Valuable Nanny Advice: Interview with Marcia Hall - President of The International Nanny Association (INA)

August 17, 2016

Marcia Hall, president of the INA (International Nanny Association), has over 15 years of experience working as a nanny and child care specialist. During the interview, she provided some sound advice for nannies who want to improve their marketability, the benefits of joining the INA, nanny coaching, and information about INA practices that protect child care professionals.

What is your position at the INA?

“I’m the current president of the board of directors, which is a volunteer board. We have a new president every few years, it’s an elected position… I was elected this past January 2016… I’ve been on the board of directors for about six years.”

You were a nanny for how long?

“I was a nanny for 15 years… then I opened The Nanny Coaching Team, which is sort of an effort to educate nannies, to get them more involved, to help them understand what their role in the family is. We do online virtual conferences and one on one coaching with nannies, helping them navigate some of the pitfalls in the industry.”

Nanny Coaching Team?

“Nanny Coaching Team is what I personally do within the industry, I’m no longer a nanny, I don’t own a placement agency. The INA is made up of nannies, newborn care specialists, placement agencies, other industry professionals like background check [agencies], payroll services and educators. I’m in the educator role at this point in my life. I’m a nanny educator.”

You mentioned background checks, but a background check can’t tell you if someone is unstable…

“There are a lot of different ways to do the background check. There’s the normal, the basic stuff… what the person has done in the past… a traditional on paper background check can only tell you so much. It can only tell you what the person has got caught doing in the past… a letter of reference, I’m assuming from somebody who has worked with them in the past, could be a really valuable thing… and really give the family that employs that nanny — piece of mind.”

You mentioned The Nanny Coaching Team, when would a nanny contact you? What are some things a nanny would contact you for?

“One of the things that we’re working on right now is the virtual conference series. Our goal is to take someone who is a brand new nanny or want to become a nanny or maybe a nanny who has been in the industry, and wants to learn a little more and take them through the all of the steps, we talk about interviewing, we talk about being paid legally, we talk about how to be assertive rather than being aggressive… I interview industry professionals from around the world… We also do one on one coaching, we’ll be able to sit with them on the phone or Skype and talk through some of their options… we would basically take the experience we have, as coaches, as former nannies and help them in their situation they’re in right now… legally we do not have the ability to legally discuss contracts, but we can help you figure out what questions to ask…”

Are nannies being neglected?

“I would say that some — in any kind of field there are some people, there are being neglected. There are some nannies that are really taken advantage of. To the point of neglect and abuse, I think there was a story, that I saw not too long ago, a family who literally had kept a nanny as a prisoner in their home and brought her here from somewhere else… those things still happen, but beyond that there certainly are nannies being taken advantage of. Sometimes families don’t really understand exactly what goes into being a professional nanny or what a nanny does with their children or what a really good nanny can give to their child.”

You mentioned ‘helping nannies understand their roles in the family,’ what did you mean by that?

“The job of the nanny is a very unique job, you can work in an office, you can work in a daycare, you can work with children at a teaching facility… But when you work in a child’s home, when you work alongside their parents, the role of the nanny becomes more of a partner, but also an employee and kind of family too. I always think about these three roles you have to play… you are an employee to the parents and they pay you to do this job, but you’re also there to partner with them in raising their children. A lot of the time, the nannies and the children feel like they become part of the family and incorporating that family, partner, employee — it’s a strange dynamic, it’s a job, it’s a unique job. I can’t think of another like it. You become part of the family, but you’re also being paid… it’s so emotional for nannies. They love these children, they want was best for the children, almost as much as the parents do. To talk about money is sometimes hard for the nannies…”

You mentioned these three points: partner, employee, and family… that can be so difficult. You have to do all three.

“Exactly, do all three and not only does the nanny have to be able to do all three of them, the family has to do all three of them. That’s why these relationships are hard to find a good match for. Because you not only have to have families who understand what it is to have all three of those aspects but a nanny who also understands that. It’s hard to find the right fit. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

I can’t find good books for nannies to read…

“It’s tough. There’s a few of them out there. A lot of them focus on the care of the kids, and of course, the care of the kids is incredibly important, but a lot of the things that I find nannies need… those day to day interactions and how to navigate the world that they live in. Something’s wrong, ’How to I approach the family knowing that parents sometimes get jealous and things can be taken the wrong way?’… I think you’re right. There needs to be better books. A goal of mine in the next couple of years is to create a book for nannies.”

You mentioned jealousy, maybe you’re around for the child’s first steps, first words, I understand that is very sensitive…

“I’ll be honest with you, being a mom myself now, I understand that a little bit more. I think that when I was a nanny in my early years, I didn’t really understand and I got more frustrated when jealousy arose… I remember one little boy I took care of, his first steps were with me, but I pretended they weren’t… understanding what it’s like for a mom to leave her children, but a lot of the time it comes from the mom. A lot of times, moms feel that pressure to do everything… I understand, you feel this guilt, the jealousy comes from guilt more than anything else. Nannies can alleviate that guilt… a lot of the time the things they can do can help bring more of that partnership… bringing those moments that mom and dad have with the kids, back around and let them know they’re talked about… let them know that their presence isn’t disappearing when they’re gone.

