Care in Your Own Home: Nannies and Au-Pairs

Some parents may prefer the one-on-one contact that an in-home provider can offer. A nanny works on a live-in or live-out basis performing child care and some minimal household duties. Usually unsupervised during the day, the nanny generally has a 40-60 hour work week. Check with an accountant or tax professional to learn about taxes you may be required to pay.

An au pair lives as an extended member of the family and provides up to 45 hours of in-home care per week. Au pairs cannot be left alone overnight with children or alone with an infant under the age of three months; they do not do housework that does not relate to the care of children. The au pair program in the United States is closely regulated by the State Department; it is intended to be a cross-cultural exchange program with a child care component.

Many of the guidelines for center-based care apply for care in your home, but there are additional issues that should be addressed.

  • Interview the prospective caregiver at least twice. Ask for and speak to at least two or three references.
  • Conduct a criminal background check with the Illinois State Police, and a DCFS Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) check. In order to do a CANTS check, the prospective employee must sign a release form giving permission.
  • Offer “what if” scenarios on discipline, eating habits, etc., to discover responses on how the caregiver would handle different situations.
  • Make sure your caregiver understands and is comfortable with your rules, expectations, discipline guidelines, and parenting philosophy. Also, help your caregiver establish his/her authority with your child.
  • Make sure that your caregiver has a signed consent form that allows medical treatment.
  • Draw up a specific contract outlining expected duties, hours, salary, paid vacation and sick leave. Include parental obligations and set up periodic review dates. Many websites have sample nanny contracts.
  • Observe the caregiver’s interaction with your child routinely and without advance notice.
  • As your child grows older, consider whether your caregiver will adapt to changing demands and responsibilities.