Last month I travelled from Melbourne, Australia to New Orleans, Louisiana, USA to attend the International Nanny Association’s 34th Annual Conference. I have attended many Australian nanny conferences since they started happening 4 years ago, but this was my first international one. It was amazing to have the opportunity to connect with other people in the nanny industry worldwide. I love hearing the viewpoints and situations of different people working in my industry. It always brings home to me how individual nanny care is (more on that in a future post, I hope), but also how essential it is for us to have opportunities to learn, share ideas, and grow as individuals within an industry that is also growing in recognition and understanding.
The INA’s Conference was presented with 3 main tracks of sessions, which attendees were welcome to choose between. The attendance of the conference was made up of nannies (of course) who were varied in their roles, experience, qualifications, and childcare philosophies. There was also a large and distinctive attendance of Newborn Care Specialists, who have training and expertise specific to caring for young babies and who work in a variety of roles. Agencies and business who work within the industry were also heavily represented, which I felt was a big difference compared to the Australian conferences. While they had sessions specific to their interests and certain social activities focused on networking amongst themselves, business individuals also interacted throughout the several days with nannies and NCSs. I found it fascinating engaging in industry-related conversations where there were several different viewpoints represented, and it was interesting to socialise with people I wouldn’t often get a chance to meet.
The workshops and sessions provided to us in the nanny track included topics like High Sensitivity/Sensory Processing Disorder, Respectful Childcare, and Supporting ‘Gifted’ Children and Children at Risk. There was also a discussion panel of nannies and agency owners, which was interesting as it presented the opportunity for questions to be asked that can help us work together. There were a few sessions at the conference that were specifically relevant to the US market (on insurance and legal employment), but most of the conference content was certainly relevant to people working in the industry across the world (though there were occasionally some words used that could be confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with the language used in the USA or the US industry). I met nannies from 5 countries and I think even more were represented, though the American industry definitely dominates in numbers. Next year’s INA Conference will be held in Montreal in May 2020.
I am a huge advocate for professional development; in the form of conferences like this one and the Australian Nanny Association’s Convention or US-based Nannypalooza, nanny-specific trainings such as interNational Nanny Training Day, community sessions run by local councils for parents and caregivers, and online classes and webinars for distance learning. These opportunities allow us to learn about topics that are specific to our industry and the needs of the families we are working with or roles we specialise in. They also expose us to new techniques, skills, and ways of thinking about things, and they keep us informed on changing knowledge of children’s development and caring for families in their homes. They are also a lot of fun! At this year’s INA Conference I made new friends and connections, as well as meeting up with those who have attended Australian events or worked within my past local industries.
I believe it is possible to be a good nanny without formal qualifications, as active experience is the thing that I have found most beneficial to my knowledge and career. But I also believe that industry-specific professional development can make a nanny so much more qualified and valuable as an employee and as a member of the nanny community.