How to Hire the Best Nanny

Hiring a nanny to care for your child can be a challenging and stressful endeavor. You need to find someone who will mesh with your family’s schedule, parenting philosophy and communication style, while also tackling the nuts and bolts of salary, taxes, insurance and more.
While the perfect nanny – a la Mary Poppins – may be a myth, you don’t need magic to find the right fit for your family.
Alyce Desrosiers – who has spent two decades helping families hire nannies though Chirp Connecting Families and Nannies LLC in San Francisco – has downloaded her years of experience in a new book, The Nanny Manual: How to Choose & Nurture the Perfect Childcare Partner (Chirp Publishing, 2018).
It is packed with information from basics including handy hiring checklists and forms to personal stories that illuminate some of the emotional challenges, from trust to jealousy, of adding another caregiver to your family.
Desrosiers has also started a new nonprofit, The Institute for Families and Nannies, to help establish recognizable standards of care and best practices for parents and nannies to ensure quality care for kids. To date, nannies are both unlicensed and unregulated, but Desrosiers is working to offer professional development and more to increase the quality of childcare. Much of the information in her book is available on the institute’s website (, and all proceeds from the book will go to the nonprofit.
Desrosiers spoke with Bay Area Parent about how parents can find the best nanny for their family.
When and how should parents start their nanny search?
Provided they’re looking on their own and not doing sharecare, I always tell parents to start four to six weeks before they need care in order to go through an informed process. For the first week and well into the second, get the word out through your contacts, social media and platforms.
Typically by the middle of the second week, after you have screened your list, you can start the interview process. If parents have done a good job screening, they’ll meet with four to five candidates … for one-hour interviews, preferably back to back.
Starting the beginning of the third week, ideally select two candidates to go into a second interview and then choose one for a trial. Trials typically are two weeks and it’s a serious ask – a paid two-week trial. After two weeks, you’ll hopefully have someone under contract. … Always have a Plan B in place. Keep candidates engaged should the primary candidate not work out. (See 8 Steps sidebar.)
Where should you look for nannies?
It really starts with who you know and are connected with and spreads out from there. There are a lot of resources with neighborhood mothers’ groups, Nextdoor, mothers’ group listservs such as Golden Gate Mothers Group and Parents of Multiples. These are great places to start. Then there’s the larger community such as and Urban Sitter. … In my experience, 10 percent of those on the open market can meet basic requirements: availability, compensation requirements, language skills, experience. Whittling down the 40 to 60 people you hear from to get to four to six is time consuming.
Then there are placement agencies. For families that can afford the fee, that’s a great resource. They do the vetting for you, and placement services offer various levels of support, such as connecting you to resources for payroll and background checks. At the higher end, the fee can be 15 percent of the annual salary. If you’re looking for 50 hours a week of care, which a lot of families need in the Bay Area, ranging from $25 to $30-plus an hour for one child, the annual salary can be $65,000 or higher, so the fee could be $8,000-10,000.
What factors and characteristics should parents consider?
Parents need to ask: What are the legal issues and responsibilities to government agencies when I hire a nanny to become my employee? There are decisions about documentation, workers compensation, homeowners and auto insurance. … These are so important and often come as a surprise to parents when they hire a nanny.
Other considerations are the schedule. Set a predictable schedule when you start. Factor in flexibility to work additional hours or nights and weekends. Make decisions about whether travel with the family is needed.
Childcare orientation is such an important part of the hire. I always advise parents that a good place to start is with themselves and look closely at the three most important values they want their children to learn about the world and themselves and how they teach those in day-to-day life with their children. Consider how they were raised and what they want – or don’t want – as part of their family life.
Communication is also so important. Having an ease of communication in the very beginning is going to give families a gut feeling that this is the right person to hire.
What should you expect to pay?
In the Bay Area, $23-30 per hour. But a $30 nanny is not necessarily going to be a better nanny. Provided someone is paying a livable wage, compensation is not an indication of quality.
What are the “4 Cs” of keeping a nanny?
Collaboration: See your nanny as a partner in the care of your child. Giving your nanny the acknowledgement and recognition to value her ideas and opinions and to work with her in ensuring you’re both doing care in a similar enough way that your child gets a consistent message is so important.
Communication: We have a lot to learn, but we do know it’s good having a heart to heart about what’s going on with the child and sharing ideas and opinions to come to a mutual decision about how care will happen.
Compensation: Pay a livable wage. Doing a review of job performance and compensation on an annual basis is so important.
Continued Education and Training: We believe in giving nannies – just as we give preschool teachers or family daycare providers or employees in any profession – the ongoing support and training to do the work they do and keep up to date on what is important in this profession. This type of support and training is really one that nannies want and need and has an impact on how care happens.
Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent and editor of Childcare & Preschool Finder.
 8 Steps to Finding the Right Nanny for Your Family
1. Evaluation of Need. How many hours do you need? How will you handle the legal responsibilities with various government agencies? What is your budget? What qualities do you want in a nanny? Will she live in your home or travel with you?
2. Job Description. Put your needs down on paper and state the legal, health and safety requirements, as well as compensation and benefits.
3. Advertising the Position. Include all the pertinent information when you post your advertisement on job boards such as or Craigslist or through mothers’ groups, neighborhood groups or a college job board.
4. Prescreening Candidates. Confirm the nanny is available and review other areas including compensation, taxable income, documentation, etc.
5. Checking References. While this provides insight into how the nanny has cared for children in the past, remember that no two families are alike and their experience with a nanny may differ.
6. Interviewing. Generally parents interview four or five candidates during round one, then call one to two nannies back for a second, less formal interview.
7. Trial. This is generally a one- to two-week period when the nanny works with a family (for pay) to determine if she is the right fit. Closely observe and train her, and then offer a contract if you feel she is the right choice.
8. The Contract.State the agreed-upon terms to ensure there are no gray areas about either party’s responsibilities moving forward.
– Source: The Nanny Manual: How to Choose & Nurture the Perfect Childcare Partner
 Recommended Background Checks
1. Check Social Security Number to ensure the nanny’s identity. This will give a name and address history that can be used for criminal checks and to cross check with work and personal history for inaccuracies or missing information.
2. Do a criminal background check to ensure the candidate has no prior criminal record. The most reliable is a criminal check in each county the candidate has lived in. In California, the TrustLine Registry provides a statewide check of thee different indices using a candidate’s fingerprints and photo identification: The California Department of Justice records for any allegation or criminal convictions; the California Child Abuse Index for any substantial allegations of child abuse and neglect; and a Federal Bureau of Investigations check for federal crimes and misdemeanors. Candidates previously cleared with TrustLine can produce a clearance letter.
3. Check driving record to ensure the nanny has had no major accidents, excessive speeding tickets or other moving violations, including driving under the influence (DUI) citations.
4. Verify the candidate is currently certified in CPR and has taken a first aid training course, or that she is willing to undergo the training and be re-certified annually.
5. Make sure your candidate has a clear TB (tuberculosis) test in the past year, and is willing to be retested annually. TB can be deadly for children under age 4.
6. Check that your candidate has been immunized against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). California requires all adults in childcare settings to have this immunization. While the law does not cover nannies, parents should seek the same health requirements.
7. Make sure your potential nanny has received the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (TDaP).
– Source: The Nanny Manual: How to Choose & Nurture the Perfect Childcare Partner


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