Nanny who formed special bond with Wilton family nominated for award

Photo of J.D. Freda
Franco with Caroline Lawlor, 25, and Julia Lawlor, 21, of Southport. She nannied for the pair of sisters when they were young.

Franco with Caroline Lawlor, 25, and Julia Lawlor, 21, of Southport. She nannied for the pair of sisters when they were young.

Betty Franco / Contributed Photo

WILTON — “When somebody got sick, the first person they would call is my mom,” Bridgeport resident Betty Franco said.

The Trinidad and Tobago native and longtime Connecticut resident credits her mom with many of her familial instincts, including her affinity for children, desire to help those who are sick and ability to leave a lasting impacts on the families she touches.

Franco’s special connection to one Wilton family and her consistent utilization of those instincts throughout her 20-plus year nannying career earned her a recommendation as a finalist for the inaugural “Nanny of the Year Award” with four other caretakers. The contest is hosted by Mommybites, a group that provides resources, support and education for parents and also connects them to a nanny in their area.

“I saw it on Facebook, one of the other finalists posted it,” Franco said, noting she wasn’t aware of the nomination until seeing her photo included.

Attached to the nomination announcement for each finalist was a testimonial from a family the nanny has worked with. Paired with a picture of Franco was a message of appreciation from Kim Hall, of Wilton, who detailed Franco’s support for her and her family after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“Betty is the kind of nanny that my ‘mom friends’ still ask in difficult situations, ‘What would Betty do?’” Hall wrote in her post. “Beyond incredible competence and practical knowledge, she is such a creative and warm presence for our family — always coming up with fun activities from annual tie dye parties to apple picking. One star moment was when I became ill with a brain tumor and she was there to keep things as normal as possible for the kids.”

But Hall said Monday that Franco stepped up to the plate even before then.

“Eight months before I was diagnosed, my sister had a critical illness,” Hall said, adding that her family took on guardianship of her sister’s son. “Now she had a third kid come in. She didn’t blink. She said ‘that is family, that is what we do.’”

She said Franco aided her with her convalescence so that she could “still be there for the kids as much as I could manage,” and helped with grocery shopping, cooking meals, showing up for her kids’ obligations and driving them around.

Hall added that Franco took her to the Halloween parade to celebrate her children’s favorite holiday just weeks after her first surgery post-diagnosis.

“She made sure I had everyhting I needed,” Hall said, “so I could be there for my kids.”

Franco said she took inspiration from her childhood, being the seventh of eight children and enjoying taking care of not just her siblings, but her eventual neices and nephews and other younger children in her community. To be a nanny, she said, starts with a real, innate love for children and a healthy heaping of patience.

“She figured out how to fit in and how to work together with us really well,” Hall said. “She ended up taking care of all of us in one way or another. We grew together.”

But Franco sees it through a simple lens: Hall was kind enough to allow her into her home and trusted her to look after her children, so she vowed to treat them as her own.

Hall’s youngest, Lydia, was just a few days old when Franco was hired. Hall’s other child, Jack, was just a few years older. Lydia just started high school this fall, Franco said, while Jack is now in college.

“For all these years I’ve been there. Yes, you can say its you ‘working a job,’ but more than that I consider them like one of my own kids,” Franco said of her years nannying different children. “All of the families I’ve worked with, it is like they have become a part of my personal family.”

Franco’s nuclear family consists of a husband and a son. Since starting her career in nannying, though, Franco said even her husband and son have become close with the families she looks after.

“Kim knows my husband and son very well,” Franco said. “I invite them into my home, just like I am into theirs.”

Hall said that Franco is like a grandmother to her children, as her children’s two grandmothers do not live close.

But the Halls aren’t the only family that Franco considers an extention of her own. She has been welcomed into numerous homes around Fairfield County, including in Fairfield, Westport and Weston, and remains close to the families to this day.

Franco prides herself on showing support and care for the children even well beyond their formative years. In early October, she said, a pair of sisters that Franco used to care for — Caroline and Julia Lawlor — were back at their familial home in Southport for a weekend. The sisters, 25 and 22 respectively, were excited about the prospect of hanging out with their former nanny while visiting home, and Franco said she was filled with joy.

She frequently recalls the small moments that would otherwise go unappreciated.

Voting for the Mommybites “Nanny of the Year Award” will continue through all of October. Franco has also already been nominated as the “Nanny of the Month” for October by another parenting group, the Impeccable Nanny Agency.

While those accolades are “exciting” and “make me proud,” Franco said she is just focused on what she can do for the families she works with, not the reward that comes from it. The only lasting impact she hopes to have on the children she works with, she said, is to be counted on as a longtime source of love and support to make certain each child has “everything they might need” to grow comfortably and confidently — just like what her mom was to her and her siblings.