Hearts of Yolo: Mike Rockwell

Thursday, Feb 8, 2018

Mike Rockwell recently retired from the IRS and had learned about Yolo County CASA a while ago. He was no stranger to volunteering—he could often be found helping at his son’s sporting activities or school events—but in retirement he wanted a volunteer role where he could completely immerse himself. He talked to a former board member and decided that CASA was the right place for him.

When Mike was in training, Jen, CASA’s program manager told him about a fifteen year-old boy who loved sports. “I immediately said I would take the case. Having had teenage boys myself, I felt it was an age group that I could make an impact with.”

And sports were how they initially got to know each other. “When you meet a fifteen year old boy for the first time, you can’t expect him to open up right away, so I decided we’d get to know each other though basketball. We started by shooting, then it evolved to Horse, then to competitive games. Usually he would win, but every once in a while I took the victory. He actually told people I was pretty good.”

As Mike got to know his foster child, he stressed the importance of the advocacy component. “My foster child once said to me, ‘look, everyone is always telling me what to do and making decisions for me and I want to have a say in how things go.’ I remind him of that often when we talk through his case.”

Elaborating further on the advocacy component, Mike was surprised at just how integral the role of a CASA volunteer is. “Within three months, he had already changed schools and teachers, changed social workers, and changed foster homes. I was the only constant. I was warned of this in the training but this really drove things home.”

Mike remembers a critical time in his foster child’s life as he reflects on all the changes, “His foster mom was moving out of state and offered to take him, but it was very important to him that he stay in his home town. I investigated as many options as I could and advocated for him to be placed somewhere that allowed him to continue to be a part of his familiar community. Through a lot of hard work it was a happy ending. Not only did he get to stay in his hometown but he was placed in a stable home full of love and support.”

In addition to the advocacy, Mike mentions many lighthearted times as well. “He asked me if I would go to a concert with him. It was the middle of the summer and at least 100 degrees. We watched artists like Ludacris, Lil Uzi, and Post Malone. I tell all my friends that I got to scratch seeing a rap concert off my bucket list!”

As for the future, Mike and his foster child plan to stay in touch indefinitely. “I will always be here for mentorship, advice and friendship to him.”

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