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LIFE CAT COLUMN
Child CareChoosing a BabysitterWe researched the subject, interviewed babysitters, babysitting agencies, the American Red Cross and moms and dads about finding a good babysitter. Here are their top pieces of advice.Choosing a NannyWe 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. Evaluating Your Child-Care ProviderOnce you've selected a child-care provider, follow these suggestions to ensure it's the right choice for you and your child.Finding Affordable Child CareFinding affordable child care isn't easy. Here is a "starter" list of resources and tips to help you on your search. Recommended Adult-to-Child Child-Care RatiosToo much or just right? Here's the recommended ratio of caregiver-to-child.
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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 Do You Need? section.

  • Ask friends, family, coworkers and neighbors how they found their nanny.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

WHN TIP: 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.

What Do You Need?

  • What type of care would you like for your child?
    Part-time, at-home care, consider a babysitter.
  • Outside the home? — consider child care
  • What days/how many hours are needed?
  • Will the nanny need to drive to and from your home?
  • Will the nanny have to pick up/drop off the children?
  • Would you prefer to have the nanny live with you or have the nanny live-out?
  • Would you prefer to have a nanny or an au pair (usually a child care worker here on a visa from another country)?
  • What salary range can you afford?
  • Do you need care immediately or can you be placed on a waiting list?

What Are Your Preferences?

  • Education, experience and training (babysitter certification, CPR, first aid), etc.
  • Fluency in a specific language
  • Specific age range
  • Personality traits
  • Willingness to do other tasks: prepare meals or do light housework

Interviewing the Nanny

After you've found a candidate, schedule an interview. Be prepared to take notes. 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.

  • Are you legally permitted to work in the U.S.?
  • 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?
  • Do you have your Act 33/34 clearances (background checks)? Are they current? May I see these?
  • Do you have a car? Do you have a current and valid drivers' license and registration? Do you have a clean driving record?

WHN Tip: Don't take their word for it.
Verify that the sitter has a good driving record, valid driver's license, car insurance, vehicle in good running order and with sufficient seatbelts.

  • Why are you a nanny?
  • What do you like most about nannying and being with children? What do you like least?
  • What are the ages of children you have cared for?
  • Why did you leave your last job?

WHN Tip: Always check references: ask the family why the relationship ended and whether they would recommend that caregiver.

  • How do you discipline children?
  • What is the most difficult situation you have encountered? How did you handle it?
  • What would you do in the event of an emergency?
  • What are your favorite activities to do with children?
  • Do you have any other interests or jobs?
  • What are your personal and career goals? How long do you intend to nanny?
  • What hours/days are you available?
  • What are you asking for in terms of salary?
  • Do you have references? May I have a copy of your references so I may contact them?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Nanny-Child Introduction

After the initial interview, have the nanny spend sometime with your children while you observe their interaction.

  • Does the nanny talk and listen to children?
  • Try to build on language?
  • Are open-ended questions posed to stretch thinking and reasoning?
  • Do s/he show interest in what children are saying and doing?
  • Let children explore on their own, but give them help and encouragement when they need it?
  • Play with children on their level (for young children, usually down on the floor)?
  • Respond quickly to children's cries, words, and behaviors?
  • Supervise young children very closely?
  • Seem warm, friendly, and supportive?
  • Seem to know and respond to each child as an individual?
  • Share your feelings about what is important for children?
  • Smile a lot and seem to enjoy the children?
  • Encourage children to share, comfort each other, and help each other out?
  • Appear to strike a balance between allowing children to do things for themselves, such as when dressing outdoors, and helping them when needed?
  • Treat them with respect?
  • Do your children seem happy and relaxed with the nanny?

Post Interview

Once you've interviewed several nannies, compare your notes, referring back to your criteria list.

  • Which nanny best fit the criteria I initially decided upon?
  • Which nanny should I choose so that my child will be happy and grow?
  • Which nanny can meet the special needs of my child?
  • Are the nanny's values compatible with my family's values?
  • Is the nanny care available and affordable according to my family's needs and resources?
  • Do I feel good about my decision?
  • 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?
  • How can I work with my nanny to resolve issues and concerns that may arise?
  • 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:

  • Was the nanny reliable on a daily basis?
  • How did the nanny discipline your child?
  • Did your child enjoy the nanny experience?
  • How did the nanny respond to you as a parent?
  • How did the nanny respond to you as a employer?
  • Was the nanny respectful of your values and culture?
  • Would you recommend the nanny without reservation?
  • Why did the nanny leave the job or why did you let the nanny go?

Schedule a Trial Run

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 the experience.

During The First Few Weeks

As an employer, you'll need to do the following:

  • Apply for an employer identification number
  • Pay state and federal taxes, Social Security and Medicare
  • Draft a work agreement or contract for the nanny which includes duties, hours, salary, days off and so on.

WHN Tip: Check with your accountant and/or attorney if you have specific questions. Ask your insurance agent if you need to carry insurance to cover the nanny.

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.

Other Life Pages
Child CareChoosing a Babysitter

We researched the subject, interviewed babysitters, babysitting agencies, the American Red Cross and moms and dads about finding a good babysitter. Here are their top pieces of advice.

 Read More
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.

 Read More
Evaluating Your Child-Care Provider

Once you've selected a child-care provider, follow these suggestions to ensure it's the right choice for you and your child.

 Read More
Finding Affordable Child Care

Finding affordable child care isn't easy. Here is a "starter" list of resources and tips to help you on your search.

 Read More
Recommended Adult-to-Child Child-Care Ratios

Too much or just right? Here's the recommended ratio of caregiver-to-child.

 Read More