January 2020 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Kimberli Barker

Kimberli Barker, CHW Certificate Holder
Dakota County Public Health

What do you do as a CHW?

I work for Dakota County Public Health, supporting a variety of programs. When I’m wearing my Child & Teen Checkups (C&TC) hat, I do different kinds of outreach including C&TC introduction calls to families who are newly enrolled in Medical Assistance, Car Seat education and distribution, and other forms of Community Outreach. Community Outreach includes things like Health and/or Resource Fairs, Summer Safety Camps, and Information Tables at Food Shelves and other Community Events. Most recently we have been developing an Oral Health presentation for ECFE classes and in-home child care centers.

When I wear my Family Home Visiting (FHV) hat, I work alongside our Public Health Nurses with families of young children who need a little extra parenting support. While the nurse typically visits once or twice a month, I can visit every week. We work through a goal-setting process that allows the family to select the topics that they are interested in learning more about. Then we use a variety of curricula to determine their strengths and how they can use their own strengths and resources to address their areas of need.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

I enjoy working with families and watching as they discover their strengths. I especially enjoy watching when children flourish and grow in their relationships with their parents and other care givers. I guess my “favorite” part is when a family returns weeks, months or even years later to say “thank you” and lets me know how my visits have shaped their futures.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love learning about cultures. I believe that every person is a part of a large culture as well as sub-cultures and I like to learn about how they mesh together to create that person’s personality and life experiences. I especially love trying and experimenting with the foods that are important to people I care about.

Success Story

Several years ago I visited with an immigrant family who had two teenage children and a newborn. My visits were typically with Mom and Baby while the other children were in school. Dad was occasionally there, but he also worked varying hours. Mom felt isolated and confused about life in a new country. She shared both her struggles with her family’s discontent over her coming to the U.S. and her joy at watching her children adapt to their new life.

During our visits, she would hint at verbal and emotional abuse by her husband, the father of her children. When he was not present we were able to address the different ways that domestic violence is viewed in her home country as well as here in the U.S. At one point we visited a shelter and she considered joining a support group but didn’t follow through as she did not have a driver’s license or car at that time.

My visits ended after about 2 years and I would occasionally see her when she came into the office for her WIC benefits. Fast forward six years … this past summer, I was called to the lobby, only to find this mom asking for me. Her older children are now out of the home and thriving on their own. Her youngest is doing well in school but is concerned about his mother’s safety. Dad has become more and more vocal and has begun to threaten her with physical violence so Mom is asking me about the shelter that we visited years ago.

I was able to help her call them and set up an appointment. Because she now drives her own car, I was able to meet her at the appointment and get her set up with the ongoing supports she will be receiving from them. As we parted from that appointment she said: “I didn’t even know if you still worked in Public Health, but I knew that if you did, you would be able to help me find the help I need now.”

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