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Creative Care

There are few industries that were expected rise after the economic problems of 2008 and subsequent layoffs and firings. One industry that thrived was the child care industry; specifically private child care – Nannies and Babysitters.

“Qualified persons who are interested in this work should have little trouble finding and keeping a job,” reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By the end of 2009 the unemployment rate dropped to 10.4 percent, from a steady 4-5 percent. The child care industry is one that’s on the upswing. Employment of child care workers is expected to raise 11-13 percent from 2008 to 2018. The employment of child care workers has risen 7 percent since 2009.

The reason for this is due to the fact that parents started going back to work. They had to take 2nd or 3rd jobs to make ends meet. At that time available jobs were either for entry level jobs with hours that were too long, too little pay, inconvenient travel, or difficult co-workers.

When I started looking I saw nothing. I worked at a bunch of odd jobs, I was an Administrative Assistant for a marble granite company. The owner was crazy. He would never come in and when he did he was usually drinking,”  said Lauren McGreal.

Many parents will do what they have to do to keep their heads above water for the well-being of their families and will go out of there way to make sure their children have the best. That means going back to work and getting an Independent Child Care Worker (ICCW) to fill in the gaps of care.

Just Starting Out

There are many misconceptions out there about what a Nanny is or is supposed to be. Most people think of TV shows like The Nanny or Supernanny to fill in the holes.

“The first question I get when I tell people what I do… ‘You mean like the ‘Supernanny?'”

Lauren McGreal, 35, doesn’t fit the bill of ‘super’ and knows that, but is very good at what she does. She stumbled upon the field as a way to earn extra money while pursuing an English degree. Lauren had also always wanted children of her own and admits that being a Nanny was a good substitute to having kids of her own. She said she learned a lot about children in the process as well.

Child care wasn’t her first choice.

“I did clerical work just to get my foot in the door something. Without real experience at a job on a resume it’s hard to get an interview. I wasn’t looking to be a Nanny… I just figured, ‘Why not?’”

It’s true that in a lot of ways parents are often looking for that “super” person to take care of their kids. They often look for someone willing to do some of the things with their children that they don’t do themselves, like tutoring, artistic or creative activities, teaching language and reading, all while making dinner, cleaning and throwing in a load of laundry.

It’s also important to outline what it is an employer wants from a Nanny before hiring, to make sure the duties they’re looking for are realistic.

“When I first started, I watched this ladies kids for four years… She would ask things of me that a maid should do. I think it was wrong to polish silver. I mean, that’s ridiculous.” Lauren laughs about the craziness of the job demands now, but when she left for a daycare job, she got an understanding of her rights. “I had to set some boundaries. You give an inch and they take a mile.”

Jackie Ferland, 19, has a different story. “It is something that I always have wanted to get involved in since I was little.” She started babysitting for local families then go a break with a friend of the family hired her to work with the children to get some experience. “I start helping out at a home daycare run by my neighbor. Then once I was 16 I started working at Small World Childcare and learning Center, where I am now.”

Jackie loves the work and admits she would still come in to see the kids even if they didn’t pay her.

Is There Money In It?

Many people believe that ICCW’s don’t get paid very well. In some cases this is true. The real truth is that it varies. Usually ICCW’s already have a rate they would pay for the type of work that’s asked for them.

Everybody wants to be paid well. The demands of the job are tough. When you’re on the floor cleaning feces from a broken diaper, trying to calm down a 2 year old having a temper tantrum, or thinking of a million other things in your life that have to get done, you want to be able to remind yourself of the importance of the job you’re doing and feel appreciated. Not like the Jones’ are really trying to save a buck. Kids are expensive too.

Coming to agreements with families is part of the job. ICCW’s rates change and are particular to what people can pay, not to any industry standard. There isn’t a standard. Where a family of one child in Southington is use to paying $12 per hour for her one child, a mother of three in East Hartford may see it as being unfair to pay her nanny more than $6 and hour for all three. “They’re really good kids and will be sleeping half the time!” She doesn’t tell you that she needs a list of housekeeping work done during those times.

Nanny’s (working for a family with between 1 to 3 kids) generally make $600-$750 per week (works out to about $17 to $20 per hour) for a full time job.  It’s expected that they will do all the things expected of the mother as well as be a good example and help them academically if they can.

The big difference between Babysitter’s and Nanny’s in the field is that Babysitters are almost never asked to clean. “The definition of a Babysitter,” according to Tokayer, “Is someone who keeps the child safe, just attending to their basic needs.” Some families will pay as high as $15 per hour for a sitter, but most make $10 per hour for one or two kids.

“I worked full-time in a daycare. You make no money in daycare,” Lauren explains. “Pay depends on the relationship between parent and caretaker.” A good relationship means that the family appreciates the ICCW and doesn’t want to lose them to another family.

When Ferland started babysitting, she was making five dollars per hour for 2 kids. That was low even for the standards then, but luckily she didn’t know any better, so she took what she got and gained experience.  “I am now studying to receive my degree to become a teacher. Downsides: I don’t get paid enough. Upsides: I get to work with kids, I enjoy it, and hours are really good,” said Ferland.  She doesn’t make enough to support herself so she lives with her parents and pays rent.

Daycare’s provide steady employment and in some cases, health benefits and paid holiday’s.  Ferland believes the drop in unemployment since 2008 did have and effect on the ICCW business in a positive way.  “I think the daycare business has been getting the same amount if not more.  I think the change is because of the economy and many parents can’t afford staying home with their children,” Ferland said.

