Many families prefer to keep child care in their home—or a few homes—rather than taking their children to a day care center. To spread the cost, they hire a shared private nanny to take care of more than one family's children at the same time.
Issues to Consider When Hiring a Shared Nanny
Sharing in-home care can be a nice way to go if you can afford it and can find a compatible family to share with. But before making any kind of commitment to this type of arrangement, make sure you and your proposed sharers have the same expectations about how the arrangement will work.
Some issues will be easy to decide. For example, you won't have to think much about how large the group should be or how to admit new members: The size of your group will necessarily be small if you plan to rely on one paid care provider. Most nanny shares involve only two families, though sometimes three or more can work.
Other issues will require more discussion. Many a shared child care arrangement has foundered because of disagreements over day-to-day issues, from whether children can play with toy weapons to whether television is allowed, which parks the children may play at, and what types of snacks are appropriate. And, of course, you'll need to discuss how much you're willing to pay, what the caregiver's schedule will be, and so forth. Some of the issues you should resolve ahead of time include:
- how to find and choose a caregiver, and the qualifications the caregiver must have (for example, a driver's license or CPR training)
- where care will be provided—you can either choose one home or agree to alternate in any way that works for everyone
- how often care will be provided, including hours and days of the week
- expectations about timing, activities, food, and discipline
- financial issues, including how much you will pay the caregiver and whether to enter into a formal employment relationship, and
- how to resolve conflicts if they arise.
Advance planning will help ensure that all of you will be comfortable about the care your children receive. It can also help you avoid serious conflicts in the setup process and down the road. Once you've agreed on all of these issues, prepare a simple written agreement memorializing them.
Splitting the Costs When You Share a Nanny
When sharing a paid caregiver, you'll want a detailed agreement on how much each family will pay, how often payments will be required, how payments will be adjusted, if at all (for example, if a family goes on vacation and their child doesn't need care for a week, or a child "ages out" of the care arrangement), and what happens if a family doesn't pay on time.
If you're paying a nanny by the hour and you and the other family use exactly the same hours and have the same number of children, there's no issue about how you'll divide the cost—each family will pay half. But if one family uses the nanny more, one family has more children, or the nanny lives with one family and the other brings their child over for day care, you'll have to negotiate who pays what part of the salary and other expenses. Make sure your written agreement spells this out clearly.
How to Prepare an Agreement to Share Child Care
Here's a sample agreement between parents who will be sharing a nanny. Use this as a model in preparing your own agreement.
For more detailed information on preparing a nanny-share agreement and hiring an in-home nanny, including the legal and tax rules that apply, see Nannies & Au Pairs: Hiring In-Home Child Care, by Ilona Bray (Nolo).
Sample Agreement to Share Child Care
Sarah Graham and Barbara Marks agree that they will together hire a child care worker to care for their children. Sarah has two children, Jonathan and Eva, who are 2 and 3, respectively. Barbara has one child, Sophie, who is 3. We agree as follows:
- We will hire a caregiver for our three children, with child care beginning on June 1, 20xx. We'll find the caregiver together by asking friends and posting an advertisement on Craigslist. Barbara will draft the advertisement and Sarah will review it and take care of posting it. She'll also arrange for interviews with prospective caregivers on dates that we both agree on.
- The caregiver will provide care for all three children five days per week from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, care will be in Sarah's home and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in Barbara's home. Each of us will drop our child(ren) off for care at the other one's home on the appropriate days. The caregiver's responsibilities will be to play with the children, take them to the park at least three times per week, weather permitting, make sure they are fed and changed as appropriate, and make sure they have naps according to their schedules at any given time.
- We'll pay the caregiver $15 per hour. We'll pay every week at the end of the day on Friday for that week's hours. We'll deduct (and pay our share of) payroll taxes, and we'll pay for workers' compensation insurance. Sarah will research how to do all of this, set up our account with the Workers' Compensation Board, and research what forms we need for paying other taxes. We won't pay any other benefits, but we will give the caregiver a week (30 hours) off with pay every six months, which can be taken all together or by the day, as long as the caregiver gives us at least a week's notice of planned time off.
- We have set up a joint account at the Bank of America for the purpose of paying our caregiver. Each of us deposited $250 to start the account. Starting on June 1, 20xx, we each agree to deposit $1,000 per month on the first day of the month, to cover that month's expenses. We think this is more than what we'll actually need, but until we learn the cost of taxes and insurance, we'll continue to put in this amount. After six months, we'll decide whether we want to change the monthly contribution.
- If one person doesn't put in her contribution for one month, the other can put in the contribution for her and it will be considered a loan to the one who didn't pay. If the person who paid doesn't want to make the loan, then the person who didn't pay can't use the services of the caregiver until she pays her share. In that case, the person who paid has the right to decide whether or not she wants to terminate the caregiver's services.
- Each of us will make sure that snacks and lunch food are available at her house on the days the caregiver will be there. We'll get together and agree on a list of foods that both of us think are nutritious and okay for the kids to eat. We acknowledge that Sarah will be paying more for food because care is provided at her house three days per week; we've agreed that this balances out the fact that she has two children in care while Barbara only has one, so no adjustment will be made for the extra expense.
- We won't make any adjustments for days a child doesn't use the child care services.
- We agree to meet once a month over lunch to discuss how the child care system is working out.
- Our preference is that if disagreements arise between us that we can't work out ourselves, we'll try mediation (at our local community mediation center) before terminating this agreement. Each of us has the right to terminate this agreement at any time, but must provide at least two weeks' notice or pay for two weeks after ending her participation in the agreement.
- Each of us will maintain liability insurance on our residential property. We each are comfortable with the level of child-proofing in the other person's home, and feel both of our homes are safe environments for the children.
- We'll have a separate written agreement with the child care worker. Sarah agrees to research this and draft the agreement.
Signature:________________________ Date: ________
Signature:________________________ Date: ________