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Children thrive when they are well cared for by a nurturing and attentive child care provider in the comfort of their own home. The one on one care and interaction that a nanny provides gives children a deep sense of self worth and security. Since nannies typically stay with a family for a minimum of one year, the consistent relationship that children have with their caregiver allows them to develop a meaningful bond with a caring adult that has the children’s best interests at heart.
For parents who need flexible child care arrangements, or wish to direct their children’s daily activities and care structure, nanny care can be the perfect solution. Since the parents are the nanny’s employer, they define the nanny’s role and responsibilities and manage how the nanny spends her time with their children.
And because the children are cared for in their own home, parents don’t have to rush to get everyone out of the house in the morning and off to day care (which often leads to a chaotic and stressful start to the day for everyone), providing the ultimate in child care convenience.
Children cared for by nannies are also less likely to become sick because they aren’t exposed to the many germs that large groups of children bring into a traditional day care environment. And unlike child care centers, nannies are able to provide child care for mildly ill children, therefore parents don’t have to rearrange their work schedules or find last minute backup care should their child become sick.
For parents with more than one child, nanny care can be cost effective. Unlike traditional day care, parents don’t have to pay an additional fee for each child. Nannies are paid one rate to care for all the children in their employer’s family.
A nanny is a child care specialist whose workplace is a family’s private home. A nanny is employed by a family to provide the highest level of customized child care and to give personalized attention to the family’s children. A nanny may be employed full time or part time, and the nanny may or may not live with the family. The nanny’s role is to provide support to the family by serving as a loving, nurturing and trustworthy companion to the children.
Ideally, a nanny will have specialized child care skills, a deep understanding of children and a genuine love of caring for children. A nanny offers the family convenient and consistent high quality child care by meeting each child’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual needs. In addition to traditional nannies who provide general child care, “specialty” nannies exist to meet the needs of families who desire a caregiver with expertise in a specific area.
Newborn Care Specialists
A newborn care specialist is a nanny who typically has specialized training and always has extensive experience in newborn care or nursing. Newborn care specialists often provide 24 hour child care for families with newborns during the first weeks of a child’s life.
A sleep trainer is a nanny who specializes in developing individual routines and systems for helping babies and children develop solid, healthy sleep habits.
A temporary nanny accepts short term employment. Temporary nannies may provide emergency care, sick care or backup care. These assignments may last anywhere from a few hours to several months. Some temporary nannies travel with families to assist with child care.
A multiples specialist is a nanny who has extensive experience caring for multiples and who works with families who have twins, triplets or higher order multiples.
A governess is an educationally qualified nanny employed by a family for the full or part-time private home education or tutoring of the family’s children. A governess functions as an educator and is not usually employed to perform domestic tasks or to meet the physical needs of the family’s children.
In addition to nannies and specialty nannies, there are other types of child care providers that commonly work in private homes.
A babysitter provides supervisory, custodial care of children on a full-time or part-time basis. Many babysitters have no special training and have limited child care experience.
An au pair is a foreign national between the ages of 18-26 who enters the United States through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Au Pair Exchange Program, to experience American life for up to 24 months (au pairs in good standing can apply to extend their initial 12 month visit an additional 6, 9 or 12 months). Au pairs participate in the life of the host family by providing limited child care services (maximum 10 hours per day, 45 hours per week) and are compensated for their work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Au pairs may not be placed in homes with infants three months of age or younger, unless a parent or responsible adult will be in the home supervising the au pair. An au pair may not be placed in the home with a child two years of age or younger unless they have 200 or more hours of documented child care experience.
A parents’ helper is employed by a family to provide full-time or part-time child care and domestic help for families in which one parent is home most of the time. Parents’ helpers may be left in charge of the children for brief periods of time and may or may not have previous child care experience.
The title nursery nurse is used in Great Britain and refers to a person who has received special training and preparation in caring for young children. When employed by the family, she or he may live in or outside of the family’s home. A nursery nurse works independently and is responsible for everything related to the care of the children. Duties are generally restricted to child care and the domestic tasks related to child care. Nursery nurses on average work 50 to 60 hours per week. In addition to specialized training, the nursery nurse will also have successfully passed the national British certification examination of the Council for Awards in Children’s Care and Education (CACHE), which is formerly referred to as the National Nursery Examination Board Certificate (NNEB). In the United States, the term “nurse” is reserved strictly for licensed medical professionals.
Parents can search for a nanny in many places, including help wanted ads in newspapers, Internet classifieds, bulletin boards at local coffee shops or libraries, and through word of mouth. These approaches to finding a nanny can be time consuming and may result in less than ideal experiences. Parents who use these approaches must be willing to invest their time and energy researching the background of nannies they may be interested in hiring to assure that they are qualified caregivers who have a sincere desire to work with children.
