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 Yitzi Katz, Therapist at Children’s Home + Aid’s Rice Child + Family Center

Tell us about yourself:

I was born a few blocks away from the Rice Child + Family Center at Evanston Hospital. Later in life, I obtained my undergraduate degree in psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel and my graduate degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago. My professional identity as a proud social worker embodies my family history. My grandparents were holocaust survivors and they endured multiple Nazi concentration camps, before they emigrated to the U.S.A. I grew up as a Jew in Chicago and Israel. Constantly remembering my family’s past has deeply impacted my clinical work with people experiencing oppression, impoverishment and lack of power over their own lives. Over the years I have learned to maintain my own well being by playing the piano, my own psychotherapy, participating in the social worker/psychotherapy community in Chicago, and an obsession with pizza.

Yitzi exercising with his 87-year-old grandfather

What is your most rewarding experience as a social worker?

It is difficult to choose just one because there are so many rewarding ones every day with children at the Rice Center. I feel very lucky to work at Children’s Home + Aid and be a part of Rice. My teachers and training imbued in me the importance of a child, adult, family and community’s sense of agency. I have aspired to follow this in all of my clinical work to date with impoverished children across Chicago. I am committed to building a stronger community of providers in Chicago and I co-founded The Chicago Trauma Collective, which is committed to trauma informed work throughout the Chicagoland mental health community. When I am successful at therapeutically supporting a client pursue their internal and private sense of agency, I know, deep down inside, that something is right. It is fundamentally right because the client is free, autonomous and able to decide, maybe for the first time, what is right for them.

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

As a child and family therapist at the Rice Child + Family Center, I focus my work on enhancing therapeutic opportunities with children. Additionally, I support staff in their therapeutic engagements with the children. I am especially invested in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. I understand the complex child welfare system and my priority is the importance of children feeling safe, being autonomous and each child expressing themselves in their own unique way.

What does being a social worker mean to you?

Being a social worker is very meaningful to me and I am devoted to helping individuals develop their own sense of agency. Many people continue to experience systemic oppression, lacking resources and fundamental human rights and I am committed to working to make changes. There is a lot of work to do, and moving methodically, thoughtfully and slowly is the fastest way to good work.