托育新變革:為孩子尋找「第二個媽」

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2009 / 9月

文‧林欣靜 圖‧莊坤儒


今年4月,台北市發生一起駭人聽聞的「女嬰冰屍案」,涉案的保母夫婦,因未受過專業的急救訓練,加上又有通緝犯的背景,竟將吐奶窒息致死的3個月大女嬰,冰存寄還給父母後就逃之夭夭。此案不但讓許多家有「托育兒」的父母為之驚慌不已,也凸顯了坊間「無照保母」缺乏專業及監督的問題。


根據內政部兒童局的統計,目前我國領有證照的保母已逼近6萬名,但實際執業者估計卻僅4成;加入政府委託各地民間社團承辦的社區系統、定期接受輔導監督的保母更僅約一萬三千八百多人,顯示在廣大的托育市場中,傳統「鄰家媽媽」型的無照保母,仍具有相當大的影響力。

不過這種情形在去年4月政府開辦托嬰補助,以及許多無照保母陸續出事、引起家長警覺後已開始漸有改變,兼具專業又有愛心的證照保母,現在已成為許多年輕父母「幫孩子找第二個媽」時的首選。

仲夏7月,上午10時剛過,萬里無雲的晴空,夾雜著幾縷和煦的微風,看準著中午前火辣陽光的空檔,住在台北市大安區成功國宅的林月瓏,連忙為托育在自家的3個寶寶換好外出服並戴上帽子,這可是個最適合帶著孩子散步出遊的好天氣呢!

林月瓏所帶的3個寶寶,分別是2歲活潑好動的小姐姐安安、11個月大、正值愛爬學站「衝撞期」的弟弟小易,以及還不太會翻身、最需要大量「抱抱」的妹妹娜娜。這3個分屬不同月齡的寶寶,各自處於差異極大的發展階段,如果沒有即時且正確地回應他們的需求,像天使般可愛的笑顏,馬上會變臉為哭鬧不休的「小惡魔」。

要如何同時搞定3個小小孩,讓他們都能在安全無虞的情況下健康、快樂地成長,其實並不是件容易的事。

眼明、手快、引導分享

不過林月瓏可不一樣,她是已有6年托育經驗,並且受過專業訓練的社區系統證照保母。只見她有條不紊地指揮安安當小幫手,幫忙安撫著小易、娜娜一前一後在推車上坐定,再一起下樓至大樓廣場的兒童遊戲區溜滑梯。

會跑、會跳的小安安,自行玩耍當然不是問題,但還在「爬行期」的小易,就需要大人的協助,才能體會溜滑梯的樂趣。當他好不容易奮力「逆向」攻上滑梯的頂端,安安興奮地不斷鼓掌叫好;至於只能待在推車上觀看的娜娜,此時也沒閒著,因為林月瓏即使在陪兩個大寶寶玩的同時,仍不忘以眼神逗弄她,安安和小易更時不時地對著娜娜微笑打招呼,3個小朋友感情之好,不知情的過往路人,還常把他們誤認為親兄妹。

林月瓏的絕活還不止如此。回到家後,快手快腳的她,更趕在娜娜漸感不耐前,就完成同時為兩個大孩子沖澡的艱鉅工作。

其他舉凡說故事、遊戲、餵奶吃飯,她總是排好順序、從容應對,3個寶寶也被調教得乖巧服貼,例如安安會帶著小易一起收玩具、或把故事書禮讓給弟弟妹妹;總是愛亂爬、衝撞的小易,也懂得遊戲時避開娜娜的小床。

「不要以為孩子太小,什麼都不懂,其實他們的潛力遠超過大人想像;數個年齡相近的孩子一起相處,除了能讓他們提早適應社會化的行為規範,體驗分享及學習模仿,語言及肢體的發展進步也會比較快,」林月瓏說。

