From a young age, Erica Rosas knew that she was meant to help people. She grew up volunteering alongside her grandmother, and she originally thought she was meant to be a nurse, but after finding a job at the Methodist Children’s Home in her early 20s, she found her true calling in social work. Still with MCH after 14 years, Rosas is now married to Brandon; she’s the mother of two and the program administrator for the Waco campus. Whether she’s in meetings or interacting with teenagers, she spends her days fulfilled with the knowledge that she’s part of providing a community of hope and healing for the residence’s youth.
Her roles at home and at work come with a lot of responsibility, but by staying highly organized, planning ahead and leaning on her support systems, she’s able to find balance as well as plenty of opportunities to relax and unwind.
WACOAN: What’s your Waco story? Are you from here?
Rosas: I’m a Waco native. I was born here. A fun fact is that I’ve lived in the same house my entire life. The home that I was raised in is now where my family and I live. That house has just stayed in our family, and all through college, I remained in that home. I’ve never lived anywhere else.
WACOAN: How did that happen?
Rosas: My grandfather and his identical twin brother built homes right next door to each other. I grew up in that home living with my mom and grandparents. As my grandmother got older, I became a caretaker to her. At that point, my mother was living in an apartment in the community, but I remained there with [my grandmother]. When she passed away, she left the home to me and what is now my family.
I was still in undergrad in 2007 when she passed away there at the home, and she was on hospice, so I was able to be there with her during that experience. I never moved away. At some point, the tables turned from where she was taking care of me to I was taking care of her, and I didn’t even realize it.
When I met my husband, before we got engaged, I told him, ‘You just need to know, whatever happens with me and you, Grandma comes with us.’ And he was like, ‘Well, I don’t want you without Grandma. I need Grandma.’
When we got married, I told her we’d be looking for an apartment, but I’d be close, and she said, ‘I’ll let you have the master bedroom if you need a bigger room.’ [I said,] ‘Grandma, no!’
But it wasn’t long after, we got married in ’06, and she passed in ’07.
WACOAN: Where did you go to school?
Rosas: I went to Waco public schools and then went to private school, [Parkview Christian Academy], for high school. For college, I started off at [McLennan Community College] and then went to finish up my undergraduate degree at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and just commuted back and forth and then did graduate school at Baylor University. My bachelor’s degree and master’s degree are in social work.
WACOAN: What led to your interest in social work as a career?
Rosas: Growing up I would do volunteer work with my grandmother at [Caritas] here and always really liked helping people. I would spend my summers there with her. We would go two to three times a week in the summers. We would help organize the food for people when they were coming to pick it up. I also did volunteer work as a young adult with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
I was actually a nursing major. I thought that was my calling, to go into that sort of field.
I got hired [at the Methodist Children’s Home] here shortly after I turned 21. I was going to school to be a nurse and then got hired here, and this lightbulb kind of went off as I was here longer, that this was what I was meant to do. I was meant to still help people but more in the social services aspect.
Methodist Home literally changed my major. I thought, ‘Gosh, I really love being here, and I really love these kids. I love this place, but what can I do in a nursing capacity?’ We have a clinic here, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe one day I could be a nurse at our clinic.’
I was walking around the campus at UMHB, still taking nursing classes, and I came across the social work department. There was a sign that said, ‘101 Things a Social Worker Does.’ My lack of knowledge of social work before — I thought, ‘Well, they take kids away from families. That’s such a rough job.’ And I read through those 101 things, and they were things that either I had done in a volunteer capacity, things that I was doing at the moment as a youth care counselor here at the Methodist Home or things I could see myself doing.
I just walked right into the dean’s office and said, ‘I think I’m supposed to be a social worker.’ We sat down, looked at my grad plan at that moment and looked at what would transfer over, and the next semester I changed my major. That’s how I came into the field. It found me.
WACOAN: What was your first job at MCH?
Rosas: I was a youth care counselor. I worked the 3-11 [p.m.] shift in a home with 10 girls. In that role, it was all one-on-one time with the girls in that house. We did anything from homework to filling out job applications to painting nails and fixing hair or shopping for clothes. Kind of what you would see in a normal home, those were the sorts of things that I would do with them. In the summers, we went on activities and outings. A lot of my evenings, I spent walking the campus and just talking with the girls. Things like that.
