Your Complete Guide to Hiring In-Home Child Care

Part One - Scoping Out the Agency

Make no mistake about it. Finding a quality in-home Caregiver or Nanny is a tedious task that it will require effort.

Your primary objective is to find the best Nanny provider possible for your family. Hiring a Nanny agency may relieve some of the pressure, but it also requires you to do extra research. You have to check out the agency's credibility before you check out any Nanny the agency recommends. A highly experienced Nanny consultant who worked for About Child Care Consumer Services (formerly the Child Care Information Centre in Calgary, Alberta) openly admitted and warned parents that agencies do not always check an applicant's background before they send them on interviews. After returning to Canada from an eight month tour of Europe and applying to local agencies, she was sent on two job interviews the very next day after they received her application. "I was shocked . . . it would be almost impossible for the agency to have checked my references or anything else in that short a time," she says.

It is vitally important for you to investigate a Nanny placement agency before you decide to hire them. You have to hone your investigative and interview skills. To do this well requires an insight into how an agency works.
Claims & Credibility - Checking Out a Nanny Agency

There are two main points you should focus on when doing your agency investigation homework:

     This is what the agency says it can do for you and the method they
     use to deliver their service.
     This is the hard evidence of an agency's actual performance.

Your job is to check out the claims - to work past the puffery and find out for yourself what other clients, past and present, actually think of the agency. You'll want to talk to at least three former and current nannies as well to find out how they feel about the agency, if they were and are treated fairly, how often they quit a job because they were miss-matched with families, or if they've been employed at the same job for a good length of time.


You'll need to talk to three current and three past clients. The purpose of this part of your investigation is to judge the value of the agency according to your wants, needs and expectations. It will help to ask yourself:

   1. What do I want to achieve by using the agency?
   2. How will the agency help you achieve my goals? What can they
       provide you that other agencies can not?
   3. How will you family benefit? How have other families benefited from
       this agency?
   4. What do their clients have to say about the agency? Are they very
       satisfied, somewhat satisfied or not that satisfied at all? Is this
       acceptable to you?
   5. Would you get the same results and feel just as comfortable if you
       do the job myself?

You don't pick an agency because they have the biggest ad in the phone book. You hire by getting a true picture of your future with the agency and knowing, not hoping, you can both achieve the common goal of matching you with a Caregiver who'll suit your family to a tee. Neither certification nor cost are true indicators of a quality service. There is no correlation between cost and quality, except that the really cheap ones must cut corners somewhere in order to offer such low agency fees.

The agency and your family should work as a team. The agency tells you whom they have on their roster, how they have obtained the applicant, and what measures they have taken to investigate her background, expertise and credibility. They will back up their word with specific evidence by giving you access to the Caregiver's file - every page. You'll get to check her Criminal Record for yourself and verify that it's current and not over two years old. You'll get to read the reference checks, view the Driver's Abstract and Medical Report, even before you interview the Caregiver. Be aware of any placement agency that does not allow you this right. Some agencies will actually send you a Caregiver's portfolio to review before you consent to an interview

A Good Return For Your Investment

A good placement agency will give you a good return for your money. Be sure to find out what the agency will charge you for their service, how much you have to pay upfront. Requests for advance payments are fine, but nothing should make you run faster than a demand for a large nonrefundable deposit. Why should you be the one at risk should the agency not live up to its billing?

How do you insure you don't get taken for a ride?

   1. Inquire about the agency's replacement policy and cost if you are
       not happy with the Nanny you choose and you need to replace
   2. Is there a time limit on ensuring your satisfaction?
   3. Is the agency fully insured for Caregiver incidents of child abuse,
       neglect, auto accidents, accidental and non-accidental deaths?
       For their own neglect in screening potential nannies? (Tough
       questions but ones that are warranted. Insurance for this type of
       service is extremely expensive. Can the agency produce
       documented proof of a current liability insurance policy?)

When you are satisfied that an agency has what it takes to assist your family, take a good hard look at the agency's contract before you sign on. Question every aspect of it. Leave no stone unturned. Be skeptical of everything that makes you nervous. They are taking a good chunk of your hard-earned money. You need to know how your money is going to be spent and how you are going to be treated a few months down the road.

Making the Decision

Once you have an understanding of how each agency operates and you've verified the agency's "claims" as stated, you can begin to narrow down your choice. Gathering all aspects of your investigation, reference checks, client and Nanny contact notes, contract information and establishing credibility, decide which agency can walk the talk. Get a mental image of yourself, your family and the agency working together. Do you feel comfortable? Do you foresee a good working relationship evolving?

At this point signing on with an agency is a leap of faith. Have no doubts that a good agency can save you a lot of time and energy. And having taken all precautions, it should serve your family well.

You are now ready to move on to the next step in your search for a qualified Nanny. In Part Two of this series, we'll take a closer look at interviewing and reference checking methods for hiring an in-home Caregiver. This is must read information for anyone who will be using a Nanny agency or who will he hiring a Nanny on their own.