According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 60% of American families have a nanny or caretaker in their homes. A few decades ago, nanny services were a luxury that only privileged families could afford. Today, nannies are a necessity. With families needing two incomes to make ends meet, there is a growing need for professionals who will perform high-quality childcare services. But, as any parent can tell you, choosing the right person is not easy. It’s not just about credentials and qualifications, and there is no degree that proves that someone is trustworthy, especially around children. So how can you find the right nanny for your children?
There are three essential aspects that you need to go through before making a decision. First, you need information. The first important aspect is to create a straightforward and comprehensive job description. This will work as your first filter. At this stage, you want to check credentials, degrees, and work experience. Calling references is very helpful, but you need to go deeper. A shared fear among most parents is leaving their children with a known fellow, or someone with a record of child abuse. While you can check public records and perform thorough internet searches, there are facts that may remain hidden. Using a service like Check People will give you a comprehensive report, and will save you a lot of time. Established services like this one have access to more databases (in-state and out), so you have all the data that you need in order to make an informed decision. Remember that, in order to perform a background check, you will need written consent from the candidate.
The next step is to establish if the person you are considering is the right fit for your family. This is where the interview becomes really important. Most people will go through common questions such as: what do you enjoy about working with children? or: how do you handle a difficult situation such as a temper tantrum? While these are valid and important questions, you can’t stop there. Here are a few useful tips:
- Have a list of specific scenarios and ask how they would navigate them. For example, if a child gets lost at a park, or if they get food poisoning. This is especially important if you have children with specific needs (such as food allergies). At this point, you need to be mindful of the answers, but also of the attitude and non-verbal cues. Does she/he seem uncomfortable or nervous with your questions? Do they respond quickly and easily?
- Determine a discipline style. While most candidates will want to make you think that they will respect your rules, things may be different when you are not around. Ask as many questions as you need in order to determine how they handle discipline, routines, and rules.
- Ask them to create a weekly activity plan. This will help you determine how creative and professional they are when it comes to working with your kids.
Finally, you need to establish how you and your children (especially them) feel about the candidate. While you may find someone who is the right fit and has all the important credentials and qualifications, if your kids feel uneasy around them, it will not work. The best way to determine this is to have a test day and see how it plays out. Even if the test day goes perfectly, we recommend to set up a probationary period in your contract, so you can continue to assess the candidate without making a contractual, long-term commitment. During this probationary period, ask your children questions about their day and how they feel around their nanny. It is also recommended to make one or two “surprise” visits to your home to see how things are going. Some red flags to keep in mind are:
- Changes in your child’s emotional state
- Kids talking about secrets or hidden pacts made with their caregiver
- Significant changes in planned activities
- An attitude towards “surprise” visits
- Any sign of violence (this includes yelling)
- Unplanned outings
Communication between you and your children is essential. They need to know there is nothing that they can’t tell you. Talk about how they feel and see when they are with their nanny. Older kids should always have access to a telephone and be able to call you if they feel something is odd. A good idea is to ask your nanny to give you a daily report on activities, meals, and moods, and cross-check it with your kids. Don’t be afraid of confronting your nanny if something feels off.