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Nanny Industry Expert Panel:

Exploring Industry Evolution, Empowerment and the Childcare Ecosystem

Via The Village recognises nannies as an important part of our community. For so many modern day families they are a crucial component of the village it takes to raise a child.

Sadly, and rightly so, many nannies feel undervalued and marginalized. 

We believe that no one should be pushed to the margins. Our strength lies in coming together and in understanding that we are all interconnected. Via The Village has started an inclusive nanny empowerment group to create a community of support for nannies and explore fundamental issues within the childcare industry. 

We invite anyone who would like to support the cause. We aim to make a positive social impact for nannies, families, and the childcare industry as a whole. 

To learn how to best fulfill our mission, we’ve gone straight to the industry leaders and experts. 

Expert Panel

Sue Downey, Nanny, Organizer of Nannypalooza

Michelle LaRowe, Award-winning Nanny, Agency Owner & Industry Expert

Elizabeth Malson, President of Amslee Institute

Stella Reid, Nanny, Author, Public Figure

Tonya Sakowicz, Owner of Newborn Care Solutions & Co-President of International Nanny Association

These women have done incredible work for the industry. Please see their bios at the end of the article.

Thank you for your thoughtful responses to our questions on how we can be more effective industry advocates and foster an uplift amongst members of our community. 

What excites you about working in the nanny industry?

Sue Downey:

“This job has been the perfect fit for me. I have worked with some amazing families and been fortunate enough to have found great matches in my career. Because this job has been so amazing, I found that I wanted to improve the visibility, professionalism and conditions of the other nannies that I have met along the way. The exciting part to me is that there is much to be done. And I am honored to work with so many amazing caregivers and leaders along the way.”

Michelle LaRowe:

“I am very fortunate to be involved in so many aspects of our industry – and each one excites me for different reasons.  As an educator, I get excited about empowering nannies to be the best they can be. I get to play a role in ensuring that children cared for by nannies receive the highest level of care. As an agency owner, I get excited about encouraging parents to find the right nanny for their family by empowering them to make educated and informed hiring decisions. I always get a spark of excitement when I have helped make the right match! As an INA Nanny of the Year, past executive director of INA, content contributor to many parenting sites, and published author, I get excited about using my platform to raise the bar for nannies, employers and childcare by sharing best practices, industry standards and my thoughts on all things nanny while educating the public on who and what today’s nanny is.”

Elizabeth Malson:

“When I was pregnant, I knew that I’d need the help of great nannies to care for my son while I was at work. As a single mom, finding someone knowledgeable and reliable has been a blessing for our family and I am grateful to the nanny community.

As an educator, it is rewarding to lead Amslee Institute and give back to the nanny industry. Offering affordable online training programs taught by college faculty has helped me be a better parent and has helped so many nannies gain practical skills to better care for children.”

Stella Reid:

Being heavily involved in a field/industry that impacts the lives of families.  Impacting children in the most positive of ways. This industry is fast paced especially here in Los Angeles. I love being of service to my clients whether that be a family or a child care provider.  I love the nanny industry.”

Tonya Sakowicz:

I love supporting growing families in the best way I possibly can.  I started out working solely as a nanny, then into household management, personal assisting and cooking, and then into newborn care specialist work.  From there, moving into a role as an educator has been an almost natural progression and now my work as the owner of Newborn Care Solutions allows me to support and impact families both directly through consulting and working with them, and even more exciting, indirectly through the work of all the students we teach.  Seeing the positive impact this has on families still excites me after 35 years in this industry! And for the last two years, I have served as the co-President of the International Nanny Association after serving the previous 2 years as the Vice-President. I love the opportunity this gives me to give back to our industry and hopefully make it a better place for those who follow after me.”

How have you seen the nanny industry evolve? What are the industry’s strengths?

