Monday, 12 March 2012

Developing Professional Nannies

Today might be Moomba, but to oldies like me, it's Labor Day and began as a celebration of the world's first agreement to the slogan '8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest'.

Today many people have much longer working days, while others are fortunate enough to have a 35 or 37 hours week.

When I first became involved with nannies, I was determined to see workers who were well trained, and adequately paid.

There were various images of home based child care.
  • Mary Poppins, coming in and magically 'fixing up' children
  • the old family retainer who was employed when the first baby was born and lived with the family for years, until all the children were well grown, and probably acting as nanny for their children as well
  • the 'au pair' who lived with family, helping out with the children while learning English, and probably flirting with the father along the way
  • the little old lady from down the street who sat in a corner knitting while the children played
I wanted to help produce a new breed of nannies: professionally trained, working for families for a set number of hours, and living independently, not in a room of the family home where there is no real possibility of 'down time'.

I believe that looking after other people's children is important, and needs to be done by those who care about children, and who have a good knowledge of child development and appropriate activities (play, creativity, learning, rest, cleanliness etc etc..).

But looking after children in someone's home is even more specialised.  When I started a nanny school in 1992, I focussed on the areas of competence that nannies would need to do this work.  This is not the same as working in a child care centre where there are other staff to give support and help with the role.

Being a nanny is a very responsible role and as I moved into the employment area I thought it only right that nannies should be paid a wage commensurate with their skills and responsibilities. I am however a realist, and one of the realities is that the money to pay a nanny comes from a family's income so a balance needs to be struck.

At the Agency, one of our roles is to match families and nannies, to help them to work out the details of contracts, and usually to take on the employment role which means that nannies are taxed, superannuation is paid on their behalf, leave is organised, and of course families are invoiced.  In the matching and negotiating process it is our role to ensure both parties have realistic expectations of themselves and each other.  It is not easy for a parent to leave a child in someone else's care, nor is it easy nannies who are often not experienced in dealing with people whose working life is all high powered decision making.  The agency is also there to help resolve any issues that arise during the course of employment.

I'm also committed to nannies receiving on-going training to enhance their skills.  Unlike many workers whose training takes place during working hours, training for home based workers has to be on Saturdays and is not paid, so it is always pleasing to see such good attendance and high level of commitment from those who come. Our next training day is Saturday May 5 and will focus on safety and security. Training is free of charge to all Susan Rogan nannies.

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