Recommended Practices for Nannies

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Working in a glamorous setting, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, and traveling the world with small children by your side may sound enticing. The truth is, positions like this don’t come along often. Most nannies are employed by professional couples who sim­ply desire to have the best care for their children while they are at work.

Having a solid understanding about the in-home child care indus­try can help you decide if working as a nanny is right for you. If you are considering becoming a nanny, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of:

  • the roles and responsibilities of a nanny
  • recommended educational competencies for nannies, and
  • professional standards and best practices for nannies.

Above all else, if you are think­ing about becoming a nanny, it is essential that you genuinely enjoy being around children. Being a successful nanny requires that you have the patience for working with children for long hours, often with little or no adult interaction, and that you honestly look forward to making a positive contribution to the lives of the children you care for and the families for whom you work.


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.

Sleep Trainers
A sleep trainer is a nanny who specializes in developing individual routines and systems for helping babies and children develop solid, healthy sleep habits.

Temporary Nannies
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.

Multiples Specialists
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.

These include:

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.

Au Pairs
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.

Parents’ Helpers
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.

Nursery Nurses
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.


A nanny is responsible for the complete care of the employer’s children.

A nanny’s duties may include:

  • Tending to each child’s basic physical needs
  • Meal planning and preparation for the children
  • Laundering and caring for clothing belonging to the children
  • Organizing play activities and outings
  • Setting behavioral guidelines
  • Providing discipline when appropriate
  • Providing social and intellectual stimulation
  • Providing transportation
  • Housekeeping, when related to the children
  • Traveling with the family.

Nannies must also be able to communicate effectively with both the children and their parents. Depending on the individual family, the nanny may be treated as an employee, as a cherished friend or as a member of the family.


The International Nanny Association has adopted the following basic standards for nannies:

  • A nanny must be at least 18 years of age.
  • A nanny must have completed high school (or the equivalent).
  • A nanny must be in good general health, with proof of immunizations and, where states require, a negative TB test and/or chest x-ray.

Nannies should also legally be able to accept employment in the country where they work.

Although training, experience and personality may vary from nanny to nanny, all qualified nannies share a genuine love and respect for children and have the desire to make a positive contribution in the lives of children under their care.

While each nanny is an individual with unique experiences, most nannies share similar backgrounds.

Nannies generally have one or more of the following in their background:

  • Extensive babysitting and/or daycare experience
  • Experience raising a family of their own and an affinity for in-home child care
  • A degree in early childhood education or elementary education and the desire to work one on one with children
  • Extensive experience working with children, perhaps as a teacher, psychologist or nurse and a desire to use their specialized skills working one on one with a child in a private residence.


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 2011 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:

  • Two weeks of paid vacation each year
  • 8 to 10 paid holidays off
  • Health insurance or a percentage of their health insurance premium paid for as a non-taxable benefit
  • Use of employer’s car during working hours
  • Paid sick days.

In addition to these standard benefits, some nannies also receive:

  • Contributions to retirement plans
  • Annual bonuses
  • Paid professional development days
  • Reimbursement for professional expenses such as the INA conference attendance.


While being a nanny is extremely rewarding, it is also hard work. In addition to navigating the complex employ­ee/employer relationship, nannies work long hours, often without the support or company of co-workers.  For nannies that relocate, in addition to adjusting to a new job, they also have to adjust to living in a new environ­ment. Nannies also have to be prepared to work through situations where the family’s philosophy and lifestyle are considerably different from their own.


The International Nanny Association strongly supports the need for specialized training and continuing educa­tion for in-home child care providers. However, the reality is that the tremendous demand for nannies in the United States and other countries has promoted a situation in which many nannies with no formal training are currently working in private homes providing care for children.

INA strongly encourages prospective nannies to obtain the special knowledge and skills required to perform their job before they assume the responsibility of caring for a child.

Many training programs exist for nannies in the United States. These training programs generally include classroom courses in child development, nutrition, family dynamics, safety, play activities, first aid and CPR, and they may also involve interaction with young children under instructor supervision. These classes vary in length, depth of training and cost.


Finding the right position is essential to assuring job satisfaction. Most families will expect a one year commitment from their nanny. Prior to a job search, to ensure success, nannies should know what type of position they want to secure and for what type of family they wish to work.

