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Library & FAQs: Nanny Resources



So I am thinking about becoming a nanny...
Nanny Specific Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the subject area below for information to help on your job search. There is also a General FAQ addressing nannies and hiring families.

What is a nanny?: The International Nanny Association defines a nanny as one "employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children. Duties are generally restricted to childcare and the domestic tasks related to childcare. May or may not have had any formal training, though often has a good deal of actual experience. Nanny's work week ranges from 40 to 60 hours per week. Usually works unsupervised."

IMPORTANT! A TRUE nanny is more than a baby-sitter. The nanny job is the best paying childcare career - and for good reason! Nannies are expected to participate in the social, emotional, and intellectual development of their charges, and will work with the child(ren) on such areas a language development, potty training, social manners, homework, and more. A typical work day is 8-10 hours. Most families request that a nanny make a minimum commitment of one year to the job. This is to make sure that the children have continuity in their childcare. Candidates who do not feel that they can commit to a year might consider other types of childcare work until they are comfortable with the commitment.

Before you apply to become a nanny you should ask yourself the following questions to judge your suitability for the work:

  • Are you patient? Can you handle 8-10 hours on a stretch with a small child, perhaps with no other adult companionship? Are you reliable and trustworthy?
  • Are you flexible enough to perform your childcare responsibilities according to the family's rules?
  • Are you a self-starter with initiative who can organize his/her day to accomplish all required tasks, while not neglecting your charge(s)?
  • With children, things do not always go according to plan. Are you adaptable and flexible enough to change your routine to accommodate the sick child, for example, or the lost sneakers when you are on a deadline, without becoming upset?

Being a nanny is hard work, but very rewarding. Make sure you are ready for the realities.

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What are a family's general expectations?

Parents choose nanny care to provide their children with individualized, personalized care that is consistent with the child rearing philosophies of the parents. Being a nanny is a job, a demanding one. Parents generally expect that the nanny have a genuine interest in the well-being of their children, and that the nanny have or obtain the necessary information and skills to provide quality care.

Parents generally expect that an engaged nanny will:

  • Have the safety and well-being of the children as their primary concern while on duty.
  • Read to the child daily. Provide stimulating and educational play, crafts and other activities.
  • Model positive behavior for their children, including language and eating habits.
  • Communicate with the parents. They appreciate the nanny keeping a nanny log [see information in the nanny helpful forms and information area].
  • Arrive for work on time and ready to work. If a live-in, the parents do not expect to have to wake the nanny up for work each day.
  • Take the necessary steps to acquire needed training in areas such as CPR Certification, First Aid Training, and professional development.

Parents generally expect that an engaged nanny will not:

  • Spend the day watching TV instead of the children. OR Use the TV to baby-sit the children.
  • Spend time on personal telephone calls during work hours.
  • Run personal errands, meet and hang out with your friends, dragging your charge along.
  • Smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, consume drugs, or swear while on duty.

Each family has their own expectations and rules. Interview carefully, ask questions, and insist on a written employment agreement outlining the terms and conditions of employment.

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I am thinking of applying through a nanny agency. How does this work?

Reputable and established nanny referral agencies are highly skilled at pre-screening family requirements and referring candidates with the appropriate job skills for the specific job. Whether you are applying for your first nanny job, or looking for a very specific type of position, an experienced agency can help you. Nanny referral agencies charge families for their services; nanny candidates should not expect to pay any fees.

IMPORTANT! Check the agency out before committing to them. How long have they been in business? Are they members of either the International Nanny Association or the Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies? How many placements do they make each year? Do they help you network with other local nannies? These are all important questions to ask before you apply.

Working with an agency generally goes like this:

  • You fill out a job application.
  • You are interviewed by the agency (or their representative) either in person or over the telephone.
  • The agency will verify your personal references and previous employment. This may take several days to two weeks, depending on how cooperative and available your references are.
  • The agency will discuss one or more current job vacancies with you. If you are interested, they will refer you to the family. The family is generally provided a copy of your application and the results of your reference checks.
  • You will be called by the family. At this time you should be prepared to ask them about their position (hours, duties, salary and benefits, living accommodations if applicable), to describe themselves and their children, and general child rearing philosophies. You in turn will be asked many questions by the family. Personality match between nanny and family is VERY IMPORTANT! If you don't click, the contact may be dropped there.
  • You pass the initial telephone interview. The family may wish to arrange a meeting if you live locally or may make arrangements for you to come and spend a few days with the family if you live a great distance away. OR they may make you a contingent offer of employment.
  • The agency will order a background investigation from a private investigative agency to check for various negative facts about your background, including criminal records.
  • The agency should help you negotiate your work agreement, or contract. They can help you understand local salary conditions, benefits, and spell out all terms of employment. Use the agency in this capacity, but don't be afraid to think for yourself and express your needs.
  • Most agencies will check in with you after the first week or two of employment, and again after the first month. If you are having any problems, you should let the agency know so they can help you resolve issues. The agency should also provide you a list of other area nannies that they have placed so you can make some new friends.

