Barons, supermodels, oil tycoons and bankers have trusted Zena Mello-Brooks with their childcare needs — she was even shortlisted as the star of the hit television series Supernanny.
Now, she is bringing her expertise to Bermuda. Island Nanny Desk is a bespoke nanny and babysitting service that helps parents in need of long- or short-term care, connecting them with the ideal person for their children’s needs.
Ms Mello-Brooks, part-owner and placement manager of the business, has 25 years in the nanny service industry and launched a similar agency in the UK in 2000.
In 2009, while working here on a temporary placement, she met many nannies and parents who longed for such a service on the island.
“There’s a real need for a professional and reliable nanny and babysitting service in Bermuda and Island Nanny Desk provides a point of contact for those services — high standards are at the top of the list for us. Bermuda needs quality childcare and someone running it that is passionate about the industry.
“We have provided care for many high-profile clients and they know that they are in good hands,” she said.
“We understand the importance of confidentiality as we are used to having clients who do not want their personal dealings broadcast.”
In 2003, she came close to sharing her expertise on a wider scale when she was shortlisted for Supernanny. The popular reality show followed a professional nanny as she counselled parents desperate for advice on how to deal with their badly behaved children.
Jo Frost was ultimately chosen for the role. The show ran from 2004 until 2011 in the UK and 2005 until 2011 in the US.
“The TV company Ricochet were researching nannies and nanny agencies and shortlisted some to contact. I was one of them,” said Ms Mello-Brooks, who earned a BTEC diploma in nursery nursing and an OCN qualification in maternity nurse training in Britain.
She now lives in Southampton with her Bermudian husband, Ernest Mello.
She says her years in the field, as a nanny and agency owner, have given her a rounded view of the industry.
“Having worked as a nanny and nanny recruiter for so many years, I am able to understand the needs and wishes from both sides,” said Ms Mello-Brooks, who has no children of her own.
“I am able to go to the client’s home and assess their lifestyle requirements with ease. I understand the needs of high net-worth clients and know what extra skills their nannies need to possess.
“At the same time, I can put myself in the nanny’s shoes and get a feeling for what the home would be like to work in. It’s second nature to me.”
Nannies and babysitters interested in being placed with the agency must pass a police check, demonstrate First Aid and CPR knowledge and meet other requirements. Babysitters must also attend a workshop created by Island Nanny Desk that covers such things as safety, confidentiality, discipline, risk assessment and house rules.
The agency works with anti-child abuse charity Scars, whose members provide free training.
“Safeguarding is an agency priority and our parents have peace of mind,” Ms Mello-Brooks said.
“It is not a one-size-fits-all approach at all. Each person has to possess the right qualities and childcare skills, along with the understanding that children’s safety is of the highest importance.”
Hired nannies are offered placement follow-up checks, workshops, and professional development opportunities to help further their skills. Social events and “play dates” with other nannies at the agency are also offered so their work environment isn’t so isolated.
“This, in turn, creates happier nannies,” she said.
The agency also offers a special service for families in transition.
Ms Mello-Brooks explained: “If a client is looking for their next nanny and there is a time gap, then Island Nanny Desk can send in a bridge nanny.
“This nanny bridges the gap seamlessly, by providing temporary nanny care and a handover service to the next nanny.
“It is invaluable as the new nanny gets shown the ropes of their new job by the person who has been caring for the children daily.”
As a catch-all agency, Island Nanny Desk also offers nanny and babysitting services to hotels for their guests.
• Contact Island Nanny Desk on 517-4685, firstname.lastname@example.org, thenannydesk.com or on Facebook.