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How to hire a nanny

So SuperNanny seems to be too busy to take your calls, and you need some in-home child care. Where to start?

MomsMiami consulted several experts in the field to offer advice for finding a modern-day Mary Poppins or a suitable alternative.

Their tips can also apply to your search for just the occasional baby sitter.

The experts suggested breaking down the process into three areas:

  • Finding candidates for the job.
  • Interviewing and screening.
  • Sealing the deal.
FIRST, A JOB DESCRIPTION

Figure out exactly what your needs are: Live in or live out? How many days/hours a week do you need help? Will the nanny be expected to drive the children to and from school, to after-school activities? Do you also

TO LEARN MORE

Enannysource.com has several related articles, including a few on how to handle taxes and checking the legal status of a nanny candidate. Read them here.

want some housekeeping done?

Define the characteristics -- personality, education and experience -- you want. Consider issues like, would you hire a smoker? Or someone of a different religion?

Decide how much you can offer to pay.

Wendy Sachs, co-president of the International Nanny Association, said the pay should reflect the nanny's background and experience as well as the workload. "For South Florida the average rate is between $12 and $18 per hour for one or two kids. Families with five or six kids or children with special needs would earn about $15 per hour.''

WHERE TO LOOK

Start with word of mouth.

Chat with other moms about their caregivers and whether they might be

AU PAIRS

Another alternative: College students from abroad travel to the United States for child-care jobs and to attend school in the au pair program. Read all about it here.

free on the days you need help. Check with friends whose kids are starting school; they may be freeing up a great nanny. Sometimes nannies know other nannies who are looking for work.

(Warning: Don't jeopardize friendships by becoming a nanny poacher - that is, luring her away from another family by making a better offer.) 

You could also try a professional nanny placement agency. There are several in South Florida.

Most work with experienced child care providers, do thorough background checks and can usually find someone quickly. But they aren't cheap: Their fees can run into the thousands.

Then, there's the Internet.

Besides classified ads like MiamiHerald.com and Craigslist, there are also some websites that allow you to post nanny or baby-sitting jobs and search a database of child-care givers looking for work.

For example, for $39.99 for the first month and $9.95 a month after that (or $95.88 for a year), you can search your Zip code at SitterCity.com. You can read profiles of potential nannies and baby sitters and get their contact information. You can also order a cursory background check from the site and read comments about the sitter from other users.

Susan McCloskey, vice president of NannyPoppinz.com, said, "Parents who look on Craigslist are missing out on better people who only go through a nanny placement agency. The quality of people responding to ads on Craigslist may be hit or miss.''

And an agency will do all the footwork for you.

"If a mom signed on with us, we have 10,000 nannies in our database,'' McCloskey said. "All of them have already been personally interviewed and have had background checks done.''

Once a work arrangement has been made, the parents pay a fee to the agency, which at NannyPoppinz is 10 percent of the nanny's gross annual salary, which is negotiated between the nanny and the family. Then the nanny becomes the employee of the family.

INTERVIEWING

In addition to the basic questions about experience, location, availability, etc., experts advise discussing the candidate's child-rearing philosophies to make sure they mesh with yours -- especially regarding discipline.

Have the candidate bring a resume or fill out an application listing the location and date of birth, driver's license number, Social Security number, any other names she uses, and the names of her last five employers, including all supervisor's names and phone numbers.

Ask whether she has been convicted of a crime, had traffic violations and if she is legally able to work in the United States.

Ask for names, addresses and phone numbers of close relatives, names and dates of schools attended and her last three addresses. Let her know you'll be doing a background check that includes her driving record and any criminal activity. Have her sign a statement authorizing you to do so. If she hesitates or refuses, rule her out immediately.

Provide her with your job description and have a preliminary discussion about compensation.

Experts say the most common mistake parents make is not being specific enough about their expectations. If you need the nanny to pick your kids up from school every day, establish that from the start, along with whose car will be used and who will pay for the gas.

Ask about her child care experience, flexibility, whether she is CPR-certified and knows how to administer first aid. (Learn more about a local program to train nannies in CPR here.)

Experts advise doing the first interview without the children, in case you decide not to go any further.

If the first interview goes well, invite her over again to meet the children so you can see how they interact with her. Confirm the phone numbers of references.

BACKGROUND CHECK

There is no national criminal database accessible to the public. So you will need to check state and local records everywhere the candidate has lived in the past several years.

You can also use an online background check service or hire a local

WHERE TO START

You can search many local and state driving and criminal records for free. Start here:

investigator. The cost depends on the depth of information you seek, but most basic information can be verified for less than $100.

Even if you're not looking for a nanny through eNannySource.com, President Steve Lamperts said you can still use the site to run a background check.

For $119.85, you can search more than 245 million records throughout the United States, as well as the criminal records at one county courthouse where the nanny has lived.

Also check the sex offender databases -- click here for Florida's -- and verify any degrees they list through the schools' records offices.

Call the references and any previous employers. Ask specifically whether they would hire her again.

Look out for phony references. "Nannies with little or no prior experience may list friends or family members as prior employers,'' Lampert said.

SEALING THE DEAL

If you're ready to offer the job, write up a contract that lists all responsibilities and rules of the house, along with the salary offer. Both parties should sign it. It should include "ground rules'' -- outlining what the nanny is and is not allowed to do with the children, such as taking them out of the house or giving them ice cream.

Enannysource.com has a long list of suggestions for issues to cover in the contract, including:

  • Whether you will offer paid sick and vacation time and how many of those days the nanny is allowed to take.
  • A schedule for hours and how to handle any unexpected extra hours, for times like when you have to work late.
  • Boundaries for discipline, including time-outs, loss of phone or TV privileges, etc.
  • An outline of any specific housework requirements.
  • An agreement on the children's dietary needs and what meals the nanny is expected to prepare.

When you've both agreed to the terms: Congratulations. You've finally got some help around the house.

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