Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Using a Nanny Service

We've been very lucky to have found wonderful caretakers for our children over the years. From nannies to small in-home daycare to daycare centers, we've been able to find great solutions in each category to fit our family's needs at different times (and across three different cities!).

Today, I will cover the process of using a nanny service. We've found nannies through various methods including word of mouth, on Craig's List (really!), and through a nanny service. Using a nanny service is - by far - the easiest and quickest method. Although it comes with a price tag, oftentimes it is worth it in terms of the time (and money) you save in the nanny-finding process.

There are several mechanical steps that a nanny service will do to save you time and money:
* verification of previous employment - reference checks and assembling reference letters
* verification of education and training related to child care including degrees, certificates for CPR and first aid, etc.
* criminal background checks and safe driving checks
While it's possible for you to do all of this on your own, do not underestimate the time it takes to make all of those calls. Also, don't forget the cost to run thorough background checks and driving checks.

An agency will also pre-screen the candidates and select people who they think will be a good fit for your family. They know their candidates personality and care-taking style and have a good idea if they will be right for you. They also check availability, location compatibility, and schedule match. You don't end up spending hours viewing ads and online profiles just to find that 90% of your desired candidates have already found a placement, won't drive as far as your house, or can't be at work until 10am. Believe me, I speak from experience on this one.

Beyond the time and money you save, there are also some additional subtle benefits to using a nanny service. Experienced agencies talk to a lot of nannies and will have a better sixth sense about a candidate's suitability for a position (especially if this is your first nanny and you haven't yet developed this sense yourself).

When using a nanny agency, you should definitely not abdicate your responsibility and involvement in the process. Don't assume that the agency will do *all* the work - after all, it is you who will be entrusting your children to this person. You need to put sufficient time and effort into the process to ensure that you are completely and totally comfortable with your nanny. But, an agency can certainly save you a lot of time and greatly speed up the process.

Over the past three years, we've used Annie's Nannies in North Andover, MA to find several temporary and permanent nannies. Annie's have been excellent to work with and I highly recommend them if you are in the Boston - Northshore area. My criteria for nannies is extremely high, and all of the nannies provided to us by Annie's have fit that bill!

What's your nanny-finding advice? Have you used an agency? What's been your experience?

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