The coronavirus-crisis has affected all manner of business in all manner of unforeseen ways. Luckily, entrepreneurs such as Tanya Burrage and her “wonderful team” at Dream Au Pair are coming up with evermore imaginative solutions to meet such challenges head on. Readers may remember the CEO of New Zealand’s premiere au pair agency—which also supplies nannies and at-home educators—from her profile piece in Verve earlier this year. Things, sadly, have changed dramatically for everyone since then.
“Overnight, we lost 80 percent of our au pairs, who mainly come over from Germany,” says Tanya. “We had a lot of desperate families who need them because its affordable childcare with the room and board is part of the wage. Also, there are the families who work shifts or have children with special needs.”
Time for the Dream team to get creative. Enter the Dream Nanny Army.
“We reached out to Tourism New Zealand, Hospitality New Zealand and Air New Zealand to recruit hundreds of those with childcare experience who had lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19,” says Tanya. “Dream is one of a handful of agencies contracted by the government to provide childcare to essential service workers, which means that we have been able to support families and offer employment opportunities to hundreds of Kiwis by redeploying them in roles as nannies.”
Another inventive initiative is the Dream Nanny Intern, launched to complement the agency’s existing childcare options, and possibly introduce Kiwis to dream careers that they never even knew they wanted.
“Typically, in New Zealand a nanny does a level four qualification, and possibly even an early childhood degree after that,” says Tanya. “We’ve partnered with Open Polytechnic and agreed free fees for anybody that wants to retrain as a nanny. For example, if someone has completed a tourism degree, they can retrain with the guarantee of a job at the end of it. They will complete a nationally recognised qualification while gaining valuable experience in the care of children—and earn some money.”
As well as creating new career paths for Kiwis, Tanya is working out ways to relieve financial hardship for families in need of childcare by way of the Dream Wage Subsidy.
“The Dream Wage Subsidy is designed to support families with their childcare costs,” she says. “We have temporarily reduced staff numbers in our offices and are passing on all cost savings to our families in order to make the option of a nanny more affordable. We are also licensed by the Ministry of Education and are diverting funding from that back to families too, all while trying to keep afloat until the borders open back up again.”
Tanya emphases the importance of small scale, home-based education and childcare for kids’ emotional and intellectual development in the first few years of their lives.
“There has been a phenomenal amount of research throughout New Zealand and internationally by the likes of the Brainwave Trust and clinical psychologist Nigel Latta,” she says. “And it is resoundingly clear that for the first 1,000 days it is better for children to be looked after in a small, home-based setting rather than a big, busy day care centre. It’s when they learn about sharing, kindness, and resilience. It’s not just about the ABCs, but key social skills that will set them up for the future. It’s easier to learn if they’re with somebody who understands that child—their primary caregiver. In a perfect world that would be the parent or a close family member, but if it can’t be that then a nanny, an au pair or an in-home educator are the next best thing.”
Sixteen years in the business, what sets Dream apart is their role as consultants. While many other agencies adopt a DIY approach to matching families with carers online, Tanya and her team tailor specific services for specific families.
“For some, it might suit them to have an in-home educator for three days a week, and part-time day care for the other two. Also, as children grow, you need to grow and adjust schedules accordingly. Many of our nannies and educators stay with us for their entire careers, and we have families that have been with us since day one. We’re in it for the long-term.”
Tanya estimates that there are usually around 3,000 au pairs in New Zealand, mostly from overseas.
“That’s 3,000 families without childcare that still need it,” she says. “We’re doing all we can to help those families get Kiwi nannies through our cut rates and free placements. It doesn’t have to be on a permanent basis. There are university students whose schedules have changed that are now available for fixed terms, of, say, 12 weeks. Everyone is police and medical checked and first aid trained and ready to go.”
Dream’s main focus is “making family life easier” and wish to continue supporting their loyal families during these uncertain times.
“We are pivoting and being as creative as we possibly can and we are committed to offering flexible, affordable, loving childcare options to support Kiwis through this global crisis.”