For these reasons, INA suggests that parents use the services of a nanny placement agency or contact a nanny training program about the availability of their graduates when searching for a nanny.
A placement agency is a service company that matches the skills and qualifications of nannies with the needs of families seeking an in-home child care provider. For a fee, an agency will locate and screen nannies for parents to consider for employment. A reputable agency will carefully consider the family’s needs and preferences and only presents those candidates suitable for employment with the family. An agency’s job is to gather information about viable candidates and disclose that information to the parents.
INA recommends that nanny agencies follow these recommended practices for background screening:
In addition to these screenings, agencies may wish to consider obtaining a credit report and conducting a civil records search to expose lawsuits, liens and judgments.
The nanny placement agency may also ask a family for references and most agencies will assist parents in preparing a job description that summarizes their expectations of the nanny, including the nanny’s job duties and compensation package.
Nanny agencies charge placement fees ranging from $800 to $8,000 or more and should include a provision that addresses the process should the placement not work out within a certain period of time. A list of INA member nanny placement agencies that agree to adhere to INA’s Commitment to Professional Excellence and Recommended Practices can be found at www.nanny.org.
For some parents, browsing through websites of Internet based referral services from the comfort of their own home seems like the ideal way to find a nanny. Internet based referral services can provide a viable method for finding a nanny if a parent is willing to invest time to screen, interview and check the references of a nanny candidate.
For a small fee, parents can gain access to numerous candidates who list “profiles” on the company’s website. Many parents are surprised to learn, however, that candidates who list themselves undergo no screening process before they post their profiles to the site. Parents should be aware that candidate’s identities are never verified, their childcare references are never checked and their employment history is never validated.
While many online services offer background screening services for additional fees, parents should inquire as to what the screenings include. When searching for a nanny on their own or on online, parents are encouraged to only use service providers that adhere to the INA’s Recommended Practices for Nanny Background Screening.
A list of INA member background screening providers that agree to adhere to INA’s Commitment to Professional Excellence and Recommended Practices can be found at www.nanny.org.
+ Respect the contributions of individuals and organizations involved in
professional in-home child care.
+ Maintain high standards of professional conduct.
+ Respect and support families in their task of nurturing children.
+ Promote the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of
+ Support the lifelong process of personal growth and professional
Finding the right nanny is paramount in assuring that your family’s needs are successfully met. When parents know the type of position they want to fill and what type of child care provider they wish to hire prior to their nanny search it will assure employment success. Agencies can assist families in determining what type of nanny they are looking for.
When searching for a nanny for your family, you’ll want to consider:
Parents are also encouraged to carefully consider which nanny care model suits them best when searching for a nanny. There are three main models of nanny care. These include custodial care, coordinated care and surrogate care. All models provide valued contributions to the family and support the parents as they raise their children.
In the custodial care model, the nanny’s role is limited to meeting the children’s physical and emotional needs during their parents’ absence. In this model, the parents manage the children’s day by providing the nanny with specific guidance. A nanny who provides custodial care will not have input into the child’s scheduling or activities and does not have a voice regarding childrearing practices or parenting philosophies.
In the coordinated model of nanny care the nanny’s role is to be a team player in raising the children. Nannies who engage in the coordinated model of care are viewed as true parenting partners. Nannies in this model have a voice when it comes to childrearing practices and parenting philosophies. Their input is not only sought, but highly valued by the parents. These nannies tend to be full charge nannies who are given the freedom to make the day to day decisions regarding the children’s activities and outings.
In the surrogate model of nanny care, the nanny’s role is to be the primary caregiver for the children. In this model of nanny care, the nanny may have limited interaction with her employers and may be left to make many decisions for the children in her care. Nannies who engage in the surrogate model of care may work for parents who travel extensively and require a guardian type of caregiver while they are away from the home.
While hiring an au pair may seem like a cost effective way to secure one on one child care, parents should know that au pairs are not replacements for qualified full-time child care providers.
Au pairs are foreign nationals between the ages of 18-26 who enter the United States through the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Au pair Exchange Program, to experience American life within the context of the host family.
Au pairs participate in the life of the host family by providing limited child care services (maximum 10 hours per day, 45 hours per week) and are compensated for their work according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. It should be noted that in addition to child care, there are educational and cultural components of the Au Pair Program as well.
Au pairs may not be placed in homes with infants three months of age or younger, unless a parent or responsible adult will be in the home supervising the au pair. They may not be placed in the home with a child two years of age or younger unless they have 200 or more hours of documented child care experience. Au pairs in good standing may stay with families for up to 24 months.
A list of INA member au pair agencies that agree to adhere to INA’s Commitment to Professional Excellence and Recommended Practices may be found at www.nanny.org.