WACOAN: How did you go from that role to your current role as program administrator?
Rosas: I worked through several positions here. After being a youth care counselor, I went and worked in our training department for about a year and trained existing staff and new hires. Then I was promoted to the unit manager position at that time, so I was actually over my own department of direct-care staff and girls. Then I promoted to the associate administrator position where I supervised professional-level staff. Now, I’m the program administrator over the Waco campus. I supervise roughly around 120 people. I just got that promotion in March of . In total, I’ve been here 14 years.
WACOAN: That’s great to have been at one place for your entire career. Have you worked anywhere else, like in high school?
Rosas: Yeah, I worked at the mall when Wicks ‘N’ Sticks was still here. That started my love for candles. I worked at Texas Roadhouse. Kind of did your typical stuff.
Then when I turned 21, I was looking for a job that would pay well and have health benefits. I was like, ‘I really need to be able to provide for myself.’ I was putting myself through school. I was trying to find a job locally that I knew would be full time and a great place to work but also somewhere where I felt like I had more meaning and purpose. I wanted something a little more fulfilling, I guess.
WACOAN: How did you originally learn about MCH?
Rosas: I didn’t know much about Methodist Home, even being from Waco. I would drive by the campus and go, ‘Why don’t I ever see any kids out there?’ All you see is the administration building [from the road]. So, I got online and looked up information and thought, ‘Hmm. It kind of sounds like something I could relate to.’ I called the HR department and asked more questions, and that’s how I got interested in working here.
I called for three months straight waiting until a position opened up for an interview. When I finally got that call that there was an interview, I was really excited, and when I got here, I went, ‘Wow, I really have some things in common with these kids, and these kids are amazing.’
WACOAN: What is MCH’s mission, and how does it serve the Waco community?
Rosas: Our mission here is to provide hope to children, youth and families through a nurturing, Christian community. The Methodist Home has, obviously, the main campus here in Waco, so our residential program has 11 homes with boys’ and girls’ homes. We have a school on our campus. We have a spiritual development department with a church, and we also have our Boys Ranch that’s located just right outside of Waco in Axtell. We have foster care and community-based services and multiple outreach offices across Texas and New Mexico.
It’s really probably a little bigger than what people think.
Here on our main campus, we basically serve families that have various needs. Most of our youth are between grade 6 and 12th grade. They come here for various reasons. Families may be having financial hardship. There might be some school issues. We have a wonderful school that helps kids who might be behind on credits or maybe they’re just getting lost in the shuffle of the bigger schools, and we’re able to offer a small-school environment with credit recovery. We have families that are facing crisis such as illness, incarceration, things like that. A lot of grandparents, or even great-grandparents, raising their grandchildren, and they just need help. They need help supervising their children, and we’re able to provide that here.
We’re set up like mini-houses. We try to make it as normal as possible. We want the youth here to feel like a normal teenager would feel. They can decorate their own rooms. They have their own stuff hanging on the walls. They pick out their own bedding. They shop in the community. They work in the community. We want to give them every opportunity that a quote-unquote ‘normal’ child would have.
Families find us through a variety of sources: churches, schools, a lot of word of mouth. We also do have some referrals from the state, so we do have a small census of children that are in state care that are placed here. We just look at each child on an individual basis and try to provide them with an environment of healing and hope. Many of our youth have, as a result of situations out of their control, been exposed to trauma or separation from families. We spend our energy focusing on repairing attachment and empowering those youth to be successful.
WACOAN: How many children and youth are on the Waco campus?
Rosas: We can have up to between 90 and 100 kids.
WACOAN: As a nonprofit, where does funding for your programs come from?
Rosas: We have an endowment where the majority of our funds come from as well as donations, private donors, people that leave estates to the agency. That’s where the majority of our funds come from.
WACOAN: What does a normal day look like for you at work?
Rosas: A normal day for me would be coming in and getting briefed on the evening before, checking on any situations that might have happened, making sure that everything is running smoothly, meeting with my associate administrators or my home life managers to discuss any concerns.
I spend a lot of time in meetings, so that can be anything from looking at potential kids to more program-type meetings where we’re discussing programming and looking at what we have and how we can improve that.
I also get to spend a good deal of time going to activities to watch our youth, whether that be athletic events or things at the school. Right now, we have youth in our [agriculture] program competing at [the Heart O’ Texas Fair & Rodeo], so I get to spend a lot of time joining in on those activities as well.