專業來自訓練與經驗

講起「媽媽經」頭頭是道的林月瓏,原本是外商公司的國貿專員,現年45歲的她,6年前為了照顧患有先天唇顎裂的兒子(當時約二歲多),才離職在家專心帶孩子。不過帶一陣子後,她發現「一對一」的帶法,不但兒子缺乏同儕刺激,且自己的專注力全在他身上,反而養成兒子過度依賴的習性,於是才興起了「不如再帶個孩子來作伴」的念頭。

「但托育別人的寶寶責任深重,畢竟不像自己的孩子可以『隨便養養』,也沒有人會挑剔。」因此林月瓏才報名參加「熊媽媽保母公益協進會」的訓練課程,並通過國家考試取得保母證照,同時也加入「熊媽媽」的社區系統,定期接受訪視監督。

像林月瓏這樣把「帶孩子」視為專職,且擁有不輸給老師、律師、建築師等專業自信的保母,已有越來越多的趨勢。

走進彭婉如基金會、台北縣保母協會、熊媽媽保母公益協進會等幾個國內保母人才養成的指標性社團,工作人員幾乎整天都有接不完的洽詢電話。

台北縣保母協會理事長廖素蘭指出,最近幾年保母證照變得非常搶手,不但很多二度就業的婦女紛紛來受訓考照;其他像阿公阿嬤要「帶孫」,也會特地來惡補早已印象模糊的育兒瑣事;更有許多原本就在幫人帶孩子的傳統保母,體認到唯有「證照」專業,才是在少子化趨勢中迎戰市場競爭的最佳利器,所以也加入考照行列。

生兒育女、撫育孩子,是人類的本能,老一輩的媽媽動輒生養十餘個子女,從來也不曾聽說過還需要上課考照。到底每年全國有超過1萬5,000人報考、錄取率約6至7成的保母證照,究竟在考些什麼?考上證照後的「專業」又在哪裡?

證照是基本門檻

我國證照保母的技術檢定考,可回溯至1998年,當時內政部及勞委會規劃這項考試,主要是希望藉此提升傳統保母的專業能力,讓家長遴選時更有評斷的標準,並激勵保母的自我成長及社會地位提升。

有志參與考照者,除須至少具備國中畢業的學歷,還得修畢兒少福利法規、嬰幼兒發展、健康照顧及照護技術等7學分、共計126小時的訓練課程;其中又以「嬰幼兒照護」的術科考試,是所有考生公認最難,卻也是最實用的訓練項目;受訓的「準保母」必須在限定時間內,現場實作「控制水溫幫寶寶洗澡」、「刷牙的正確技巧」、「嬰兒心肺復甦術」、「緊急哽塞如何處理」,以及「切丁」、「磨汁」等製作副食品的技巧。

曾經參與考照的北縣保母協會總幹事饒秀珍就說,術科考試時不但每一個步驟都不能出錯,操作時還需配合念出口訣才算過關。例如考「刷牙」時,考生得一面口述:「從上牙床的右方開始清潔到左方,再從下牙床的左方清潔到右方,……,以紗布巾沾溫開水輕輕擦拭嬰兒的舌面,每天清潔就可以避免舌苔,」一面手不停歇地完成為嬰兒齒模刷牙的程序,如果稍一緊張忘詞、或不慎把齒模打翻,就有可能被扣分。

「練習時壓力很大,但現在發現,這些當初死命練到『爛熟』的照護技巧,後來真的都用到了,」她笑說。

參與規劃社區保母系統管理方案的台北護理學院嬰幼兒保育系副教授段慧瑩指出,證照制雖然不能為任何一位保母的適任與否「掛保證」,卻是最基本的品質把關。

「嬰幼兒非常脆弱,一旦發生危險必須立即處理,這時考照前『洗腦般』的密集訓練,就可以讓保母在事發時保持冷靜,並像反射動作般,在第一時間內選擇正確的緊急照護方式。」

她舉例,像最近有個家中開設牛肉麵店的4歲男童,不慎被店裡雜物絆倒而跌坐在滾燙的湯鍋中,父親的第一反應是先把他的衣服脫掉才帶去沖冷水,結果小朋友的皮膚就被硬生生地剝掉一層,造成後續的脫水、感染風險大增。

