A worthy career…

So you’re an idealist and you want to make a difference by reducing suffering and making the world a better place.

Social work seems like a good place to start. You invest your time, hopes and a significant portion of your financial security in study and training. Along the way you decide which branch of social work would suit you. You could work in a hospital organisation, Barnardos, the Salvation Army, or a church-based or Maori organisation.

Or, if you’re desperate, naive, or simply dedicated, you could become a child protection social worker in an organisation that changes its name so often you may not know it is currently known as Oranga Tamariki. Or Child Welfare.

If you last the distance, it will take you about three years to feel you know what you’re doing. By then you will have learned that whether you call it uplifting a child, taking a child from its mother, or rescuing a child, it is a harrowing business that is never accompanied by certainty. The only certainty is that you will find sleep hard to find.

You will also have learned that as far as the media and the general public is concerned, there is only one action more callous and brutal than taking a child away from its mother, and that is failing to take a child a way from its mother.

You will have learned that the child’s needs are paramount.  Except sometimes when a Maori whanau, or section, of a whanau, disagrees. Furthermore, you will have learned that despite the legislation stating specifically that the child’s needs come before all other wants and needs, angry whanau posturing, no matter what their record of caring for their children, can lead people in senior positions to frown deeply, make ‘hmm’ sounds and begin sentences with ‘Well, actually . . .’ especially if under media spotlight.

And, if this does not make you wonder if you’re in the right job, nothing will.

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.