Sue Downey:

“We have become more visible as a career choice, instead of just something that people do while waiting to do something else. We have increased in numbers and we are more available as a choice to dual professional families. There has been great strides towards legal employment practices and fair hiring and employment. While there is more to do in this arena, it is much improved over the last 20 years. I feel that we offer care that is in line with the best practices for early childhood development, and offer flexible care which is in keeping with today’s more flexible workplaces.

We have also made amazing strides in the training and professional development offerings for nannies. This is CRUCIAL. Nannies who do not have basic knowledge should not be left with children unattended or unsupervised. Best practices are constantly evolving so it is necessary that we continue to develop our skills. It is something we need to continue to expand. “

Michelle LaRowe:

At this point I have been in the nanny industry for more than half of my life. I remember the days where nannies connected via online chat groups and nanny training only existed in a school or two or in the form of online quizzes. A time when agencies faxed paper files and nannies did not have to worry about how social media may affect their job searches. In the past five to ten years, nannies have begun investing in improving their nanny knowledge base by enrolling in training programs and nannies have gone from finding jobs in the newspaper or by posting flyers in the coffee shops to landing jobs with employers instantly – sight unseen – via online recruiting services. We’ve gone from nannies accepting whatever parents were offering to nannies organizing to secure fair wages and labor laws that protect them. I don’t believe that domestic workers bills of rights were even a dream 20 plus years ago. How far we’ve come and how far we continue to go!”

Elizabeth Malson:

“The nanny industry is flexible and adapts to the needs of families. A great example is the increase in Nanny Shares which can benefit nannies with higher than average hourly rates while providing flexibility and affordability to families. Family assistants are also becoming increasingly popular as families seek a childcare provider but also someone willing to help with errands, scheduling, and other household management tasks.”

Stella Reid:

Slowly, but it is evolving. The industry’s biggest strength as a whole is that we are impacting lives; not just the lives of families, but nannies as well. The symbiotic relationship, the two way street, that’s the strengths- supporting the economy, if you will.”

Tonya Sakowicz:

I have seen things evolve in both good and bad ways–the advent of the internet and its impact on our industry, for example, has been huge!  25 years ago, ads in the newspaper and brick and mortar agencies were the only options. Now we have online nanny agencies, online job searches, nannies creating their own websites to stand out, nanny support groups, etc.. it has been fantastic for the industry.  But the internet has also been an influence in the spread of gossip, parent and nanny shaming, criminals having access to children and families private information and photos, etc… so of the more negative aspects of it, unfortunately. And yet through it all, I have seen nannies grow, focus on their education and learning, having more and more positive impacts on families.  We have nannies deeply knowledgable about infants, multiples, issues such as aspergers and other challenges and those nannies are rising up and doing an amazing job of serving families.” 

What areas within the nanny industry need attention and improvement?

Sue Downey:

“We need to continue our strides for fair and legal employment practices for sure. But I feel that one of the larger challenges is that there are some racial issues that we need to address. Whether it is the separation of the races and socio-economic groups within the nanny community, or the hiring and payment discrepancies of nannies of color vs. white nannies, more needs to be done to speak with one voice and advocate for our nannies who are women and men of color. I also feel that we need to establish a minimum standard of care that is a baseline for who should be left alone with a child. This is crucial and would help us define who we are.

Most of all- I think we need to focus some attention on leadership development within our community. We need leadership to create a cohesive voice and to unite us. This will help us achieve the goals mentioned above and more.”

Michelle LaRowe:

There is always room for improvement when it comes to ensuring that children cared for by nannies receive the highest quality of care. Third party endorsed training, enforced industry standards for caregiver minimums and educating parents on the importance of paying legally are areas that as an industry we can continue to focus on improving.”

Elizabeth Malson:

“The terms sitter, nanny and professional nanny are confusing, misunderstood or not clearly defined for many families and those in the childcare industry. Frustration occurs on both ends of the job search when families seek a highly trained and experienced nanny but can only afford an hourly wage that is appropriate for a sitter who provides supervision only. Nannies also struggle when they seek a higher paying position but lack formal training and quality childcare experience.” 