「若是受過燒燙傷處理訓練的證照保母,就應該知道這時正確的處理步驟是立即先沖冷水至少30分鐘,讓身體降溫後再脫去衣物,同時儘快聯絡醫療救護單位。如果照顧者都能夠具備專業的急救技能,孩子重殘枉死的悲劇就可以大大減少!」

社區系統的第三人介入

除了基本的證照把關,將保母納入各地社區系統內集中管理,則是最近幾年政府及民間相關單位另一個積極推動的目標。

所謂「社區保母系統」,最早是在2001年開始實施。它的精神是將散居全台各角落的保母予以分區納管;過去加入者並不限定為證照保母,但今年起,所有新加入的保母都須具備證照;未具備者也被要求得在年底前考上證照。

加入「系統」的保母,不但享有媒合轉介工作、參與每年20小時在職訓練的免費福利,系統還會協助保母與家長簽訂托育契約,保障保母的工作權益,更會為他們投保「公共意外責任險」,萬一孩子在托育期間不慎受傷時,父母及保母就不致因責任歸屬不清、或臨時湊不出醫藥費而延誤治療。

但享受福利保障的同時,保母也有應盡的義務。例如他們必須繳交「無犯罪記錄」的良民證、每兩年得進行一次完整的身體檢查;社區系統的訪視人員,每年還會不定期到宅抽查4次,確保他們的居家環境安全無虞,同時也檢視托育孩子的語言及肢體行為能力發展是否正常。

「接受地方政府委託的社區系統人員,其實也就是介於保母和父母之間把關的第三者,」目前也是受託單位之一的熊媽媽保母公益協進會執行長劉杰如此表示。

她指出,對父母來說,挑選價格合理、接送方便,且專業、愛心、責任感兼具的保母,原本就是極為困難的抉擇,「在彼此不相識前提下,若能透過政府認可的社區系統媒合,至少已先有初步的篩選,不致像『冰屍案』的父母,因為貪圖便宜,竟將孩子交託給通緝犯而不自知!」

寶寶托育後,萬一雙方的教養理念不同,父母不方便或不好意思與保母當面溝通,可以透過系統婉轉表達;反之若父母有積欠年終獎金,或常常晚接小孩、又不願按照合約多付費的情事,系統也會主動找上父母為保母爭取權益,「這是一個避免托育糾紛的極佳機制,」劉杰說。

立意良善、成效有限

「證照制」與「社區系統」並行的作法,雖然立意良善,然而分別實施近11年及8年來,由於宣導不足,知道且願意利用的家長不多,原本期待將所有保母納入都制度管理的美意,也打了不少折扣。

根據內政部兒童局統計,目前我國的證照保母約近6萬名,但台北護理學院副教授段慧瑩2006年發表的「我國證照保母托育服務概況研究」卻顯示,實際在職的證照保母僅約4成,願意加入社區系統列管的保母更少,僅有一萬三千八百多名。

「很多人考證照都只是先『備用』,等以後有需要時就可以馬上上手;這些根本『未在職』的保母當然不會急著加入系統,」段慧瑩解釋。

另一方面,在兒童局2005年發表的「台閩地區兒童及少年生活狀況調查」中卻顯示,我國現有8.1%、約5萬6,000名的3歲以下嬰幼兒,是由居家保母托育;若以社區系統保母每人平均托育1.7個寶寶估算,總計約3萬2,000名,則國內仍有近2萬4,000名嬰幼兒,是交託在未納入系統的證照保母、甚至是沒有任何執照檢核的傳統保母手中。

「有些證照保母會覺得2年一次的體檢,或到警政機關申請『良民證』很麻煩,也不想老是被訪視人員不定期的抽查監督;如果她們又一直不乏有新的『客源』,自然就會對加入系統興趣缺缺,」內政部兒童局托育組長吳美瑩如此分析。

