Nanny Hunting 101 Everything You Need to Find the Right Caregiver

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Hiring a caregiver to handle your child-raising duties for you is quite possibly the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life (or your child’s life). But recent statistics show there’s over a million workers in the childcare sector — not all of them nannies, granted — and the job outlook for the next decade projects slow but steady growth. That’s a lot of options.

You could go through the best nanny agencies in your city. You could put an ad in the newspaper or on Craigslist. You could ask friends and family members for recommendations. But before you do anything even remotely related to the search, you should first nail down the parameters of who your ideal nanny is going to be. Need a little help? Look no further than this handy list.

What to Look for in a Good Nanny

Cooking skills. Cleaning abilities. Genial rapport with children. These are all prerequisites for a nanny, so if any one candidate doesn’t meet them all, cross her off the list. You can’t put your kids in the care of someone who orders them McDonald’s every day for lunch, after all.

On top of the basic requirements, it might help if your ideal nanny has had some professional courses in either child psychology or childcare in general. Ask, “Are you certified in CPR? Have you ever had to save a child’s life? Are you confident that you could save mine?” Emergency situations are never planned for, but it helps to be prepared. That’s what to look for in a good nanny.

What Not to Focus on During the Search

The benefits of hiring a nanny are self-explanatory: You get to go to work and bring home two paychecks while your children are cared for safely at home. But it’s important to understand that no one caregiver can enter a family’s life and completely transform them a la Mary Poppins. It’s just not realistic in 2014.

That means you shouldn’t focus on what the candidate lacks compared to the word’s most popular (yet fictional) nanny. Instead, compare her to her competition. Probe into her background and find out why she’s the right fit for your child. Don’t be shy to ask about past work experience and references to contact to find out more.

The Problem with Nanny Cams

Once you the find the ideal nanny, you might be tempted to keep an eye on her even when you’re not home. And thanks to the advent of the “nanny cam,” you can do exactly that — though it’ll likely be against her will. While some cases have found the cams to be helpful (like the Long Island couple who helped uncover serious abuse), they’re by and large a violation of privacy and don’t help you get a clear picture of your nanny’s abilities.

Instead, offer to take your caregiver out for breakfast or lunch often in addition to the regular pay she’s receiving. Ask about how she feels working with your children and help uncover any problems that might be bubbling up under the surface. After all the searching, you won’t want to simply let a nanny go, so take steps to hang onto her.

Have your own tips on what to look for in a good nanny? Leave them in the comments below!

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