Can you describe the INA?

“The INA was formed about 32 years ago and it was formed as the umbrella organization… it encompasses the whole industry. Our goal is to bring all of the pieces of the industry together so we can educate each other, so we can learn, help each other out; we actually raise the standard for nannies. You talked about nannies being taken advantage of and not being understood, the goal INA is to bring all of the people together, we can raise awareness, we can raise standards, we can make people understand what it means to be a nanny and the importance of the at home nanny.”

There’s a difference between a babysitter and professional child care. Can you elaborate on that?

“As a nanny, I was sometimes called the babysitter and had to just get over that. Knowing that it wasn’t coming from a place of someone trying to belittle me, but coming from a place of not understanding. My personal opinion is, a nanny is someone who not only invests in the care of the child but in their emotional, physical, spiritual development… they are long term. They’re there for the long term and they’re invested in the child’s future and a babysitter would be like a temporary caregiver that is there to take care of their physical needs essentially…”

What certifications are there from your organization?

“There important thing to recognize, there’s a big difference between a certification, a certificate, and a credential. And what the INA offers is a credential. We are not a certifying body, we don’t have a certificate of completion… Our credential, we have two of them, one is the Basic Skills Assessment, basically, I wouldn’t want anybody in my home taking care of my children, for any length of time, unless they can answer these questions… there are about basic care, you should understand these things in order to take care of a child. A lot of our agencies will use this to weed through the applicants… and then our Nanny Credential Exam is a hundred questions plus an essay question, and it goes a little bit deeper. It assesses things you would need to know when you’ve been a nanny for about, four or five years… there’s no book to read, there’s nothing you have to do to take the exam, but we recommend that you do research, we have a list of reputable websites and articles on those websites… a lot of time, just being a nanny will give you the information you need to pass this exam.”

What is the INA doing to reach the nannies?

“We’ve upped our social networking, a lot of word of mouth is what we hope for. We also partner with organizations… as a non-profit, our conferences are a big thing we focus our attention on, we also know that not all nannies can go to that, it gets pricey and it gets expensive. We’re looking at other options, we’re looking at other options for virtual education that would be available to members. Our membership for nannies is only $45 a year. It’s very reasonable for nannies…”

At the conferences, the speakers, are they more experienced nannies?

“Not always experienced nannies, we do have experienced nannies that teach workshops, but we also bring in other speakers, that are outside of the nanny industry, but in the childcare industry in general… we do have what we call veteran nannies, have been in the industry for a while and are able to teach certain workshops. But we like to bring, we like to get professional educators, doctors, nurses, we like to bring people who know about children… to teach our nannies, the ins and outs of caring for children.”

Some nannies, INA nannies, they have boundaries, whereas other nannies don’t, for instance, if they’re in a home and there is housework that has to be done, an INA nanny is going to say ‘Okay, we have an agreement, I’m not supposed to be painting or cutting your bushes, this is our agreement.’ Are there ethics in the INA?

“We have a best practices for nannies as well as for placement agencies and educators… Our opinion is that you need a work agreement to decide what you’re willing to do… What we don’t like to see, is a nanny come into a situation with a work agreement and a job description that says they don’t have to do those things and suddenly have all of those things put on their plate. It’s not that we don’t think that you should do household chores, it’s that if you’re going to do the household chores, you’ve agreed to it in writing and you’re paid for it well… The other thing that we feel, the INA in general, your number one job should be for the children.”

If a nanny joins the INA and they pay their $45 dollars a year, what can they expect to get? What are the benefits?

“There’s discounts on our website, a discount to the nanny basic skills exam, the credential exam, and any of our other publications that we have there. You get a discount to conferences… We are expanding our educational library, where members will have access to videos… Being able to put the INA logo on your resume and say ‘I am a committed professional nanny,” It really send a message to parents… ‘I’m really am committed to being a nanny and continue to educate myself.”

I notice that you went to governess school. If someone is going to be serious about being a nanny, of course joining the INA is a good beginning, what kind of skills should they be thinking about adding during their professional career?

Absolutely have a CPR and first aid certification. Water skills is also a huge thing you can do through the Red Cross… there are several different educational skills out there for nannies, you can go to community college and learn about basic child care or early child education. A lot of times, I tell nannies, the thing that speaks to a parent the most, if you’re interviewing with them, and they say ’My child has ADHD,’ if you were to go out of your way and learn about that specific issue, maybe there is a class you can take, maybe it’s just reading a book and say to the parents ‘I don’t know much about this but I want to know more of it, I want to understand this’ showing parents that you’re going to tailor your education to what their kids need, sends a huge message to them too. Sometimes it’s less about knowing everything and knowing the right thing. And being willing to learn when the parents need it.”

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