Finding A Nanny Agency
A good nanny agency can be brand new or decades old, a one-person operation or a thoroughly staffed office. But the basic mission of all agencies is to recruit nannies and families, and to match one to the other for a fee.
The modern nanny placement service (in which the family, not the nanny, pays the placement fee) developed in the 1980’s when Boomer babies became working moms. In 1985 a few nanny agency owners and experienced nannies met to create the International Nanny Association. INA set this country’s first standards for nanny placement and continues to monitor the nanny industry. Families can order INA materials, including the INA Directory of nanny agencies and nanny schools. Although agency membership in INA often indicates adherence to INA standards, it is not a guarantee.
Advantages of Using Nanny Agencies
Screening Tools Used by Nanny Agencies
- A good nanny agency saves time for both nanny and family. It has tested procedures for recruiting, advertising, screening, and counseling, and policies regarding both placement and refunds.
- It has an established reputation based on previous nanny placements, which in turn draws additional nannies and families into its register improving the choices for all.
- A good nanny agency treats nanny and family as equals. Both are its clients, for without one it will not have the other.
- A good nanny agency provides a solid nanny/family contract.
- A good nanny agency stands behind its placements and impartially counsels both parties in case of on-the-job conflict.
- A good nanny agency monitors the success of its nanny placements and may even offer workshops and get-togethers that support both nanny and family.
- Experience with a good nanny agency is probably the best possible introduction to the placement process: when a nanny has fulfilled her commitment to a good agency placement, the experience – awareness of screening procedures and of the many hitches along the way – will help both nanny and family in the next go-around.
- A good nanny agency is known by its customer service, the caliber of the nannies and families it serves, and the frequent long-term success of its placements.
Nanny agencies have developed an arsenal of screening tools to help them in their work. They also charge registration, as well as placement, fees; where possible, request samples or references before registering.
These tools include:
Nanny Agency Fees
- Application forms, shorter for local nanny applicants whom one can meet in person, longest for non-local live-in nannies. Similar forms for screening families.
- Minimum standards for applicants.
- Age: 18 was the minimum, now nanny agencies may expect applicants to be at least 25.
- Experience: initially “some baby-sitting,” now more often two years full time in a similar situation, even for those with teaching experience (great but not the same).
- Education: initially a high school diploma, now often two or more years of college.
- Interviews, one or several by telephone (for out-of-state applicants) and/or in person, for both nanny and family. Local applicants should without exception have been interviewed in person, with references checked prior to referral to the family. A premium service may interview nanny and/or family in-home.
- Reference checks, as letters or conducted by telephone, anecdotal or fill-in-the-blanks.
- Criminal record checks.
- Driving record checks.
- Standardized questionnaires for interviewing useful in comparing nanny candidates.
- Standardized personality screening of nanny and/or family to assess personal style and potential for mutual compatibility of family and nanny.
- Psychological testing – a clinical tool requiring a licensed practitioner.
While once upon a time, fees were charged only to nannies or taken from their pay after placement, most nanny agencies now charge the family a one-time fee. Some also charge renewal fees on the theory that the basic commitment is for one year, so that when a longer placement is achieved the nanny agency has earned a higher fee.
Since so much processing occurs well prior to a placement, nanny agencies have learned also to charge registration fees, generally nonrefundable. These range from a flat fee that may cover a limited number of referrals to full fee in advance, theoretically guaranteeing a nanny placement. However such guarantees may be limited to, say, five good nanny referrals, after which no placement may be made. In this case the fee covers only the work of screening and presenting candidates. Thus if the family seems to have unrealistic expectations, has misrepresented itself or has interviewed carelessly, there may be neither a nanny placement nor a refund.
Increasingly, both nannies and families register with more than a single nanny agency and may hunt independently as well, placing ads, setting up a personal Web site, or working through word-of-mouth. In efforts to find a nanny or a nanny job, note that a contract with an nanny agency may require one of you to pay the nanny agency a fee even if you met independently. Read your contract closely and observe good placement ethics. Unethical efforts to avoid a nanny agency fee can result in a court case.
As for refunds, many nanny agencies will not offer a full refund, essentially because:
Your best choice is the nanny agency that puts you at ease by offering the information and the referrals that you need. Don’t settle for less!
- They have performed what they consider due diligence.
- The nanny has, in fact, been on the job for an extended period, even if not a full year.
- The fault may lie as much with the family as with the nanny – or more so.
If worse comes to worst, a family can sue for its refund but may succeed only if the nanny agency has not done what it promised to do. Be sure to read the fine print.
Nanny Agencies: In General
- Since the basic responsibility of the placement service is to match nannies to families, it follows that both should be screened equally. Watch for this. A brief telephone interview for the family and a one- or two-page application for the nanny will cover no more than basics, yet the resulting nanny agency fee may be as great as (or larger than) the fee for a thorough screening, with several reference reports, a criminal record check, and an in-person interview.
- You need enough information to make an informed choice. Call several nanny agencies and compare them for style, policies and procedures. Ask to talk to references for the nanny agency itself.