Greg Murnin is the Assistant Service Manager at Nether Johnstone House, below he tells us about his journey in Residential child care spanning over three decades and speaks about the importance of relationships, highlighting the fundamental role they have played during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Wow! Where has the time gone? I have worked in Residential Child Care for 32 years. My first role was as a House Parent in a 23 bedded children’s home. I moved on to a promoted post 4 years later as an Assistant Assessment officer within an Assessment Centre. I continued to work in the Assessment Centre for just over 9 years and I was successful in a range of promotions. These included Peripatetic Acting Senior Assessment officer, Night Shift Co-ordinator and Depute Unit Manager. Due to disaggregation I was transferred to a Children’s Unit as Depute Unit Manager. After 5 years I was promoted to Unit Manager. I held this position for a further 6 years. Due to redundancy I moved to a Children’s Unit as a Senior Residential Worker and stayed there for 7 years. I moved to Nether Johnstone House as Assistant Service Manager just over a year ago.
I have been very lucky to reflect upon and remember so many positive memories and experiences within Residential Child Care. I have been delighted with numerous positive outcomes for young people and children which I have had the privilege of contributing to in some small way. I am particularly proud of my first ever key child who was initially very quiet and withdrawn. I remember he never ever used to smile! I will never forget the first time I managed to get him to laugh out loud… this was due to me singing him a Bros song whilst playing the guitar really badly! K is now 46 years old and is self-employed, extremely successful and travels around the world with his wife. I keep in regular contact with him… he still doesn’t smile much mind!!
My most valuable learning was undoubtedly due to my mentor when I worked in the Assessment Centre. I initially found it extremely hard to adjust to a structured environment as opposed to my previous experience working in a children’s home. My mentor took me under his wing and I had invaluable formal supervision with him. He helped me to understand my potential, my areas for development and clarity of my role and expectations. He supported me and built up my confidence and belief. He slowly but surely gave me increasing responsibilities and shaped and guided me to have a good understanding of the complexities of the residential assessment process. He was instrumental in helping me gain the relevant knowledge, experience and understanding which resulted in me being promoted.
The best part about working in residential care is seeing young people grow, develop and achieve. I have been extremely fortunate as I can recall many, many instances of this. I love it when I meet young people years later and they tell me that I have made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that!
I have found the move to NJH to be particularly refreshing. There are many reasons for this; I have known my Manager for many years and we share the same values, beliefs, vision and aspirations; There are no constraints in terms of policies and procedures; we carefully consider potential admissions and have autonomy in this regard; we have the potential to provide specialist intervention with clear and defined throughcare and aftercare provision; I am fully involved in helping NJH strive to offer something unique with a refreshing and vibrant perspective and innovative ideology.
What amazes me no matter where I have worked in residential childcare is what I have learned from the young people. My interests in cars and music has been solely down to the direct influence of the young people. I believe that all learning and development is a two way process borne out of mutual understanding and respect.
I would advise anyone who is considering a job at NJH to go for it without hesitation! I had some initial doubts having worked in Local Authority provision for over 30 years. The private sector was therefore rather alien to me. I quickly discovered that it is so refreshing to work in a House which has nurture and a strength-based approach embedded within everyday practice and interactions. Young people are carefully considered and matched before coming to live here. This greatly helps to establish a homely, predictable and loving environment which is primarily driven by the strong relationships between adults and young people.
Covid-19 and the lockdown has certainly been testing times for all of us, but it has demonstrated the importance of these already established loving relationships. It has been so difficult keeping up with all of the daily announcements and restrictions. I can honestly say that despite everything the response from the young people and staff team at NJH has been outstanding! Everyone has pulled together and really supported one another. I have no doubt that there will be difficult times ahead and a lot of uncertainty, but I am so proud of the positive attitude, kindness and consideration that goes on each and every day. We will all get through this and become closer and stronger than ever!