Apply to Agencies Here!

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I am thinking of applying through an Internet nanny service. How does this work?

Internet nanny services are a relatively new entry to the nanny employment market. The first and largest such service is 4nannies.com

Working with an Internet nanny service generally goes like this:

  • You fill out an online job application. These tend to be extensive. Usually you need to upload a photo - try to have one available on your computer in jpg format, less than 30K in size.
  • You are encouraged to download and complete an employment application to have available for families. You should have a list of all references assembled at this time. It is best to have on your computer, so you can email the information to families.
  • The Internet nanny service does not personally prescreen families; rather they have families fill out an extensive questionnaire about their position, their family and the salary and benefits offered. You can view these positions online, and you contact the families directly per the website's instructions.
  • You may be called or emailed by the family. At this time you should be prepared to ask them to confirm their position (hours, duties, salary and benefits, living accommodations if applicable), to describe themselves and their children, and general child rearing philosophies. You in turn will be asked many questions by the family. Personality match between nanny and family is VERY IMPORTANT! If you don't click, the contact may be dropped there.
  • You pass the initial telephone interview. The family may wish to arrange a meeting if you live locally or may make arrangements for you to come and spend a few days with the family if you live a great distance away. OR they may make you a contingent offer of employment.
  • The family will generally order a background investigation from a private investigative agency to check for various negative facts about your background, including criminal records. 4nannies.com includes this check in the family service subscription.
  • You and the family will negotiate your work agreement, or contract. Don't be afraid to think for yourself and express your needs - this is a negotiation and usually there is some give and take on both sides. DO NOT COMPROMISE ON ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS! You deserve a fair wage, benefits, and a written work agreement.
  • If you are living at a distance, the family may arrange your transportation to their home to begin work.

We recommend that you make some scheduled time after the first week and again after the first month to meet with your employers. It is important that they have the opportunity to provide you feedback, and for you to be able to formally address any questions or issues. This prevents misunderstandings from festering and starts the relationship off in the right direction.

 WARNING! JOB SCAMS AND CRAIGSLIST! There are plenty of job scam techniques that target nannies. Be very careful. A good resource is the SCAMMERS WALL OF SHAME at 4nannies.com.

PREVIEW OPEN JOBS AT 4NANNIES.COM

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What is a job contract?: A job contract is simply a written summary of the terms of employment. It is also referred to as a 'work agreement.' Experts agree that every nanny and family should take the time to document the terms of employment. The work agreement, at a minimum, should address the following:

  • Work Schedule: Days and Hours
  • Compensation: Salary in gross terms, understanding on payroll taxes, pay frequency, and overtime compensation.
  • Holiday and Vacation Schedules: Nannies typically expect 2 weeks paid vacation, understanding that it often will be timed to coincide with family vacation schedules, and paid holidays. Sick day arrangements vary.
  • Childcare Duties : Be specific!
  • Housekeeping Duties : Be specific and realistic!

Live in nannies should also have a written agreement regarding the living arrangements. Items such as curfew [a touchy subject], phone bills, overnight guests, out of town guests, and privacy expectations [of both parties] should be articulated. If the family advanced the nanny airfare, a repayment or debt forgiveness schedule should be included.

DOWNLOAD Live In Nanny Work Agreement (PDF)

DOWNLOAD Live OUT Nanny Work Agreement (PDF)

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How can I improve my chances of getting a good job?: Employers recruiting a nanny are often working in a short time frame, and the faster they can verify your information the better. Here are some tips:

  • Download a nanny application form and complete immediately. Some agencies will require their own form, but this will collect most, if not all of the information you need and can really save time
  • Obtain written letters of recommendation from your references, both previous employers, as well as teachers, clergy, and long time adult acquaintances.
  • Document your knowledge. Take the Free Nanny Skills Assessment at 4NannyTraining.com
  • Go to your local DMV and obtain a copy of your driving record. If you are not licensed, this is the time to take care of that.
  • Have copies of your recent CPR and First Aid certifications. If your certification has expired, get into a class to update these skills.
  • Respond to agencies/families quickly. Be organized. Have your questions all lined up in advance. Use the interview forms on this website.

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I am thinking of taking a job with a family 400 miles away. My parents are worried about my safety.

