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It’d be dreamier than your six-month old sleeping through the night if, when you were hunting for a nanny, Mary Poppins or Mrs. Doubtfire magically appeared on your doorstep. But more often than not, finding a trustworthy childcare provider can take as much effort as toilet-training a two-year old. Here are some ways to make it easier.

  1. Determine what you’re looking for
    Do you want live-in help? Someone to watch your toddler while you work part time? Would you like a nanny who can drive/do light housekeeping/cooking? Do you have a special needs child or other specific requirements (Must speak Swahili? Has a driver’s license?) Be as specific as possible about what you’re ISO to assure you don’t get too far along in in the hiring process only to find your dream candidate is actually a bad fit.
  2. Be careful where you find them
    A nanny placement agency might be your safest bet for a vetted, experienced childcare provider, but fees can be high. You can try recommendations from friends, neighborhood list serves or parents’ groups. But be wary of sourcing the person on Craigslist or a similar website. It’s not that you can’t find a good employee this way, but you’ll want to run extra checks on an unknown person.
  3. Ask for a resume and references
    Even if a potential nanny just provides a list of who she has worked for and how long, that’ll give you an idea of her level of experience and expertise. Before even calling in candidates for interviews, check those references, too. Ask past employers about the candidate’s timeliness, responsibility level and honesty. What did they like or not like about the person? Why did the nanny leave?
  4. Interview them in person
    Once you’ve found a potential candidate (or three), set up a time to chat with your would-be Nanny McPhee. Take note of how he or she interacts with you, and ask lots of questions. What age kids have they been in charge of before? How many? Does he or she have special skills—CPR certification, languages, an education background—that could benefit your offspring? And if your gut instinct tells you it’s a bad fit, trust it.
  5. Give them a test run
    If a potential nanny has passed your interview and background checks, ask him or her over for lunch or coffee to meet your little ones. You also might want to have the possible employee babysit a few times and see how it goes. Determining how the candidate interacts with their possible charges might be the most important test of all.
  6. Give yourself the right amount of time
    You’ll want to give yourself a few weeks, or perhaps a month or more, to search (or place) ads, interview job seekers, run background checks, and work out logistics. But, don’t give yourself too much of a window—if you plan too far in advance, your best candidates might fill the time by finding work with another family.
  7. Conduct a criminal background check
    Ask the candidate for permission to verify his or her employment history, education, and criminal background history. There are multiple online services that you can use, including enannysource.com, BackgroundReport.com, and SterlingTesting.com.
  8. Talking and thinking money
    Once you’re ready to make a hire, ask friends or parenting boards what the going hourly rate is for nannies in your area. According to Urbansitter’s 2014 National Childcare Survey, the average hourly rate for a nanny for one child was $14.97, but that number might be higher or lower depending on where you live, how many kids need to be nannied, and on the nanny’s level of experience.
  9. Taxes
    Keep in mind that hiring a nanny means you’ll have legal responsibilities associated with being an employer, including verifying that the nanny is eligible to work in the U.S., withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes and paying the employer’s share of those taxes, paying unemployment insurance taxes, and buying workers’ compensation insurance. It’s a complicated process; for detailed info, check our article on hiring a housecleaner; the legal requirements we describe there are the same for nanny employers.
  10. Put it all in writing
    Create a clear job description of expectations, duties, hours, pay, and benefits, and put it in writing.