WACOAN: That’s great. I assumed that your one-on-one time with the youth had changed over the years, but it sounds like you still get to spend a lot of time interacting with them.
Rosas: Yeah. Obviously, the time has changed as I’ve moved up, but it still feels very fulfilling and very fruitful because now those times when I’m in meetings and we’re looking over reports and we’re talking about programming, there is something really powerful in knowing that now I’m able to make changes that impact not just 10 youth, but 90 youth. It’s still very fulfilling, and those times that I do meet one-on-one with youth are very near and dear to me. I still get to have that time, it’s just in a different way in this position.
WACOAN: Is there a specific program that’s been implemented during your time at MCH that you’re particularly proud to have been a part of?
Rosas: Something that’s changed while I’ve been here, that I’ve been really privileged to be a part of, is that we started utilizing an approach called Trust-Based Relational Intervention. For short we call that TBRI. [Editor’s note: TBRI is an intervention model developed by the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University.] We started that around close to eight years ago, and TBRI has been life-changing for both the staff and for our youth and just for the community and the culture here. The shift is to focus on meeting sensory needs, empowering kids and helping to restore attachments.
Many of our youth that come here, as I mentioned before, have come from a background of some sort of trauma. That could be back when they were in utero or it could be when they were 4 or 5 years old. Maybe they experienced abuse, neglect or saw something traumatic, or it could be something even more recent, as a teenager, that they experienced.
TBRI is relationship-centered, so we know that through restoring relationships and making connections that youth will heal and become successful. I feel very, very passionate about that, and I have seen it literally change lives of so many youth and staff here. It’s something that I use with my own children. I’ve been a part of that change and see that going from a very basic level to a much deeper understanding where now there is research, there’s data to back that up.
WACOAN: You mentioned your children. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your family?
Rosas: I have a 4-year-old son named Brandon Jazz Rosas Jr. He’s named after my husband, so we call him Jazz. My daughter is Mary Frances, and she was named after her great-grandmother and her grandmother. Those are two family names that we put together, and she is 6. And I’m married to Brandon.
WACOAN: How did you meet your husband?
Rosas: We met at Lovers Leap at Cameron Park. It sounds like a fairy tale, but we met through a mutual friend at the park. I had zero interest in my husband when our friend introduced us. Our friend kept going back and forth between the two of us [asking], ‘Hey, what do you think about my friend, Erica? What do you think about my friend, Brandon?’
We met that one evening, that was about all there was to it, and then our mutual friend asked me, ‘Could I invite some people over to your house and we hang out and have dinner? Some people from school are coming in [town] and would like to hang out. Could we meet at your place?’ I said, ‘Absolutely! I love to host.’ I was 20 years old, I put on this big dinner, I lit the candles, all that special stuff, made spaghetti, salad. Everyone was supposed to come over at like 7:30 [p.m.]. I get a knock at my door, and it’s that Brandon guy, and he’s like, ‘Hi, I was invited over. We’re supposed to be getting together.’ I was like, ‘Great. Come in. No one’s here yet,’ and no one else ever showed up.
We spent the evening talking and getting to know one another and finding out that we actually had a lot of things in common, and that was all orchestrated by our mutual friend.
WACOAN: That was pretty brave of your friend.
Rosas: It really was. It was so clever, though, because at that point we were stuck talking to each other.
WACOAN: Your friend must have felt like he knew you both pretty well to even try that. ‘You said you weren’t interested, but I think you’ll hit it off.’
Rosas: Yes! To be that bold. We got a call from him at like midnight, and of course by then, we had figured out, ‘No one else is coming.’ So, we were like, ‘Hi. Thank you.’ That’s how we hit it off. That’s how we met, and we got married in 2006.
WACOAN: What does your husband do?
Rosas: He works for Magnolia. I can give you his title. Let me make sure I don’t mess this up. He is the process and development analyst.
WACOAN: And what does that mean?
Rosas: Exactly! He basically helps to find ways for them to be more efficient and creates processes, particularly in the area of the warehouse.
WACOAN: Is your husband from Waco, too?
Rosas: Yes, he’s from Waco as well. He went to Baylor and Bosqueville [ISD].
