What an inhome placement agency does

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First, the agency staff members will help you clarify your child care needs. They'll assist you in defining your expectations and preparing a job description that accurately reflects what your position involves and the type of individual you think will be most suitable for your family. They will advise you on caregiver qualifications, appropriate pay, and benefits.

Then, they will either review their pool of applicants or recruit specifically for you. After screening applicants by phone or in person, a reliable agency will not only collect references, but verify them all, by calling and speaking directly to the person who gave each reference. Generally, the agency will select one or two candidates for you to interview. If you are looking for a live-in caregiver, most agencies will provide you with a written portfolio on each applicant, summarizing her background, training, experience, and references.

At your request, some agencies will conduct background checks on potential caregivers.

Once you've hired a caregiver referred by the agency, the agency should be in regular contact with you and the caregiver during a specified refund/replacement period, to make sure both of you are satisfied with the placement. The agency should have a written policy stating whether the caregiver is to be replaced and whether you will get all or part of your money back in the event that you or the caregiver are not satisfied. Be sure to familiarize yourself with its refund policy before you begin to work with an agency.

Some agencies that specialize in live-in placements also provide ongoing services like social opportunities, caregiver support groups, telephone "warm lines," and caregiver training. These services can be very important to caregivers who are young and far from their families. Be sure to inquire which of these types of services are provided by any agency with which you are considering working.

Decide if an agency is right for you.

Contact agencies; request and review their literature.

Call agency references.

Thoroughly discuss your needs and job description with each agency. Ask questions before you select an agency.

Advantages of working with a placement agency

Finding an in-home caregiver on your own can be difficult and very time-consuming. A good agency can provide short cuts by helping you decide what's best for your family and what is realistic to expect from a caregiver. An agency can relieve you of the burden of placing ads, responding to inquiries, and dealing with people whom you may find inappropriate for your needs. An agency may be particularly helpful to families who are new in an area and who may be unfamiliar with local resources for advertising. A reliable agency also has experience in screening applicants and may be able to recognize appropriate candidates for your position.

If your employee proves unsatisfactory, an agency should get you started on a new arrangement by providing additional referrals within the specified replacement period. And if you have hired a live-in caregiver from another part of the country, a reliable agency will assist you in easing her transition to a new home.

Disadvantages of working with a placement agency

Using a placement agency costs more than locating a caregiver on your own. While agencies can save you time and legwork, they don't necessarily do anything you can't do on your own, if you have the time. Also, while many agencies are reliable, parents occasionally find that some do not fully consider the needs of the family or caregiver when arranging placements. An agency's applicant screening process may be misrepresented or unreliable. Be cautious with agencies that are more oriented toward locating household help than child care providers. Their focus in screening caregivers may not emphasize child care abilities and skills.

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