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Nanny website or nanny agency: Which should you use to find a caregiver?

When searching for the perfect nanny, where do you even look? Experts break down the pros and cons of using a self-service nanny website vs. hiring a nanny agency.

Nanny website or nanny agency: Which should you use to find a caregiver?

Finding the perfect nanny to care for your little one is never an easy decision. In addition to making sure schedules jive and personalities mesh, there’s a whole host of nanny criteria to consider. But before you even get to that, you need to decide where to start.

Two of the most popular routes are searching for one yourself online, using a nanny website or app, or hiring a nanny agency to find one for you. 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 website: how they work

Online nanny sites act as a partner in helping you source candidates. While there are a variety of websites and online marketplaces, they differ in what they offer. For the most part, you post a job on their site, either from your mobile phone or home computer, and then they present you with a list of applicants based on your criteria. Then you can contact caregivers for a fee.

Pros of using a nanny-finding website

  • Easy access to professional nannies. National care-finding sites often list applicants from all over the U.S., 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 — completely online or from the convenience of your mobile phone.
  • Personal control. Parents who have more time or want to personally choose candidates to interview may prefer an online or app-based option for this kind of control and flexibility.
  • Affordability. Online nanny sites are a less expensive option for families who can’t afford a full-service nanny placement agency. Online services typically offer subscriptions from one month to one year.
  • Online screening process for applicants. Many online sites offer criminal and background checks on providers with the subscription fee. Some sites also allow families to post reviews of providers. Learn more at the Care.com Safety Center.
  • Access to resources and tips. Online sites often provide resources that are similar to the materials that agencies use. For instance, Care.com offers free, online child care guides and articles covering a variety of topics on nannies, ranging from how to interview a nannyhow to handle nanny reference checks, how to create a nanny contract and how to prepare your kids for a new nanny.
  • A team of caregivers. Nanny websites often let you work with numerous caregivers simultaneously at no extra cost. Maybe you need a nanny during the week and a babysitter every other weekend. Or, maybe you only need an after-school sitter or last-minute backup care. You get more flexibility to work with an unlimited number of caregivers to fit your life’s specific needs.”

Considerations when using a nanny-finding website

  • 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. Other times 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 can read the articles, but you still may feel like you need more of a helping hand.

Nanny agencies: how they work

Nanny 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.

Pros of using a nanny agency

  • 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,” Brady says. “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.”
  • Backup care options. What happens if your new nanny doesn’t work out? Many agencies will find you a replacement within the first three months. Ask the nanny agency if they provide backup care in the form of 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.
  • Nanny training and support. Many agencies offer ongoing support for caregivers that can be useful. Your nanny may be eligible for occasional training in things like child development and communication strategies.

“… 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.”

MIMI BRADY, WESTSIDE NANNIES

Considerations when using a nanny agency

  • Price. All of these great offerings do come at a price. Prices vary, depending on things like location, but for reference, at Westside Nannies, there’s a $500 engagement fee required before you begin your search, and there’s also a placement fee, which is about 18% of the nanny’s annual salary. In some cases, nanny agencies can charge up to $4,000. 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 or additional 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. One option 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.