Making the decision to have children and then finding someone to help you take care of them are two of the most important decisions you will ever make. Locating the perfect nanny to care for your bundle of joy can be a challenge. Where do you start?
Two of the most popular routes are hiring an agency to find one for you, or searching for one yourself through a nanny-finding website (like Care.com!). We asked experts for their insights into these two methods, so that you can decide which one will work best for you and your family.
Nanny-Finding Websites and How They Work:
Online services act as a partner in helping you source candidates. While there are a variety of websites, they differ in what they offer. Mostly you post a job on their site and then present you with a list of applicants based on your criteria. Then you can contact caregivers for a fee.
- Easy access to caregivers. National online sites list applicants from all over the United States, giving parents the flexibility of accessing caregivers, even if they are traveling. You also have the option of searching and emailing applicants 24 hours a day. "Some parents want more control over their search and want to choose the candidates to interview. A parent who has the time and wants the control of streamlining the candidates on her own will like the flexibility an online agency offers," says Carolyn Stolov, family life expert at Care.com.
- Online screening process for applicants. Many online sites offer criminal and background checks with the subscription fee. For example, Care.com carefully screens both its care seekers and care providers with these types of checks, as well as tracks negative media stories for individuals who have been accused of a crime. Additionally, the site lets families post reviews of providers and it provides audio tape reference checks upon request. Learn more at Care.com's Safety Center
- Access to resources and tips. Online sites often provide resources that are similar to the materials that agencies use. Care.com offers free online guides and articles covering a variety of topics, ranging from how to interview a nanny and how to handle reference checks to how to create a nanny contract and how to have a great relationship with your nanny.
- Affordability. Online services are a much less expensive option for families who can't afford a full service placement agency. Online services typically offer subscriptions from one month to one year. Care.com's rates start at $35 per month -- giving parents the option of only using the service as they need it.
- A team of caregivers. Sites like Care.com let you work with numerous people simultaneously at no extra cost. Maybe you need a nanny during the week and a babysitter every other weekend. Maybe you only need an after school sitter. And these sites aren't just for nannies. They can help you find senior care for your parents, a pet sitter for your dog, a housekeeper to keep your home tidy, a tutor for your child, etc. You can also hire last-minute backup care if you need it. You get more flexibility to work with an unlimited number of caregivers to fit your life's specific needs.
- Time. Online rates may be inexpensive, but it ultimately boils down to how much time you can invest in the search. Sometimes you may luck out and the first person who emails you is perfect for the position. Sometimes it may take a little while to weed through the applicants.
- Personal research. Many websites' resources are in the form of articles that parents must search for and read on their own. You may have to figure out the best options for your situation and the advice that applies.
- Expertise. If you've never hired a nanny before, you may not know what you're looking for or where to even start. You've read the articles, but are still lost and need more of a helping hand.
Now go ahead and post a job on Care.com.
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.
- Simplified hiring process. Agencies often go through a lengthy process of screening applicants, from phone and in-person interviews and resumes reviews to reference checks and background checks. Some even use an assessment exam to analyze an applicant's knowledge of childcare. "Our process takes many hours: we estimate between 15 and 20 hours per applicant," says Judi Merlin, CEO of A Friend of the Family Staffing Corporation based in Athens, Georgia. "We have found that only 1 in 10 applicants successfully complete our process."
- Ongoing support for parents. Mimi Brady of Westside Nannies, an agency in Beverly Hills and San Francisco says that one of the best parts of using an agency is the professional tips, tricks, and on-going support that is offered. "For example, a full-service agency is able to educate you about topics such as getting your nanny on payroll, offering benefits or perks, and how to maintain a professional, respectful nanny-employer relationship. Most agencies always provide ears to listen, even after a candidate has been placed, and this can be extremely helpful in working on glitches regarding training your new nanny and miscommunications."
- Replacement options. What happens if your new nanny doesn't work out? Many agencies will find you a replacement within the first three months. Stolov suggests asking the nanny agency if they provide temporary nannies to fill in if the first nanny isn't a good fit. Online services don't usually replace nannies for free, but with your subscription, you have the option to search and choose another one anytime. For example, Care.com offers a service called Backup Care to help you find a temporary or last-minute nanny.
- Nanny training and support. Many agencies offer on-going support for caregivers that can be useful. Your nanny may be eligible for occasional training in things like child development and communication strategies.
- Price. All of these great offerings do come at a price. Nanny agencies typically charge anywhere from $900 to $4,000, depending on your location and what type of nanny you are hiring. You should discuss the agency's fee structure early in the process -- so you aren't surprised by upfront registration fees, placement fees when you hire a nanny oradditional charges later on down the road.
- Handing off control. While agencies take care of the searching, screening and qualifying of potential candidates, some parents prefer to be in control of the entire process themselves.
- Refund policies. Before you sign on the dotted line, check what the nanny agency's refund policy is -- if there even is one. Some agencies only replace nannies and only for a short period of time. Ask about different "what-if" scenarios and make sure you're comfortable with the fine print.
The Bottom Line
"There is no one right way to find a nanny," Stolov explains. "One is not better than the other. It is all about what the parent is looking for as far as support, personal control and flexibility over their search, and what their budget is." Pick the one that works best for your needs and your budget.
Ilene Jacobs is a freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas. Ilene enjoys writing about a variety of topics, ranging from food, fitness and travel, to kids, pets and senior care. You can find some of her work here.