Nanny Industry Ethics and Moral Leadership

It would be nice if what I’m about to write didn’t need to be written. Surely, one would think, no one who chooses to work in an area like in-home child care needs to be lectured about ethics. Surely being ethical and having integrity just go with the job? Unfortunately not.

I previously shared stories about some of the most heroic examples of nannying in the past, in particular the 66 non-Jewish nannies recognised by the Jewish community as ‘Righteous among the nations’ or ‘Righteous gentiles’. These were people so committed to the protective aspects of their role as nanny that they were willing to put their lives at risk in order to protect the children under their care during the holocaust.

In the last few years another nanny has earned the right to be added to that number. Sandra Samuel is an Indian nanny, a Christian, who was living at Jewish-run Mumbai Chabad House and working for the directors of the house, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka. Samuel’s main job was as nanny of their son, Moshe. When the house was raided during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Samuel initially hid in a cupboard but when she heard Moshe crying, she emerged and rescued the child – even though the attackers were still inside. He was left an orphan and subsequently Samuel moved to Israel with him so that he could grow up with other family.

This is obviously an extreme example but it serves to remind us of the selflessness that should be at the core of everyone in this industry, whether they are a nanny, running a nanny agency or providing a related service.

At the other end of the scale things can obviously be dire if they turn to neglect or abuse. Thankfully these are not common, however there are smaller things that go on all too regularly. The agency that says they thoroughly check all references but then fail to do so, or who is willing to employ a nanny without a face-t0-face interview. The nannies who spend more time gossiping or complaining about their employers than they do focusing their attention on their charges. Both agencies and nannies who turn a blind eye to parental irresponsibility. (I recently heard of a American nanny who wondered how she should deal with a mother who said she only needed to put seatbelts on the children if they were driving on a freeway.)

Some might say these things are quite minor in the overall scheme of things, but that is simply not the case.

It’s simply not ethical to say that you ‘do the right thing’. It’s not even enough to just ‘do the right thing’.

 Every single person in our nanny industry needs to be absolutely committed to the base principle that no child gets hurt on our watch. That means no corner cutting during recruitment and no getting distracted whilst on the job. It means holding others to account. Always.

Rest assured that being truly ethical and acting with absolute integrity are what Placement Solutions stands for and I know many others in our industry do too. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to say it about everyone.



The author, Louise Dunham, is the principal of Placement Solutions, Melbourne Australia. Louise served on the INA’s Executive Board and was the chair of the INA’s Ethics Committee.

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