Questions to Ask a Placement Agency

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1. What types of caregivers do you place (full-time, part-time, live-in or live-out, temporary, etc.)?

2. How do you gather information about families? Do you make home visits? Is a written application part of the process? Do you ask for references for the families with whom you work?

3. How long does it usually take to make a placement? Do you think you will be able to locate a caregiver for me within the time I have?

4. Will you assign one person to be my contact at the agency throughout my search? (Note: If you are assigned one person at the agency to work with, make sure he or she has a thorough understanding of your needs, listens attentively to what you say, and seems to care about your family's particular situation.)

5. How long has your agency been in business?

6. How long have the staff members been in the placement business?

7. How many placements have you made during your years in business? In the past year? In my geographic area? What percentage of these have lasted for at least one year?

8. Do you have names of some families who have used your agency that I could call for references? (Note: You might want to ask these families how their search went, how appropriate the applicants referred to them were, and whether they found any inaccuracies in the stated cost and refund policies.)

9. What is the minimum age requirement to be listed as a caregiver with your agency?

10. What kind of education or training must the applicants have? High school? First aid? CPR? Other? What kind of training does your agency provide?

11. How much and what kind of child care experience do you require of applicants?

12. Do you work only with people who can legally work in the United States?

13. Do you interview all the candidates in person? How many people at the agency interview them? How long do these interviews usually last?

14. How many references do you require from the applicants? Are these written or phone references? If written, do you verify all of the references with a phone call? What types of questions do you usually ask the references?

15. Will you give me a copy of the written references, and the names and phone numbers of the phone references so that I can call and check them?

16. What background checks do you conduct? Driving record? Criminal record? Credit history? Others? In your state, what do these records include? (In other words, will they reveal convictions only? Do they include information from out-of-state? How far back do they go?) Do you do these background checks before or after I interview candidates?

17. Do you conduct any other types of screening? Do you ask for a physical examination? A TB test? A psychological or personality profile?

18. How do you recruit your candidates? Do you recruit just in the local area or from other areas as well? Do you use recruiters in other parts of the country? If so, have those people been trained by the agency?

19. Will I be able to interview all of the candidates in person? If the candidates have to travel for these interviews, who pays the travel expenses?

20. Will I have to pay a registration fee to begin the process? If so, will this fee be applied toward the placement fee if I hire one of your candidates?

21. Is the placement fee billed as a lump sum, or can the payments be spread out over time?

22. What is your refund or replacement policy? Do you have any exceptions to this policy?

23. What support services do you provide for the nanny and/or the family after a placement is made? Do you have a nanny network or support group organized in my geographic area? Do you have regular social or educational events for the nannies or families? Do you have a newsletter? Do you provide telephone support? (Note: Support is especially important for nannies coming from outside the local area. Beware of agencies that do not look out for the welfare of their applicants. You don't want to end up with a lonely or homesick nanny who leaves your family after a short time.)

24. What does my fee pay for? How much of it does your agency devote to assuring the quality of the candidates? How much to your support services? How much to your thoroughness of screening?

25. Where do you make most of your placements? (Note: You may be tempted to choose an agency that is far from you, because its fees are lower. Make sure such an agency is accustomed to working long distance, and will provide the same amount of loyalty and support to your family as it does to families that live nearby.)

Choosing a Caregiver

Whether or not you have decided to search independently for a caregiver or to employ the services of an agency, sooner or later you will have lined up one or more candidates for the job. The way you screen, interview, and hire a candidate will be pretty much the same no matter which method you have used to get to this point. This section of the guide and the next will take you through the steps of choosing and hiring a caregiver.

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