How to Choose a Nanny For Your Family

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It’s no secret that kids don’t come with directions—a shame considering that’s exactly what new (and sometimes, seasoned!) parents need. After all, when it comes time to go back to work or get the help we all need, a chapter on hiring childcare would be of particular use. 

Simply put, it’s difficult to nail down exactly what characteristics to look for in a person who will spend many hours around your child. And all bets are off on how to unearth the perfect candidate once you decide just what you’re looking for.  

To help you find your footing as you set out on your search, here’s what you need to know about how to find a nanny, what to look for, the kinds of nanny arrangements, and of course, the cost. May this guide make your childcare investment worth every dollar—and ensure that your children are both safe and happy.

How to Find a Nanny

Available nannies can be found through referral, online services, or childcare agencies. Here's a look at some of the ways you might find a nanny.

Referral 

If you’re like many new moms who lean on Facebook for all the things, you’ll find local Facebook parenting groups to be a rich resource for nanny referrals. As kids grow up or families leave the area, highly recommended nannies will often find their former employers pitching in to promote their services.

Search for keywords like “nanny” or “babysitter” to locate recent listings or post your own ISO (“in search of”) that includes the hours you’ll need help, the ages of your children, the ideal start date, and any other requirements (experience with special needs or taking care of twins, for example).

Alternatively, some community resources host their own Facebook pages where members can post recommendations or an “ISO” describing the kind of childcare they are looking for.

And don’t discount your real-life networks: “Your social contacts can really be a wonderful resource, and of course, connecting with them to find a nanny costs nothing,” says Maressa Brown, senior editor for Care.com, who suggests purchasing a background check and checking references before hiring a nanny you met via referral.

Online Childcare Services


Sites such as Sittercity, Care.com, and NannyPoppinz can be good resources for finding part- or full-time childcare. The perks are plentiful: In exchange for a membership fee, you’ll be privy to a large pool of caregivers whom you can filter through. For additional peace of mind, certain sites pre-screen candidates with preliminary background checks.

Nanny Agency 

If you’d prefer a more formalized process, childcare agencies can do the heavy lifting of sourcing, screening, and pre-vetting candidates who tick all your boxes. One benefit of using such a service is that they often conduct background and/or reference checks for you.

What’s more, they can sometimes be paid directly to save you the legwork of putting your nanny “on the books,” which may require registering as an employer, paying Social Security, Medicare, disability, and workman’s compensation. These services do come at a cost, which tends to start at around $8,000, according to Brown.

What to Look For in a Nanny


Reliable. Trustworthy. Responsible. Of course, we’d all like those things our nanny—and much, much more. But what qualities and qualifications should you prioritize? “It depends on what you want, which is the most important part,” says Susan Fox, the founder of Park Slope Parents. 

We always recommend creating a list of 'must-haves' that serve your family's needs,” says Brown. “Consider questions like: Do you want them to have safety certifications, such as CPR training? Does an educational background in childcare matter? Should they be bilingual? Will they help with additional household responsibilities? What kind of personality traits are important?” 

Here are some key considerations when you're looking for a nanny.

The Role 

Some nanny roles simply involve watching children at home, changing diapers, and feeding prepared meals and snacks. However, some families prefer to source a nanny who will plan play dates and activities, pitch in with grocery shopping and family meal prep, take care of pets, or conduct other house management duties such as laundry and cleaning.

When help is needed in these departments, you'll want to look for someone who has experience doing important household chores, researching age-appropriate classes, or networking with other nannies to foster a social circle for your child(ren)—or at least someone who is willing to learn.

Desired Temperament

Determining what kind of person your children would benefit from being around can help you find the ideal nanny for your family. Do you want someone who’s disciplined or affectionate? Calm or high energy? Regimented or spontaneous?

It all comes down to knowing your child. Say your daughter is very shy and has separation issues. A warm, patient and nurturing nanny may be better for her than someone who defaults to tough love. Alternatively, your son may be an extrovert who struggles with boundaries and respecting the word "no." Tough love may be just the thing he needs to thrive.

