Interested in social services, Jacqueline I. Wert, LCSW, recalls becoming involved in her career as early as her college years. She had plans for graduate school after receiving a position at a psychopathic hospital, but was not sure if she truly would want to endure more schooling. She began job hunting further, and developed a serious interest in psychosocial issues and helping others. Ms. Wert began her professional career as a nursing aide at the Iowa State Psychopathic Hospital in Iowa City in 1964, remaining in this position for a year before becoming a caseworker in public assistance for the Cook County Department of Public Assistance in Chicago from 1965 to 1968. She then served as a child welfare worker for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services from 1968 to 2001, also completing social work in her field between 1973 and 1974.
During the early years of employment with this agency, Ms. Wert worked in a variety of capacities with intact families, with children in foster and residential care parallel to efforts to engage the parents and extended family in the care and planning for the children. In those situations, in which there were few options of reunification with the family of origin, alternative permanency options were explored, most often adoption. She worked in the adoption arena for approximately 22 years in a variety of capacities as an assistant supervisor/senior social worker dealing with the most complex cases, and ultimately supervising an adoption team for 12 years.
In addition to this tenure, Ms. Wert was a part-time worker at Elk Grove Schaumburg Family Service from 1982 to 1984 and the Youth Campus in 2009. Furthermore, she has held her own private social work practice since 1982 and owned Grove Counseling Associates in Chicago since 1993. My primary identity is as a professional clinical social worker rather than a specific identity to a company or an agency. Presently, she is contracted with approximately 20 insurance carriers and Medicare for provision of behavioral health services. She derives most of her current clients from insurance directories. The highlight of Ms. Wert’s career has been any time she was able to find permanent homes for children in the adoption program. At the time of her work, there was a great amount of children being born with drug addictions and/or abandoned by their mothers, which immediately put them into the adoption system.
Prior to the start of her professional career, Ms. Wert pursued a formal education at the University of Iowa, earning a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1964. She then matriculated at the Jane Addams School of Social Work of the University of Illinois, where she received a Master of Social Work in 1974. She went on to attain certificates from the Family Institute of Chicago/Center for Family Studies of Northwestern University Memorial Hospital/Medical School’s Institute of Psychiatry in 1982 and the Harry S. Truman College Continuing Education Department in 2009. During this time, Ms. Wert also completed substance abuse training in 1984, and currently holds several certifications.
A member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and the National Association of Social Work, Ms. Wert was recognized for her efforts by receiving the Director’s Award from the director of the Illinois Children and Family Services in 1989. Likewise, she received two Certificates of Recognition for Team Performance in 1998 and 2000 and the coveted Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. What Ms. Wert has learned over the course of her career that has most benefited her in her professional growth is about people and how much we are alike. We really all are alike in terms of our social, emotional and physical needs and yet, each of us individually are profoundly different.
Ms. Wert’s greatest growth was, has been and is now in recognizing health, finding the positive solutions to a problem, and helping and starting to create a path to a better life. She has the capacity to explore and develop the facts and options in very harsh histories and situations, and assess the negatives to correct. Once an assessment or diagnosis has been determined, the process shifts to define positives and strengths to emphasize and finally devise a comprehensive plan legally, administratively and psychosocially to correct the problems. Lastly, there must be openness, tolerance and persistence to work with the client to implement the corrections and nurture growth. Ms. Wert’s personal growth has been in developing the depth of understanding of deeply and chronically disturbed people. Finally, to implement plans, her limits of compassion and tolerance have been challenged. Most importantly, she has had to remain persistent and grow in her self-confidence in her judgement and energy.