Family Secrets: The Professional Nanny’s Responsibility to Family Privacy

Recently there has been an article circulating on industry social media (INA included) that shares personal and private information from nannies about the families that employ them. As the industry leader, the INA works to continue to educate both industry professionals and those outside the industry regarding the recommended practices for nannies. We thought this article provides a good chance to talk about what a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is and what you can, should, or should not share if you don’t have one of these in place.

An NDA is a document usually provided by the parents who employ you or more often, their legal advisers. It details the restrictions you have when talking about who you work for and the specifics of your job with others outside of the home. It might even explain what information about the children you can disclose to others who work in the home if you work for a family with several staff members. It will also often dictate when and how photographs of the children may be used. NDA’s come in all shapes and sizes. They might be simple and they might be complicated. If you are presented with an NDA or any other kind of document you are asked to sign, you need to make sure that you fully understand what it says and the consequences should you violate that agreement. Asking questions of the parents who employ you is a great first step but you might want to take it to a trusted attorney of your own to be sure you know what you are signing.

It is important to realize though that even without an NDA, nannies should not share details about the parents they work for, the children they care for, the personal or financial details of the family’s life, or the home in which they work. While legally, this may not be an issue without an NDA, professionally, it is unacceptable. There are many factors to consider. Safety of the children and the home is one of them. It has the potential to put both your employers and their children at risk for exposure to dangerous criminals who make their livelihoods exploiting opportunities like this. But beyond safety, disclosing any personal details, even if you leave the names out, is seen as a personal attack on the family by you and most parents would not continue to employ you.

So what CAN you say about the family? Nannies, like professionals in any industry, often need to reach out for some feedback from their peers about a certain situation. How can the nanny do this without crossing the line and disclosing too much information?

Social media groups in the industry can be wonderful to support you in a job that can be isolating. However, you should use social media groups with care. While you might find some people with helpful advice, you don’t know most of these people. You should be especially careful when posting in local groups as many people in the group may know who you are or who you work for. Even if you don’t share those specifics, people who know the situation might comment on your post with further details that cross the line of privacy. These people could also share the details you have given with your employers or elsewhere.

You can use a pet “nickname” for your charge without revealing their real name or use only a first initial.  Another way many nannies communicate these days is to leave off names altogether, instead, for example, writing “G6” to stand for a girl, age 6.

Using the generic terms “MB” (mom boss) or “DB” (dad boss) to describe your employers can help you avoid using names of the parents. You can even use the more generic term “Boss.”

When looking for advice for a particular situation, you should use hypothetical stories or even suggest “If you were giving advice to a nanny you knew in the following situation, what would you say?” so you are not directly stating an employer did something.

When a hypothetical story will not work, it is best to talk in general terms. “I feel that my MB is feeling frustrated with the job I am doing and trying to micromanage me. And advice for nannies who feel this way?”

If the situation is just too complicated to talk about a hypothetical situation or give vague details, you could ask an admin of a group to post their situation as an “anonymous” post and solicit feedback in that way. In this situation, if you need to clarify any parts of the story, later on, you will need to do that though this mediator as well. Many online group admins are happy to help in this way.

If you found your job through a trusted agency, you could call the agency that placed you and speak to a reliable person there. This might be one of the best ways to receive help because the agency will know the family and might even be able to provide valuable insight you were not aware of.

Many times situations that nannies face are just too private to handle in any way public at all. No matter how you word it, you cannot find a way to state the issue that does not make it obvious what happened. In this case, you could have one trusted friend that you know will keep things private and discuss the situation with them. Remember, that this is not an option for you if you do have an NDA which prohibits you from sharing family information with anyone, even spouses. But developing a relationship with a few other professional nannies that you have built a trust with may help you find solutions to difficult problems without going public.

If you are an INA member, you could apply for our Caregiver Mentor Program. These relationships are kept confidential and can help newer and seasoned nannies as they navigate some of the more difficult pitfalls of the job. To find out more about the INA’s Caregiver Mentor Program, contact our office today.

Nannies with an NDA are held to a high standard and can be legally liable if they break that contract. However, there are lots of ways to discuss things if a nanny feels they need outside input in order to vent frustrations or to help solve a problem when you do not have an NDA. The important thing to remember is to keep both private and public conversations you have with others positive. The focus of the conversation should be looking for a solution to your problem, not trying to show how “bad” you have it. You should never disclose more information that you are legally allowed to or information that paints your employers in an unflattering light. The best way to prevent over sharing in the nanny world is, to be honest, and straightforward with your employers. If you are having an issue in the home, go straight to the source and discuss it with them in a respectful and kind way, hoping for a solution to the problem.

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