Stella Reid:

The phrase “nanny industry” is ambiguous. You go to fill out an application and they ask you “What industry do you work in?”. There is no stand-alone box for the nanny industry. It’s exciting because it could spill off into a lot of industries: health care, social services, education, etc.

It should be recognized as a profession. I would like parents and the rest of the country to realize that nannies are professionals. It’s a sensitive arena because a lot of people don’t want to recognize the fact that they’re giving credence and credit to someone taking over someone’s role. You’re subcontracting parenting. 

Early Childhood Education (ECE) doesn’t have a stand-alone track for being a nanny. It is a void. Leaders in the field of childcare, NAEYC, etc- are they enrolling nannies in their programs? Are any of their members nannies? Are they reaching out to nannies? These actions would lead to improvement”. 

Tonya Sakowicz:

“We unfortunately are still dealing with the perception of a nanny as “someone who can’t get any other job” or that they are all “undocumented workers” and that nannies are not worthy of a living wage.  And yet some of the brightest, most compassionate and amazing people I know are nannies.  And these nannies are impacting our future.  And not just any future, but the future of the children who are likely to be making a difference around the world. Seeing who some of these fantastic nannies are gives me hope for who our children are becoming.  However, we have a long way to go before culturally we have an appreciation and respect for the people doing this work, don’t have to fight for legal pay, overtime and benefits, and for nannies to be seen for who they really are: the influencers in our society.”

Do you feel the nanny industry is expanding beyond childcare exclusive to the wealthy class? If so, should we maintain that a nanny is a luxury or highlight how essential the profession is to working parents and vital to our economy?

Sue Downey:

“I feel it has expanded beyond, for sure. Dual income professional families often are the most in need of this kind of care and it is affordable for some. We need to highlight the benefits of this type of care and be honest about the cost. It is a choice some will make. And with the advent of nanny shares, a more robust part time nanny market and work from home parents, it is possible for families to find the care that is best for their child and that they can afford while still paying nannies a good and fair wage.”

Michelle LaRowe:

Nannies play a vital role in supporting families— wealthy families and working families. For families with more than one child, nanny care can often be more cost effective than daycare, as nannies do not charge per child, but per family.”

Elizabeth Malson:

“Nannies are no longer exclusive to the wealthy class for two reasons. First, a majority of nannies have a high school diploma with some college while top nannies often have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. Wealthy families can afford to pay a premium wage and can require a degree in early childhood education or a similar field. With an estimated 4 million nannies in the United States, most are working with higher-income or middle-income families versus the super wealthy.

Second, as our society has evolved, people of all socio-economic classes work non-traditional hours. Whether working the night shift, traveling for work, working at home, working while going to school, or raising children on their own, parents have greater demands on their time, resulting in less time to care for children and maintain a household. This means higher-income, middle-income and lower-income families are having to pay for nannies as their jobs don’t align with standard daycare hours. These families are not seeking nannies out of luxury but out of necessity to maintain their employment and provide adequate care for their children.”

Stella Reid:

If you look at the history of nannies, it started off as for the more affluent. We should maintain it is a luxury ticket item, but it shouldn’t have to break the bank. It’s a luxury service, but we want to make this industry affordable to all.”

Tonya Sakowicz:

“I think everyone will have an opinion on this.  It is my opinion that the reality is that until our culture respects children and those who care for them more, nannies will never be a common childcare option for many working parents.  To pay a nanny a fair, livable wage for the work that they do, many families are working simply to pay the nanny and not actually earning any actual income after the fact. We simply do not have any kind of employment benefit for parents to draw on to help pay for nanny care.  For most families, daycare will continue to be the most viable option unless there is a major shift.  And nannies (like other domestic workers) should not have take a vow of poverty to do this very important work.  When it comes to nannies, we want the best and the brightest, we want them to love and teach our children, and nannies are beginning to learn their worth.  But we do not live in a society that allows for working families to have nannies except in rare cases.  Nannies are a form of childcare that for the foreseeable future, will remain largely a privilege of the wealthy in our society.”

