Social workers rock

This story of an 18-year-old aspiring chef from Whangarei is one of many examples where the efforts of a social worker have helped a young person to turn their life around.

Published on
27 Sep 2017
zane hero

Grappling with personal issues

Social anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and self-harm are issues Zane (pictured right) was dealing with three years ago when he was referred to the Whangarei Children’s Team.

Sometimes he would lie in bed and think, ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’ 

But ongoing wrap-around support from his Lead Professional Melissa (pictured left) and the Children’s Team have empowered Zane to become more self-assured and to focus on the positive aspects of his life. 

An inspiring transformation

Zane is now working as an apprentice chef at The Quay and he dreams of starting his own restaurant.

“I wouldn’t recognise the person I used to be if they were sitting in front of me,” Zane says. “I’m not just more independent, but more mature and positive.”

Zane was referred to the Children’s Team in 2014. Melissa from Ngāti Hine Health Trust was chosen to work with him. Since then Zane has grown to trust Melissa as a close friend and someone he can discuss his personal issues with and ask for help during times of turmoil.


It was frightening at first when I joined the Children’s Team but within the first few months I started to realise these people just want to see the best for me and my family. I’m forever grateful for all the things that Melissa has done for me.


Support centred on Zane's needs

With the support of Children’s Team service brokers, Melissa helped Zane to access the youth benefit and other grants through the Ministry of Education and the Count Me In project. He hadn’t realised he was eligible for this funding which would mean he could live independently.

It also enabled Zane to focus on working hard to complete high school and courses in food, beverage and cookery. “Without the support I wouldn’t have pushed myself so much to get where I am now,” he says.

Melissa says Zane has a great attitude, he just needed someone to believe in him so he could believe in himself. “It’s inspiring to see his transformation. I think he’s a lot more prepared than other young people his age because of his experiences.”

Hard to let him go

Zane recently left the Children’s Team due to his age and progress, and Melissa found it hard to let him go. “You do get attached and your heart breaks to see them go out on their own. I told him ‘I’m excited for you but if you ever need me you have got my number.”

It was also challenging for Zane to move on, but he was encouraged that Melissa and the Children’s Team had faith he could become fully independent.


I’m proud that they think I can get out in the world and do this… and I think I can too. I’m ready to face challenges and do it on my own.


One of the most challenging jobs

Melissa says when a child or young person leaves on these terms it feels amazing, but it can feel equally crushing when their situation gets worse. “I treat all my cases as a challenge to help someone reach a point in their life where they want to be. When that doesn’t work out it can feel like a failure and you wonder if you did enough.”

Whangarei Children’s Team Acting Director Mariameno Kapa-Kingi says is social work is one of the most challenging of jobs. “They are on the frontline and in the homes of our tamariki and whānau on a regular basis, she says. That’s their domain, they are the ears, and they take that pressure home sometimes. Not everyone is wired for it.”

Mariameno says Zane’s journey took time, effort, kindness and persistence, and her staff are very proud of the change.

Join the team

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Lead Professional with the Whangarei Children’s Team call 029 237 9147

Learn more about the Children’s Team approach