Choosing a Nanny

We researched, spoke with nannies, nanny placement agencies and parents who use nannies to find the best advice to start you off on your search for your own Mary Poppins.

Nanny Recommendations/Resources

Expect the process to take a few weeks or even months. While you are finding resources, tackle the "What Your Want" section at the same time.
  1. Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors how they found their nanny.
  2. R&R (Resource and Referral) Agencies: provide nanny-placement info and in-home child caregiving providers. They can also help choose the best care for your child.
  3. Nanny-placement service agencies:
    • A nanny placement service can help in the selection process by screening potential applicants, running background and reference checks and by providing you with a list of compatible candidates.
    • There are fees with these services. An agency might charge an initial fee to begin a search and a one-time placement fee when you select a nanny. Costs and policies will vary by agency.
    • Contact your local Better Business Bureau (or consumer affairs office in your area) to learn about the reputation of the placement agency.

    WHN TIP: Background Checks

    If you don’t plan on using an agency, you still should run a background check on each candidate. According to Child Care Aware, “many states require in-home caregivers receiving child care subsidy payments to be screened through a criminal history check and/or child abuse and neglect clearance. A few states require minimal training in health and safety.” Check with your state’s attorney general’s office about the laws in your state.

  4. You can place ads online (like craigslist), in your local newspaper or in family/children publications. There are several networking and placement agencies online as well - use a search engine to find these commercial services.

What You Want

Make a list of your needs:
  1. What type of care would you like for your child?
  2. Hours: What days/how many hours do your children need care?
  3. Driving: Will the nanny need to drive to and from your home?
    • Will the nanny need to pick up/drop off the children?
  4. Food and Cleaning: Will the nanny prepare meals or do light housework?
  5. Budget: What can you afford to spend on child care?
  6. Timing: Do you need care immediately or can you wait on a waiting list?
  7. Living Arrangements: Would you prefer to have the nanny live with you or have the nanny live-out?
  8. Nanny or Au Pair? Would you prefer to have a nanny or an au pair (usually a child care worker here on a visa from another country)?
  9. Make a list of qualifications, prioritize and note where you might be flexible:
    • Age range
    • Education and training
    • Experience
    • Personality traits
    • Transportation (can drive, has own car, good driving record, etc.)
    • Number of languages spoken
    • Live in home or outside home?
    • Scheduling time if out of home
    • Salary range

Meeting/Interviewing the Nanny

After you’ve found a candidate, schedule an interview. Have your questions, and a pen and paper to take notes. Why? It's easier to compare with a written record when making a final decision.

WHN TIP:

Remember, this interview is a job interview. You will officially be the nanny’s employer.

Here are a list of questions to consider asking the nanny. Feel free to omit or add on more of your own.

Qualifications, Skills and Training

  1. Are you legally permitted to work in the U.S.?
  2. Do you have any special training or certification such as first aid or infant/child CPR? Do you have ongoing training? May I see the certificates?
  3. Do you have your Act 33/34 clearances (background checks)? Are they current? May I see these?
  4. Do you have a car? Do you have a current and valid drivers’ license and registration? Do you have a clean driving record?

Experience

  1. Why are you a nanny?
  2. What do you like most about nannying and being with children? What do you like least?
  3. What are the ages of children you have cared for?
  4. Why did you leave your last job? (You should always check references; ask the family why the relationship ended and whether they would recommend that caregiver.)
  5. How do you discipline children?
  6. What is the most difficult situation you have encountered? How did you handle it?
  7. What would you do in the event of an emergency?
  8. What are your favorite activities to do with children?
  9. Do you have any other interests or jobs?
  10. What are your personal and career goals? How long do you intend to nanny?
  11. What hours/days are you available?
  12. What are you asking for in terms of salary?
  13. Do you have references? May I have a copy of your references so I may contact them?
  14. What questions do you have for me?
After the initial interview, have the nanny spend sometime with your children. Observe:
  1. Does the nanny talk and listen to children?
  2. Try to build on language?
  3. Are open-ended questions posed to stretch thinking and reasoning?
  4. Do s/he show interest in what children are saying and doing?
  5. Let children explore on their own, but give them help and encouragement when they need it?
  6. Play with children on their level (for young children, usually down on the floor)?
  7. Respond quickly to children's cries, words, and behaviors?
  8. Supervise young children very closely?
  9. Seem warm, friendly, and supportive?
  10. Seem to know and respond to each child as an individual?
  11. Share your feelings about what is important for children?
  12. Smile a lot and seem to enjoy the children?
  13. Encourage children to share, comfort each other, and help each other out?
  14. Appear to strike a balance between allowing children to do things for themselves, such as when dressing outdoors, and helping them when needed?
  15. Look at the children -
    • Are they happy, relaxed, and focused on what they are doing most of the time?
    • Is independence encouraged?
    • Are children allowed to make choices?
    • Is problem-solving and personal expression allowed?
    • Are children treated with respect at all times?

Post Interview

Review the Candidates
After the interview, jot down quick notes about your first impressions of the nanny. Review your notes after interviews with all candidates and refer back to the initial criteria you laid out beforehand. Take some time to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Which nanny best fit the criteria I initially decided upon?
  2. Which nanny should I choose so that my child will be happy and grow?
  3. Which nanny can meet the special needs of my child?
  4. Are the nanny’s values compatible with my family’s values?
  5. Is the nanny care available and affordable according to my family’s needs and resources?
  6. Do I feel good about my decision?
  7. How can I arrange my schedule so that I can:
    • Talk to my nanny every day?
    • Talk to my child every day about how the day went?
  8. How can I work with my nanny to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
  9. How do I keep informed about my nanny’s growth and development while in care?

Checking References
Check all references. Here are a few starter questions to ask references. Feel free to omit or add more of your own:

  1. Was the nanny reliable on a daily basis?
  2. How did the nanny discipline your child?
  3. Did your child enjoy the nanny experience?
  4. How did the nanny respond to you as a parent?
  5. How did the nanny respond to you as a employer?
  6. Was the nanny respectful of your values and culture?
  7. Would you recommend the nanny without reservation?
  8. Why did the nanny leave the job or why did you let the nanny go?
After you have made your choice, arrange to have your child spend part of the day with the nanny. Be sure that the nanny can easily contact you during this "trial period." Then talk to your child about their experience.

The First Few Weeks

Understand that you will now be the nanny’s official employer, which means you’ll have to apply for employer identification numbers; pay state and federal taxes, Social Security and Medicare; and also put together a work agreement or contract for the nanny which includes duties, hours, salary, days off and so on.

It is important to monitor your child(ren) and their relationship with the nanny. Make sure the nanny can contact with you with any questions and be sure to ask questions when you have them.

As a parent, it is up to you to keep checking and be sure your child is happy with the nanny you have selected. Be involved in his or her learning, and ask the nanny about your child’s involvement and adaptation to the new situation.

Additional Links

  • Child Care Aware
    Child Care Aware’s web site connects families to child care information and referrals through local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies. Child Care Aware is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.

  • International Nanny Association
    The International Nanny Association offers information for families about hiring a nanny, acting as a household employer and other educational resources. Established in 1985, the INA is a non-profit, educational association for nannies and those who educate, place, employ, and support professional in-home child care providers.
  • IRS: Household Employer's Tax Guide
    This PDF file will help you decide if you have a household employee and if you do, whether you need to pay federal employment taxes. It will also mention any other additional forms you may need. The Internal Revenue Service is the nation's tax collection agency and administers the Internal Revenue Code enacted by Congress.