A nanny is a professional carer who looks after children in the children’s own home.
Many parents like the idea of their child being cared for in their own home. You might also find that using a nanny:
- is a more flexible arrangement than formal child care
- reduces family stress when you’re leaving for work, because your child is staying at home
- saves money, if you have more than one child
- suits your hours of work better than other types of child care
- is better if you have a child with disability who doesn’t cope well with transitions between home and child care or who does well with one-on-one care.
The right nanny for your family will:
- be available when you need care
- have child care experience, qualifications and references
- be trustworthy and reliable
- get along well with your child
- follow your routines for things like sleep and mealtimes
- use the same strategies you use to encourage good behaviour.
Our article on employing a nanny covers practicalities like writing a job description, drawing up an employment contract, and working out pay, insurance and superannuation.
How to find a nanny
You could start by asking other parents or your friends whether they know someone suitable.
Nannies often advertise on noticeboards at child care centres, local schools, community centres, universities, libraries or local shops. You could also try looking in your local newspaper or online.
You can also use a formal employment agency to find a nanny. Agencies conduct police checks and make sure the people on their books are of good character via reference checks.
The nanny’s availability and other practical issues
When you’re looking for a nanny, it’s important to be clear about what you need and want from a nanny.
You might want to consider things like:
- whether you need a nanny during the working week, on weekends or in the evenings
- how stable your hours are – for example, do you work variable hours?
- who the hours might suit – for example, will your hours suit a university student, or are they more suitable for someone with a part-time job who wants extra hours?
- what the nanny’s duties will be – for example, do you expect the nanny to focus on caring for your child or also to do things like driving your child to activities, and cooking and cleaning for your family?
- where the nanny will live – for example, will the nanny live in your house, or stay only when you need overnight care?
The nanny’s experience
To find a nanny who’s the right fit for your family, you could ask about experience. For example:
- How long has the nanny worked in child care as a carer?
- What kinds of situations has the nanny worked in?
- Has the nanny worked with other children the same age as yours?
- How many children has the nanny worked with at the one time?
The nanny’s qualifications and references
All nannies should have a current first aid certificate and a state or territory working with children check. You might also want a nanny with qualifications in early childhood.
You need to be able to trust your nanny. Ensure that your nanny supplies references from previous employers. Make sure you check them thoroughly.
The nanny’s rapport with your children
The right nanny for your family will be someone who gets along well with your children.
You can get a sense of whether a nanny will get along with your children by asking about how the nanny:
- builds positive relationships with children
- encourages learning and development through play and other activities.
Trial sessions can also help you see whether the nanny and your children will get on. And trial sessions can help the nanny decide whether your situation will suit them.
Many agencies provide a nanny on a trial basis first. If you’re employing a nanny privately, you can set up a couple of trial sessions yourself. Remember to offer a payment for this trial session.
If you have a trial session, make time afterwards to talk with the nanny about the session. It’s good to discuss:
- what went well
- what changes would need to happen for the situation to work
- what information or resources you and the nanny need to make a final decision.
Nanny-sharing is when two families with similar needs share the one nanny.
You might already know a family interested in sharing with you from your workplace, neighbourhood or social circles. Otherwise, some agencies will help families connect. You could also search for nanny-sharing organisations online.
If you’re thinking about nanny-sharing, you might want to consider:
- how many children in total you want a nanny to care for
- how many children one nanny can take in a car – if you want the nanny to drive the children places
- how many children one nanny can safely take on outings like trips to the park
- whether you prefer the other children to be around the same age as your children
- where the care would take place – at your house, the other family’s house or a combination of the two
- how far you’re willing to travel if some, or all, of the care will be at the other family’s house.
Once you’ve found another family to nanny-share with, it’s a good idea to talk about your approaches to routines, rules, food and nutrition and so on. If you and the other family have any differences, it’s good to sort them out early. This can avoid stress for everyone.
You might be able to use the Australian Government’s In Home Care program to help with the cost of home-based child care by an educator who meets minimum qualification requirements. You have to be working non-standard or variable hours, be geographically isolated or have complexities or challenges within your family.