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How to Find the Best Nanny for Your Family

Yes, having a nanny can make your life easier. Finding a really great one? Well, that’s a whole lot tougher.

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

Think Long Term

Parents tend to focus on the immediate needs of their newborn -- basically, the need for a warm and nurturing caregiver -- but, according to Bugbee, parents should think beyond their three-month-old. “Consider your child going from sitting to crawling, walking, running, jumping and leaping. Think of whom you want to handle discipline and control tantrums. A great nanny is someone who can grow with your child and challenge him or her along the way.” Bugbee also cautions that parents often base a decision on what they think will be best for the child rather than thinking about the needs of the whole family. “It’s important to find that person who’s going to be there for your whole family, not just for your kids.”

Ask friends who have older children what they think are the most important attributes in a nanny. You and your partner can use this input to help make a list of which child care talents and abilities are a priority for you. Use this list as a reference for the interview questions that you’ll ask potential candidates and for a job description that you may write to post.

Strategically Interview

Once you’ve settled on three to five nannies as the best candidates, the interview process can begin.

Bugbee recommends that parents ask questions they think the nanny doesn’t expect. This will reduce the number of canned responses and will get to some truths. She also recommends asking lots of “what if” questions -- like “What would you do if you got locked out of the house with the kids?” or “What would you do if my daughter fell and hit her head?” -- to get a sense of how a nanny would handle an emergency. “You want to allow a candidate to think on her feet, since that’s what she’d be doing if an urgent situation happened,” Bugbee explains.

You’ll want to ask questions to find out what a nanny’s discipline strategy is. You’ll also want to get a sense of her energy level and creativity, says Bugbee. Ask, “What kinds of activities do you like to do with kids?” and see if she has ideas for things to do that don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. And you want someone who will actively play with your child, not just sit and watch.

As part of the interview process, have the candidate play with your child. See how she interacts with him. Does she seem to enjoy it? Does she seem engaged? Confident? See what your child’s response is. Ideally he will enjoy the interaction but if he’s tired or shy, you can always have a favored candidate return for a second visit (paid!) with your child to see how they get along.

Check Background and References

When you’ve found a nanny you love, it’s important to do some official fact-checking. As you check a nanny’s references, you’ll want to ask challenging and specific questions. For instance, ask a reference to reveal one bad thing about their experience with the nanny. Find out how often the nanny was unable to come to work. Ask the reference if they’ve ever checked up on the nanny. To get a sense of a nanny’s engagement level for the child she cared for, ask her reference what outings she arranged for the child and if she arranged playdates.

Once you think you’ve settled on a nanny, you’ll want to run a background check to be sure she doesn’t have a criminal record. Sittercity and Care.com both offer background checks for caregivers, or you can use a site like Intelius.com, which will provide you with a full background check for a fee, usually about $60 to $175, depending on how comprehensive the search is.

Make a Smart Offer

After you’ve made an official decision, it’s time to make an offer. But how much should you pay? First, see Care.com’s Babysitter Calculator to find out the average per hour cost of a nanny in your ZIP code. You’ll also want to ask around to see what other parents you know pay their nannies.

And just like other employers, you’ll need to set policies for vacation time, sick days and overtime. Talk this over with your partner and consider putting it all into a contract for your nanny so you can be sure everyone’s on the same page. “This protects you and the nanny. It makes everything straightforward,” says Bugbee. “Put your discipline policy in there and anything you don’t want your nanny to do, like talking on her cell phone in the car or in the house when the baby is up.” Find a sample nanny contract on NannyNetwork.com that you can use as a template for your own.

watch: tips for choosing a nanny

Plus, more from The Bump:

Interview Questions for a Caregiver

How to Find the Best Day Care

Day Care vs. Nanny

-- Kelly Alfieri

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