Thursday, 7 May 2015

Securing affordable childcare is an ongoing challenge for many families.

While hiring an in-home sitter may be the most desirable solution, it isn't always feasible. But growing numbers of parents are finding that by joining together to share a nanny, they can split the costs and provide the sitter with plenty of work hours.

"Caregiver sharing is a growing trend," says Lindsay Bell, president of New York City-based Bell Family Company, one of the largest sitter referral services in New York. "Sharing offers more flexibility and at the same time, it gives the family consistency. As long as the family is organized and does it right, a nanny share can offer an easy, more affordable option in childcare."

If sharing the expenses of a nanny sounds like a good idea, follow these four steps to get started.

Is nanny sharing is right for you?

Nanny sharing doesn't work for everyone: "Many families who hire nannies do so because they need the flexibility of having a nanny," says Michelle LaRowe, executive director of Houston-based Morningside Nannies. "When you share a nanny, that flexibility can be reduced. You're depending on another source to make the child care arrangement work, after all."

However, nanny sharing can work well for families who may need sitters during opposite hours on a part-time basis, or for those whose children get along well and could take turns spending time at each other's homes with one nanny in charge. A nanny share isn't the same as having your own full-time nanny at your disposal, but it's close.

Select a partner family

If you think a nanny share will be a good fit for your family, the next step is to find another family with whom to share. Think about your friends, co-workers and acquaintances and whether any of them may have childcare needs that would complement yours. Ask other parents you know if they can recommend other families who may be interested in sharing. Consider using an online matching service such as DomestiShare.

When selecting a partner family, think about whether you "live near each other, have children of similar ages with similar care needs, have similar schedules and share similar parenting philosophies before considering a nanny share arrangement," LaRowe says.

Determine logistics

When you find a family to share a nanny with, you'll have plenty of details to work out together. Consider where care should take place, what happens if a child - or the nanny - is sick, and how much each family will be responsible for paying. Also think about who will provide food and supplies, and who the main point of contact for the employers will be, as well as how vacations and time off is handled and the length of commitment, LaRowe says.

To make communication and scheduling easier, Bell recommends setting up a group email, chat or text, and asking the nanny to log hours and expenses in a journal to be turned in at the end of each week. She also recommends using a Google calendar or posting a paper calendar on your refrigerator with the weekly schedule.

Hire the right nanny

"The best nanny in the world isn't the right nanny for every family," LaRowe says. "Putting the time in up front to clearly articulate your family's needs and expectations is essential." She recommends having candidates complete job applications, conducting interviews and doing reference checks and background screenings. Make sure you look for candidates with whom you and your partner family feel comfortable and share similar or complimentary parenting styles.

Before offering the job to a candidate, Bell recommends having the nanny work on a trial basis at your home for one to five days. "Having the nanny candidate work in your home on a trial basis will give you the confidence that he or she will fit with your family," Bell says. When you do make a hire, make sure you are aware of the applicable payroll and tax laws, as the IRS will view you and your partner family as employers. Finally, hammer out a written agreement between yourself and the partner family, as well as another written agreement between both of you and the nanny. Those agreements should detail all expectations of all parties.

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