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For some families with young children, getting an opening in a childcare center or family daycare can be as scarce as acceptance into an Ivy League college. In fact, in most urban cities, the availability of openings, particularly for infants and toddlers, can't meet demand. For others, family caregivers aren't an option when they go back to work. So, what's a parent to do? Either put together a patchwork of care with family, friends and neighbors—or hire a nanny.

While many experts agree that nannies can provide safe, responsible and loving care for children, the reality is the nanny market is unlicensed and unregulated. Unlike someone working in a preschool or family daycare, there is no government agency ensuring that a nanny has met the most basic requirements for experience, health, safety and criminal background checks. Parents need to do their due diligence when hiring a nanny.

Here are tips to do it right and find the right match for your family.

1. Know your needs before you start the search

Determine the hours and days you'll need care, including potentially working additional hours on evenings and weekends as needed. To start the search, check current hourly rates for nannies in your area to ensure your childcare budget can pay a livable wage. Remember that nannies are hourly wage employees and must be paid for all hours worked, including overtime.

Then, determine the amount and kind of childcare experience you'd like required. Set realistic expectations about responsibilities and prioritize these. Establish clear conditions of employment—maybe you want your nanny to have current CPR/First Aid certification, TB test clearance, TiDaP and MMR vaccinations, a valid driving license, clean driving record and receive criminal background check clearance.

Start the process early to give yourself enough time to find the right match–It can take about four to six weeks to hire a nanny.

2. Create a thoughtful and informed hiring process

Write up a job description using the schedule, responsibilities and requirements for employment. You can get out the word out to friends, colleagues, mother's groups and even sites online. Make sure you do a thorough screening for every candidate—review resumes for relevant childcare experience, talk to at least three references and gather documents, like vaccinations or certifications.

Once you have a few qualified candidates, interview four or five and then conduct a secondinterview with the two best candidates. For the candidate you most prefer, go through a couple week trial period to see how your family and the nanny work together. Trials are scheduled, paid and you essentially 'train' your nanny on your child's care, where child-related activities are in the home and throughout the neighborhood.

During the trial, your nanny will also your health, safety and background check requirements. If it feels like a good fit, you can draft and present a written contract that includes their schedule, responsibilities, compensation and benefit terms.

At the end of the trial, review and sign the contract with your nanny if everything goes well. Make sure to provide everything she needs to handle medical emergencies and manage police, fire and disasters in your area.

3. Establish a standard of care and best practices

Create a 'Rules of the House' policy statement on safety and communication so expectations are set from the start. Make sure your nanny knows (you may put this in the contract) your child is never to be left unattended, go with anyone, anywhere, in any car or house unless you know ahead of time and give explicit permission.

They should always be available to you by cell phone. Establish a policy on use of social media and privacy—consider if you're okay with them posting photos or if you'd prefer them to avoid that. Make sure she knows how to handle medical emergencies, where the pediatrician, after-office clinic and hospital emergency room is located near your home. And, to prepare ahead of time, give them a form authorizing medical care to start right away if you can't get there to give the go-ahead.

4. Create a collaborative working relationship

Recognize that nannies strive to create positive relationships with parents and with the children they care for. If the nanny-parent relationship is healthy, then good care happens.

You are working together to ensure your child gets the best care possible. Look to them for ideas, opinions and advice and let them know you appreciate how they care for your child. Above all, talk openly and respectfully about your working relationship, particularly the schedule, compensation and your child's behavior.

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