Hope Skinner interview - CareforKids.com.au®
Child care person in the spotlight
Hope Skinner
This month we introduce you to Nanny Extraordinaire Hope Skinner founder and director of the Australian Nanny Conference, and NANNY SHECANDO

What is your name?
My name is Hope Skinner, although, after about 4 weeks of working with my kids, they always begin to call me "Hopey". I am 24.

Which service do you work in? How many staff and children are in the service?
I'm what's formally recognised as an in-home educator, although the more commonly used term is a nanny. I work within a private home, with sole charge care of three children; a boy 18 months, and two girls 5 and 7.

What is your professional background and career experience?
In what seems like another life ago, I spent many years working in the hospitality industry from when I was a young teenager. I completed a Bachelor of Business and Hotel Management, and constantly had the desire to first and foremost help people. And secondly, to work for myself. Since making the switch, I've up-skilled and quantified my knowledge and experience through hands-on training and specialised professional development to position myself as a professional nanny. I'm passionate about quality care, and for the possibility to truly make a difference in a child's life.

What attracted you to a career in child care?
I started working part time as a nanny whilst studying, to give myself a break from the stressful and crazy hospitality rosters, and I fell in love with the children and the profession. I saw a rewarding career choice, that at the end of the day gave back lots of love and thanks. I think being valued and appreciated in your profession is essential, and when you're lucky enough to receive it from both your kids, and your employers, you've hit your sweet spot.

What does a 'normal' day look like for you?
I work 12 hour days for my nanny family three days a week and that looks like your average mum or dad - messy kitchen and bathroom and toys scattered throughout the house, baked yummies in the oven, shopping on the go, playground and visits and walks in the park, lots of song and fun with the kids, school pick ups, play dates, backyard science experiments, epic master-builder Lego competitions, and lots of laughter.

The other days I've got my 'corporate' hat on, and while cooking for my partner and I, and washing my baby-splattered clothes, I spend hours in front of the computer, attending conference calls, writing for my blog and magazines, skyping, having client meetings at cafes, and developing free career resources to give to my NANNY SHECANDO database.

What makes the life of a nanny unique?
I love the one-on-one, and the smaller carer to children ratios. For me, it's the benefit of being an extension of the family, and really knowing the children. I like to provide a holistic approach to the children's care, and I look at the "whole" child. I often work with busy families who have multiple children of varying ages.

I balance my days with sole charge care to an infant or toddler during the day and then add in the older children before and after school. I balance educational and developmental milestones through child-led play and incorporate an active healthy lifestyle. We learn French and music together, adapting methods and activities to suit the ages. At the end of my day, I debrief with the parents, which gives me greater insight and understanding to the children and the family, allowing all of us to grow and benefit together.

What are some of the advantages of working in the childcare sector?
Day to day I love 'working' with children of all ages, but particularly the early childhood formative years. I feel lucky to receive their unconditional love, and I love the warm and open smiles that greet me every morning, the creative play, the organisational challenges, the autonomy.

Industry wise I am passionate about championing the professionalism of nannies, advocating the importance and value of in-home care and education, and supporting further professional development opportunities, networking, sharing and support for nannies.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the Nanny industry?
Currently the in-home care, or nanny industry, is undergoing substantial growth and change. The most significant hurdle is attempting to help the greater community understand that being a nanny is a legitimate, professional and socially valuable career. There is still a misconception that a nanny is either a babysitter, or even a domestic housekeeper.

On top of this, and largely due to these misconceptions, nannies are still faced with having to circumnavigate fair employment and working conditions, and for the most part, they do this on their own without a reputable support body to assist or support short of offering "best practices".

How has the nanny industry adapted to deal with these challenges?
We have seen the rise of support bodies and wide-spread forums to break down the isolation barriers, and to foster a community of support to share knowledge, and generate kinship. I launched the inaugural Australian Nanny Conference, featuring seminars and workshops to support and strengthen the country's in-home care community.

The Australian Nanny Conference is a two-day event supporting community involvement and the transfer of knowledge - values integral to the philosophy of my business Hope For Nannies.

I believe a stronger community understanding, and a growing acceptance of nannies being a valuable service to common households has helped to generate a positive message about the industry as a whole.

Moving forward, I'd like to see a stronger emphasis placed on the delivery of a nanny-specific certification, and of greater availability and affordability to highly renowned trainings and workshops coming out of the U.K and the U.S.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in child care?
To a nanny new to the industry, or a seasoned nanny looking to enhance their career level - "be all in". The role of a nanny is, at its core, service based, and that means hard work, difficult days, and trying situations. But if you're committed, genuine and have a heart of gold, you'll be successful and truly enjoy the nanny life.

I think it's important to note that as a nanny, you're not just caring for the children, you're also caring for the family. Often nannies will give advice to mothers, and provide that much-needed sound board to discuss behaviours, developmental performance, health issues, and educational concerns.

The experienced professional nanny will be aware of the best product to suit the right child and family. From the best pick of the packaged foods for meal times on-the-go, to the preferred brand of sleep suits for a wriggly infant, and even tried and tested feedback on a potential new big-purchase pram, the nanny is often your first point of call. Given this, the nanny is a valuable asset in the family home. For the child, the nanny is not just their carer, but also their friend.
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