Please share any other insights you feel important about the childcare industry or any words of wisdom/encouragement for nannies or industry advocates.

Sue Downey:

“Leadership and building bridges between the segments of our community- that is where it is at for me. We have come so far in the last 20 years from when I started. I see nannies as the perfect choice for anyone who can afford it for childcare as it is in keeping with what we know about current brain research for young children. We are an amazing group of people and our goal to improve the lives of children can keep us going!!”

Michelle LaRowe:

No one understands a nanny like another nanny. Attending an INA conference or Nannypalooza conference allows you to connect with like minded individuals that truly get and value the important work nannies do. Every nanny should attend an industry event like this. It will transform their career, their view of the work that they do and open their eyes to a whole nanny world they never even knew existed!”

Elizabeth Malson:

“Often working alone, nannies can feel isolated but it’s exciting to see so many resources and online communities. Whether it’s free childcare tips, work agreement templates, updates on the latest laws, or communities like Via the Village, nannies are increasingly able to give and get support, advice, and expand their professional network.”

Stella Reid:

To anyone who is rolling along this progress (influencers, people throwing positive light on the industry), I can’t say enough good things about you. To nannies: recognize the valuable job that you do, and call it a profession.”

Tonya Sakowicz:

“The nanny community is an amazing group of people.  And nannies should be proud of the work that they do, they should value themselves and expect others to value them.  Never forget, you as a nanny are literally changing the future, one child at a time.”

Panelist Bios

Sue Downey, Nanny, Organizer of Nannypalooza 

Sue Downey has been a nanny for more than 20 years. She is the organizer of Nannypalooza, a professional development conference for nannies. She also is the organizer of interNational Nanny Training Day, the largest nanny event in the U.S. Sue works with INA on the mentoring committee, is planning a professional development cruise next year and also works within the nanny community to support others. With her partner Kellie Geres, she is the creator of Our Nanny Diary journals for families and nannies.

Michelle LaRowe, Award-winning Nanny, Agency Owner & Industry Expert

Michelle LaRowe is an award-winning nanny, agency owner, industry expert and author of several parenting books including Nanny to the Rescue! and Nanny to the Rescue Again! To learn more about Michelle visit www.MichelleLaRowe.com

Elizabeth Malson, President of Amslee Institute

After 15 years leading global teams in healthcare and education, Elizabeth Malson founded Amslee Institute, an online training program dedicated to Nannies and Sitters. Faculty members include child psychologists, physician assistants, nutritionists, teachers, lawyers, and professional nannies who created a curriculum that is both comprehensive and practical. Amslee Institute is licensed by the Florida Department of Education, Commission for Independent Education, #5951 and is authorized to issue Childcare Diplomas and Certifications.

Stella Reid, Nanny, Author, Public Figure

Stella Reid aka Nanny Stella,  is an English trained nanny, author and television personality, known publicly as one of the stars of the reality television series Nanny 911. She is co-author of Nanny 911: Expert Advice for All Your Parenting Emergencies, The Nanny Chronicles of Hollywood and The Nanny in Charge. Stella lives in Los Angeles with her husband and 7 year old son where she runs her company Nanny Stella Inc, the services consist of Parent Coach – Nanny and NCS Coach –  Childcare Matchmaker and online training courses.

Tonya Sakowicz, Owner of Newborn Care Solutions & Co-President of the International Nanny Association

Tonya is an INA Credientialed Nanny, Newborn Care Specialist, CAPPA Trained Postpartum Doula and a Parent Educator, as well as being the Owner and Director of Edcution for Newborn Care Solutions. Read more about her here!

 

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