You are both working parents and your maternity leave is up and you have to return to work, you have done your research and decided that a nanny or a live in nanny (haven’t decided that crucial piece yet) will work best for you and your family, especially your child, but how do you go about choosing the best nanny services? How do you decide between nanny finding websites and nanny agencies?
What do you look for in nanny services?
What questions do you ask them if and when you meet up? This person will after all be helping you raise your child or children; they will play a huge role in their behaviour and manners, they will be helping raise your children with you so they should be chosen carefully and respected in their role.
Of all the childcare options available a nanny is the most expensive option so be aware of this from the outset.
Below is an Infographic showing the cost of Childcare and the effects on a family based on living in the USA. taken from care.com
To outline what to expect from a nanny I covered this in one of my other articles The ins and outs of a live in nanny– so I don’t want to repeat myself – have a look at this article also.
In summary a nanny is:
Professional nannies tend to be women between 18 and 50, usually hold a degree in early childhood development or have many years of paid experience and are often members of unions and organisations like the International Nanny Association. They work on a live-in or day-to-day basis, between 40 and 70 hours per week. Most nannies will commit to at least two years, and work about twelve hours daily (often starting with a child’s drop-off at school and ending at tuck-in time). Unlike au pairs, nannies are able to spend as much time as needed with a child, and can incorporate being a babysitter, domestic-care duties, like picking up the dry-cleaning, cooking or washing clothes, into their services.
So you know what a nanny will do and how a nanny will benefit you so now to find an agency or nanny services, but as I mentioned earlier should you decide on a nanny finding website or an agency?
We will look at the two options and let you make an informed decision:
Nanny finding websites and how they work:
In my research I went onto www.care.com and www.sittercity.com to see how they work. Basically they act as a partner or a medium in helping you source suitable candidates. These sites are some of many out there and they all differ in what they offer, some are quite broad, covering anything and everything to do with caregiver jobs and some specialise in just nanny services.
In summary you post a job on their site and they give you a list of suitable people based on your criteria. You then contact your desired candidates – FOR A FEE. It is in the region of $35 per month.
All these types of websites have a way for the caregiver to submit background checks, references and resumes or CV’s. But as these are search/social type sites who is to say that a lot of this information is fully checked and isn’t doctored or faked? You could be hiring in essence a fake to care for your children. I would suggest doing your own checks and ringing up their references to ensure they are who they say they are and have the experience and skills they say they have. These are your children and you must protect your family.
A positive is that this is the cheapest way to find a nanny but you take on all the work.
Nanny agencies and how they work:
Agencies offer a full service approach to finding caregivers and charge a placement or referral fee for their services. They take care of the entire process from finding candidates to screening them, and they guide parents during the hiring process and offer support after placement. In a lot of cases the personal touch is something that can’t be duplicated and what will really set one agency apart from others.
With most nanny services or agencies they either charge a percentage of the annual nanny fees or a flat fee upfront, this can be anything from $900 to $3,000 depending on your location and the type of nanny you require. Some will charge a non-refundable registration fee in the regions of $300 €270 or £200. Discuss the agency fee structure early on in the process and especially their refund of replacement policy, if they have one. Say your nanny quits 2 weeks in do you get your money back? Will they replace her from free?
A positive is they will take on all the work, searching, qualifying and screening BUT you pay for it a lot!
Having a nanny means you are now an employer and with that comes the word we all dread TAX.
This may seems like a lot to take on, but one way of ensuring that everything is done and done properly is to subscribe to a nanny payroll service such as Nannytax. Nannytax has been providing comprehensive and complete payroll administration, providing peace of mind for thousands of nanny employers across the UK for over 20 years.
There are loads of websites out there to choose from all more or less doing the same thing and as I said earlier definitely ring all reference to make sure all is above board with your candidates.
But how do you choose a nanny agency? What do you look for?
11 Important questions to help pick the best nanny services for you and your family:
- How long has the agency been in business?
New is not bad but long established agencies show success. Long term agencies have a large number of nannies and families on their books and can benefit from repeat business and word of mouth. If you need to replace a nanny a long term agency is more likely to still be in business to cover your guarantee period!
- How many nannies do they match in a month or year?
You would like to choose an agency that has enough placements to be a viable business and is likely to be around next year. This will show if they could fulfil their guarantee period in a timely manner. Try find out how many repeats they have-a good sign. 4 -6 placements per employee per month would be the norm.