Independent Child Care Worker

When people picture a babysitter they often envision the teenage girl with braces who lives in the community. Today babysitters differ in style and skill. The misconceptions about them is that they don’t have the skills to provide the “professional” care of a Nanny and are prone to become overwhelmed by the child’s needs and behaviors.

Independent Child Care Worker (ICCW) is the best way to describe all child care workers (i.e.; not linked with an agency or daycare) in a more professional manner. ICCW includes Babysitters, Nanny’s, Mother’s Helpers, and Doula’s, to name a few.

Independent child care is a shaky business. Without adequate training it takes a long time before someone will trust you. Even after a babysitter or Nanny works with a family for a period of time, they may decide to go in another direction or maybe the teenager next door wants $3 less and hour. There is little to no real job security.

Most ICCW’s, like Babysitters and Mother’s Helper’s aren’t affiliated with an agency, or in many cases don’t have prior experience working with children in a professional setting. They are on there own.

Some parents will accept ICCW’s with as little experience as taking care of siblings when they were young, while other’s won’t except anyone with less that 3 professional references, transportation for the kids, CPR certification, and a classes, if not a degree in teaching or early childhood education.

In addition, many families find themselves out of an ICCW within 2 years or so of hiring them. The average job duration for a Nanny is 1 ½ to 2 years before moving on to bigger and better things. They quit to fulfill family responsibilities, to pursue a degree, or for a better job. The truth is that high turnover actually furthers job opportunities.

Remaining Professional

“The nanny with a master’s degree wasn’t much help at all” said a frustrated mother in an article called Nanny Wars: Parents Ask, Whose Child Is It Anyway? “She refused to vacuum or pitch in with housework, feeling it was beneath her.”

The expectations of people hiring ICCW’s can be very high. Parents want educated and engaging people to watch their children, yet also need someone to cook, clean, be engaging… and change diapers

International Nanny Association VP, President of Family Helpers agency, and Mom

Susan Tokayer is President of Family Helpers and Co-Founder of the International Nanny Association (INA). The INA is a non-profit company made up of members involved in the child care industry in many different capacities. She doesn’t agree that all ICCW’s need to have a extensive classroom education or a professional background to take care of someone else’s children.

On the other hand, Tokayer wouldn’t take any child care worker with less than 3 years professional experience on as a client with Family Helper’s, a search agency for parents looking for long-term, established ICCW’s. She does feel that it depends on the standards of the family to make the decision on who’s going to be right for the family.

“If one of those novice sitters came to be and said ‘I want to break into the business, but I don’t have a lot of experience’ I would tell them they would have to get more experience.” Tokayer agrees that finding a family that will trust a sitter and teach them “the ropes” are great for gaining paid experience. Tokayer suggests that parents go through a clear screening process (steps on how to do that are listed in Nanny.org).

Competence

Many of members of the INA have gone through schools or child care workshops held at the yearly INA Conference. Tokayer notes that Nanny Schools are a great experience for many people serious about learning. “The job of a Nanny ranges from cooking, helping achieve developmental milestones, planning place activities, outings, play dates… you have to be able to keep up with their demands and know what you’re doing is right.”

Muniba Massod, 35, has had four nannies since 2007.  In her accounts she tells a story of the job of the perfect nanny. She believes that all 4 have something that the others lacked.

Masood says:

Aliza (left) and Sanya as a newborn

“I started utilizing a nanny in March of 2007 when my daughter was a little over 2 years old. I started my own business and I wanted to have someone watch her and help me with the house work. I was not ready to send her to daycare and wanted her to remain in the home environment. The nanny took her to parks, museums and play dates while I was working. She also helped me with laundry, meal prep, and any other house work that was needed.

We really like to develop a relationship with our children’s nanny. We welcome an open exchange of ideas and dialogue. That I think is the key to a successful working relationship with a nanny!”

Massod’s way of bringing ICCW’s into the family is quite common. Many people are seeking people to be part of a family and free communication, and want an interaction that is more “personal”. Massod said she pays her ICCW (in her case more of a Mother’s Helper) between $12 per hour for watching the children, playing, activities, light house work (putting in a load or two of laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, folding clothes, vacuuming, etc.), cooking, school pick up and drop off, and running the occasional errand… or two.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Independent child care is a shaky business. Without adequate training it takes a long time before someone will trust you with their children, but finding the one that could get your foot in the door to newer and better things.

Self employment comes with a lot of positives, as well as drawbacks. ICCW’s have the freedom to make their own hours, negotiate pay, decide what duties they will or won’t do, and have a vibrant, inquisitive, imaginative co-worker making everything more interesting is what you can expect.

Jackie Ferland attends Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield. She plans on transferring to Eastern Ct State to major in early childhood education. She lives in Suffield, Conn.

Lauren McGreal was married last year currently getting ready to have her first child. She has not been working as a Nanny for the past 3 months and doesn’t know if she will go back.

Muniba Massod hired her fifth Nanny back in March. Sanya has taken to her new nanny very will. Aliza and Sanya are 7 and 2 years old.

Susan Tokayer is preparing for the next annual International Association of Nanny’s convention in June.  It will be in Florida this year.  She looks forward to it every year.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Jaymi Harrison

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