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Download the FREE INA Nanny Employer Handbook: Best Practices Hiring a Nanny

by Stacie Steelman

We have been asked recently to give our opinion on the case of Diane Stretton and the Bracamonte family of Upland, CA, better known as “The Nightmare Nanny” or “The Nanny Who Won’t Leave”. It is a very interesting case and not typical in nature. Room and board in exchange for childcare is not considered in the eyes of the industry to be a “professional nanny” employment arrangement. There are some legally significantly items that would better define a “professional nanny” employment arrangement that were not implemented in the process of establishing the Stretton-Bracamonte work arrangement.

Let’s review and discuss the simple steps you can take to avoid having something like this happen in your home.

As the CEO of  a Southern California Nanny and Domestic Referral Agency, and an acting Board Member for the International Nanny Association (INA) I recommend the following practices to legitimize the process of hiring a nanny or domestic employee, and most particularly a live-in household employee. Clearly neither I nor the INA are offering specific legal advice; however, these are some solid suggestions and precautions that bring assurance to the hiring process.

  1. Establishment of a Written Employment Agreement, including a valid compensation agreement that meet’s your state’s minimum wage standards.
  2. A properly worded clause in the agreement that states that the Live-In Nanny is not a tenant. Tenancy laws vary by state, and an employment attorney can assist you here.
  3. A thorough assessment of the candidate’s background should be done INCLUDING an evaluation of civil cases that the potential candidate may have in their background to better evaluate character. This particular nanny had over 36 civil cases in her background. Additional recommended searches are a local county and or state wide search if available, a DMV report, a National Criminal Records Locator, a Social Security Verification, a Sexual Offender Registry search, a social media check, and in some cases a drug test. Take advantage if your State offers a regulated live scan/fingerprint technology program similar to California’s Trustline program. Learn more about the INA’s Recommended Practices for Nanny Background Screening.
  4. Speak to the prospective household employee’s references! Reputable nanny placement agencies heavily rely on reference checks, including speaking directly to the managers or heads of the household of the potential household employee. Ideally we look for applicants with a stable work history of at least 3 long term employers when possible.
  5. Conduct a through evaluation of the candidate’s employment history and relationships including an evaluation of their address history (an essential part of a nanny background screening process).

Keep in mind, credible professional nannies can be located from a variety of sources such as personal referrals, professional nanny referral agencies, the internet, and print publications. Look for professional nanny referral agencies who belong to and support professional organizations such as the International Nanny Association.

The practices you put in place surrounding hiring, retaining, and letting go of that nanny are the most integral part in the chances of a successful process. The above list of recommendations can be greatly expanded upon; however, I feel this is a good foundation to begin with. More information is found in the INA’s Nanny Employer Handbook, available as a free download.

It is extremely unfortunate that this Upland family and Ms. Stretton found themselves in this situation. I sincerely hope they are able to reconcile the situation as quickly as possible. In the meantime, if you follow best practices in household employment you can avoid placing your family in a similar situation.

Stacie Steelman CEO Crunch Care Nanny Referral Agency Orange County San Diego County


Stacie Steelman is the CEO and Founder of Crunch Care, a full service nanny and domestic staffing agency in both San Diego and Orange County California. Stacie has over 10 years in the corporate staffing sector and has been in business in Southern California for almost 10 years.

Today Stacie sits on the Board of Directors for the International Nanny Association and acts as a local expert in the field of domestic employment, and acts as legal expert witness in cases that pertain to domestic employment.

The famous business management consultant Peter Drucker gave us the quote, “what gets measured, gets managed”. In your nanny agency, are your management activities focusing on what matters? What are the nanny agency metrics or measurements that DO matter?

#1 – 12 Month Trailing Revenue

Investors and savy business managers rely on the trailing 12 month (TTM) for real time representation of a business’ financial performance for a 12-month period. The TTM measurement recognizes that there are seasonal fluctuations in business revenues. Divestopedia explains that “TTM revenue of a (nanny agency) for the month of May would include the revenue from June of the prior year to May of the current year. The trailing twelve months is also sometimes referred to as the Last Twelve Months (LTM).”

A nanny agency that measures 12 month trailing revenue consistently will promptly recognize whether the agency’s revenues are growing or contracting, and whether revenue targets are being met. Often a business will additionally measure the current period’s TTM to that of the same period in the prior year.

#2 – Gross Profit Margin

The formula for Gross Profit Margin is:



Why do you measure gross profit margin? This is a powerful indicator to the business owner of how well direct expenses are being managed.

What are direct expenses for the nanny agency? Direct expenses will include owner’s and staff wages, including payroll taxes and benefits costs, background screening fees, workers’ compensation and staff insurance costs, advertising, training and professional development,  and office overhead.

#3 – Business Referral Sources

Tracking the leads and revenue attributable to various referral channels is an important measurement, helping the nanny agency to understand the marketing activities and channels that work, and those that do not. We all know there are numerous competing advertising and marketing channels – we get pitched a new ‘opportunity’ every week! When you track referral sources, you will learn which networking activities work (child care fairs or new/expectant parent events for example) and which are duds. Measurement of referral sources needs to balance not just what activities generated referral activity (leads) but also what activity generated revenue (sales).