- What is the screening process for nannies?
A good agency will verify the employment history of prospective nannies, and generally contact (via phone) some or all of the personal references provided. A telephone call is more trustworthy and you can gather more information. Detailed applications and in-depth personal interviews with applicants are very important. Criminal and driving checks are generally mandatory – but check this. You should expect that the agency will share with you, in writing, the results of the pre-screening, including the interviewer’s impressions. You should also check the references of any candidate you genuinely feel you will make an offer to. A social security trace will verify that the applicant’s name matches their social security number and can provide a more complete history of where an applicant has lived.
Inquire about the specifics of the criminal background checks being done. This is VERY important, as the quality of this service varies tremendously among agencies. Read these FAQ’s from nannyverify here and for UK purposes check with level of CDB check is used www.onlinedbschecks.co.uk
- Is there a screening process for families? If so what?
Is there a house inspection? Are the families interviewed in their house? Does the family have to provide references of checks?
- What are the fees? Is there a refund policy?
Fees can vary considerably from country to country and in fact from county to county, and you should clearly understand the sign up fees and fee payment policies. Typically new agencies will have the lowest fees in the market; this is to a) make a break through into the market and b) to offset the perceived inexperience. Refund policies vary also. Many agencies will pro-rate their fee on unsuccessful placements, others will never refund but might agree to replace the candidate at no cost within a limited period of time. Whatever the policy, make sure you understand it and that you get it in writing. The better and more established agencies will make every effort to please the client, providing that the client’s expectations are equally reasonable. There should be no fees to nannies.
- What are the minimum qualification required for nannies to be consider by the agency?
Most agencies differ on the child care and related employment experience they require of nannies. These are crucial indicators of how likely a nanny will be to succeed in the job. Discuss this with the agency as their criteria might not meet your requirements.
- Do you have training or support programmes for the nannies?
Try and find an agency that will organise First Aid or CPR training, arrange an annual picnic for the nannies to get together, or provide the newly placed nanny with a contact list of some of their other local nannies. Look for the agency that provides the nanny with written material to help her adjust to her job … job description, a daily log format, child development milestones, toilet training tips, and things of that nature. This shows the commitment of the agency to the nanny, a commitment that will translate into experienced nannies who will return to that agency over and over.
- What is a typical salary for a nanny from that agency?
Salaries that are on the low end may indicate an agency is referring less qualified nannies than other agencies. Some agencies quote low salaries to families and higher salaries to nannies to get them to sign to their agency. An experienced, established agency should have the most accurate knowledge of the market and salaries on offer and be able to prove what they pay.
- What is the average length of stay of nannies from the agency?
If the agency is doing a thorough job of screening and matching nannies and families, the average placement should last well over a year. The average placement for nanny services is 2 years. Like most things in life what you put in is what you get out, so if you look after your nanny and get on well they could stay much much longer – if needed! Ask how the agency tracks their placements.
- Can the AGENCY provide references?
References can be a good way to determine if an agency gave you honest answers to some of the above questions. A good agency should have a large network of satisfied nannies and families whom are willing to give references. Like checking nanny references pick up the phone and talk to these people.
- Does the agency have any professional affiliations?
A professional agency knows that maintaining membership in one or more professional associations helps them stay up to date on the latest trends and issues in the nanny industry. Among these are the International Nanny Association, The Association for Professional Nannies, the Alliance of Premier Nanny Agencies, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). For Canada jobs, Canadian Nanny Association. Many agencies are also active members of their local Chambers of Commerce, or similar small business associations.
Once you know you will know you know, it will come down to maybe the smallest thing or the friendliest person, like I said earlier the personal touch is what can jump out – if you can put money aside and think about what is best for the children then you will make the right decision.
Getting a new nanny will be like getting a new friend, a permanent babysitter, so Mummy & Daddy can get out again!! yippee , a big sister for the children ( depending on her age!!) someone to do the homework, do the school runs or collect from day care, if you can still afford to send them! And your own personal chef.
I wonder if there are people reading this going to google ‘how to become a nanny’ or how to become a nanny for a rich family so they can start or investigate a new career opportunity in childcare, either way best of luck to all families going down this road and anyone starting off as a nanny.