Choosing a nanny for your child is one of the most important decisions you'll make as a parent. Of course, you're hoping to find a caregiver who can blend into your family's routine, be comfortable with your value system and feel like a great fit.
But different families have different needs and expectations when it comes to child care and, for many, the search for just the right nanny can feel overwhelming or even intimidating. Sometimes the best answer might be a professional who specializes in understanding your needs, saving you time and matching you up with the right nanny for your family. In this case, a full service nanny placement agency might be the best fit for you.
What Do Full Service Nanny Placement Agencies Do?
"Using a nanny agency is a little like working with your own personal HR department," says Tiffanie Kinder, president and founder of Nanny Connections, a placement agency located in Madison, Wisc. A mother of two and a former nanny herself, Kinder believes that families benefit from their ongoing relationship with the agency they choose. "The right placement coordinator will get to know your family, your needs and, most importantly, help you identify what you're looking for in a nanny. They can provide someone who will be a good fit for you and function as a kind of safety-net."
The role of a nanny agency is to help make the process of finding child care -- as well as your life once that care is in place -- run as smoothly as possible. The right agency can help you to define and narrow your expectations, thus saving lots of time you might ordinarily have spent interviewing nannies who aren't a good fit.
"Nanny agencies cut down on the leg work you would normally have to do on your own," says Carolyn Stolov M.Ed, family life expert at Care.com and former owner of a nanny agency herself. "They offer in-depth services like sourcing candidates, conducting interviews, checking references and matching you with candidates that meet your job requirements."
An agency will also create a job description and work with you and your nanny on contract negotiations as needed. "It's a great option for families who can benefit from a high-touch, personal approach," says Suzanne Royer McCone, president and placement counselor at Annie's Nannies, based in Seattle, Wash. "Your agency can help you hone in on what your needs are and focus your search on a manageable number of candidates."
How Much Does a Nanny Agency Cost?
All of this great service does come at a price. "Nanny agencies can be expensive, but you are paying for their expertise and the labor involved by the placement counselor," says Stolov. There can be charges that range from $900 to $4,000, depending on where you live and if you are hiring a full-time or part-time nanny. Always ask about the cost structure early on, so you know if there are any upfront registration fees, placement fees when you hire a nanny and charges later on down the road.
How Can I Find a Nanny Agency?
Every family's situation is unique, so it's important to find an agency that can arrange the type of nanny care you require: live-out, live-in or part-time. Most agencies are small, local businesses and cover a certain geographical area for live-out care, but many can place live-in nannies nationally too.
You can easily find a nanny agency through Care.com.
You can also find businesses through reputable organizations like the International Nanny Association (INA) and the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA). Use search terms like "nanny agency", "nanny placement agency", "live-in nanny placement agency", "placement service", "household staffing", etc.
How Do I Assess Nanny Agencies?
You will spend time interviewing your future nanny, but it's equally as important to screen your nanny agency. When agency owners join professional associations like APNA, they agree to abide by a a strict set of standards. As the childcare placement industry has no government regulations, this group of self-regulated agencies provides parents with a greater assurance of quality, trustworthy practices.
Once you have a short list of possible agencies, read reviews before contacting any company. Do online searches for the name of the agency. Can you find any feedback about their services on parenting blogs or forums? Do families seem satisfied or are there red flags? Do they have any reviews or complaints listed with the Better Business Bureau?
When you find an agency you think will work, there is lots of information you should find out before signing up. Get ideas by reading our article on What Questions Should I Ask a Nanny Agency? »
Whether you use an online service like Care.com or a full service nanny placement agency, it's important that you stay involved in the process. Stolov recommends that families check references, interview candidates thoroughly and see how the candidate interacts with your children and family. Once you have hired a nanny, plan surprise drop-in visits to monitor how things are going.
It can be hard to imagine leaving your precious child in the hands of anyone other than yourself, but you can find a nanny who will meet your family's needs and provide amazing care for your little one(s).
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found here.