Regardless of the approach parents take to finding a nanny, interviewing is an extremely important part of any parent’s nanny search and many potential problems in the employer/employee relationship can be avoided if the interview is properly conducted.
When interviewing a nanny, rely on your intuition and observations when evaluating the nanny’s responses, mannerisms and appearance. A parent’s impression of a nanny candidate can be a telling sign if the nanny is a good fit for the family.
During the interview, parents should first inquire about the nanny’s background, experience, training, driving record and other skills related to working with children. Then, by asking open ended questions about the nanny’s interests, after work activities, and child care philosophies, parents can better evaluate how compatible the nanny is with their family.
When describing employment expectations, parents should be specific about job duties, hours, salary, time off and other practicalities of the position. Seeing and hearing the candidate’s reaction can provide valuable clues to how the nanny will feel about the position.
Parents should also observe the nanny with their children before offering the nanny the position. Take note of how the nanny interacts with the children and how the children respond to the nanny.
When deciding which nanny to hire, carefully weigh all the information gathered about each candidate. Check each nanny’s references (even if they come from an agency) and interview the top candidates a second time before offering the position. Parents should listen to their intuition and remember that the nanny will be a part of their family’s life. They should ask themselves, “Does this candidate seem as though she will fit in well with our family and work well with our children?”
A work agreement assures that both the parents and nanny have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. A work agreement helps parents outline the job description, role and responsibilities of the nanny position in their home and enables good communication between the parties.
A work agreement should include:
Some agreements will also include disclaimers or statements about the use of nanny cameras, family relocation, use of vehicles, house rules and confidentiality agreements. Most nannies commit to at least one year of employment with a family and sign a work agreement stating such.
INA has developed a detailed Family/Nanny Work Agreement that is available for purchase here.
Nannies’ salaries and benefits vary and are based on the job requirements, the nanny’s level of experience, education, background, etc. The International Nanny Association regularly conducts salary and benefits surveys to make nannies, parents and those involved in the in-home child care industry aware of current employment trends.
A 2009 INA Salary and Benefits Survey revealed that a nanny works, on average, 40 to 60 hours per week with two scheduled days off. Live-out nannies (nannies who do not live with the family) who work part-time are paid, on average, an hourly rate of $7.25 to $20 or more per hour. Full-time, live-out nannies earn a weekly salary of $350 to $1,000 or more. Full-time, live-out nannies work more than 40 hours per week, they are generally paid at the rate of 1.5 times the normal hourly rate for all hours over 40 worked.
Live-in nannies (nannies who live with the family or in a residence provided by the family) earn from $300 to $1,000 or more per week. Live-in nannies enjoy the benefits of free room and board, which usually includes a private room and a private bath. Live-in nannies must be paid at least minimum wage for each hour that they work within a 7 day period and do not need to be paid overtime.
It is important to note that if a nanny is paid a salary, the salary must be translated into an hourly rate to determine whether or not the nanny’s wages comply with the Fair Labor Standard Act. To determine whether the wages comply, divide the weekly salary by the number of hours worked to calculate the base hourly wage. If the employee works 40 or more hours in a 7 day period, overtime must be included at a rate of 1.5 times the base hourly wage. The base hourly wage must be equal to or greater than your state minimum wage. If the state minimum wage is less than the federal minimum wage, the wage must be equal to or greater than the federal minimum wage to be compliant.
Employment benefits that most nannies receive, both live-in and live-out, typically include:
In addition to these standard benefits, some nannies also receive:
Nannies are not independent contractors but are employees of the family for whom they work. For this reason, parents who employ a nanny must take the steps necessary to establish themselves as legitimate employers. These steps include securing a Federal Identification Number with the IRS (by completing form SS-4) and obtaining an employer identification number from the state in which the family resides (by contacting the state office that handles employment). Parents may also have to report “a new hire” with the office that handles employment in the state where the family resides.
Federal law also requires that all nanny employers pay a portion of their employee’s Social Security taxes, state unemployment taxes, and in some states, workers’ compensation.
Parents must also file the proper year end tax forms and supply their nanny with a W-2 form by January 31st of each year. Parents must also file form W-3 with the Social Security Administration by February 28th of each year.
A list of INA members who provide payroll services and legal counsel to employers of nannies and who agree to adhere to INA’s Commitment to Professional Excellence and Recommended Practices can be found in our member directory.
INA is a private, nonprofit educational organization serving nannies and those who educate, place, employ and support professional in-home child care providers. INA serves as the umbrella association for the in-home child care industry by providing information, education and guidance to the public and to industry professionals.
Since its inception in 1985, INA has been dedicated to improving the quality of in-home child care by providing nannies with educational resources to aid in their professional development.