As Susan Tokayer, co-president of the International Nanny Association and owner of Family Helpers (www.familyhelpers.com), a Dobbs Ferry, New York full-service domestic placement agency put it best, “Hiring a childcare provider is one of the most important things you will do for your family.”
While many families are turning to online child care websites to find their nannies to avoid the costs of using a placement agency or to find a care giver quickly, when doing so, it’s vital to proceed with caution.
Online Child Care Sites Versus Traditional Agencies
According to Tokayer, the biggest difference between online child care sites and traditional nanny placement agencies is that brick and mortar agencies do all of the work involved in identifying and screening qualified nanny candidates and then present only those qualified candidates to clients for interviewing.” So instead of sifting through hundreds of nanny profiles, agencies present you only those candidates that are best suited and qualified to provide child care for your family. Agency personnel are also generally more experienced and have a level of expertise in interviewing, checking references, etc. that most clients don’t have. “Agencies know what questions to ask in an interview to elicit important information that will tell us if she is qualified. People seeking employment will sometimes have an imperfect work history or embellish their resume. Agency personnel have the experience and time to investigate every applicant’s past to ensure that the person is in fact representing themselves truthfully” said Tokayer. Another added bonus of using a placement agency: Agency personnel spend time consulting with their clients. If you’re working with an agency and you’re not certain about overtime laws or typical nanny benefits, for example, you can discuss these issues and receive sound guidance.
Words of Caution
“Any family using an online service needs to screen all candidates very thoroughly, just as a reputable agency would” said Tokayer. Family Helpers takes screening candidates seriously. After the basic phone interview which allows the agency to gather basic information about the candidate, the candidate then completes a job application. References are checked and all qualifying candidates visit the office for a personal interview, which consists of a written exam and a face-to-face interview. Ultimately a pre-employment check is conducted, which consists of a criminal check, social security verification, driving record check and a sex offender registry check.
Tokayer also issued a word of warning to families that are running background checks through a company that uses computer databases to conduct their search. “Often times checking for a criminal history is inaccurate through a database search. Our agency uses a company that sends an actual person to the courthouse to check for records. The information gathered this way is far more accurate.”
What about Craigslist
What does a traditional agency owner think about finding a nanny through Craigslist? “I think it is possible to find a qualified candidate in many different ways” said Tokayer. “It is really about sifting through the candidates and doing a thorough investigation of all candidates you are considering hiring.”
“I think that many more people are using online services to find childcare help for a variety of reasons. Not all families live in an area where there are nanny services, some people can’t afford the cost of an agency and I think some people are more the do-it-yourself kind of people. The thing I can’t stress enough is that families must perform all of the screening and not take short-cuts.”
Never take short-cuts in the hiring process, even if you need to find a child care provider quickly. “Many people think that they have good instincts and know from the interview with a nanny if she will be good with their children. Although the chemistry between the family and the nanny is indeed very important, make sure to do all of the other important screenings involved in qualifying the candidate. I have met nanny candidates that appear to be quite qualified, only to discover that they do have a criminal record” cautioned Tokayer.
Misconceptions About Hiring an In-Home Child Care Provider
Some people believe that child care providers are also being hired to care for the home, but that’s really not the case. “Although, child care providers do have certain responsibilities, they are really hired to care for the children” said Tokayer. “Certainly cleaning the kitchen after preparing meals, doing the children’s laundry and putting all the toys away at the end of the day are within their job description, but vacuuming and making the parents’ bed is not.”
Tokayer also thinks that it is much harder to find qualified nannies than one would imagine. “Our agency receives hundreds of phone calls and applications from aspiring nannies, yet we only place about 3% of those candidates. This is another reason people searching for a child care provider may want to use an agency. It can be incredibly time consuming just to identify one or two qualified people.”