This is a frequently overlooked concern in nanny employment and a nanny is wise to think this through before accepting a job offer. We hear so much about families being concerned about leaving their children in the care of a relative stranger; nannies considering relocating and living with their employer need to be just a cautious. Here are some tips:

  • Interview carefully! You should have at least two substantial telephone interviews before considering the job offer. It is your job to be prepared for these interviews ... and there are exhaustive interview tips on this web site. (Click Here)
  • Check family references. For the family who has had previous childcare, ask for the names and numbers of their previous caregivers. These can be former nannies, family daycare providers, or center-based care. Explain why you are calling and ask them questions. Would they consider taking this job, or having their daughter take it? Were they paid on time? Is there anything about the family that they think you should know?
  • If at all possible, visit the family in person. Ask a friend or family member to accompany you ... even if you have to drive all day to do so.
  • Trust your instincts. If there is anything about the job or the family that makes you uneasy, keep looking.
  • Have an escape plan. It is just foolish to consider moving hundreds of miles away without at least having either a friend nearby or enough money for a few nights in a motel, just in case. Call this insurance, and don't leave home without it!

The vast majority of families are honest and caring, looking for the best care for their children. The parents should not object to your thoroughness and thoughtful consideration to the job offer, but rather see it as indicative of the care and caution you will exercise as their child's caregiver. If a family objects to you asking questions, remember, there are many more families out there who will welcome them. You are an adult considering accepting an awesome responsibility for someone else's children; make sure you take responsibility for yourself too.

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I am not a US citizen but want to work in the United States. What is required?

Individuals applying for work in the United States must have:

  • US Citizenship. OR
  • A 'Green Card' - this means you are an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. OR
  • A valid work permit.

This web site is NOT affiliated with any US Au Pair Program. American families cannot legally hire a foreign national to work as a nanny in the United States without the appropriate visa. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a foreign nanny applicant to obtain either a US immigrant visa or a temporary work authorization in a timely manner.

Use this link to locate US Embassies and Consulates worldwide where visa information may be obtained.

US EMBASSY / CONSULATE DIRECTORY

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I am not a Canadian citizen but want to work in Canada. What is required?

Individuals applying for work in Canada must have:

  • Canadian Citizenship OR
  • A Valid Work Visa.

Highly qualified foreign nannies with good references can often obtain work permits to be employed in Canada, especially with the help of future employers. Visa processing for Canada takes about 4 months (according to the Canadian High Commission). But before a nanny's request for a visa will be entertained by the Canadian High Commission, the prospective employer needs the approval of HRDC. Some employers get their approval within two weeks while others take longer.

Visas are issued under terms of the the Foreign Live-In Caregiver Program. The family must generally demonstrate:

  • That reasonable efforts to recruit locally were unsuccessful.
  • They will satisfy HRDC that a satisfactory wage is being offered.
  • The employer will provide the nanny with adequate living accommodations.

The foreign nanny applicant must at a minimum:

  • have the equivalent of a Canadian High School education
  • have six months of full-time training or 12 month of experience working as a nanny or child care provider.
  • be able to speak read and understand either English or French.

Human Resources Development Canada

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Can I be a nanny just for the summer? Yes, many families with elementary school aged children recruit and hire summer nannies. It is rare to find a summer only nanny job with infants and toddlers. The 'summer nanny' job tends to be a cross between a day camp director, summer tutor, and big sister/brother. The summer nanny is generally responsible for organizing the children's activities, including pool, play dates, bike riding, crafts, library visits and more. The summer nanny often finds herself acting as a tutor or reading buddy, scheduling daily reading activities, or other academic enrichment activities for up to an hour a day, to reinforce academic skills.

The summer nanny is only slightly less structured than a full time professional nanny position. Most summer nannies keep a nanny log as a record for the parents of the day's activities. Housekeeping responsibilities tend to be general maintenance - making beds, doing dishes, wiping down kitchen, children's laundry, and other 'light' housekeeping. Because most summer nanny positions involve school aged children, the summer nanny generally supervises a lot of this ... the children themselves can make a bed, pick up toys, put their dishes in the dishwasher, even help sort and fold clothes.

Families recruit summer nannies in a variety of ways. Few placement agencies work with a summer nanny referral, and those that do tend to be located in natural resort areas ... Cape Cod, Hilton Head and the like, catering to summer families. 4nannies.com, an Internet nanny referral service, has many summer nanny jobs and applicants. Newspapers and word of mouth are other excellent alternatives. Many summer nannies live far from home for the summer, combining employment with the ability to explore a different part of the country, and for college students pursuing degrees related to children (early childhood development, education, etc.) this is an excellent resume item.