Fun fact, at Parkview, we didn’t have our own track, and I ran track. We would go to use Bosqueville’s track. It was probably a couple months into dating, my husband says, ‘Did you used to run track?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I did it like one year. I was really bad. I was not fast.’ And he’s like, ‘I remember watching you, but I would never go talk to you because of the coach you had. We just knew, you do not go talk to the Parkview girls.’
So, we kind of had paths that crossed. We had family members that knew each other. One of my cousins was my husband’s Cub Scout leader. We were at the same birthday parties when we were 8, 9, 10 years old. My sister-in-law was in my Girl Scout troop at one point. And we never met, but our paths had crossed in so many different ways. And that’s how I know that timing really is critical. I think had we met at any other point in our life, we might not have had the maturity to cultivate a relationship like we did when we met at 20 and 21 years old.
It’s just crazy how, when it’s time it’s time.
WACOAN: And also, how small Waco is.
Rosas: Yes. That too. You will eventually know everyone.
WACOAN: Where do your kids go to school and day care?
Rosas: Our 4-year-old is at First Baptist Waco, and our daughter is at Robinson Primary School.
WACOAN: Do you live in Robinson?
Rosas: We actually live in the Waco city limits. We are on transfer to Robinson.
WACOAN: Why did you choose to send her to Robinson?
Rosas: I had always heard great things about the school, and I am a big advocate of public schools. I was naturally interested in Robinson schools because we live maybe a mile away at the most, so that was really appealing to me, and as I looked more into just information and talked to people who live there and have gone through the school there, I decided that I wanted to apply for a transfer. We have been overly happy and satisfied with the school.
WACOAN: What are some of the activities your children are involved in?
Rosas: Mary plays soccer for Heart of Texas [Soccer Association], and she’s also in gymnastics at Texas Dynasty [Cheer & Gymnastics]. Jazz is in TOTs, the Teams for Tomorrow program, at First Baptist, and he loves Paw Patrol.
We have a pretty busy schedule, and when I look at it I think, ‘Oh my gosh. Where did my week go?’
Mondays, I get off work, we go to soccer practice from 5:30-6:30 [p.m.], gymnastics from 6:30 to 7:30, then we come home and do reading and dinner, and [then it’s] time to go to bed. Tuesday, we actually don’t have anything. Wednesday is life group. Thursday is soccer practice again, and Friday, during football season, we’re usually at a game, whether that’s here or at Robinson. Saturday is soccer, and Sunday is church. We stay pretty busy, but it’s all really great things.
WACOAN: What are you going to do when your son starts doing stuff?
Rosas: I don’t know. I’ve thought about that, and that’s probably when we’ll have to divide and conquer, especially if he’s not into soccer. I’m sure we’ll find a way to split up those activities, and right now, we can at least manage if one of us has something at work or isn’t quite feeling great. One can tag in and do the practices, but once he starts doing something, we’re going to have to figure that out.
WACOAN: What do you and your husband like to do for a date night in Waco?
Rosas: We love to go to movies because I feel like we don’t get to watch as many of those now that we have kids, and we’re really busy. We have a few restaurants that we love going to eat at. We like Buffalo Wild Wings, Vitek’s and Chuy’s.
Something we did when we were dating before we had kids, we would go on these late-night drives to West to get kolaches from the Czech Stop. And still occasionally when the kids are spending the night with their grandparents, at midnight after leaving a movie, we’ll just hop in the car and drive to West and go get some kolaches. It reminds us of what we used to do.
We love to grab coffee at Common Grounds and just talk and walk the campus at Baylor. It brings back a lot of sweet memories for us. As well as doing date nights with other couples. If we have a night together, we might reach out to someone and say, ‘Hey, do you guys want to go out to eat and just hang out?’
WACOAN: What are some things you do when you have time for just yourself?
Rosas: I am a part of a book club with four really amazing moms. We started the book club earlier this year. We meet once a month.
WACOAN: What book have you read recently that you really enjoyed?
Rosas: One of my favorite books that we read was ‘Before We Were Yours’ [by Lisa Wingate]. That’s really good because it goes along with my line of work. It’s about the [Tennessee Children’s Home Society] which is one of the first orphanages in the country. That was a great book.[The book club has] really been a fun experience and created more time to be around other working moms that we could bond with and just bounce ideas off each other and share joys and share challenges with one another.
