Leaving your child in the care of another person can be an emotional event in a parent's life, but there are steps you can take to make sure you pick somebody you can trust with your child. Once you've made the decision to bring a nanny into your home, do your homework and bring in the right person.
1. Let the professionals help
There are no national standards to which nannies are held, which may make the process of selecting one seem a bit harrowing. Don't fret though, there are plenty of reputable nanny agencies that will take care of background checks for you. Choose one that belongs to the Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies to increase your chances of getting it right the first time. The going rate for such an agency is 10 percent of a nanny's salary, and an application fee of $100 to $300.
Even if you choose the Cadillac of nanny agencies, you should personally double-check on the applicant's references and past employers with direct phone calls. Move at your own pace and don't allow yourself to be rushed through the process by anybody. If, at the end of your research, everything looks aboveboard, but you still feel apprehensive about the potential nanny, trust your gut and don't hire him or her.
2. Place an advertisement for the nanny you want
When writing up the seeking-a-nanny advertisement, focus less on what you're looking for in a nanny, and place the emphasis on why the nanny should want to work for you. Talk about your household, your views on parenting and give an honest run-down of what he or she will be dealing with if he or she decides to comes on board. It may be tempting to paint your family in an absurdly positive light, but should you hire the candidate, it won't take the nanny long to realize he or she has been hoodwinked!
3. Meeting the candidates
When searching for a nanny, cast a wide net even if it ultimately means you'll just end up cutting more people. Interviewing will be the make or break moment when deciding whether a particular candidate is still in the running. Don't hesitate to get a little personal – you're going to be leaving this person alone with your child after all. In addition to questions about the person's thoughts on raising children, ask about what he or she likes to do after work and what his or her home life is like. You don't want somebody with a chaotic life coming into your home.
4. Observe the candidate in a natural environment
Giving the nanny a brief probationary period is a perfectly reasonable thing to do so long as the candidate is paid for his or her time. If you think that you've found somebody who's a good match for your household, let him or her watch your child for a few days while you're there. This is a great way to figure out not only how you feel about the potential hire, but to see if this is somebody your child will respect and like. If you decide to hire the candidate based on this trial run, perform regular reviews to make sure that he or she is the right person for the job.
5. Get it all down in writing
Once you've locked down a candidate, draw up a nanny contract so that everyone knows exactly what to expect and what is expected of them. Some basic points are the hours the nanny is expected to work, benefits, overtime and what to do and who to call in case of an emergency. In addition, write down specifically what is expected of the nanny, especially if it's not directly related to childcare. Things like feeding and changing diapers are obvious duties, but it's a good idea to let your new employee know if he or she is expected to do laundry, or perform any other chores. For some nannies, emptying the dishwasher or washing a load of baby laundry comes with the territory, but for others it will seem insulting.
6. Experience counts
While the fresh-faced college freshman you interviewed might get along well with your child, experience is key. Hiring somebody who's been in the child-rearing business for a long time, or who has children of his or her own, means you're hiring somebody who won't freeze when faced with a difficult situation. A person with five to 10 years of experience has likely been through the type of trial and error that has taught him or her more than any babysitting class ever could. Hiring a nanny with more experience is likely to hit your pocket book harder, but it'll be worth every penny in terms of your own confidence when you have to leave your baby at home, but also in case of the unforeseen emergency.
If you didn't use an agency to help with finding a nanny, you'll have to ask your candidates for references, ideally both personal and professional. Don't be afraid to ask pointed questions, especially the kind that might throw off a candidate's personal reference, such as "Would you trust this person with your own child?" or "Can you give me an example of a time you saw him or her alone with a child?" There's no substitute for actually making those calls to feel another level of security.
8. CPR/First Aid training
An extra plus is if your nanny candidate has CPR and/or First Aid certification. This is so important for babies that we recommend you pay for certification by a new nanny if they meet all your other criteria, but have not had First Aid training when you hire them.