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I cannot afford airfare to where I want to work. Can I apply anyway?: Yes, you may certainly apply! Many families will agree to hire a nanny who lives at a distance. For example, the nanny may live in Oklahoma, and the family may be in Boston. It is customary for the family to advance the nanny's transportation expense, with the understanding that the nanny will reimburse the family out of the first several paychecks (usually about $50 per week). This may not be airfare, as more economical transportation may be available such as bus or train.

Many families will offer to reimburse these transportation expenses to the nanny after she has worked for the full year agreed to. This is a form of bonus to the nanny. If the nanny leaves before the year is out, it is generally at her expense. All issues regarding the transportation expenses should be clearly spelled out in the work agreement, so there is never a "he said...you said" kind of exchange.

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I smoke. Is that a problem?: Yes, this may in fact be a problem. When surveyed, 89% of families state that they would not hire the nanny who smokes. Many non-smoking households will consider a nanny who smokes but agrees never to smoke while on duty or in the presence of the children. Be honest about this...non-smokers can usually detect when someone smokes. Second-hand smoke is unhealthy for children, and families are within their rights to insist that their home be smoke-free.

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Do I need a driver's license?: Most families require that the nanny be able to drive the children, whether to play dates, the doctors office, or to preschool. It is a good idea that you obtain your driver's license before applying for a nanny job. If you do not drive, you will find the greatest success looking for a position with a family in a major metropolitan area with established public transit - New York City is an example.

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How old do you have to be to become a nanny?: 18 is generally the minimum age that a family will accept for a nanny candidate. Many will not accept the candidate under 20. If you are younger, you may consider a year or two of work in a day care center, preschool, or similar environment to gain experience.

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I am going on a job interview. What do I need to know?

This is a topic that cannot just be covered here in a FAQ! We have PAGES of suggested interview questions here at this site. Start here. And remember, this is an interview and appearances are important. You should be dressed just as neatly as you would be for a day on the job. Panty hose and heels are not required, but a clean, neat conservative top and slacks are appropriate. Something a baby could burp on and that you can stay modestly covered if you get on the floor to play with legos.

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What does the family mean when they say they are doing a 'background check'?: Most families insist that a nanny's background be verified before extending a firm offer of employment. If you are applying through an agency, the staff there will generally call all personal references and employment references to verify the information you supplied on your application. They will often do some of this before even interviewing you in person, or it may follow the personal interview. Assuming that all of your references are in order, the agency may then refer you to one or more families for consideration. When the family decides that you are the candidate they are looking for, they will generally make a 'contingent' offer of employment. This means they are offering you a specific job, and you discuss responsibilities, start date, and compensation contingent on your background check coming back clean. If you accept the job, the agency will generally order and pay for a background check. Items checked may include your Social Security Number history, your criminal record, your credit record (bankruptcy or how responsibly you handle credit are looked at), and sometimes even drug/infectious disease screening will be done (at the family's/agency's expense). Most families will insist that you obtain a copy of your driving record (DUIs and speeding violations are not good); you can do this at any DMV office in your state. If there are no skeletons in your closet, the employment offer will be binding.

Knowing that your background will be scrutinized, you should fully disclose any potential problems in your application or in your interview. It is better to explain that you got a speeding ticket two years ago and have learned your lesson before the agency and family finds out about it themselves.

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How much are nannies paid? What is a fair wage?: Nanny wages vary across the United States. The following are some general weekly wage guidelines assuming a 45-50 hour work week and one or two children. All figures are in US dollars and representative of Year 2007 wages:

  • 18 - 20 years old, or less than 2 years verifiable child care experience - $325-$450 live-in; $8-12 hour live-out.
  • 21 years or older, 2 or more years verifiable child care experience, no prior nanny experience (note that college education puts you to the higher end of the salary range) - $450-$600 live-in; $10-18 hour live-out.
  • Two or more years of nanny experience, and/or a college degree in a child related field - $450-800 live-in; $10-20 hour live-out, higher in major metro markets.

These figures are just guidelines, local job market and specific employment conditions cause considerable variation. Be aware that these are "gross wage" figures, before payroll taxes have been deducted. You can use the payroll tax calculator at Home/Work Solutions Inc., a nanny payroll and tax service, to compute your take home pay.

Most full time nannies are salaried. American nannies expect one to two weeks paid vacation annually, and you should negotiate and document sick days in your employment agreement. If the family takes vacation and you do not go along, you should expect to receive your full pay. You may be asked to house-sit or care for pets during this time - if so this is certainly not your vacation time. Live in nannies receive room and board, and generally the use of a family auto. You do not 'pay' for these via deductions, they are just part of the package.

Apply Online to Nanny Placement Agencies

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4nannies.com Helps You Find a Job Without a Nanny Agency