The disadvantage with an agency is the expense. Some agencies charge a flat fee, which may start at $1,000 or more. Other agencies may charge a percentage of the nanny's salary, in some cases up to 25%. Usually, the fee is payable upon the signing of an employment agreement, or sometimes after the nanny has been employed for a certain period of time, such as ninety days.
There are a number of ways to locate a nanny on your own and save all those fees. Finding your own in-home caregiver, however, can be a great deal of work. You may have to advertise for help or search advertisements of nannies looking for positions. If you find a candidate who appears to be suitable, you will have to research her background thoroughly.
If you are not familiar with any reputable nanny agencies, you should be able to locate some in the Yellow Pages of your telephone directory. Look under "Nanny Services." The Internet is another good resource for agencies. Some agencies will be local, and the nannies they place already live in your area. Other agencies operate nationwide, and can connect you with nannies from out of state as well as close to home. This will give you a greater pool of candidates from which to choose, but you probably will be required to pay an out-of-state nanny's relocation costs.
As already mentioned, agencies can make the screening process much easier for you. Aside from the background checks the agencies perform, they also can take into account your preferences regarding the personality and other attributes of your nanny. For example, if you prefer a caregiver who is an outgoing person to someone with a quiet, introverted disposition, an agency can provide you with a pool of candidates with the desired quality. This will save you the effort of weeding out incompatible applicants on your own.
Having a nanny whose personality fits in with your family is important under any circumstances, but it is especially important if you are looking for a live-in caregiver. Not only do your children have to spend a great deal of time with the nanny, but if she is living under your roof, so will you. It is difficult having a nonfamily member residing in your household day in and day out, even a conscientious and agreeable one. If the nanny's demeanor does not match your preferences, it could make for a difficult living situation.
Aside from the day-to-day routine your family will share with the nanny, you may want to take her along on family outings and vacations so that she can provide childcare for you while you are on the road. For that reason, it is not just a personality match you will want to look for. You will want your nanny to share some of the same interests as well. If your family is an outdoorsy bunch, a nanny that prefers needlepoint to hiking and biking might not be the best candidate. Again, a good agency will have profiles of its nannies and will keep you from wasting your valuable time interviewing unsuitable candidates.