Finding a Babysitter or Nanny

Follow these steps to screen and hire a babysitter or nanny.

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1. Identify your priorities.

Before beginning your search, write up a brief description of what you are looking for in a babysitter or nanny. Cover such things as work schedule, job responsibilities, living with you or not, experience and training, salary and benefits, legal status, fluency in English, valid driver's license, and other requirements. Be prepared to compromise on less important issues.

If you're looking for an in-depth guide to hiring an in-home assistant to help care for your children, get Nannies & Au Pairs: Hiring In-Home Child Care by Ilona Bray (Nolo).

2. Get the word out.
Ask friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations on prospective child care providers.

3. Use the want ads.
Look at babysitter- and nanny-related ads in community papers and on Internet bulletin boards. Post your own child care wanted ad in a local paper or on a community message board.

4. Prescreen over the phone.
Call prospective candidates and discuss your expectations and their experience and qualifications to see if they meet your needs and are worth an in-person interview.

5. Call references.
Contact each qualified candidate's references to verify prior experience and ask about his or her qualifications, strengths, and weaknesses.

6. Interview the best candidates.
Arrange in-person interviews with potential babysitters or nannies who pass your prescreening.

7. Double-check references.
For good candidates, call references again with follow-up questions.

8. Arrange a second interview.
If you're undecided, schedule a second meeting with the two or three best candidates. You may want to ask the babysitter or nanny to come spend the day with you to see how he or she interacts with your child throughout the day (but you'll need to pay for his or her time).

9. Consider ordering a background check.
It may sound a bit paranoid, but the reality is that the babysitter or nanny will be spending many unsupervised hours with your child. As a parent, you'll want to be sure that you don't accidentally hire someone with falsified credentials, a bad driving record, or a criminal background.

10. Make an offer.
Offer the position to your first choice babysitter or nanny candidate.

11. Try a trial period.
Spend a few days with the babysitter or nanny before making a firm commitment.

12. Create an agreement.
Create an employment agreement covering all the details of the job, including hours, pay, benefits, and responsibilities.

For More Information
For details on making employment agreements, as well as interviewing nannies anddoing background checks,see Parent Savvy: Straight Answers to Your Family's Financial, Legal & Practical Questions, by attorney Nihara Choudhri (Nolo).

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