Smoke and Mirrors or Problem Solvers?

I was hoping to get your advice on something. Two weeks into our relocation, and we are having the hardest time finding a nanny! We've interviewed a bunch of people whose names we got through a [free] organization called Sitter City. But the applicant pool has been pretty shallow. So my question is: do you think agencies are worth it? My wife has the name of some place that charges $2,000 for placements. They do rather extensive screening, and even some training apparently. But most significantly they claim to match a qualified nanny to your exact needs. It could be worth it if true, but I of course am naturally inclined towards skepticism. So what's your take on agencies? Are they smoke and mirrors or legitimate problem solvers? One we've looked into is called Boston Nanny. The other, Beacon Hill Nanny, charges $4K! Any insight, advice or perspective would be hugely appreciated.


DC nanny said...

I was placed through Beacon Hill Nannies. They have a bunch of requirements for nannies, such as a college degree, years of nanny experience, great references, First Aid/CPR, background checks, etc. Each nanny also does a video interview for the potential families to watch.

You give the agency your requirements and the things you want in a nanny, and they give you a list of candidates that they feel would best fit your needs. So basically they're doing a lot of the leg work for you and narrowing the pool down.

But see, I'm also on nanny websites.,, and Any family could find me on those websites, and I'm exactly the same person who is represented by the expensive agency.

I personally have had more luck finding jobs through the agency. That's because instead of weeding through hundreds of profiles that don't match my needs at ALL, I was contacted by a small list of carefully selected families that DO match my requirements, and I match theirs. Then all that is left to do is meet and see if the chemistry is right.

But again, you can find great nannies on nanny websites. It just takes more work.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I wish you were in San Diego!

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I think two grand is kind of high for a Nanny, however if it is within your budget and won't put you in the bread line....then I say GO FOR IT!! You can never ever put a price tag on your child's care.

Yes, a cheaper option is to use a childcare website, but one caveat: Anyone can post a profile on these sites for free plus the background checks on these are not very good.

If I was a parent seeking a quality Nanny, I would go the agency route.

I know the agencies in my area (SD) are very choosy about who they select to work for them. You will probably get the best of the best if you go the agency route.

Best of luck to you and your family! ○

Nashville Nanny said...

I'm registered with a nanny agency in Nashville, and that is how I found my current family. I have used and but had no luck finding a family that was willing to pay for the level of nanny they were getting. So from a nanny standpoint, an agency was the only way to go in this area. Also, there are tons of benefits to working with an agency... such as contract negotiations, coverage for sick days, etc. Best of luck to you in your search!

bostonnanny said...

Beacon Hill nannies is supposed to be a great agency. I never heard of Boston Nanny, you can look into American Nanny Company based in Newton. I'm signed with an agency but they have yet to place me since I'm able to find better fits on my own. and sitter city have not been ideal for me. Lots of cheap families and families with outrageous requests are on those sites, so its hard as a nanny to find a decent job. I've actually found my last 3 families on Craigslist but it took awhile to screen. They were all awesome and seemed to be perfect for me. I would try a local moms group for references but if you have some serious demands, an agency is the way to go.

nycmoom said...

It is very regionally variable. I have never used an agency and I doubt I ever would. They charge a month's salary and often recruit on CL. I think they benefit nannies greatly (and that is a good thing!) and parents who prefer to pay the fee than do the legwork. They aren't smoke and mirrors in that they perform a service and do usually have qualified applicants that are likely to match your family. Also, though, nannies via agencies are often much more highly paid than the regional average because they tend to be more educated and experienced. Experience is good; I don't find formal education beyond high school to be much of factor in finding a great nanny.

There are several great Boston nannies on here who can likely point you to the best ways to find jobs otherwise! I pretty much agree with bostonnanny above. I like CL for ft nannies, but ONLY reply to employer posted ads and ignore the junk. I agree that Sittercity is not a great resource for ft nannies. It is great for part-time though.

In many places, there are local, online parent groups that are the best resource and charge only a nominal annual fee of $50-75. I know of Boston Parents Network, but there are regional groups also (user base and activity varies so I suggest emailing the moderator before joining):

Finally, Boston is an unusual place for childcare. Great place to be a nanny and they command some of the highest salaries in the country IME, matched only by SF Bay Area. When we lived there, we had an au pair and aps seemed very common, likely due to the above. Depending on your kids' ages, expectations, home setup and job flexibility I'd consider an au pair (despite my horrible experiences : )

Interesting article on why Boston pays so well:

bostonnanny said...


I read that article and although I agree we do have a great network of nanny support groups, I found the example of work ethic demeaning. There are plenty of nannies here that are asked to go above and beyond the basic needs of their employers. The base pay here has increased not just because of support groups but because of the demand, higher level of education nannies have and the ability to multitask between childcare, personal assistant, cook and educator.

Another issue is longevity, since there are so many educated nannies in this area and parents demand a higher level of education. Many nannies are not career nannies and are only waiting it out until their "real" job starts. Many parents feel the need to pay more to keep the nannies they want long term. There are plenty of amazing daycare options all around the city, so if you don't want to pay for private care you can easily enroll your child in one of those schools. its not like NYC where you have to be on a wait list for years. Parents pay for the social status and for the convenience.