宣導不足加上缺乏誘因,使得證照保母及系統保母的成長幅度差距懸殊,這種情形直至去年4月1日政府開始發放「托育補助」後,才稍有改善。

「紅蘿蔔」與「棒子」

在兒童局的托育補助計畫中規定,年收入在新台幣150萬元以下的雙薪家庭(父母均有工作者),若將兩歲以下的幼兒交由社區系統保母托育,每月得請領3,000元的托育津貼。

由於目前國內保母「日托」(只顧白天、父母下班即接回,受託時間平均約10小時)的行情,依城鄉差距不同,約在1萬2,000至2萬元不等;「全日托」(周一至周五都待在保母家過夜,周末才接回),則為2萬至2萬8,000元不等,對小家庭來說是不小的負擔。

因此自托育補助實施後,很多父母開始將「系統保母」作為首選。市場競爭下,願意考照並加入系統的保母也變多了。

「像前年全國系統保母僅約7,000人,去年底就超過了1萬3,000人,增加的比例高達8成6,」吳美瑩說。

若將托育補助比喻為鼓勵父母挑選證照及系統保母的「紅蘿蔔」,正在立法院審查的「兒童教育及照顧法草案」,無疑則是提供法源規範的「棒子」,確立我國保母將朝「證照制且全面登記列管」的走向管理。

該草案規定,未來所有居家保母都須具備證照方可執業;尚未取得證照的傳統保母,則應在法令實施後3年內考取證照;無照卻托育兩歲以下幼兒者,得處6,000至3萬元以下的罰鍰。除此之外,所有證照保母都必須在法令實施後6個月內,向各地縣市政府辦理登記列管,方得繼續招收嬰幼兒,否則將處6萬至30萬元不等的重罰。此法案由於牽涉廣泛,打從今年3月行政院函送立院審查後,就引起各界的廣泛討論。

「每個孩子都是父母最珍貴的寶貝,本來就不該輕易交付給來路不明的無照保母,」相當支持保母必須全面考照並登記納管的段慧瑩認為,嬰幼兒照顧者的人員管理,不能以「自由市場、開放競爭」的理由一語帶過,「擔負起育兒重責的受雇者,絕對有必要定期接受監督管理,這是政府無可逃避的責任,也是所有家長未來在挑選保母時,一定要深思考量的重點。」

金錢補助加上制定中的法令,即將為我國居家保母的托育風貌開啟新頁。只是紅蘿蔔與棒子齊下的作法,是否就能有效減少坊間層出不窮的保母疏失悲劇,並保證我們的下一代,都能在兼具專業與愛心的「第二個媽媽」手中快樂成長?這一切疑問,仍然有待時間的檢驗。

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The New Nannying--Certification and Networking

Lin Hsin-ching /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Geof Aberhart

In April 2009, Taipei City was shocked by the death of a baby girl, and by her subsequent treatment by her nanny and the nanny's husband. Neither of the couple were trained in first aid, and both also had criminal records, and so when the three-month-old infant choked to death after vomiting milk in her sleep, the couple put her body in the freezer of their own home for six days before dumping it in front of her parents' house and fleeing. Not only did this case shock and frighten many families with children in the care of nannies, it also shone a light on the problem of unlicensed, untrained nannies.


According to the Child Welfare Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior, there are currently almost 60,000 licensed nannies working in Taiwan, but it is estimated that they account for only 40% of the total number. Add to this the fact that the number of nannies that have joined government-run community networks around the island and thus are subject to regular inspections is roughly 13,800 and it becomes clear that the traditional idea of unlicensed "neighborhood nannies" still holds substantial sway.

This is beginning to change, however, with the government beginning to offer childcare subsidies in April 2008 and a continuing stream of alarming incidents happening under the watch of unlicensed nannies. Parents-particularly younger parents-are increasingly turning to trained, professional, and devoted nannies to be a "second mother" to their children.

It is July, the height of summer, just after 10 a.m. The sky is clear as far as the eye can see, and a gentle breeze blows through the buildings. Lin Yuelong, a resident of Chenggong Housing Estate in Taipei City's Da'an District, is busily looking after three children, helping them put on appropriate clothing and hats in preparation for a stroll outside in this brilliant weather.