I also go and get pedicures. I go to B & J Nails. I’ve been going there for 13 years. I feel like they’re family. I also enjoy exercising, just like jogging, walking at the park. I really enjoy gardening. I love plants. I love being in nature whenever I have the opportunity.
I also love Pinterest. I love doing crafts. I really enjoy cooking. I like to find things on Pinterest and try them out. And just finding time to spend with my husband and finding unique things to do around the city with the kids as a family.
WACOAN: What are some of those unique things?
Rosas: This past weekend, we went to the Robinson Greenhouse. They had an event where they had pumpkin decorating, a little seminar for kids to learn how to grow pumpkins. They had face painting and just some really sweet activities. Any time I see community events, whether they be at the Waco library or little events at churches, I try to attend those. I really like engaging the Waco community and taking advantage of what Waco has to offer. Some of our other favorite things to do, we love the Mayborn Museum, we love the [Cameron Park Zoo], the Waco Cultural Arts Fest.
We attend Harris Creek Baptist Church, and we’ve been there for around nine years now and have been a part of the same life group for that time, so they are also very near and dear people for us and a great support system for us.
The kids are also in Awana on Wednesday night through Alliance Bible Church, so that’s something that’s also been really great for our family.
We enjoy going on vacations. We [go to] this precious little beach house that we stay at in Galveston. It has become a place that we enjoy going to because of the house, whether it’s summer or middle of winter. It’s a great place where we feel like we’re at home, we’re able to make memories, and we’re able to relax and unwind. That’s something that’s become really special to our family.
It’s an Airbnb down there really close to Pleasure Pier, and we’ve become really close to the owners. My children think that we own that house. The owners told me, ‘Yeah, we always joke and tell people about the kids in Waco that co-own the house with us.’
I also do a girls’ trip every year. I go on a cruise with a couple of the ladies in the book club. We usually cruise to Mexico. That’s something that’s been really helpful for me and my husband. I go on a girls’ trip, he goes on a guys’ trip and then we do family vacations. That’s something we’ve started over the last couple of years that’s really helped us to create balance and have time with close friends and also time together.
WACOAN: With your busy schedule, what do you think allows you to make it all happen? How do you stay sane?
Rosas: Organization. Being highly organized is really one of my characteristics that I focus on. I’m a big planner. I have to have my menus and grocery lists and stick to it. We have a family calendar that’s very detailed. I do things way ahead of time, so I don’t feel stressed.
I enjoy throwing really big birthday parties for the kids and for my husband, so it’s not unusual for me to start making decorations and preparations three or four months ahead of time.
Organization is what makes it happen. I’m not someone who can go, ‘What are we having for dinner tonight?’ I can tell you what we’re having for dinner next Thursday because I’ve already got it planned out. But that’s what keeps us all on track, and I think having that structure is really helpful for the kids as well. It’s predictable, and they know what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. Organization.
And just the support from our family. With both of us working, sometimes my hours can be a little bit out of the norm, and there may be periods of time where I’m working more than others or maybe occasionally on weekends, so having our family here is really helpful in terms of helping to watch the kids and spend time with them. So that’s something else that keeps us going and running a smooth ship.
WACOAN: I assume you like living in Waco since you’ve decided to stay here, but what are some of the reasons you chose to raise your family here?
Rosas: I like how Waco still feels small-town but has a lot of things that a growing city would have. I feel that Waco is safe. I am proud to see that our city is so successful and just growing and providing so many new opportunities for people.
We’re really big fans of Baylor, both being graduates of Baylor. That is one of the things we absolutely love about Waco.
All of our family is here. All of our extended family is here, and that’s really comforting. We couldn’t imagine being in another city away from our family.
WACOAN: Is there anything else I should know?
Rosas: Overall, I feel really blessed to have the life that I have. To be in this position at Methodist Home is an honor, and it’s a big responsibility. I am really thankful that I have a supportive family that has been there for me and encouraged me every step of the way here. And I am really thankful to have my Methodist Home family that has been there for me and helped support me with my personal family. When I started here, I wasn’t even engaged. In many ways, Methodist Home grew me up, and that’s really special to me. I think it’s because of my family and Methodist Home that each of them works. Methodist Home is very supportive of family-first, and my family is very supportive of my career. I think that’s the only way I could do this at this stage of life with having small children and in a position of a lot of responsibility.