Almost every town near Boston has a moms list serve or group that can help you find a nanny.
google the town your in and I'm sure your'll find one.
Somerville/Cambridge (they share one), Newton, South Boston, Beacon Hill, Arlington, Andover etc...

bostonnanny said...

Just to note: The higher paying jobs require a higher level of education. You can find a nanny without a degree for less but the normal starting rate for a legal, driving, experienced nanny of one is $15-16. There are those who work for $12 but are not naive english speakers or unexperienced but even they know the going rate and try to obtain the higher paying jobs.

bostonnanny said...


talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

I would also suggest contacting American Nanny Company. The founder, Marsha Epstein is very well respected by nannies and families alike.

And before using an agency, ask them for references and check them out with the BBB.

I think agencies are worth it, especially for today's extremely busy parents, who haven't got time to phone screen applicants, interview applicants, get back ground checks done, and call all the references of your top 3 applicants.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...


I have noticed that on craigslist, some nanny agencies are trying to recruit nannies.

Still, I would highly recommend an agency over childcare websites.

Bethany said...

I have nothing to suggest but are you Fox's dad?

Sorry I can't think of your blogger name.

Hope you find someone soon.

Littlenanny said...

I am actually relocating to the Boston suburbs and have been having a difficult time finding a family. I am college educated and have two years nannying experience and 3 years teaching in private preschools. I have had some people just deny me, and others saying I am over qualified and while my background is great, they want someone with less experience as they cannot afford someone like me. I am only asking between 15-20/hr. maybe I should sign with an agency as well? I am just hesitate ..

bostonnanny said...

Little nanny,

Can you give me an idea of where your moving to? Because outside of the city the rate can drop by $2-3. I would def sign with an agency, it can only help in your search.

nycmom said...


All good points. Apologies if the article was demeaning. Just thought it was an interesting insight into salary levels being so high. It is odd that Boston pays so highly compared to NYC and Chicago, for example. It has a big pool of immigrant labor (the usual factor lowering salaries) and no need for nannies to drive in the city. I get SF having high salaries as the immigrant population is less evident and most nannies must drive so parents are hesitant to hire an illegal nanny. Plus, COL in SF is higher than Boston and rents much higher. Of course, all of this depends on the specific area you live in.

luckoftheirish said...

Here is whst a nanny agency has to offer families. Nannies:

1.) Have verified references
2.) Have verified child care experience
3.) Have passed a background checks
4.) Have valid drivers licenses
5.) Have good driving records
6.) Are negative TB tested
7.) Are able to work legally in the US
8.) Sign a professional agreement w/the families

If you want someone serious about child care, you might find them on sittercity or, but you
definately will find at least a
few(unless youre in a rural area) to choose from.GL

bostonnanny said...


I really think education plays a big factor here. There are a ton of college students and very educated families who want their children to get into tier one schools. Our state schools are not considered good because of all the private school options. I remember everyone making fun of Umass calling it zoomass and was considered a last resort for students with bad grades or no money. There are still a lot of families who hire immigrants but they are the ones who couldn't afford a nanny normally. The more money, the more education they want because 1) it's available 2) they believe it will help their children get into a better school 3) it's a status thing, wouldnt you want to say my nanny has a masters in education and is teaching my child to read at 3yrs old.
Now if you have a degree, experience and fluent in Spanish you will be an easy sell. Again I like to stress this is for high paying jobs, you can find lower wages the further from the city you go and there are a lot of immigrant nannies in the city working for less but they also know the norm and have been slowly driving up their prices too. They won't work for $8 as a nanny if they can clean houses for $100+ or work for a hotel/restaurant. Plus its easier to get jobs then other parts of the country because they stick together and have support.

I never had problem with the immigrant population like so many others complain about. The nannies are nice, work hard and love the kids. They get taken advantage of which is sad.

Mass. Transit[ion] said...

Hey Everyone, OP here. Thanks so much for the expert advice, insights and perspectives! Coincidentally we just interviewed someone today who seems perfect.

One correction: I'd written that Sitter City was free, when in fact it was $40 for one month of access. And while I need to keep this anonymous out of consideration for others, let me say that Bethany is a perspicacious reader.

Thanks again for all of your input. It seems we just needed to put in a lot of extra time in lieu of paying for an agency. Fingers crossed it works out :-)

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...


I hope this new Nanny works out for you. It is possible to find good Nannies on childcare just may take more time.

You may have to do more of your own work, but it may save you tons of dollars.

I am a great Nanny and I am not registered w/an agency. I advertise on and sittercity...sometimes I use CL, but not too much anymore due to major scams.

MichiganMom said...

I am a mom. Found our amazing nanny on or (can't remember which; we used both to find candidates).

It was a LOT of work to screen the ~80 applicants to our job posting, set up phone interviews and then in person interview, etc. But we had time since we started looking ~3 months before we needed the nanny to start.

Those sites have some great nannies on them, but if you don't have the time or interest to sort through it yourself, then you can pay an agency to basically do that legwork for you.