The oldest of the three is the energetic two-year-old An'an, followed by 11-month-old younger brother and budding climber Xiao Yi, and finally the youngest, Nana, who still can't quite roll over on her own and needs a lot of hugs. With the three in such vastly different stages of development, if Lin can't quickly and correctly respond to their needs, these smiling little angels can quickly become bawling, screaming hellspawn.

Looking after these three, ensuring they grow up in a happy, healthy, and safe environment, is far from easy.

Clear eyed and sharp minded

Lin Yuelong, though, is not like most people-she is a nanny with six years' childcare experience and is professionally trained and certified. This training and experience shines through as she skillfully gets her little assistant An'an to help get Xiao Yi and Nana to sit calmly in their stroller before the four head downstairs to the playground.

Little An'an, who is already running and jumping about on her own, is fine to play by herself, but Xiao Yi, still in his climbing phase, needs adult help to enjoy the thrills of the slide. As he clambers back up it with great effort, An'an excitedly eggs him on. Meanwhile Nana can only look on from the stroller for now, and even as Lin keeps the two older children company as they play, she never forgets to make funny faces at little Nana to keep her entertained. From time to time An'an and Xiao Yi will smile and call out to Nana; the three children get along so well that passersby can easily mistake them for siblings.

But Lin's day doesn't end here. Once they get home, the nimble Lin has to bathe the two older children before little Nana gets too antsy-a testing task, to say the least.

Lin has everything organized down to a T, from stories to games to feeding, and thankfully the three children are polite and obedient, with An'an sharing her storybooks with the younger children and getting Xiao Yi to help clear up the toys, and even the impulsive Xiao Yi knows to keep his fun and games away from Nana's bed.

"Don't think that just because a child is very young they don't understand anything. Kids have more in them than most adults could even imagine. When kids of similar ages play together, it helps them learn the rules of social interaction earlier, as well as teaching them to share and, through imitation, make massive progress in their linguistic and physical development," says Lin.

Training+experience

While Lin is now a doyenne of childcare, she started out as a specialist at an international trading firm. Now 45, she left her job six years ago to take care of her then two-year-old son, who had a congenital cleft palate. She quickly realized that the one-on-one way she was looking after him not only left her son with little stimulation from others his own age, but also led to him becoming overly dependent on her. It was then she figured, "Why not take on a couple of other kids so he has some play pals?"

"But looking after other people's children is a serious job," says Lin. "It's not like looking after your own child, when you can do it however you think is right and there's no-one else involved to nitpick." And so she signed on for training classes run by Mommy Bear Nanny Association, then went on to pass the national accreditation examination, becoming a qualified nanny and a part of the "Mommy Bear" community network, regularly being visited by inspectors.

People like Lin, who make a career of childcare, are deserving of the same confidence we place in teachers, lawyers, and architects, and they are growing in number.

Step into the offices of any of the most recognizable nanny training organizations-such as The Peng Wan-Ru Foundation, the Taipei County Nanny Association, or Mommy Bear-and it seems like the staff are constantly on the phone taking enquiries.

Chair of the Taipei County Nanny Association Liao Sulan explains that in recent years qualified nannies have become a hot commodity, with many housewives looking for a second job coming in for training and others-including grandparents taking care of their grandchildren-coming to them to brush up on childcare skills they've long since forgotten. Even a number of "traditional" neighborhood nannies have begun realizing that training is their best weapon against being squeezed out.

Bringing up children is part of human instinct, and certainly mothers of the past, raising families with children numbering in the teens, got on fine despite never hearing anything about having to be professionally trained. So what exactly is it that these 15,000-plus people per year (of which 60 to 70% pass) are being tested on for their nannying certification? And what exactly makes them "professionals," even after certification?

