How to Hire the Perfect Nanny

In the movies, the right caregiver magically appears. In reality, it takes work to find someone you can trust and your children with love.

Judy, 30, needed to get back to her bank job after a maternity leave of six weeks. She hired a nanny from an agency to watch her new daughter, only to discover that the sitter had a drug problem. Desperate, she then hired an 18-year-old, who got into a car accident because she was driving too fast. (Fortunately, Judy’s baby wasn’t in the car.) Unable to work, Judy took a week of vacation to care for her baby while she searched for a new nanny. On the third try, she struck out again – the nanny stole $150 from Judy’s home.

Scenarios like this one may not be common, but they illustrate the difficulty many
parents face in finding the right person to care for their children in their home.

Locating someone you’ll be able to trust with your little ones can be daunting and time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth all the effort in the end. If you know what qualities you most desire in a caregiver, and you have some idea of where and how to look, you’re bound to find someone both you and your children will love.

Know Your Needs

Before you begin, you should have a clear idea of what your caregiver’s duties will be. Consider your lifestyle and the child-care or household tasks for which you most need an extra pair of hands (such as driving the kids to school, ironing, housework or cooking). Then decide how much time you’ll need a caregiver to work each week and whether these hours will require her to live in your home.

Next, determine a salary. To find out the going rate for in-home child care in your area, check with agencies that specialize in finding jobs for professional caregivers such as your State’s Depaprtment of Labor or any local child-care referral agencies. Then compute a fair compensation by answering these questions:

  • What can you afford to pay?
  • What will the starting salary be?
  • How often will you review performance for a raise?
  • Will you offer benefits, such as vacation time?
  • Will you pay for holidays and sick days? Overtime?
  • Will you cover health and auto insurance?

A Nanny by Any Other Name

With a set of job requirements and a salary in mind, you can decide what type of in-home caregiver you need. The following are definitions of different kinds of in-home child-care providers, according to the International Nanny Association. Keep in mind that the pay for these providers varies greatly according to their experience and particularly the area of the country in which you live.

Babysitter: live-out; called irregularly to provide care for your children on a full-or-part-time basis. Rate: $5-10 per hour. “Sitters” generally live nearby, know how to drive, and are familiar with the community in which you live. They are usually recommended by friends, providing an automatic reference. If you value your privacy and don’t want a live-in provider, this form of child care can be advantageous.

Example: Mary Hollyer, of Bedford, New York, and her husband, Bill, have their hands full with two sets of twins: their 5-year-old boys Luke and Emmett, and 8-month-old Anna and Will. To help with her never-ending chores, Mary hired a 30-year-old babysitter, Cheryl Conklin, to take care of one set of twins while she takes care of the others. Cheryl bathes the kids, folds laundry, prepares meals, and drives the older twins to school three days a week, all for $10 an hour.

Mother’s helper: 
live-in or live-out; full-or part-time child care and domestic help.
Generally works under your direction and supervision. May or may not have previous child-care experience.

Rate: $8-9 per hour; $4-5 per hour if she’s a teenager.

Example: Deanna Byck, 35, has a mother’s helper to look after her son Max, age 3, while she writes her doctoral dissertation at home on Long Island, in New York. Her provider works Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 6 PM, and is paid $225 per week for child care and light housework.

Au pair: English-speaking foreign national in the United States; has an international driver’s license. Lives as part of a host family; helps with child care and housework. May or may not have previous child-care experience. Holds a visa for studying in the U.S. that is valid for only one year.

This arrangement is primarily a cultural exchange program. Au pairs are regulated by seven au pair agencies and the U.S. Information Agency. They are permitted to work 40 hours a week, must have their own bedrooms, and must be given the opportunity to attend educational classes at least three hours a week for two semesters. An au pair must be over 21 to care for children under 2 (a new rule as of this month) and is not allowed to care for children under 3 months unless an adult is present.

Rate: minimum weekly salary by law of $139.05.

Example: Suzanne Currie, an investment management consultant, commutes to her Manhattan office from New Jersey. An au pair looks after her daughters, Hilary, 15, and Clare, 9. Suzanne likes her au pair’s high energy level, sense of family, and good education.

Nanny: at least 18 years of age; has a high school degree; lives in or out of the home. Duties generally restricted to child care. Work week ranges from 40 to 60 hours. You or she must file taxes. Usually works unsupervised and has experience with children.

Rate: live-in: $250–600 per week.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.