Experience

A candidate with no professional nannying experience can absolutely do the job—and may charge less, which can be a perk for parents on a budget. However, nannies who have had experience with sleep training, potty training, or taking care of more than one child at once, if you have multiples, may be more prepared to fulfill your family’s needs. 

Intuition

At the end of the day, even asking a million interview questions—which can and should cover a candidate’s background, experience, work style, and how they handle challenging childcare situations—won’t guarantee a perfect nanny match. So check in with your gut when you chat or meet with a candidate, and ask yourself whether this person will be a good influence on your child.

It's also worth noting as you explore your options that there are questions parents cannot legally ask a candidate, including their age, race/ethnic background, religious views, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, or arrest record, Brown notes. So keep those topics out of your line of questioning when interviewing candidates.

Different Types of Nannies

While many nannies are keen on finding full-time work, nanny arrangements come in all shapes and sizes to accommodate your family’s schedule and budget. Here's a look at the different types of nannies you might consider hiring.

Full-time

With hours that range roughly between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, full-time nannies tend to work regular shifts and receive a regular salary plus paid time off, depending on the circumstances.

Part-time

A part-time nanny may watch your kids for just a few hours a day—like after school—or a few days a week. This arrangement provides less childcare coverage but more flexibility for families and nannies alike.

Nanny Share or Split

A nanny-share arrangement typically provides a nanny with full-time work, except either their hours are split between two or more families or the nanny looks after children from more than one household at the same time.

In some scenarios, a nanny will spend mornings with one family and afternoons with another, alternate between houses where both families bring their kids, or alternate days of the week. For example, they may spend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with one family and Tuesday and Thursday with another. In any case, the families share the bill, which can make this an economically smart arrangement. 

Live-In Nanny 

The most comprehensive help you can get, hiring a live-in nanny involves providing accommodations for a nanny to live at your house. This is ideal for families in which parents work unconventional hours or travel often.

Au Pair

Like a live-in nanny, an au pair lives with the family. However, au pairs tend to be students from overseas and are more integrated into family life for a mutual cultural exchange. While they aren’t full-time caregivers, they receive room and board and sometimes, a stipend for pitching in with childcare and household chores.

The Cost of Hiring a Nanny

The national average hourly rate for nannies is $15.30 per hour, but rates can range between $16 and $21.50 per hour in major cities, according to Care.com’s 2021 Cost of Care survey.

“The rate usually corresponds with the cost of living in your area, with higher costs meaning higher pay and vice versa,” explains Brown. “Competition can also be a factor. Families in cities with fewer experienced nannies will pay them more than in areas where there are more well-qualified candidates.” 

Generally speaking, expect to pay on the higher end of the spectrum for more experience or additional household chores; tack on an extra $1 to $2 per hour for each extra child; and pay at least one week's worth of salary as an end of year bonus plus an annual hour raise. 

Beyond salary, when paying “on the books” as per federal law, additional costs include employment tax, which amounts to about 10% of your nanny’s annual wages if they make more than $2,400 per year; state worker’s compensation insurance, if required by law in your state; and if desired, a nanny payroll service such as SurePayroll and Savvy Nanny Payroll Services, which can simplify the payment process. 

A Word From Verywell

At the end of the day, we all want the same things for our kids, which is for them to be looked after by someone who is worthy of filling our caretaker shoes, at least between the hours of 9 and 5 or whenever you can’t be fully present.

While everyone will have different preferences for the type of nanny they’d like to hire—and hey, we’re all beholden to whoever is available and willing to work when we need a hand—parental instincts can be the very best tool in your arsenal to determine whether a potential nanny will be a good fit for your family.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. What can't I ask when hiring?
  2. Care.com. Cost of care survey.

  3. Irs.gov. Topic no.756 employment taxes for household employees.