Certification first

The roots of nanny certification and testing in Taiwan can be traced back to 1998. It was then that the Ministry of the Interior and the Council for Labor Affairs laid out the plan for the examination, primarily in the hopes of improving the skills of traditional nannies, giving parents a means of choosing nannies that met an objective standard and encouraging those nannies to grow in their profession and improve their social standing.

Those wanting to take the examination not only need to have at least a junior high level education, but also to have completed a total of 126 hours of training and earned seven credits each in the Children and Youth Welfare Act, early childhood development, health and hygiene, and childcare methods. Included in this is a test on infant and toddler care, which is acknowledged by the examinees to be the hardest, but also most useful, part of the training; in this test, aspiring nannies are tested in a set time on bathing children and monitoring water temperature, correct tooth-brushing technique, infant CPR, what to do in the event of choking or asphyxiation, and food preparation methods such as dicing vegetables and making juice.

Rao Xiuzhen, chief executive of the Taipei County Nanny Association, who has taken the exam herself, explains that during these tests, not only do the examinees have to not put a foot wrong once, they also have to recite the instructions from memory, and only then are they able to pass. For example, during the tooth-brushing section, students must recite the following: "Start at the top right gum and clean to the left, then clean from the bottom left rightward ... and use a cloth soaked in warm water to gently wipe the child's tongue every day to keep their tongue clean." All this is recited as they complete the process of cleaning a dummy child's teeth and tongue, and if a single line is flubbed or they make a mistake with the dummy, they may lose marks.

One of the leading proponents of nanny licensing in Taiwan and dean of the Institute of Infant and Child Care at National Taipei College of Nursing, Duan Hui-ying explains that while such tests cannot guarantee the examinees are suited to being nannies, they can provide a basic level of quality control.

"Infants are fragile, and if anything should happen it has to be handled immediately. Through intensive training, nannies can learn to keep their cool in emergencies and almost instantly pick the right method of treatment."

As an illustration of the importance of this, Duan points to a recent case involving a four-year-old boy whose family ran a beef noodle restaurant. The boy accidentally tripped on something lying around the store and bumped into a boiling pot of broth. His father's immediate reaction was to strip the boy's clothes off before getting him to cold water, which caused his skin to peel, leaving him dehydrated and more susceptible to infection.

"If a nanny trained in handling burns were to encounter that, they should know that they right course of action is to immediately get the child into cold water, and after soaking him in the water for at least 30 minutes to lower his body temperature, then remove his clothing. Meanwhile, paramedics should be called as quickly as possible. If all caregivers were trained like this, the chance of avoiding such tragic deaths would be greatly increased."

Community intermediaries

In addition to basic training and certification, another aspect that has been strongly advocated by organizations in both the civic and public sectors in recent years is monitoring and management of nannies through community networks.

These "community nannying networks" first began in 2001, and oversee nannies nationwide. Previously joining this network was open to all in the field, but as of this year all new members must be accredited. Those who are already members but lacking accreditation are required to pass the exam before the end of this year.

Nannies who join the network not only enjoy benefits such as job agents and 20 hours of free occupational training, but can also get assistance from the network in negotiating contracts with parents and other occupational protection. They even get accident insurance, so that should a child under their care have an accident, the insurance can cover medical treatment even if there are disputes over blame or the nanny cannot afford to cover the expenses.

But at the same time, the nannies themselves must also uphold their end and do their duty. They must, for instance, supply a Certificate of No Criminal Record, as well as undergoing a biannual comprehensive health check. Four times a year, inspectors from the network will pay unscheduled visits to nannies to ensure their homes are safe and to check on the linguistic and physical development of the children under their care.

"The involvement of these people from the local government puts an objective third party in between the parents and the nannies," says Liu Jie, chief executive of Mommy Bear, one of the organizations that is part of this network.

She notes that it can be difficult for parents to find nannies that are not only professional, caring, and responsible, but also reasonably priced and conveniently situated. "At least with a government-recognized intermediary like this the first step in selecting a nanny is already handled, so they can be confident that unlike the parents of the child that was put in the freezer, they won't be putting their children into the hands of someone with a criminal record!"

