Child care in your own home is provided by a caregiver whom you hire. This will usually be a nanny, au pair, or a babysitter. Nanny’s can live in your home, or come to work for you on a schedule that you set together. Au Pairs are generally young women who come to live in your home as a member of your family. They may come from another state, or from another country. Babysitters are usually teenagers who care for your child on a limited basis.
In-home care is not for everyone. It is usually expensive, hard to find, and does not provide an emergency back-up situation. Caregivers may or may not have training in child development. In addition, you may not feel comfortable becoming an employer, providing supervision, and being responsible for employment taxes.
While in-home care does offer a great deal of flexibility, one drawback is that your child may miss out on playing with other children. You can address this problem by setting up play dates and playgroups for your child.
Finding the right in-home caregiver takes time and patience. You need to evaluate the caregiver's qualifications, interview her and check references. Most of all, you and your child need to feel comfortable with the person you choose. You should feel that she is committed to providing the best care for your child. Trust your instincts. You and your family must work with the person you hire. No matter how high a recommendation is from someone else, your own screening and interview is your best security. Once you've chosen your in-home caregiver, it's a good idea to draw up a contract that outlines everyone’s responsibilities.
An au pair lives with a family for one year, providing child care and sometimes light household help in exchange for room and board, a salary, and the opportunity to experience life in another community or country. It is an arrangement that requires you to consider not only your child care needs, but your entire family's living arrangements. With foreign au pairs, there are strict regulations about how much time they can spend on child care. There are requirements for families, such as the payment of one college course per year. Agencies that place au pairs do provide some training, but it is important to note that many au pairs have little child development training.
We have a variety of placement agencies on our database. These are sometimes referred to as “In-Home/Exempt" agencies as the caregivers supplied by the agency do not have to be registered or licensed by New York State. Some agencies specialize in nannies, both live-in and live-out. Others focus on au pairs, recruiting from locations both in the United States and around the world. Agencies may also offer additional services, such as housekeeping or elder care.
The agency’s main task is to match families with appropriate caregivers. They are there to guide you through each step of the process. They will help you define your needs when choosing care, and support you through the adjustment period.
In-home care is expensive. If you work with an agency, you will have to pay a one time agency fee in addition to the caregiver’s weekly salary. The fee for placement of live-out and live-in caregivers varies from agency to agency. It is usually based on a percentage of the caregiver’s salary, but may be a flat fee. Agencies may also charge a non-refundable registration fee or deposit.
It is possible that the caregiver you hire to work with you may not work out as you had hoped. A good agency will have a clearly stated policy on refund of the finder’s fee or replacement of a caregiver. Policies vary from agency to agency. Be sure to ask the agency for their policy in writing and be sure you are comfortable with the policy before you work with them.
Questions to consider when selecting an agency:
- What are the agency's procedures for assuring a good match between you and your caregiver? For example, does the agency staff have an interview process in which they ask you a lot of questions about your family, your children and your requirements? When speaking with them do they make suggestions to help you clarify your expectations?
- Are you comfortable with the agency's style? Most agencies conduct the interviews over the phone, while some offer the option of a face-to-face meeting. How do you feel about working with an agency that gathers information through a written questionnaire?
- Do you feel comfortable with the person you will be working with at the agency? Does she listen carefully to what you say and seem to care about your unique situation?
- How long has the agency been in business? What does the agency say about their track record for successful placements?
- What are the agency’s standards and procedures for recruiting and screening applicants for child care positions? How old do applicants have to be? What kind of education or training is required or desired? How much and what kind of child care experience do caregivers have? Are all candidates legally able to work in the United States? Will the agency have met the caregivers being referred to you? Has the company verified at least three references for each applicant? Can you get copies of written references, names, and phone numbers of any or all verbal references to confirm the information provided? Are background checks conducted, and if so, what do these checks cover?
