I am always asked “How is your agency different?” and I always reply, “Where do I start?!” I think there are many things to consider when you are looking for an agency that can best suit your specific family needs. Each family is different and that is why families have choices in working with a reputable agencies, take the stress off the parents and feel comfortable in the process.
The best place to start would be gathering information from every avenue, from online data bases to high end boutique agencies and everything in between. Start asking every question you can think of and take notes.
CALL AND COMPARE
Local nanny referral agencies can be found in publications, online, and in the local yellow pages.
One of the best ways to be referred to a local nanny or domestic staffing agency is by someone who has already used their service and had a positive experience.
Just because you have seen a nanny agency’s advertising all over the place, do not assume they are the best in town.
Professional nanny agencies should take the time to invest in a dialogue with you, so that you feel comfortable, leaving you with all questions answered.
Ask the agency representative questions regarding their background and philosophy in connecting Nannies and Families within the community!
Make sure their answers resonate with your own thoughts on the matter.
Be detailed in your requests about the company, and ask about the clients and nannies that use their service.
For example, who are the nanny agency owners and what are their backgrounds in?
How did they get involved in the industry?
What are their personal credentials as well as their agencies?
How have they gained their reputation?
How do they stay in tune with their industry?
Do they attend the INA conference and network with one another for the better of their community?
Are they involved in the community in other ways?
What larger affiliations are they associated with (APNA and INA)?
Are they child centered?
Are they knowledgeable about making sure the nanny candidates are aware of the specific ages and stages of the child’s development, so the candidates the agency sends over are appropriate?
What are the minimum requirements of the agency’s nannies and what skill sets should they have?
Are the nannies required to be CPR/First Aid Certified?
Can they help answer questions about taxes and payroll? If they cannot, can they direct you to the appropriate resources that are known in the industry to help with taxes, such as Breedlove and GTM?
HOW DOES IT WORK?
What is the general modus operandi of the nanny agency regarding their interviewing process?
How does the agency screen their candidates?
How do they screen their prospective clients/families?
If the agency has online forms be sure to find out if they also have face-to-face interviews as well.
Does the agency ask a nanny for a resume?
Are the nannies required to supply the agency with references, if so what kind?
This actually might include references for both parties in the process.
The agency should be concerned with connecting a nanny and family based on not just skill set and knowledge base, but demographic, longevity at positions, comments from the references in which the agency spoke with, and personality!
SAFETY & “IN HOUSE” VISITS:
Ask if the agency does an “In House” visit. This is a crucial part of the process in finding the most appropriate match, making both the nanny and family experience a positive one, as well as this approach initiates a quick and accurate placement for both nanny and family.
An agency representative will visit the home to assess the family’s own, personal family dynamic, as each family is unique!
The “over the phone” process is a typical scenario when using a nanny agency, however it is usually worth a little more money (if the agency fee is a slightly higher one) if a representative can come into the family home to see the children in their home environment.
This is also a sure way to guarantee the nanny’s safety.
The nanny agency you decide to work with should offer background checks.
This should include the minimum of, a Social Security trace, leading to every county the candidate has lived in, and a County Criminal check in every county they have ever resided in.
The background check should also include a Department of Motor Vehicle report.
Some agencies will also offer a drug screening, sometimes at an extra cost to the client, including consent from the nanny, depending on what state they reside in.
All states have different laws. Please make sure to check with the Department of Social Services in your state.
What are the agency’s fees and why?
Why do some agencies ask for a percentage of the nannies salary vs. flat rate nanny agencies? (Remember that location and demographic of where you live may have an impact.)
Does the agency require the nanny pay them as well?
Sometimes a percentage of the hours worked by the nanny are paid to the agency.
Many times, the fee schedule of the agency can also dictate what level of service you can expect.
For families, ask if the nanny agency charges an upfront, non-refundable retainer and what is it for.
Does the retainer get rolled into the final agency fee or is it extra?
What are the benefits to both for you and your family’s budget for choosing an agency that charges “one month’s nanny salary” vs. a “percentage” vs. a “flat rate” agency?
Many agencies that charge flat rates are very appealing to the wallet, however they might be so inundated with clients, that they might not be able to give you the personalized service that both nanny and client deserve.
Remember this should be a very intimate process in which can take time, so give your self several weeks ahead to find the perfect nanny for your family.
What are the agency’s policies with their guarantee?
Note that because an agency offers a longer guarantee on their placement, does not mean anything. This is a fabulous marketing tool to get your business.
Agencies that take the time upfront to make sure the nanny is a perfect match for the client ahead of time, their guarantee really does not have to be longer than 3 months, as a nanny or a parent will know if the fit is not comfortable within 3 weeks!
If the nanny that is hired decided to leave within a certain time frame, does the agency replace the nanny for no charge?
How are the nannies secured within their positions? Nannies need to know they are supported by the agency and if their positions are secure with a contract.
As nannies are required to make a commitment to the family in whom they are placed with, nannies also need to know there are always open lines of communication and a commitment from the family that employs them.
This is assured within a nanny agency that is supportive of contractual documents that are offered as part of the agency process! Ask and see if the agency uses a nanny/family work agreement to help foster open lines of communication as both nanny and family have responsibilities to one another.
Using a nanny agency that has a good reputation in the community is a great place to start the agency process, so do your research! The questions I have mentioned will hopefully help insure that your nanny/ family partnership will be as efficient, productive and successful as possible: as we all wish for happy homes, nannies, families and of course… happy children!
Written by, Dara B. Green, Nanny over 25 years, Preschool Teacher, Nanny Agency Owner