Thursday, 27 December 2007

Parents Struggling to Find After School Care

In March 2007 the NZ Herald published an article titled "Parents struggle to find after-school care" - the full article can be viewed on our website under "Articles". The introduction reads:

"Kaye Colebourn, a nurse, says that finding after-school care for her children Campbell, 9, and Cate, 5, is a real problem. Parents struggling to find after-school care for children are being turned away from private nanny agencies, as a shortage of carers after the 3pm bell worsens.
Top nannies now command up to $22 an hour, up from $10 a decade ago, and can pick and choose their jobs. Many school-based schemes have waiting lists of several years, despite a rise in the number of publicly supported programmes. Experts believe the demand for after-school care in Auckland is yet to peak. The Government is preparing a five-year action plan for the sector and admitted access to care was limited in some areas."

Before Northshore Nannies merged with New Zealand Nannies International, their experience was that the demand for after-school nannies was significantly higher than the available supply. There are a number of reasons, including the fact that there are a limited number of people available at that time of the day, and of those who are available, often their circumstances are transient and their schedule subject to change.

Our experience is that most nannies are looking for fulltime work, and even if they're open to the idea of choosing two part-time jobs to make up fulltime hours, the longer they have been nannying, the more they tend to prefer children under the age of 5. Personally, I have trouble with this because school age children, in my opinion, can be equally delightful as younger children for very different reasons. I personally enjoy the conversations I have had with school age children where I have been able to teach and impart important lessons in life (which is so rewarding), and have enjoyed elaborate imaginary play just to name a few!

Many of the families we have spoken to have chosen to get a nanny in preference to after-school or school holiday programmes so that their children are well cared for by someone with experience and maturity, are settled in their home environment (instead of a long day away from home) and have the opportunity to attend after-school activities such as sports and other interests.

I must say, when we were exhibiting at the latest Kids Fair, we knew on the Monday of the long weekend that we would expect high volumes of School Holiday Programmes - and I had mentioned to my assistant that we should see if we could find potential recruitment opportunities - that the supervisors might be interested in nannying. I soon changed my mind, however, when I saw the supervisors in charge of all these children - I'll be honest, I was shocked at those who were "in charge". Their age, maturity and lack of responsibility were clear - and it was no surprise when we had a high number of "lost children" to care for due to the lack of full care and attention they gave to those in their care.

While there are, without question, some good after-school and school holiday programmes, there are a large number that (in my opinion) leave a lot to be desired. And perhaps it is the better ones that are experiencing such a long waiting list as this article has indicated is beginning to happen.

After-school and school holiday care is certainly a problem for working parents, particularly as the demand for nannies and prices of those nannies are becoming so competitive.

Our solution to the problem is to suggest to families that they consider getting an Au Pair. Finding an Au Pair from overseas to join the family is still a new phenomenon to New Zealand families, but it is a growing trend for a multitude of reasons. While many believe that it is not worth their while to get an Au Pair because they only need After School childcare and not fulltime care, the price is on par with a part-time NZ Nanny. The going rate for a nanny is between $15-18/hr (although experienced nannies are now beginning to expect $18-22/hr). Most families needing after-school care require 15hrs/week. Even at the lowest rate, this means a minimum of $225/week paid to the nanny. Au Pairs do require free board given to them, however their weekly charge through our agency is $250/week.

If you have the room in your home for an Au Pair, we highly recommend that you consider this as a relief to the ongoing After-School/School Holiday headache. They will stay with your family for a minimum of 12 months, by which time you might organise another Au Pair to replace them, they are affordable, and they are available for up to fulltime hours (helpful during school holidays or when children are home sick from school), and their weekly rate includes several nights of babysitting for you while you and your partner might spend the evening out! Please see our website for more information if this is a solution that interests you:

In the meantime, please participate in our poll and feel free to add your comments here on your experience of after-school care or school holiday programmes, your thoughts on Au Pairs from overseas countries and how your family has coped with your childcare needs and solutions you've come up with.

Kristina Strom