Resume created for college class turns out to be life-changing move for Fessenden

Hilary Fessenden Cropped copy

Hilary Fessenden holds her daughter on her adoption day (known as Gotcha Day). Fessenden is a caseworker for the children's division in the 10th Circuit District, and she delivers birthday gifts to children on her caseload that are provided by Birthday Blessings. | Contributed Photo

HANNIBAL, Mo. — When Hilary Fessenden shows up at the foster home of one of the children she has on her caseload with a duffle bag full of gifts from Birthday Blessings, there is always joy.

It is a joy that extends beyond the child receiving the gifts. Organizations like Birthday Blessings are a breath of fresh air to caseworkers like Fessenden, whose everyday work is difficult and taxing.

Fessenden has been a caseworker since 2016 with the children’s division in the 10th Circuit District in northeast Missouri, serving children in Marion and Ralls County. She never anticipated or planned to work in this role, but she has found fulfillment and purpose.

Fessenden was finishing her bachelor’s degree from Hannibal-LaGrange University in 2015 when, as part of one of her last classes, she had to apply for three jobs. However, Fessenden was happily employed and did not anticipate changing jobs or leaving her current employer.

She talked to her professor to see if she could just turn in a cover letter and resume in lieu of the assignment, but he said no.

Fessenden eventually applied for a caseworker position at the local children’s division office in Hannibal. Her plan was to simply tell them no thank you if they called her for an interview.

Well, the children’s division called. She stuck with the plan and told them no thank you.

They called again. Once again, she told them no thank you. She explained she had to apply for jobs as part of a course and asked if she could be removed from the list. She learned the process and went through the steps to take her name off the list of people interested in employment with Children’s Division.

Or at least she thought she did.

Months later, she got another phone call from the children’s division wanting to setup an interview with her.

Fessenden told her husband, Todd, what had happened. She asked if he could check to make certain she followed the steps online to take her name off the list of people seeking employment with the children’s division.

He took a look but challenged her, telling her he heard her pray frequently at night and heard her ask that God speak directly to her loud and clear because sometimes she wasn’t the best listener. Perhaps this was God’s way of being loud and clear.

With that in mind, Fessenden set up an interview for a position as a caseworker with the children’s division leadership. Before the interview ended, she knew this was where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. She was hired.

She has found fulfillment, even though the work of the children’s division is difficult. No more than 17 children in Missouri are supposed to be on a caseworker’s caseload. Fessenden normally has closer to 30 children on her caseload.

Fessenden works with children who have been victims of crimes, have been neglected and lived through extremely traumatic circumstances. She shows up each day to strive to assist each child on her caseload.

Fessenden’s dedication to local children resulted in her and her husband becoming a foster parent to a young girl with special needs who she had initially been the caseworker for.

Her dedication to her role came into play when a medical issue Fessenden had since birth resulted in her having a seizure in 2019. This seizure prevented her from driving and eventually led to brain surgery in early 2020, yet she made her way to work by finding rides with co-workers.

Fessenden’s dedication to kids in care and how she puts her heart into every case she has been part of has helped her build quality, authentic, trusting relationships.

A mother whose child was once in foster care and on Fessenden’s caseload reached out to her for support. She was expecting a baby and wanted Fessenden and her husband to play a role in the baby’s life, like an extra aunt and uncle.

Once the baby girl was born, Fessenden and her husband watched her while the baby’s mom worked. The struggling mother eventually asked Fessenden and her husband to adopt the girl, and they did.

It is a job Fessenden has tried to leave but hasn’t. She has put together a formal resignation letter and presented it to her supervisor three times to resign, but she stayed each time. The relationships with her kids and co-workers keep her there.

Fessenden encourages people interested in supporting local kids in foster care but believe they aren’t equipped to be foster parents to become emotional support people for local foster families. Maybe they can consider being a respite foster parent (someone who will just have kids over a few nights).

Fessenden has provided birthday gifts through Birthday Blessings for several years to kids on her caseload. Kids are very excited about their gifts and feel important and remembered on their birthday.

Community members and businesses are encouraged to partner with United Way to be a light to individuals who rely upon the programs United Way helps fund. People interested in financially supporting the efforts of United Way can give online at or by mailing gifts to P.O. Box 81, Hannibal, MO 63401.

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