You've decided that you want to hire a nanny to help with your kids, but where to begin? How do you know who is the right fit for your family? How do you manage all of the details of hiring someone?
Care.com is a great DIY option for hiring a nanny. You can post a job, search through experienced candidates who meet your qualifications and find someone that meets your needs.
But if you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a caregiver, a full service nanny placement agency might be the right option for you. Nanny agencies will handle the process for you and present you with a small selection of candidates to choose from.
"Agencies can provide many services, from verifying education experience, making sure references and experience are real and accurate, conducting a variety of background checks, and helping you develop a job description and work agreement," says Carolyn Stolov, family life expert at Care.com.
Want to know more about nanny agencies? Read our article on What is a Nanny Agency? »
So is a nanny agency the right path for your family? Here are six reasons you may want to consider hiring one.
When you're convinced, find a nanny agency on Care.com.
You Don't Know What You're Looking for
You know you need a nanny to watch your two children. You know when you want her to start. You have some vague idea that she should be great with kids. But that's about it.
You've read articles on finding the best nanny and how to interview a nanny, but you're still not sure what specifics to look for. How do you decide on your family's version of the perfect Mary Poppins?
A nanny agency may be able to help. As Sharon Graff-Radell of TLC for Kids, an agency in St. Louis, Mo., says, "Working with a nanny agency is a more personal process, as you will work with a placement counselor who will get to know you and find out what is uniquely important to your family."
You Don't Have Time to Search Yourself
If your calendar is already jam-packed, you probably don't have time to sift through dozens of online applications, conduct a slew of interviews and then check references. Nanny agencies are experts in pre-screening applicants to find nannies who specifically meet your family's needs. They "should only send you candidates that fit all of your desired qualifications," says Graff-Radell.
Sharyn Marcuson of Care Givers Placement Agency in Portland, Oregon, shares a similar sentiment: "I can usually match one or two candidates and the family will hire one of them. It's that easy for a family." If you use a nanny agency, you won't be overwhelmed with applications.
You Want a Nanny Who Has Been Trained
There are no national government standards for the childcare placement industry, and nannies aren't required to have any formal training. But it's a nice add-on.
You can check a nanny's profile on Care.com to see if she has received any training.
If you hire a nanny agency though, almost all candidates you interview will have received training from their employing agency. "Each agency will have minimum requirements that each caregiver must meet in order to work with the agency," says Stolov.
Every agency is different, but in general nannies need to be certified in infant/child CPR and first aid, and may have had some training in things like child development, safety, communication and planning activities.
You Want Someone Who Has Been Screened Extra Thoroughly
Whenever you bring someone new into your home -- from a nanny to a housekeeper to a pet sitter -- the safety of your family is paramount.
Find helpful tools and advice on safety issues at Care.com's Safety Center »
You should always get a background check on a potential nanny, which often reassures families of a candidate's acceptability. Premium members of Care.com can request unlimited free standard caregiver background checks and purchase additional enhanced ones. You should also call numerous references and verify a candidate's educational experience.
But what if you want more?
"A nanny agency only sends you vetted nannies who they themselves have personally interviewed," says Radell. They will handle all of the background checks and reference calls for you -- but make sure you see a copy of the background check and call some references yourself.
As Marcuson adds, "I personally know the nannies. I've met them, talked to their references, secured character references and done the background checks myself. Many of these nannies will work with an agency for years and years, coming back every time they need a new position."
Nanny agencies may screen potential candidates for you, but you should always investigate your top choices yourself as well. The more eyes looking for red flags, the better.
You Need Help Understanding Your Role as an Employer
Hiring a nanny to help care for your children on a daily basis is not like hiring a teenage babysitter to watch your kids for a couple of hours while you run errands. "Everyone who employs a nanny is that person's legal employer," says Marcuson.
You need to start thinking about things like state labor laws, unemployment and overtime -- all which you may know nothing about.If you pay your nanny or sitter over $1800 a year, you're also responsible for paying employment taxes.
You need to make important decisions about health insurance, other benefits, salaries, performance reviews and other critical matters. Care.com has lots of helpful articles on these topics and has a household payroll and tax service called Care.com HomePay, managed by Breedlove, which can handle all of your nanny tax questions and preparation. (They even offer free phone consultations!) But a nanny agency can also hold your hand and guide you through the maze.
"A nanny agency will have you working with a placement counselor who will step you through the whole process of interviewing and negotiating employment agreements," says Radell.
You Want a Safety Net
Once you go through all the trouble of finding a nanny, there is always the possibility that she won't work out. If you go through the hiring process on your own, you have to start over again at square one. If you use a nanny agency, that's not necessarily the case.
"Most offer some type of guarantee for usually the first three months," says Stolov. "If your nanny doesn't work out, they may find you a new one."
And keep in mind that you may need to hire backup child care while you're finding a new nanny.
If you agreed with some of the above points, a nanny agency might be an ideal solution for you. Before you know it, you will have a list of highly qualified applicants in your hands and will be on your way to finding the perfect caregiver to suit you and your family's needs.
Amanda Mole is a freelance writer in Tampa Bay, Fla. She has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil and cooking since she was tall enough to reach the stove. Her work can be found here.