Choosing a childcare provider can be a complicated process, with many factors—and emotions—coming into play. The good news is, there are experts who can help you find the right fit and offer guidance and peace of mind along the way. Recently, we reached out to one such resource, Jess Vanhook, owner of the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based Jess’ Way Nanny Agency, to discuss how to find the ideal nanny for your family. From the qualities to look for in a caregiver to how to establish a positive and productive working relationship, here is her expert advice.
Consider the benefits of working with an agency. While you can certainly try to hire a nanny on your own, there are benefits to working with a service that go beyond just the interviewing stage. In addition to taking the guesswork out of finding the right fit by conducting careful interviews and background and reference checks, a nanny agency can help in clearly establishing boundaries and house rules, and serve as an intermediary should any issues arise.
Know the key qualities you’re looking for. Jess’ Way nannies all meet a basic list of requirements that includes at least three years of experience, infant and adult CPR certification, first aid training, quality references and letters of recommendation, and reliable transportation. But that’s just the beginning. “An ideal nanny will be punctual, patient, flexible, and have good communication skills and leadership qualities,” she says. You want the person caring for your child(ren) to be cool and collected in any situation, whether they’re dealing with an emergency or waiting for a little one to tie their shoes. Communication is important since, as a parent, you’ll want your nanny to share how and what your child is doing, as well as offer friendly suggestions—which is where leadership qualities also come into play. Often, parents (especially new parents) are looking to the nanny to help establish routines and offer tips and advice, so it’s helpful to have a nanny who takes initiative. Finally, flexibility is a must, as things inevitably come up in a parent’s schedule that make it impossible to get home at an exact time.
Be sure to talk about emergency scenarios. While no parent wants to think about the possibility of their child being in an emergency situation, Vanhook says that the most important question you can ask during an interview with a prospective nanny is, What do you do in case of an emergency? “I’m not looking for ‘call the parent’ or ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I’m looking for ‘call 911 or take the child to the doctor,’” she says. “If the child fell and you think they broke their arm, then you’d take the child first to the hospital, and call the mom on the way. Being able to take that leadership is so important.” Of course, as a parent, you want to be notified as soon as possible, but that shouldn’t prevent or delay the nanny from taking necessary action in the moment.
Set everyone up for success. “The first thing we discuss are boundaries, house rules, and expectations,” Vanhook says of her initial conversations with parents who are in search of a nanny. She discusses how the house runs, their parenting philosophy, anything particular they might want the nanny to work on, etc., and then makes sure everything is reflected in the contract and gone over verbally with the caregiver. “When you do that, it makes things so much easier. It makes it easier for me to find the perfect nanny for you,” Vanhook says. Being open with feedback throughout your relationship with the nanny is also important. “Always say how you feel, and don’t overlook behaviors in the child that you want to see changed,” she notes. Another pro tip: install security cameras. “It keeps everyone safe, and you can check in whenever you want,” she says. Last but not least, give your nanny a chance to learn and adapt to your family. She recommends an adjustment period of a month, unless there are major issues.
Involve your children in the process. Want to get a true read on how a potential nanny will interact with your child? Vanhook recommends bringing them to the second interview. “A lot of times I’ll take my nephew with me to interviews so I can watch the candidates’ faces, which give you a lot of intel on their reactions and how they’ll act when they are with your child,” she says. She also recommends checking in with your kids daily and listening carefully to their responses, staying attuned to the progress they’re making. “You should be able to see positive changes in them with the right nanny,” she notes.
Photography by Bohio Fine Art Photography. TSG Tip 332 from Jess Vanhook, owner of Jess’ Way in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Jess’ Way is featured in The Scout Guide Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill.