How To Find A (Good) Nanny
A reliable nanny (as distinct from a babysitter who cares for children during the evening or a childminder who cares for children in his or her own home) can be a valuable asset to your family, depending on your needs and preferences. They are often the first choice for families with more than one child, as the varying 'diaries' of your children can make using any other kind of childcare logistically impossible. A nanny can care for the baby at home, collect the pre-schooler at 3.15 and the 8-year-old after football practice, just as you would. They charge a generally higher hourly rate than some other forms of childcare, but their advantages may outweigh the financial costs, when you are working out how to make your work-life balance a successful one. Furthermore, in some cases, the cost can be partly offset , if your nanny is willing to become registered as a home childcarer, as this allows families to use the tax credit system to claim back a percentage of their childcare costs. (For more information about this see the websites for the following agencies depending on your geographical location and search for 'home childcarer'; England - Ofsted, Scotland - SCSWIS, Wales - CSSIW, Northern Ireland - HSST.)
From Searching To Appointing
As with any kind of childcare, finding someone trustworthy, appropriately qualified and experienced can seem a daunting task. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Know your needs and preferences. Do you want a recently qualified practitioner with up to the minute knowledge about child development, or a mature experienced carer who brings their personal wisdom to bear on their work with children? Visualise your ideal and note the characteristics they possess. Do you want them to live in or out? Do you want to share with another family? Are there other duties you want to include in the role? In essence, you are writing a job description that will serve you well when you reach interview stage.
- Use the local grapevine. Chances are that someone you know uses a nanny who may have the flexibility to work with you as well, or knows another suitable candidate. If this does not produce results, you could then try...
- A local nanny agency. The UK has very good coverage from nanny agencies and unless you live very rurally, you are likely to find at least one in your area. Check your local paper, or check the noticeboards of local play groups, nurseries, or sports centres. Or...
- A web-based agency. Again, there are a plethora of agencies, some local, some national, who operate online. Whatever kind of agency you use, do make sure they carry out checks on their members and have taken up references, as the quality of agencies can vary.
- Then, check them out. As a minimum, and however you initially find your candidates, please make sure they hold a current Criminal Records Bureau check, have a clean driving licence, and can provide references from previous employers. Ideally, they would also hold a current paediatric first aid certificate (they last for 3 years). And of course these days most nannies hold a formal qualification, such as a CACHE Diploma (level 1-3), BTEC National Diploma, or NVQ (level 1-5).
- Take time to interview your candidates. You can even find suggested interview questions online, and make sure your children are present for at least part of the meetings, so you can see how each candidate interacts with their potential charges.
- Do a trial run. Let your shortlisted candidate(s) spend time in your home, doing an activity with your children, or preparing a meal for them. Try to get a feel for what your children's time with the nanny would be like if you weren't there. This will also give you time for valuable extended conversation with the candidate(s), where you can really get a sense of their values, beliefs, and strategies for dealing with issues that may arise. You can also, at this point make your house rules, meal time traditions, and preferred ways of dealing with the 'x, y or z' of concerns that your children will present while you are out of the home, known. 'How long can they spend in front of their computer screen or the TV?', 'are their friends allowed to call while the nanny is in charge?', 'when should homework be done?', and, no doubt, more issues besides, all need working through.
- You should now be ready to appoint someone, but make sure you build in a probationary period to your contract, so as to allow either party a 'get out' if it does not feel as if it is working, for whatever reason. If you haven't already done so, look at the nitty-gritty of the contract (again, there are plenty of sample contracts online and agencies often provide them) and check you are both happy with the small print.
- Allow some transition time, during which the nanny is in charge but you are easily reached, so as to allow your children to feel considered, and the nanny an opportunity to seek answers to last minute queries. You can still get work done, but perhaps for the first few days or so, this could be from your home office rather than away from your family.
What Else Do I Need To Do?
Be realistic about your young child's capacity to adapt to the arrival of this person in your home. The individuality of each child means that it can be hard to predict how they will feel about your increased absence and the nanny's presence. Prepare yourself for any one of a range of reactions, while at the same time, holding fast to the (correct) belief that if you have appointed a good nanny, your child will, eventually, adjust to the change and come to regard their nanny with fondness. After all, developmentally speaking, most research into the emotional well-being of children indicates that all children, and young children in particular, have their needs better met by a small number of consistent adults, rather than by being in large groups with a constantly changing staff group. Seen in this light, a good nanny can become a genuine asset in the raising of your family, someone who applies the same calm consistency as you do, while not being distracted by the endless list of 'stuff-to-do' that is a necessary reality of most working parent's lives!