Changing the system that raised her – Renée Porter

Published: September 21, 2022

Aotearoa National Social Workers Day is Wednesday 21 September. We take a moment to celebrate social workers, the practice and profession of social work, and to share our stories. In this story, we hear from Renée Porter, a Care and Protection Social Worker at Oranga Tamariki Rotorua site.

Video - Renee Porter

Renee Porter, a Care and Protection Social Worker at Oranga Tamariki Rotorua site shares her story.

Transcript

Renee Porter: I am Renee Porter. I am a care and protection social worker at Oranga Tamariki at the Rotorua site. 

I became a social worker because I had grown up in the care system and seen a lot of injustice. I didn't like social workers, I didn't like Child, Youth and Family, I didn't like how they worked. I realised that social work was more than just what I had been exposed to as a young person. I wanted to help people but wasn't sure how. I believed that I could make a change. 

I have been advocating since I was about 16-17 years old, for young people in the system. 

Jacinda Ardern: Please, everyone say kia ora hello to Renee. Have a wonderful conference. 

Renee Porter: I was part of six other young people for Minister Polly's advisory Group. 

I was part of the changes from Child, Youth and Family to Oranga Tamariki. That included changes to the Act, changes to the care standards, changes to the practice standards. 

I have been part of the building of VOYCE whakarongo mai, so I have spent most of my life being an advocate for young people in care. 

I decided to move into Oranga Tamariki once the changes had been made, from Child, Youth and family to Oranga Tamariki, and instead of sitting on the outside telling social workers within the Ministry all the changes they needed to make, decided that actually I need to be part of the change. 

Social work is moving into a space, especially with Oranga Tamariki, around a more educational journey where we're taking our community, taking our non-government organisations from being risk averse to work with our whānau and actually making that the safe environment. 

We really are there just as social agents of change. That is going to benefit our people moving into the future. 

As a community we all have a responsibility, so, you as the neighbour have a responsibility and we've lost that somewhere. We've lost it as a society, it's the fear of being seen to be too nosy. We've just complicated life so much that when it gets to Oranga Tamariki, it's almost like we're having that first conversation that might have just taken the neighbor knocking on the door and saying, hey, are you OK? And is there something I can do to help? At what point does someone step in and say, can I help? 

It is really important for me to build a trusting relationship with the community that I work with. Ultimately, that's about really getting to know the person that's sitting in front of me. It's constantly asking questions. It's humility. It's about saying, actually, can you show me? And being completely guided by the families that you work with. That's the only way you're going to move to the success of the family. 

Advocating since teenage years

“I became a social worker because I had grown up in the care system and seen a lot of injustice”.

Renée walks us through her journey in the care and protection system and admits she didn't like Child, Youth and Family. She wanted to help people but wasn't sure how.

“I believed that I could make a change”. 

Renée was part of the changes from Child, Youth and Family to Oranga Tamariki. That included changes to the Act, changes to the care standards, changes to the practice standards. She was also part of the building of VOYCE whakarongo mai and has spent most of her life being an advocate for young people in care. 

Working for Oranga Tamariki

She decided to move into Oranga Tamariki once the changes had been made, from Child, Youth and family to Oranga Tamariki.

Instead of sitting on the outside telling social workers within the Ministry the changes they needed to make, she decided that she needed to be part of the change.

She realised that social work was more than just what she had been exposed to as a young person.

Our collective responsibility

It’s important for Renée to build a trusting relationship with the community that she works with. She explains it’s about really getting to know the person that's sitting in front of her, having humility and being guided by families for answers. It’s constantly asking questions.

“As a community we all have a responsibility, down to you as the neighbour”.