Things you’ll need to take into consideration during your job search include:

  • Whether you want a full-time or part-time position
  • Whether you’d like to be a live-in or a live-out nanny
  • Geographical locations where you’d like to work
  • The number and ages of children that you are comfortable working with
  • Which, if any, household chores you are willing to do in addition to the ones directly related to the children
  • Personal preferences you have that may affect whether you accept a particular position.

These personal preferences may include:

  • Allergies to pets
  • Personal, political or religious convictions
  • Lifestyle preferences
  • Parenting philosophies.

Nannies are also encouraged to carefully consider which nanny care model suits them best when searching for a nanny position. There are three main models of nanny care. These include custodial care, coordinated care and surrogate care.

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 child-rearing 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 child-rearing 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 care giver for the children. In this model of nanny care, the nanny may have limited interaction with her employers and may be left to make almost all decisions for the children in her care. Nannies who engage in the surrogate model of care may work for parents who travel extensively, or work in highly demanding jobs and need a guardian type of caregiver to tend to the children while they are away.



Participate in personal and professional growth activities. 
INA recommends that nannies become involved in social, cultural and educational activities not only to maintain and improve their child care skills, but also to enhance their own personal growth and development. Suggested activities include attending child development courses, seminars and training programs on the care of children, participation in nanny related organizations and involvement in community affairs and child advocacy groups.

Nannies are encouraged to take the INA Nanny Basic Skills Assessment and/or the INA Nanny Credential Exam. 
Both the INA Nanny Basic Skills Assessment and the INA Nanny Credential Exam assess an individual’s knowledge of child care and his or her understanding of the emotional, social, intellectual and physical developmental needs of children.

Act as an advocate for young children. 
INA recommends that nannies be familiar with the signs of child abuse and neglect, and that they be knowledgeable in the procedures for reporting these signs. Nannies are court mandated reporters and have a professional and ethical obligation to report suspected abuse of any child to the proper authorities. Nannies should actively promote the optimal development of a child in their care.

Relationships With Children

Respect each child as a unique individual. 
INA recommends that nannies recognize that each child in their care is a unique individual. Nannies are encouraged to create an environment that fosters each child’s self esteem and independence. By providing structure and developmentally appropriate behavior management techniques, nannies build trusting relationships with the children in their care.

Provide developmentally appropriate play and learning experiences. 
INA recommends that nannies provide for the physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs of the children in their care by using developmentally appropriate play/learning activities, materials and equipment. Nannies can promote socialization in young children by providing opportunities for children to interact with their peers through play groups, outings and age appropriate group activities.

Create and maintain a safe and healthy environment for children. 
INA recommends that nannies promote the physical and emotional wellbeing of children. Nannies are encour­aged to partner with parents to create a safe environment for children to learn, play and explore.

Nannies should be knowledgeable about childproofing techniques and should have a solid under­standing of how to successfully meet a child’s physical and emotional needs. 
Communicate effectively at the child’s level of understanding. INA recommends that nannies model appropriate language for children, that they recognize the stages of language development in children and that they en­gage the children who are in their care in activities that encourage and promote language development.  


+ 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

Relationships with Parents/Employers

Request a personal interview with prospective employers. 
INA recommends that nannies interview prospective employers in person, preferably in the family’s home. Nan­nies should be cautious when responding to Internet based employment advertisements and should thoroughly pre-screen a family before meeting with them in person.

Respect the family’s right to privacy. 
INA recommends that nannies show good judgment in maintaining confidentiality about the private lives of the families for whom they work.

Request a descriptive, written work agreement detailing conditions of employment.
INA recommends that nannies begin each nanny position with a detailed, written work agreement.

Support the childrearing philosophy of the employer.
INA recommends that nannies recognize the ultimate authority of parents in making decisions about the welfare and care of their child/children by respecting the parent/employer’s philosophy of childrearing.

Develop positive relationships with the family. 
INA recommends that nannies work cooperatively with the family, perform duties as agreed, communicate openly and effectively, show sensitivity to family situations, seek constructive solutions to problems and maintain a con­sistent, positive attitude.

Relationships with Agencies

Be clear about placement agency services and required fees prior to using agency services. 
INA recommends that nannies obtain a full and complete explanation of agency services, expectations, require­ments and fees (if applicable) before registering with an agency.

