In honor of National Social Work Month, we’re highlighting a handful of the many dedicated social workers who stand up every day for the children, youth and families we serve. Becoming a social worker offers you the opportunity to pursue a variety of career paths, from direct clinical practice to administration to advocacy and policy roles. As such, social workers are found at every level, in every department and program area of Children’s Home + Aid.

Meet Heather Blankenship, LCSW, Development Manager of Major Gifts at Children’s Home + Aid:

Tell us about yourself:

I’m from a small town called Niceville, Florida and have been married for 8 years to my high school sweetheart, who is a 4th grade teacher. We have a dog named Suddie, who we got while serving in the Peace Corps in Guyana. My experience in the Peace Corps changed my life forever – it opened my eyes to how the majority of people in our world live – extreme poverty, limited infrastructure, limited resources, etc. During our two years in Guyana, my husband and I helped build a community library in a remote village of 400 people. I’ve built friendships with some of the greatest people through my time in the Peace Corps.

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On a daily basis, I find it incredibly therapeutic to express myself creatively through learning new hobbies like wood working, dancing and reading. I am a strong believer in exercising my mind and body through crafting, yoga, exercising and experiencing nature.

How do you use your social work background in your role at Children’s Home + Aid?

I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work and am also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.Previously I worked in direct service with children and families at the Department of Children and Family Services as a therapist, mentor and case manager.

Over the last two years I’ve transitioned to more macro-level social work. At Children’s Home + Aid, I help raise money for programming across the state of Illinois to serve at-risk youth and families. Macro-level social work is often not the first thing students think of when considering becoming a social worker, which is why I use my license to supervise students, as interns at Children’s Home + Aid, who are pursuing a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Social Work. My hope is that social workers early in their professional development will be able to begin to find the right niche in this field – whether that be working directly with individuals, communities or policy change.

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What does being a social worker mean to you?

Advocating for others is essential to who we are. I live by the mantra “We rise by lifting others”. There are so many people in this world that need and deserve opportunities to grow emotionally, professionally, spiritually and educationally. I feel that service to others is absolutely fundamental to who I am and who we all are. Helping those around us to reach their fullest potential – even if I do just a little to help them be their best self – is so important to me.