We have all been caught up in the confusion surrounding vaccines – while most families are hoping to meet nannies who have already received, or are planning to receive, the COVID-19 vaccine, different states and counties place nannies in different tiers of eligibility and the distinguishing of a nanny vs a daycare provider vs a babysitter have left nannies across the country confused.
On Friday, March 26th, social media was ablaze – the county of Los Angeles had declared nannies to be eligible within the current tier of the vaccine, after previously disqualifying nannies from being counted as childcare workers. Why did the county of Los Angeles change its verbiage to ensure nannies were included? While many officials are involved in all decisions surrounding vaccine distribution, in this case, one nanny spearheaded the effort to bring awareness to city and county officials about the importance of including nannies, who had been labeled as ‘essential workers’ earlier in the pandemic, in ‘essential workers’ vaccine tiers.
We were honored to speak with this nanny (who has asked to remain private due to her relationship with her past employers as mentioned below) about how she became inadvertently involved in social justice and led the conversation for nannies to be included in LA’s vaccine tiers.
How did you first become a nanny, and when did you start getting more involved in the industry?
I started nannying in the ’90s. I was great with kids and was a camp counselor. I met another counselor who was a nanny and I had never heard of a nanny before! I moved into my first role in NJ sight unseen after talking to the family on the phone three times – that was just how things happened in the 90s. I didn’t go to college right out of high school and when I did go, I found myself gravitating towards ECE courses and child psychology and started taking it more seriously as a career. Once I settled in LA, I found a group of people here who were focused on supporting the community. It’s just my nature to want to help things behind the scenes. I like to get things done.
When did you become aware that nannies were being excluded from the vaccine tiers and how did it make you feel?
There’s a group of nannies in LA that works on events and training opportunities throughout the year and we took on the task of researching the vaccine schedule and where nannies would qualify. We started in the winter calling the county to find out where nannies fall in these tiers. When the tiers came out that included childcare providers it said parenthetically, but very clearly ‘not nannies and baby sitters’. I just felt it was not right from a social justice point of view – it’s well documented that Covid19 disproportionately affects women of color and a significant amount of nannies in my community are BIPOC people.
We got involved on a grassroots level – people were calling and emailing their city council members and county supervisors and deep-diving published county documents. While we were trying to get in touch with folks and get the language changed to ensure nannies were included, we were still trying to get current information out to our communities. There was a lot of pushback from the nanny community – many of them had already heard from agencies or other groups that they would be eligible in the childcare group, even though it specifically excluded nannies by name. That was frustrating because there was all of this misinformation going out.
There has been so much volatility in the last year as people have mobilized and gotten interested or involved in government in ways they hadn’t before – through peaceful protests, helping candidates fundraise or donating to non-profits, signing petitions, writing letters – what about this situation called you into action?
It was the social justice point of view. Domestic workers have been showing up since day one providing care and support and even taking on new roles and a large portion of the childcare community here in LA are being impacted harder by COVID. It’s important that the vaccine is available to any nannies, childcare providers, and nanny/housekeepers who are willing to get it. The issue that’s really bothering me right now – what about members of the domestic community that are getting paid in cash? They can’t show up with a letter from their employer or a paystub but it’s super important to me that those employees still had a route to get vaccinated. Domestic workers were being swept under the rug.
What role did you play in getting the language changed in the vaccine tiers?
Even doing all we were doing as a group to work on getting nannies and domestic workers recognized as childcare providers and hopefully included in tier 1b, I knew there was more that I could do personally. It so happened that a former employer of mine is also interested in social justice and has a far-reaching voice. I’ve kept a very strong relationship with their family over the years and I just reached out to them to air my concerns and advocate for the nannies in Los Angeles this would be affecting. The city of LA does not have a health department, so all of the tiers and directions were coming down from the county. It was a matter of changing terminology at the county level and that is what we had been working on for the past four weeks. I know a lot of facets of the nanny community were disappointed that nannies were excluded from the vaccination schedule and I felt like this grassroots push from nannies for nannies would have the most authentic success in changing the county wording. The fact that Governor Newsom had set aside 40% of these vaccines for underprivileged communities made our case easier, it removed any community idea that we were trying to line skip or “steal” vaccines from people who needed them.
I know sometimes nannies are nervous to get in touch with their past employers when they need something – a reference, a request, a favor – when you approached your past employer, what were your fears going into the situation?
I’ve been fortunate to stay friendly with everyone family I’ve worked for and have a few families I have stayed very close with. This is one of those families. I’ve been talking to them since the beginning of the pandemic really openly. For example, when everything shut down in LA, I was saying this is the community I’m worried about, the cash-paid domestic workers as well as colleagues, friends, and coworkers who may be not able to ask for assistance because of immigration status. This is the community that is suddenly not able to work. This is a huge part of the community in LA. I knew the city of LA put together a program called the Angeleno Card where they got private funds donated and were able to give out gift cards, no questions asked. The government didn’t have to be involved. So from the beginning, there’s been this mindset of huge communities in LA who are afraid to ask for help, but this was a time the local government did have to get involved and I wanted to exhaust every opportunity.
For people who are just starting to learn or understand what privilege they may have and just haven’t realized or recognized before, do you have some examples of things you may now recognize as a privilege that you’ve taken for granted in the past?
I certainly think that being an Anglo nanny gets me a higher rate. People assume I’m fluent in English. Just looking at me, people are going to assume they get a different quality of care and that’s just not necessarily the case. There are wonderful nannies out there who don’t speak English perfectly and in most cases speak more languages than I do, but there are assumptions made. It has been eye-opening to see that I can advocate for myself for legal pay in a way that other communities aren’t always able to advocate for themselves. The fact that some people make less than they’re worth just to not be scared.
I really had an eye-opening moment while watching the ‘Nannying While Black’ series that Stephanie Bauchum put on last summer, where she brought panels of BIPOC nannies together to share their experiences. I didn’t understand what privileges I had. My mom was a struggling single parent, I grew up on government assistance, we lived in low-income housing. I never considered myself coming from a place of privilege because of that. When I heard those nannies talking about needing to carry an ID with them in case police stopped them just for walking around their employer’s neighborhood, a lightbulb went off. I’ve not had to manage that and that is a privilege. Her series really woke me up.
Are you a nanny or newborn care specialist in Los Angeles County interested in receiving your COVID-19 vaccine? Here are the steps you can take today:
Prior to receiving your vaccine, go to the Los Angeles Public Health website to print and fill out the self-attestation form, which you can find here.
Go to the County of Los Angeles Public Health website to check your eligibility, and follow the instructions to schedule your vaccine.
After receiving your first dose of the vaccine, you will receive a COVID-19 Vaccination Record card from the CDC. This document will be used to chart your first and second dose, and we recommend making several photocopies of your vaccine card after receiving your final dose and storing the original document in a safe and secure place.
Are you a nanny or newborn care specialist outside of California and you’d like to learn more about your vaccine eligibility? Check out the CDC website for up-to-date information.
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