A: The benefits of an agency are clear. The agency will do all the work from background checks, to contracts to ensuring everything is going smoothly after the nanny is hired.  There are many nanny agencies to choose from but they are not created equally. There are no regulations for nannies or nannies or agencies. 

Be ready with the following questions when you contact an agency.  How long has the agency been in business? Although not a determining factor for a good or bad agency, everyone has to start somewhere, you want someone with the experience to succeed.  When you call do they answer the phone? You want to be able to contact someone when you need help after the placement. If you can’t reach them in the beginning they will it will not be any easier to reach them once you hire the nanny.  If you do leave a message do they get back to you quickly? You want to
make sure that the there is a high level of service.  What are their rates? Is there an application fee? Agency prices vary
depending on the agency and their experience. Many newer agencies have the lowest rates in an effort to attract clients.
What type of guarantee does the agency offer if the nanny does not work out? What is the screening process?

If you are hiring from Craigslist you become the nanny agency. If you go it alone make sure you still complete all of the steps to ensure your children are in the best hands.  Ask for references and check them. Require a criminal record check.
Require CPR/First Aid certificate.  Do a personal interview, not just over the phone.  If you find a nanny make sure you complete the process with a contract.

See also our article on How to Hire a Great Nanny.

Michelle Kelsey is the founder of Nannies On Call. In 2001, Michelle launched a small nanny referral service with one pager, five nannies and a determination to never find herself without reliable childcare. Nannies on Call now counts over 250 nannies, with offices in 4 cities. www.nanniesoncall.com