Once an arrangement is made, if there should be differences in child-rearing philosophy between parents and nanny but the parents are either too embarrassed or just don't have the time to discuss them with the nanny, they can pass it on through the network. And for nannies, should the parents slack off on year-end bonuses or be often late picking their children up, the nannies can use the network to help them fight for their rights. "It's an excellent way to avoid serious conflicts over childcare," says Liu.

Good intentions, limited effect

However, despite the good intentions behind the certification system and community network, over their past 11 and eight years of operation respectively there has been a lack of promotion and only a small number of parents have been both aware of them and willing to use them.

According to statistics from the Child Welfare Bureau, there are currently almost 60,000 certified nannies in Taiwan, but research conducted by National Taipei College of Nursing in 2006 revealed that only 40% of nannies in employment were certified, and only a total of some 13,800 were even willing to sign on with the community network.

Meanwhile according to a survey released by the Child Welfare Bureau in 2005, 8.1%-approximately 56,000-of children under three years old are under the care of nannies. If statistics from the community network, which state that on average 1.7 children are under the care of each nanny, are correct, then a total of 32,000 children are under the care of qualified nannies, leaving 24,000 in the hands of nannies either not part of the network or not even certified.

"Some certified nannies feel that the biannual checkups and having to get a certificate from the police is too much hassle, and they don't want to always have someone coming in to check up on them," says Wu Meiying, head of the Child Welfare Bureau. "And if they've got a constant stream of clients, why would they have any interest in joining the network?"

Between a lack of promotion and a lack of incentives, the network system has stagnated even as numbers of certified nannies grow. This situation has only recently begun to be rectified by the introduction of childcare subsidies on April 1, 2008.

Carrot and stick

Under the Child Welfare Bureau's subsidy plan, double-income families with annual income up to NT$1.5 million and with children under the age of two under the care of a network-registered nanny will receive a monthly stipend of NT$3,000.

Daycare-usually around 10 hours a day, with the children picked up after a parent finishes work-can vary widely in price between city and country, averaging from NT$12,000 to NT$20,000, while full-time care (24-hour childcare from Monday to Friday, with the children picked up in the weekends) can cost between NT$20,000 and NT$28,000. For the average double-salary family, this can be quite the financial burden.

Since the introduction of this stipend, the nanny network has become the first choice for many parents. With this boost in competition, more and more nannies are willing to go through the certification process and sign up with the network.

"Two years ago we signed up only 7,000 nannies, and last year it was up to over 13,000, a 86% rise in signups," says Wu.

If these stipends are the "carrot" encouraging parents to choose qualified network nannies, the "stick" is undoubtedly the proposed Child Care and Education Act, the draft of which is currently in the Legislative Yuan. This act also signifies Taiwan's move toward a more comprehensive training, certification, and supervision system for nannies.

According to the draft, only certified nannies will be allowed to provide home-based childcare, with uncertified traditional nannies given three years to earn certification after the passage of the act. Any nanny caring for a child under the age of two without certification will be subject to a fine between NT$6,000 and NT$30,000. Additionally, within six months of the passage of the act, certified nannies will have to register with their local county or city governments in order to be allowed to continue their work, otherwise they will be subject to heavy fines-from NT$60,000 up to NT$300,000. The act in its current form was sent to the Legislative Yuan in March this year, and quickly became a hot topic of discussion.

"Each and every child is the most precious thing in the world to their parents, and they shouldn't be just lightly fobbed off on any old unlicensed nanny," says supporter of the act Duan Hui-ying. She also believes that childcare and management of caregivers should not just be left to the whims of the free market. "People responsible for the care of children should absolutely be subject to regular supervision and inspections. This is a duty the government should not shrug off, and when looking for nannies in future, parents should give it serious thought."

With the subsidies and strengthened legal support, Taiwan's childcare industry is facing a new era. Will this new carrot-and-stick combination effectively stem the seeming tide of nannying-related tragedies and protect the next generation by providing them with caring "second mothers" to grow up with? Only time will tell.

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