- It is important to check references. Are there families with whom the agency has worked that you can call as references? Ask them: How was the search? How appropriate were the applicants referred by the agency? Did the agency represent themselves accurately to the family with whom they were working? What was their experience? Would they work with them again if they needed to hire a new caregiver?
Post an Advertisement in Your Local Newspaper
You may find a nanny or in-home caregiver on your own, through ads in the Help Wanted section of local or college newspapers such as the Pennysaver or Yankee Trader. The best times to place ads are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More people are inclined to read the classified ads over the weekend. If you advertise in major papers, like Newsday or The New York Times, be prepared for a large response. Limiting the time in which people may call you is a good idea. Below are some sample ads to use as guidelines if you want to advertise on your own.
- Child Care: Mature woman needed in Coram home, 2 children, full time. Call (xxx) xxx-xxxx after 6 PM.
- Child Care: Earn Extra income - Care for kindergarten child before/after school, your home, Smithtown Elementary School area. Call (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
- Child Care: Experience and references a must, 25 hours/week, my Kings Park home, 3 children, salary negotiable. Call (xxx) xxx-xxxx.
- Caregiver: Enthusiastic and responsive individual needed to plan and supervise activities for two boys ages 7 and 3, from 8 AM - 6 PM. Must have transportation, references. Call (xxx) xxx-xxxx between 6 and 9 PM only.
- Caregiver wanted for our cheerful 7 month old daughter, daily 7 AM - 6:30 PM, live in/out, experience with infants preferred, excellent references a must, competitive salary. Send resume to P.O. Box 289.
Ask Friends or Associates
Often other parents can refer you to someone that they have used before or friends of their in-home caregiver.
Local Colleges and Universities
These are especially good if you are looking for part-time care. Students' class schedules are usually flexible. Often students are looking to do child care in exchange for room and board. Temporary full-time summer care is also an option for students. Many colleges have a Career Services office and will post your child care requirements on their employment bulletin board.
The most frequently used method of locating babysitters is word-of-mouth from relatives and friends. Talk to everyone you know about who they use for sitters. Ask parents at PTA meetings, Little League ball games, dance or karate class, birthday parties and other children’s activities. Although some parents are reluctant to share the names of their favorite sitters for fear of making them less available for their own family, most will share any “extra” names that they have. If this is the case, make sure to ask if they have ever actually used these sitters and how they like them.
Since most babysitters are teenagers, it is a good idea to start your search where teenagers are:
- Call the Junior and Senior High School Guidance Offices. They often have job placement services.
- Contact the local churches, synagogues, scout troops, 4-H Clubs, Y's, Youth Organizations and fire departments. Many of these organizations offer babysitting classes and keep of list of interested teens.
- Put up notices at local supermarkets, libraries and local community colleges.
- Advertise in the Help Wanted section of your local paper. The Pennysaver and Yankee Trader are good sources. Be sure to include the age(s) of your children and the neighborhood in which you live.
- Call your local Senior Citizens Center and see if you can post a notice on their bulletin board.
- Check with local hospitals and nursing schools. Many times student nurses babysit during their off-hours.
- Advertise on bulletin boards or in newspapers at local colleges and universities.
Kiernan's Law allows parents and guardians of children to access New York State criminal history information about potential in-home caregivers. Please click here for more information on how to obtain this background information.
Our Checklists provide information to help you find and interview a potential child care provider.
The NYS Department of Labor licenses and regulates private employment agencies including Nanny and Au Pair Placement Agencies. If the parent pays a finders fee to an agency, and then will be paying the salary directly to the nanny, the employment agency must be licensed. If the agency handles all of the fees and salary, then no license is required. The Department of Labor also maintains a record of complaints that have been filed against these agencies.
You can check on complaints against nanny and au pair agencies through the following websites:
- New York State Department of Labor
This agency licenses and regulates private employment agencies, including nanny and au pair agencies.
- NYC Department of Consumer Affairs
- Better Business Bureau
- Suffolk County Executive's Office of Consumer Affairs