Many, perhaps most, Americans associate the term nanny with "Mary Poppins."
The quaint term evokes an image of a sweet woman who comes into a home and lovingly cares for children--a nice, English fantasy.
That fantasy, however, is about to become a reality in Orange County, where, for the first time in the county, a public institution of higher learning has launched a course to train students as nannies. Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa tonight will begin its first classes in a nine-unit course leading to a certificate as an "in-home care giver."
The college is unabashedly using the term nanny in describing its course. In offering the training, Orange Coast joins a handful of other colleges in the nation already offering similar certificate programs, including Delta College, University Center, Mich.; Seattle (Wash.) Central Community College and the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pa.
College officials say the training will match twin needs: It will help working parents with child care and create more service jobs in residential communities.
Jill Del Vecchio, 20, who is taking two nanny-certificate classes this spring, said the college made a smart move in offering them. "Nannies are coming in popular demand at this time. Parents going to work want to know a skilled person is watching the child--someone who knows emergency care and child-development skills."
Del Vecchio of Huntington Beach said her current plans aren't to be a nanny. "I want to care for children in my own house--start my own day-care center," she said. But gaining the skills taught to potential nannies is important to her career, and she may later complete all the nanny-training courses and get a certificate for an additional profession, she said.
"I already watch children in their home, and these (nanny) courses are giving me more skills, such as emergency care," said Del Vecchio, a graduate of Fountain Valley High School.
Delta College is believed to be the first institution of higher education in the United States to have a formal academic program for training nannies. It began five years ago.
There is "no question about its being successful," said Delta College President Don Carlyon in a telephone interview. "Obviously the need was there, and now other colleges are starting similar programs. The only problem I see for us and other colleges having the program is keeping up with the demand for our graduates."
'On Top of Employment Needs'
Carlyon said that Delta College started the nanny-training program because "we try to stay on top of employment needs and the need of many working women was to have someone to provide care for their children."
Orange Coast College President Donald R. Bronsard had similar comments when describing the reasons his institution brought nanny training to Orange County.
"This program perfectly illustrates how Orange Coast College can effectively respond to the evolving needs of its service region," Bronsard said. "The percentage of two-income families in this community is quite high, and there is a substantial need for qualified and competent people who can provide in-home care. This program will train such people."
Katie Elson, coordinator of the college's Early Childhood Program, said nannies will be trained in such special skills as emergency medical care, child feeding and development. "They'll be people who are not seen just as baby sitters."
Added Yvonne Woods, who will teach the core class: "The college created the new course because it received many calls from people in the community who wanted someone to come take care of children in their homes. There are many working mothers who especially wanted something like this for their children."
Preschools in Short Supply
Woods noted that child-care centers and preschools are in short supply in many parts of Orange County and often have long waiting lists. Some parents also don't want to put their babies and very young children into group-care settings. "Nannies come into a person's home and take care of the children there," she said. "They've had nannies for many years in Europe, but it's something rather unusual in this country."
People trained as nannies can earn good money, Woods said. "We would expect nannies with certificates to be paid $7 an hour, and we will advise nannies to seek vacation arrangements and sick pay." She said that although the college thinks that most initial applicants for nanny training will probably be women, "this can be for men or women, and I hope some men become interested and take the program."
The cost is the same as any other course at the college: $5 per credit hour up to 5 1/2 credit hours or $50 a semester if the student takes six or more credit hours.