hats… building relationships… thinking outside of the box.
These are all activities that Rosalie Hodgson was quite accustomed to during her 30+ year career as teacher in Colorado Springs’ Harrison and Widefield School Districts. Now retired, it’s a skillset that serves her well as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Rosalie was first sworn in as a CASA volunteer advocate in December of 2018 and was assigned to her first case within ten days – a 14-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother, both traumatized by a life of chaos and abuse.
Because of her own background (she was adopted at two weeks old), Rosalie really valued the importance of permanency.
“I understand the importance of being in a place where you felt loved and encouraged and safe and inspired,” she said. “That was what was provided to me, and it was important for me to share with these kids now that there is hope, and there is possibility.”
Her first case involved a myriad of dynamics from teen pregnancy to addiction, from IEPs to truancy, and from parental incarceration to the children running away. Despite the challenges, Rosalie spent three years showing up for and speaking up for these kids. Her creative thinking and problem-solving abilities ultimately helped the courts achieve two very difference permanency solutions for the siblings – solutions that were not only in the kids’ best interest but were what the kids wanted for themselves.
Being a CASA volunteer advocate clearly suits Rosalie.
“Volunteerism has been a part of my fabric since I was in college at CSU in Fort Collins and was a volunteer coach for the Special Olympics,” she said. “My entry into teaching was as a volunteer classroom aide working with a little girl with special needs at Divine Redeemer.”
Rosalie grew up in Denver with several childhood privileges, including world travel which offered exposure to different cultures and environments. After studying to become a speech and language pathologist at CSU, she also became quite educated in subjects as wide ranging as Anatomy and Asian Studies. But her volunteer gig at Divine Redeemer introduced her to her true passion – teaching.
She gravitated toward special needs kids, and armed with a master’s degree, she became a strong role model for countless elementary students in Colorado Springs.
“For me, I wanted to be able to provide some sense of normalcy and possibility for kids and through teaching, I was able to,” she said. “It was my gift to work with kids who were more challenging.”
In 2018, when she was sworn in as a CASA, she was working as a substitute with her everyday teaching duties in the rearview mirror.
“CASA seemed like a natural progression for me,” she said. “I wanted to see if the love I have for being the significant adult role model in a child’s life could extend to CASA. Because I loved the everyday of teaching, I thought can I do this and be that significant person for somebody else.”
Throughout her first case as a CASA, Rosalie learned important lessons about enmeshment, boundaries, building connections, and how to listen to a teenager. She learned it’s not the closing of a CASA case that made her work life-changing for kids – it was the small things she did along the way. The phone calls. The listening. The showing up.