Office Hours Q and A

I’ve gotten several emails and calls this week from nannies wanting advice on communicating with their family or questions about their job search. I haven’t had time to reach out to each person individually so I’m going to try something new. “Office hours”. I’m going to set up a webinar like conference call and open it up to anyone and everyone who has a question I might be able to help with. It will feature a conference call and chat. You can ask questions through the chat but I’ll be answering using the phone. Remember, you can hear through your computer. The first one will be this Saturday, April 9th at 9 AM Pacific, noon Eastern. I have no idea if anyone will show up but I’ll try! This is a very informal Q and A so there won’t be any handouts or slide shows. If this sounds like a good idea to you, even if you can’t make it Saturday, let me know.

Title: office hours
Time: Saturday, April 9th at 9:00am Pacific
Listening method: Phone + Web Simulcast
To attend, visit:
Phone Number: (206) 701-8388
Pin Code: 600622#

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

The number of children abused in this country is staggering.  And those numbers reflect abuse as defined below.  That’s a pretty high bar.   Imagine all the kids who suffer lesser but still harmful and debilitating abuse and neglect.  I encourage each and every person to do something in the coming months to help a child at risk.  It could be volunteering an afternoon at a fundraiser, it could be providing support and friendship to a struggling parent, it could be becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister.  Just do something.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In 2009, 3.3 million reports of suspected abuse were made to Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies involving about 6 million children. Of those screened for investigation, about one-quarter or 693,174 children were found to be victims of child abuse. About 70,000 additional children were found to be the victim of abuse more than once.

  • More than 1,676 children died as a result of child abuse in 2009.
  • 80 percent of children who died were younger than age 4.

What is child abuse?

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the federal law that sets guidelines for states and allocates funding to both investigate and prevent child abuse, defines child abuse and neglect at a minimum as:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Each state sets its own definitions for child abuse and neglect as well as the evidence necessary to substantiate child abuse claims.

What types of abuse do children suffer?

  • More than 75 percent suffered neglect
  • More than 15 percent suffered physical abuse
  • About 9.5 percent suffered sexual abuse; and
  • About 7.6 percent suffered psychological abuse

What federal efforts are made to reduce child abuse?

Community-based grants are offered through several federal programs to help states develop, operate, expand, and enhance community-based, prevention-focused programs and activities designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. More than 3 million children received preventive services through 44 states in 2009.

Information provided by Child Care Aware.

What Are Your Personal Strengths?

Before you begin putting your search portfolio together, before you apply to any agencies or online job sites, before you begin any other part of your job search you must have a clear and comprehensive understanding of what you bring to the table.   If you don’t know and can’t easily convey why an agency should work with you or why a parent should hire you, how successful do you think you’ll really be in finding a great job? 

When I coach nannies in job search skills, I have them focus on five areas: 

  • personal strengths
  • professional strengths
  • childcare challenges
  • caregiving philosophy
  • possible stumbling blocks

In this post I’ll talk about personal strengths and will cover the other areas in the next few weeks.  (Remember each Monday I feature a job search tip.)

Parents look for caregivers that they like, that they trust, that they connect with. While experience and education count, your personal and professional strengths count more. Ultimately nannies get hired because of who they are, not because of what’s on their resume.

So what are your personal strengths?  I suggest you sit down and list at least 15 to 20.  Yes, you have that many.  If getting started is hard, ask a friend.  I guarantee a friend will be able to jumpstart the list without any effort.

Now for each strength, list the possible benefits to potential employers. 

So if one of your personal strengths is being a life long learner, the possible benefits might be you:

  • bring a sense of wonder and curiosity to everyday experiences
  • instill a love of learning that focuses on the knowledge and understanding gained, not simply finishing the assignment or getting the grade

If another strength is being highly organized, the possible benefits might be you:

  • easily manage  the chaos and mess that often comes with kids
  • ensure none of the small but important details of running a household falls between the cracks
  • create a serene, calm environment in a hectic world

When asked about personal strengths caregivers often list things specific to being a great nanny rather than specific to being a great person.  I think so many nannies define themselves by the work they do, sometimes  it’s hard to separate the two.  Yes, you want to frame your personal strengths in terms of being a nanny but think of strengths you bring to every aspect of your life, not just nanny care. 

Why make the distinction between personal and professional strengths?  Because agencies and parents want (need) to connect with you as a person, not just as a nanny.  It’s the same reason you had to take math, history, literature, and all those other college courses that had nothing to do with your major.  The goal is to be a well-rounded person. 

And to all the nannies out there who ask me how to land those high-end jobs, listen up.  Many of the intangible characteristics parents are looking for come from personal, not professional, strengths.  So this is a step you don’t want to skip.

I’d love to hear what your personal strengths are and their possible benefits to employers.  And if you feel this information is helpful, please share it using the button below.

Reference Letters: Key to a Great Search Portfolio

Reference letters are a key part of your search portfolio. They give your portfolio a personal feel and provide emotional appeal. Parents rely heavily on the opinions of those that know you so include as many reference letters as you have. You can include letters from…

  • past and present employers
  • past and present coworkers in childcare positions (e.g. daycares, preschools)
  • friends and relatives of past and present employers
  • neighbors, play date companions, and nanny friends that have seen you interact with children
  • relatives whose career or volunteer work make them respected members of their community (e.g. your aunt who is a principal at a local high school, your cousin who is head of the local Red Cross chapter)
  • volunteer peers or supervisors
  • leadership of local support group
  • teachers, professors, guidance counselors
  • priest, pastor

If at all possible, you should have a reference letter from each childcare position. If a letter isn’t possible, try to include a performance review or a letter from someone that has firsthand knowledge of your performance in the position (e.g. mom or caregiver in your regular playgroup, neighbor who often sees you outside, coworker).

