Kim Blackburn is a social service clinician in Kentucky. She’s been working with children and families since 1999. A foster mother she works with suggested that we feature Kim as an Outstanding Caseworker, writing:
“Kimberly is the best worker we have ever had. She is patient, kind, realistic, supportive, loving, and caring… Kim loves her kids. She knows each one by name and has given up her free time with her family when our kids needed her.”
Were you surprised to learn that this mother thinks that you are the best worker she’s had?
I was honored by the recognition. And I will say that if there were a Superhero Award for foster parents, this foster mom would get it! Because, among other things, she supports and engages birth parents. She has a baby now whose birth mom has a mental illness and is working hard at learning to be a good parent to that baby. This foster mom keeps the birth mom updated with photos, and even sent her a little necklace with the baby’s name on it. That birth mom is making progress, and I think part of that is because of this foster mom’s support.
What are other qualities you appreciate in foster parents?
Foster parents who are open communicators and keep me informed about children’s progress and challenges.
Of course, it goes both ways. I give every person I work with my cell number and tell them: “We are a team working for that child. Call me anytime. There are no dumb questions, but there are hard questions! If I don’t know the answer, then we’ll figure it out together.”
And, thankfully, parents do call me! Evenings, weekends, I don’t care about the day or time. I want to know what’s going on with my kids. I get very attached to them.
What attracted you to this work?
I think it was a God thing. I was in the military and was planning to be a nurse. Then Desert Storm happened. Serving in combat made me realize that I was not cut out for that kind of work.
After being in the Navy for four years, I went back to college and fell in love with social work."Being part of children’s success stories—and thinking that God may be using me to help steer kids in the right direction—keeps me going." ~ Kim Blackburn, caseworker Click To Tweet
You’ve been working with kids and families for more than two decades! What keeps you doing it?
I love working with the teenage kids and seeing their potential and encouraging them. I’ve met wonderful people through the years and seen children I worked with a decade or more ago succeed.
I stay in touch with a lot of the kids I work with, so I’ve seen how a caring adult can help turn a child’s life around. Years ago, I had a boy on my caseload who seemed to have everything going against him. His dad had him using drugs when he was 11. His mom overdosed. He didn’t have any family support to speak of. He could have easily become a statistic.
But he didn’t! We found a group home that worked really well for him, and he started to thrive. He ended up graduating from high school early. When he was trying to decide what to do next, I talked with him about my experience in the military. And he ended up joining the Navy!
Today, that young man is still in touch with me, and he’s doing wonderfully. Being part of children’s success stories—and thinking that God may be using me to help steer kids in the right direction—keeps me going.
What makes you successful in working with teens like this young man?
I do what I say I am going to do. I show up. That sounds simple, but it’s so important to these kids. I might be the one person who they trust and know they can call, no matter what.
I encourage them. When necessary, I hold their feet to the fire. But I also kind of spoil them. Right now, I have a boy who is crazy about animals, so when I visit with him, I bring my little Peekapoo. When kids are in a group home and doing what they are supposed to be doing, I take them off campus—to lunch, to the Dollar Store, to get ice cream—or bring them a goodie bag of treats.
What makes a good social worker?
Being able to adapt. It’s not unusual to have your day scheduled one way and suddenly find yourself headed the opposite direction—sometimes a long way in the opposite direction!
Last November I had a girl call me from a group home two days before Thanksgiving. I was going to take her to her family’s house for a holiday visit the next day. She was looking so forward to it. But the facility had decided to close down visits because of COVID starting the next day. If that girl wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her family, she’d have to leave that day. It was already the end of business hours. So I hung up the phone, got in the car, and drove two hours to go pick her up and take her to her family for the holiday. Was it an inconvenience? Yeah. Was I glad I did it? Of course!
Just a big shout out to my superhero foster parents like the one who wrote to you. I could not do this job without them.
Think foster parenting might be for you? Learn about becoming a foster parent on our website.