Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

How to Hire a Nanny for a Child with Special Needs
Local nanny-hiring experts weigh in

by Carrie Bishop

May 01, 2012

Choosing a caregiver for your child is one of the most important decisions you can make as a parent. This is the person who in your absence will love your child, play with your child, discipline your child, and help shape your child’s way of thinking. Hiring the right person should be a thoughtful undertaking. If your child has special needs, you may need to be even more deliberate in the search.

Many families find caregivers through websites like and, but when you have a child with special needs, the sitters on these sites may not have the kinds of qualifications required for the job. It may be worth your while to connect with a nanny agency. Albeit a more expensive route, agencies will likely conduct a more thorough search. That can be a safer bet, especially in an industry for which there is no state licensing. However you choose to conduct a nanny search, there are a few key things to know. Area nanny-hiring experts weigh in.

Meeting Special Requirements

Health and safety are priority for any caregiver, so first assess if the potential nanny can meet the physical, educational or other unique needs of your child. “She may be loving, sweet and wonderful, but if she can’t meet those needs then she is not the right candidate for the job,” said Lynda Pitz, owner and director of A Better Way Nanny Referral.

Pitz said that while an agency should look for someone able to meet special requirements, no one will be as familiar with your child’s condition as you. Articulate exactly what your child’s needs are so either the agency screens the right people or your candidates fully understand the parameters of the job.

Know - Truly Know - Nanny’s Background

Knowing a potential caregiver’s background before hiring the person is a must. There’s too much at stake not to learn all you can in advance of trusting them to care for your child. Do reference checks and search their background. Know the candidate’s state and local criminal history and driving records, do a social security number verification, and cross reference the sexual offender registry. You really can’t be too safe when this person will be in your home alone with your child and likely driving your child to various activities and appointments.

“There’s no substitute for the time it takes to truly vet a nanny candidate,” said Machelle Hartford, owner of Solutions Home Staffing. The legwork required to screen candidates and verify their information is time consuming and in Hartford’s estimation there is no shortcut to doing it right.

“You have to be so thorough. Hiring a nanny is one of the most intimate things a family can do. They are not only in the house, but caring for loved children. That’s got to be someone really trustworthy,” Hartford said.

Ask the Right Questions

Pitz said one of the most important questions a family should ask a potential nanny is why do you want to be a nanny and what makes you interested in our family specifically?

Hartford recommends asking what previous clients would say about that person as a nanny. She also suggests asking why they want to work with a child who has special needs. “I certainly don’t want someone taking the job because it’s a default. Any nanny should want to be a nanny because she’s passionate about it,” she said.

Spend time thinking about what is important to you - maybe it’s religious background, preferred discipline methods, how close he or she lives to your home, previous experience with kids who have disabilities. Prepare a list of questions in advance of your interviews so you don’t overlook any important issue.

Nanny Prep

Before bringing the nanny on board Pitz recommends taking the candidate through a typical morning or afternoon with your family. Have the candidate visit when your child or children tend to experience lower levels of energy or are less happy so they see what they are truly getting into. You don’t want to find out the demands are too much for the nanny three weeks into the relationship. Any special classes or instruction the nanny may need should also be arranged and paid for before they start. For instance, training on universal precautions or specific medical equipment may be in order.

Nanny Compensation

Pitz said parents should expect to pay between $13 and $17 an hour depending on the nanny’s background, experience, and education. For children with high medical needs a nurse may be more appropriate and can cost between $25 and $30 an hour.

Common Mistakes

“The number one mistake I see is parents going with their gut,” Pitz said. This is particularly true when parents vet candidates themselves. She said it’s good to remember that a resume is written by a person who wants the job. In other words, ask the hard questions and check into their background.

Another common mistake according to Hartford is looking for the least expensive childcare. For all the things a family spends money on, she believes bargain shopping for a nanny is not always a good idea. Sure, stick to a budget, but don’t make money the main factor in a nanny search.

Finding the right nanny for your child takes time. Be patient and thorough and you will find a caregiver that enhances your child's life.