Accurately and truthfully represent personal job qualifications and experience. 
INA recommends that nannies provide complete, accurate and truthful information about their background, edu­cation, special skills, abilities and prior work experience.

Request descriptive information about prospective employers. 
INA recommends that in addition to the basic details about a particular nanny position, nannies should ask about the employing family’s specific needs and child care preferences. Nannies are also encouraged to ask for refer­ences that they can contact regarding the family with whom they are contemplating employment.


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:

  • Information about the employee and employer
  • The time frame of the agreement
  • How amendments can be made to the agreement
  • How the agreement can be terminated
  • Nanny’s duties
  • Nanny’s responsibilities
  • Nanny’s schedule
  • Job duties
  • Driving rules and responsibilities, if any. The agreement should outline whether the nanny has use of the employer’s car during working hours or if the nanny will receive mileage reimbursement for work related driving should she use her own car
  • Employer’s legally required tax obligations
  • Probationary period
  • Frequency of work agreement review
  • Terms of notice, termination and grounds for dismissal
  • The compensation package, including:
    o          Salary
    o          Health benefits
    o          When and how payment will be made
    o          Compensation for overtime worked
    o          Fringe benefits such as paid holidays, vacation time, bonuses and sick leave.


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 in our eStore.


Competency Related to Meeting the Developmental Needs of Children

  • Observe and assess behavior of children
  • Plan and implement consistent daily routines
  • Create an environment to foster trust, self esteem and independence in children
  • Utilize age appropriate behavior management techniques in interaction with children
  • Plan and implement developmentally appropriate play and learning activities for children in the home and in the community
  • Choose and care for developmentally appropriate play materials and equipment.

Competencies Related to Interaction with Parents/Employers, Family Dynamics

  • Communicate effectively, both orally and in writing
  • Keep a daily journal or logbook
  • Articulate a personal philosophy of child care
  • Maintain the confidentiality of the employing family
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of parent/employer’s philosophy of childrearing and recognize the special role a nanny assumes in becoming a part of the childrearing “team”
  • Recognize the ultimate authority of parents in making decisions regarding the welfare and care of the child
  • Respond to family requests in a timely manner.

Competencies Related to Professionalism, Personal Development and Social Skills

  • Present a professional attitude and appearance
  • Use good judgment
  • Utilize appropriate language and manners
  • Demonstrate initiative in daily planning and performance of tasks and an ability to work unsupervised
  • Participate in career related professional organizations
  • Participate in social, cultural and educational activities to enhance personal growth and to maintain and improve competency.

Competencies Related to Physical Care of Children

  • Perform tasks related to the physical care of children
  • Maintain appropriate hygienic standards for children regarding bathing, handwashing and care of hair and teeth
  • Feed, change and bathe infants
  • Prepare infant feedings and care for feeding equipment
  • Select clothing appropriate to the child’s physical/social activities
  • Plan and supervise rest, bed and nap times
  • Plan and prepare nutritionally balanced meals and snacks
  • Care for the mildly ill child
  • Recognize symptoms of common childhood illnesses
  • Keep accurate records
  • Perform appropriate first aid techniques
  • Handle emergency situations
  • Observe appropriate safety precautions
  • Maintain up to date first aid and CPR certification.

Competencies Related to Domestic Tasks and Care of the Child’s Environment

  • Perform domestic tasks related to care and maintenance of the child’s areas of the home such as the bedroom, playroom, bathroom and outside play area
  • Launder and make simple repairs to child’s clothing
  • Observe safety precautions appropriate in a private home.


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.

Nannies should expect to pay Social Security and federal income tax on their earnings. Federal law requires that all nanny employers pay a portion of Social Security taxes, state unemployment taxes, and in some states, workers’ compensation.

A list of INA members who provide legal counsel to employers of nannies and who agree to adhere to INA’s Commitment to Professional Excellence and Recommended Practices can be found


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.

We hope that this informational publication will answer your questions about careers within the in-home child care industry. If you’re thinking about becoming a nanny or are currently working as one, we encourage you to join us in our mission of promoting quality in-home child care by becoming a member of INA.


The International Nanny Association recommends these practices, but has no authority to require a member to adhere to them. INA does not represent that the Association has the authority to discipline a member for a violation of the letter or spirit of what is recommended. Consequently, INA assumes no responsibility or liability for the action of any member of the Association.