Also, contact others (e.g. pastors, teachers, volunteer supervisors) that hold you in high esteem. Their opinions of you as a person, even if they’ve never seen you work as a caregiver, are important and help round out the picture you present to parents.

And don’t forget colleagues (e.g. nanny friends, co-teachers) and family members. Most job seekers don’t include letters from friends and family. Since this type of reference is so obviously biased, they feel the letter will carry little if any weight. However, the right kind of friend or family member (e.g. a nanny support group leader, an aunt that taught for 30 years) can have a huge impact on a potential employer.

How far back should your reference letters go? That depends upon how many total letters you have. If you have so many reference letters that it makes your portfolio too long (good for you!), include the most recent letters then create a “What References Are Saying About YOUR NAME” page that features the best quotes from the older letters. Make sure to have those letter available in your supporting documentation file.

Remember to check out our Nanny Training Library for more job search resources.

Bet You Can’t Beat This Nanny’s Skill Set

nanny auction

A group of male and female graduate nannies will be auctioned off in Beijing.  Yes, I said auctioned off.  :)   One nanny says she loves housework and singing, and knows how to do family-style massage and fabric decorating. She could also serve as an English tutor and work for foreign households as she speaks fluent English.     You’ve got to admit, it’s one way to get a job.

Should Nannies Provide Their Own Background Checks?


I thought this was an interesting development in Australia.  Nannies, tutors and other self employed people who work with kids are required to get their own background checks.  That makes sense for self-employed people but would a similar policy for nannies help move the nanny industry forward in this country? 

Don’t Treat Them Like The Hired Help

I was sitting here thinking about what I wanted to tackle on the nanny / family relationship front this Tuesday and up pops an article on 10 Things Your Nanny Won’t Tell You.  It’s pretty much the standard list of complaints nannies have but the last one really stood out.  Not because I’ve never heard it before but because it’s always baffled me. 

10. Nannies want to be treated with respect.

Don’t treat them like hired help when they’re looking after your children day after day, essentially co-parenting while you are at work. “All in all, I just wish that employers would take the time to see that the caregivers that look after their children are people too,” said Jennifer. “No matter their social status or race.”

Don’t treat them like the hired help?  I hate to break it to the masses but nannies are the hired help.  They are hired to do a job within the household.  Yes, it’s an important job but it’s still a job.  (I won’t even comment on the implication that the hired help referred to – housekeepers, cleaners, cooks and gardeners – don’t deserve to be treated with respect.)  

So what does this have to do with the employment relationship?  A lot.

If you want to work for an employer who will treat you with respect, who will value the work you do and who will be considerate of your needs then look for an employer that treats all her employees that way.  I can pretty much guarantee that an employer who treats her housekeeper like a slave or constantly criticizes her personal assistant or barks orders at her gardener won’t treat her nanny well simply because she’s a nanny.  Bad attitudes cross job description boundaries. 

Also, remembering you’re an employee will help you successful navigate the employment relationship long term.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be your employer’s friend or your charge’s unofficial auntie.  It simply means that it’s equally important for you to establish and maintain professional boundaries and to take the personal out of employment issues. 

So do you feel you’re the hired help?  Does that have to be a bad thing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Finding Employers That Match Your Caregiving Approach

employersIt’s crucial that you and your employer share a common (not identical) caregiving philosophy. Nannies can and often do change aspects of their caregiving style to meet their employer’s preferences. (All organic, not a problem. Want your child to wear a hat every time she’s outside? Will do.)

However, you cannot comfortably change your core belief system and related responses simply because they’re in opposition with the parents’ beliefs. (Want me to actually DO your child’s homework for her? Think I should just ignore it when your seven year old berates me for asking him to pick up after himself because addressing it will only add fuel to the fire?? You believe beating up her little brother is a natural part of sibling rivalry and toughens up the little guy???)

If you take a job that requires you to act against your core beliefs, you’ll quickly become resentful and frustrated and most likely find yourself once again looking for a new job. If you want to work for someone that will support and appreciate your work as a nanny, you must work for someone that supports and appreciates your caregiving philosophy.

So how do you know how well you’ll match up with a prospective employer?  Through in-depth interviewing and referencing. Remember, the screening process goes both ways. The family screens you and you screen the family.

I suggest that every interview cover:

  • the overall environment. What kind of environment do the parents what their children to be raised in? Relaxed or more formal?  Focused on education or learning through life experiences? What values are most important and how do they translate into everyday life?

  • activities and scheduling. Are they home bodies or completely overscheduled? Where do school and sports fit into their priority list? How much freedom does the nanny have in planning the day?


  • discipline/guidance. From expectations to communication style, it’s key to not only understand what the parents do but why they do it. The why will help you understand how the parents act in real world situations, how they’ll adapt as their children get older and how well your attitudes and approaches will fit in.


  • age group specific questions. Infant, toddler, preschool and school age; each stage is very different and requires a conversation centered around that age. From when the parents think a child should give up the pacifier to sleep schedules and routines to attitudes about independence, choices and behavior.

Of course, the questions you ask during the interview should be tailored to the family. Asking the right questions, and right follow-up questions is a huge step towards finding a family that shares your caregiving philosophy.

Looking for more information?  Check out all our job search e-guides and webinars including How to Interview and Reference a Family Like a Pro.  There’s a live webinar on this topic scheduled for Sunday, April 10th at 7:30 PM Eastern / 4:30 PM Pacific. 

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