All about nannies

Today more than 71 percent of women with children are in the labor force according to U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ninety percent of these families use some kind of childcare while working. Daycare centers and babysitters are common childcare options. However, a growing trend in the Pittsburgh area is hiring a nanny.

Difference between nanny and sitter
One might ask what the difference is between a babysitter and a nanny. Terry Leblanc, who has held positions as a sitter, preschool aide and nanny, feels not only does a nanny spend more time with the children; she is more involved and has more interaction. “A nanny doesn’t tend the kids like they were her own,” says Leblanc. “She models what the parents want for their own kids.”
A nanny acts as an extension of the parent or a fill-in for the parent, says long-time nanny Linda Cannon. Nannies take the kids to doctor’s appointments, sports practices, play dates and school events. Nannies cook meals, help with homework and manage the household while mom and dad are working.
LeBlanc sums up the difference, a sitter is there for the kids and a nanny is there for the parents.
How to find a nanny
Families can find a nanny through a number of resources, including agencies, professional referrals such as your doctor’s office, religious connections and word-of- mouth recommendations. Other resources include National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting national policies that support the development and learning of all children and International Nanny Association, which provides information, education and guidance to the public and industry professionals. Both of these organizations can be found online at and  
Agencies act as matchmakers, matching the family’s needs to the nanny that would fit best. Both the family and nanny are asked to fill out a questionnaire. Some questionnaires can be very in-depth and nine or ten pages long. Additionally, both the family and nanny are interviewed by the agency’s staff. Most agencies charge an application fee of around $100. Once a nanny is placed with a family, the agency will usually charge a placement fee upwards of $1,000 or more.
To find a local agency, look in your telephone book or do an Internet search on Google by typing “nanny agency” and “Pittsburgh” in the keyword search box. Or check out the member list on or 
Personal recommendations, whether they’re from professional sources or word-of-mouth from a neighbor, can be a comforting way to finding the right nanny for your family. If you have a large networking or social circle, you will probably have more options than someone who has recently moved to the area. Be sure to let everyone know you’re looking for a nanny. Ask family and friends to put the word out. That’s how Cannon found her first nanny position. A church member told her of a young mom with triplets who was looking for a nanny. Thirteen years later, Cannon is still with the family.   
Be sure to research the logistics, too. If you’re hiring a nanny on your own, visit for interview questions, contracts, tax facts and more. Some things to consider include:
     • How much will the nanny cost?
     • Will you need to offer paid time off for vacation and sick days? 
     • Is there a probation period for both the family and nanny? 
     • Is there a contract to sign?
     • Will you offer a yearly increase in pay?
Before you hire anyone, Donna Serro, with 20 plus years as a nanny, offers some solid advice. Get a criminal background check on anyone you hire, such as Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance and Pennsylvania Criminal History Record. “Know who you are hiring,” says Serro. “Remember, your baby can’t tell you what is going on in the household so whoever you hire, you need to be comfortable with that person taking care of your baby.”
Getting ready for nanny  
One thing parents should keep in mind is a nanny has her own schedule, too. Although she might be able to come earlier and leave later for special circumstances, she might not be able to do that on a constant basis, says Leblanc. “Make sure you have already agreed on a daily schedule,” suggests Leblanc.
You’ll need to create a nanny folder, too. Include contact information for your workplace, doctors, dentist, police, paramedics, family, trusted neighbors and any other emergency numbers. Write down garage door codes and alarm codes you might have. Make sure you have any extra house key made for your new nanny.
Additionally, include your child’s daily routine for eating and napping. Include a weekly calendar for special tasks or errands that need to be completed, says LeBlanc. Make a list of things that can calm your child from soft music to a favorite toy. Keep a diaper bag or other bag with essentials packed for the nanny. The more information you provide your nanny the easier the transition into your family’s life will be for everyone.
One final thought
Remember to tell your nanny how much she means to you and your family and how much you appreciate the fact that she is taking care of your precious child for you.
Mary Jo Rulnick is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh and the author of The Frantic Woman Guides.