Caregiver Social Worker, Oranga Tamariki - Tauranga
- Bachelor of Social Work with Honours
What made you choose to study at the University of Waikato in Tauranga?
I moved from Germany to New Zealand when I was sixteen so having already moved once, I didn’t want to move again. Being able to stay at home and study was very appealing because I didn’t have to make big life changes and I could make long lasting friendships. Also, when I heard about the Bachelor of Social Work offered here, I knew this is where I had to be.
Why did you choose social work?
From a young age I was very passionate about making a positive difference to people’s lives as well as making a positive contribution to society. I felt that I could give back to people around me who might not have been as fortunate as me, in particular children who could no longer live in their home environment and needed a temporary or forever home. This passion was strengthened when my family moved to New Zealand and I had to adjust to a new life, in a new environment. It provided me with an insight into dislocation and how children must feel who are removed from their usual environment and placed in another.
What was your favourite subject and why?
Anthropology taught me a lot about different cultures and how you need to be open minded when dealing with people who may have differing beliefs from you. What I learnt from that paper has helped me in social work to be more open minded, and has challenged my beliefs that what is normal for me may be totally abnormal for someone else.
What do you wish you’d done differently?
Now that I’m out in the workforce I wish I hadn’t taken my student years for granted and hadn’t stressed so much about my assignments. But I wouldn’t change anything – I really put my heart and soul into it and it was a great four years.
What do you love about your job?
The catalyst for wanting to work in care and protection came from someone I knew who wasn’t able to have children. She and her husband went through the adoption process and they were just so grateful and happy, I wanted to be someone who could make that happen. Now I’m the person who supports the caregivers caring for children who have been abused, traumatised and neglected. They do an amazing job and I feel privileged to be part of that process.
How do you think you can make a difference through your work?
In my first placement I was fortunate to co-hold a case which included working alongside and supporting one family in their journey to fostering. While working with this family and their foster children, I became aware of the uncertainty and instability that children are experiencing when entering foster care. Knowing that these children had been removed from an unsafe and unstable home environment, only to be placed in another uncertain environment as the placement was a temporary measure, raised the question of what could be done to provide children with stability and decrease the amount of placement changes children sadly, often endure.
I’m here to make a difference in the number of placements children have by getting the placement right and supporting caregivers so they are able to offer more long term care.
Any advice for getting into your sector?
University is great in terms of trying things out. You can do placements in areas you are interested in to see which suits you best. If you’ve done your first placement and you know you enjoy it, stick with it. For me doing two placements in a similar field, dealing with care and protection, helped me find my niche of where I can make the biggest impact.
What are your future career goals?
I have been fortunate to gain a position in foster care which is a field that I’m so passionate about. Starting my career as a social worker in a role that I have been dreaming about for the past four years has been amazing and I feel very privileged. Eventually, I would like to move into adoption as I believe it would be a very interesting and rewarding job. My goal for the future, at least for the next two years, is to gain as much experience as possible and take up every opportunity I get to further my learning.
Are you glad you chose Waikato?
Yes! I get to live out my passion and studying at Waikato gave me more confidence in myself and my ability as a social worker. The Bachelor of Social Work gave me the tools to do what I’ve always wanted to. If I had to summarise my experience at Waikato in one word it would be ‘family’. After spending four years together we knew each other really well and became our own little family.