Kelsey Blacker, Home visitor for Brightpoint, formerly Children’s Home & Aid, was keynote Speaker at the Thrive Breakfast held in Bloomington, IL on May 24th, 2023. She holds a master’s degree in Human Service Program Administration from Eastern Illinois University and once utilized our services at Brightpoint, which led to her joining our staff. Please read Kelsey’s powerful speech below.
“I am honored to be here speaking today with you. First, I want to thank everyone here today that is attending the event and those who are hosting or serving during this event. Four years ago, I was in Chicago sharing my journey with Children’s Home & Aid, now Brightpoint, as a parent. I have always envisioned being a public speaker and today you all have become a part of my dream. Today is about thriving and the journey our agency has taken over the years. I want to share my story with you about my ability to thrive and become the parent I was meant to be.
Everyone has a toolbox. They come in all shapes and sizes for us to use to accomplish a task. In my toolbox, I have my experience with home visiting and Brightpoint.
My journey started when I was a parent in 2013. I had just found out I was going to have a baby. What did that mean for me? I was terrified mainly because I knew I wanted to be the best parent I could for my child. I asked myself, “How would I do that?” Brightpoint contacted me, and I signed up right away.
I worked with over 9 different staff when I was enrolled as a parent in the Home Visiting program. Each one of them I have a trusting relationship with because of their guidance and support throughout the years. They gave me advice when I didn’t want to hear it, tips for child development, support in my community, and lastly, they gave me hope when I didn’t believe in myself. I successfully completed the program attending 290 visits for 367 weeks equaling 7 years before graduation. Some of those weeks were the best while others were the worst.
By 2016, I had 3 children under the age of 3. I knew I was busy, but I didn’t have enough tools yet in my toolbox. As a young child I always dreamed of being the speaker with the long list of accomplishments as my introduction. I asked myself, “How did others make that list?” Now looking back, I think, “why was that important?” I questioned myself. “Why was a parent not enough?” I have faced many barriers growing up in my life that I had to learn to overcome before I was able to create that list.
On December 19th, 2017, my son died of SIDS at 9 months old. I thought my life was over and I felt defeated, but my support team has never let me down to this day. Brightpoint provided my family with coping skills, therapy services, financial assistance and lastly, a safe space to talk. In January 2018, I decided to go back to school to be a home visitor. In the program, I created goals on how I would complete school and care for my children.
In 2020, I graduated with my bachelor’s in Family and Consumer Sciences. In 2021, I graduated with my Master’s in Human Service Administration. I applied to be a home visitor with Brightpoint and accepted the position at the Champaign location shortly after graduating. I knew that meant I had to leave the program as a parent, but I knew I still would have my team! I am now a coworker to many of those same staff who helped me thrive. I have had the honor to watch many of those same staff become parents themselves. I have been a home visitor for two years with Brightpoint. The communication I use with my former home visitor now is not that I need this but, rather, look what I have accomplished.
President Biden, once said, “As a parent, you know you have made it when a smile is brought to your face before a tear to your eye.” I get to see my children read, run, talk, play sports, make friends and so much more. My greatest accomplishment on my list that wasn’t said in my introduction is that I am the best parent I can be.
I still have barriers in my life every day. I am not rich. I am not famous. But I do have a set of skills in my toolbox that my home visitor taught me to use to overcome any obstacles.
My toolbox is me; I am a home visitor; I am a parent and I make an impact on the families that I serve. So, I ask you, what does your toolbox look like? What do you have to share with others? How can you make an impact to help someone else thrive?