Web Expands In-Home Child Care Options for a Price
by Suzanne Koup-Larsen
When you set out to find child care in your home, you have a choice. Do you do most of the legwork yourself or pay an agent to do the work for you?
In-home child care options include babysitters, nannies and au pairs. Because the person you hire will be left alone in your home with children, background screening of candidates is key. And you’ll have to pay the caregiver wages once you’ve found the right one.
The old-fashioned way to find a caregiver was to post a sign in a public place and see who might be interested. These days, just as you can use the Internet to find a date or shop, websites can be useful tools in finding in-home childcare. According to SitterCity.com founder and Langhorne, PA native Genevieve Thiers, babysitting websites work “like an online dating service for parents and sitters.” In addition to finding a sitter, the Web can also help you screen potential candidates.
Before you go online, you need to decide how much child care you need, and what type of caregiver you want. Is your childcare need occasional or do you need full-time, consistent care? Do you want someone who’s merely willing and available, or a professional? Do you think a
person from another country will enhance the experience for your child?
After that’s decided, you need to consider how much time and money you have to spend on the hiring process aside from the caregiver’s wages. Do you have the time and inclination to do the research or would you rather pay someone else to do the work?
While websites are a great source of information, be forewarned. “A website is a tool. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t,” says Jane Delman, owner of the Nanny Connection in Narberth, PA.
The Web can be a great money-saver if you can’t afford agency fees, but remember, the onus is on you to know whom you’re inviting into your home to care for your children.
U.S. Dept. of State List of Designated
Nannies make more than other types of in-home caregivers and it also costs more to find one. Nanny agencies charge application fees of $75 to $200 as well as a placement fee of at least $2,000 once the nanny is hired. The consensus is that you’re paying for the cream of the crop in childcare. “Nannies are more professional, more educated, and more experienced,” says ANannyontheNet’s Amy Hardison.
While you can use the Internet as a tool to sort through information about nanny agencies or to submit an application, generally you need an agency to find a reputable nanny. In addition, “agencies are for people who don’t have a lot of time,” says Melissa McIntire, co-owner of the American Domestic Agency in Wilmington, DE.
The money you pay an agency ensures the nanny is experienced and has already interviewed with someone face to face.
According to Lisa Diehl, owner of ABC Nanny Source, an agency serving PA and NJ, “You don’t have to worry about qualifications once you hire a nanny agency. Then you are just looking for a personality fit.”
In addition, nanny agency candidates have passed extensive background screening, generally including: criminal record, DMV record, Social Security trace, and drug testing.
Though babysitters can be hired full-time, they are generally considered a short-term fix. According to SitterCity.com, $10.25 is the average going hourly rate for a babysitter in the Philadelphia area. Of course, the rate varies depending on the age and experience of the sitter, the number of children to care for and other special considerations.
Most nanny agencies do not place babysitters, so references from people you know and the Web are the usual starting points for finding a sitter. Websites generally offer detailed information about babysitter candidates, such as age, experience and sometimes a photo.
Additional information, such as contact information and background checks, if available, cost extra (usually $10 to $40 per month). Some babysitter websites offer background checks, but usually the onus is on you to do the screening, so read carefully and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.
Au pairs are young people, usually age 18-26, who come to the U.S. from another country to care for children in exchange for lodging with a host family. Their pay ($158 per week) and the number of hours they can work per week (no more than 45 hours per week or 10 hours per day) are regulated by the U.S. Depart?ment of State.
While au pairs are young, they do have childcare experience and must be proficient in English before coming to the U.S. Most families hire au pairs because they want the cultural experience for their children, such as the opportunity to learn another language, cuisine and customs in their own homes.
While a Google online search produces dozens of au pair websites, there are only 12 organizations designated by the Department of State to bring au pairs to the U.S. Make sure you are dealing with one of the designated agencies by visiting the Department of State website.
Like nanny agencies, au pair organizations charge a placement fee of about $7,200, which includes roundtrip airfare and an orientation program for the au pair. However, “hosting an au pair is extremely affordable,” argues Heidi Woehl, Vice President of AuPairCare.com. The costs average out to about $300 per week for a year.
Suzanne Koup-Larsen is a local freelance writer.