#4 – Sales Close Ratios

Your nanny agency networking, marketing, and advertising activities may make the phone ring, but how are you doing converting those leads to clients? Consider:

  1. Inquiry : Family Consultation/Visit Ratios – how many families who called inquiring about your services, fees, etc. actually resulted in a family consultation or home visit?
  2. Family Consultation : Placement Listings (resulting in payment of the retainer fee) – this measures how often a family consultation results in a job order. Consider carefully what this means. A  ratio that is very high or very low may point to different problems. A low ratio may mean your agency is too quick to schedule the family consultation, without fully qualifying the prospect. A high ratio may mean your agency is too particular in the qualification process, and that you are missing opportunities because you are not getting your best closers in front of enough families.
  3. Inquiry : Placement Completions – This is without a doubt the most important sales close ratio to watch. This measures the success and effectiveness of the entire sales process.

Measurement for measurement’s sake is meaningless – you must act on what you learn. If your nanny agency is brand new or still quite small, you may have additional items that you as the business owner must measure and track, at least periodically.

These nanny agency metrics that matter are critically important, yet they should not crowd out judgment and intuition. These nanny agency measurements are by their nature lagging indicators – they report and measure on what happened historically. You must always keep yourself open to reading and recognizing leading indicators – those early detection systems that allow you to recognize changes in your market, in the industry. Leading indicators can point out problems OR opportunities, and if you are aware you can seize competitive advantages.

Peter Drucker always called for a healthy balance—between short-term needs and long-term sustainability; between profitability and other obligations; between the specific mission of individual organizations and the common good; between freedom and responsibility.

What are the nanny agency metrics that matter to you? Have you uncovered an opportunity or problem as a result of measurement? What was it and how did you act upon it?

Kathleen Webb Nanny Payroll and Tax Service

Kathleen Webb
HomeWork Solutions Inc.

A special thank you to INA member Kathleen Webb for contributing this article.

Kathy is the co-founder and President of HomeWork Solutions, a leading household payroll and payroll tax compliance service, and a member of the International Nanny Association since 1993.

Kathy serves on the INA Board of Directors as Co-President and chairs the Governmental Affairs committee.

Once you get your nanny job you will need to connect with the kids you will be watching.  Depending on the ages of the children, this task can be simple or very challenging.  It may also depend on if the kids have previously had a nanny and how they felt about her.  The best thing you can do is get to know the kids and the routine while mom or dad are around.  Talk to the parents about doing some fun activities as a group so that the kids can warm up to you gradually.  It may also be helpful to play some getting to know you games as a group.  Surely your employer would like to get to know you as much as you would like to get to know them.  Another way to connect is to get involved in some fun activities together like games outside, craft projects or cooking in the kitchen.  Here are 100 ideas on ways that you can connect with your charges.  Hopefully, at least some will work for you.

Family and Nanny Joint Activities

When you first arrive the kids will probably be shy because you are a total stranger.  The idea behind doing activities as a group is to let the kids know that their parents trust and welcome you into the family unit.  Once you’re around for a while the kids will warm up to you and start trusting you.  There are certain steps like shadowing that are helpful so that you can keep the kids’ routine the same as what they are used to.  If the parent doesn’t have a lot of time you may be able to meet her at the park for a picnic lunch.  Little things will help break the ice and help improve your nanny/charge relationship.  These twenty ideas are things that you can do with the family unit.

  1. Shadow the mom for a few days to learn the routineParenting recommends hanging out with the family as a whole before being alone with the kids.
  2. Get to know the kids while mom is still at homePEPSsuggest getting to know the kids while they are relaxed with mom or the previous nanny.
  3. Spend an afternoon playing with the toys togetherNanny points out that if the child sees that his mom trusts you he will too.
  4. Go for a picnic with the kids and parentNanny Reviews explain that time spent with the child and the parent will help the child get to know you in a relaxed setting.
  5. Play at the park with the child and parentModern Mom encourages everyone to have fun together at the beginning of the relationship to help create a positive connection.
  6. Do a brand new activity with your charge while the parent is otherwise occupiedBaby Center Community offers up a suggestion to do an activity that the child will like, but has never done before alone with you while the parent is in another room.
  7. Feed the infant while the mother is thereEvolutionary Parenting explains that the child will be comforted by the presence of mom, but learn to be okay with someone else doing the feeding.
  8. Try to make time to be in the home for a week before the mom goes back to work.  According to eHow this transition time will allow you to get comfortable with the household routines so that the baby can connect to you without missing mom too much.
  9. Keep the schedule as close to the same as you canNannies and Nanny Blog suggest that you learn the routine so that there is a smoother transition.
  10. Talk to your employer about participating in milestone eventsModern Ghana points out that you can have a better connection with the child if you are at his important events.
  11. Have dinner together.  Make some Butter Chicken, green beans and toasted garlic bread for the whole family as described on Moms Who Think.
  12. Go on a hike.  Make and Takes offer ten tips for taking kids on a hike that you might want to try so that everyone has a fun time.
  13. Try a bike ride with the whole family.  Adult Bicycling offers several tips on planning the perfect bike ride for the family.
  14. Go on a scavenger hunt.  Family Capers suggests going on a mall scavenger hunt where everyone has to find different things in the mall.  You can break into teams.
  15. Take a trip to the museum.  Many cities have children’s museums like the one listed on Minitime.  This can be a fun and educational trip for the family and the nanny.
  16. Plan an afternoon at the beach.  Depending on how old the kids are, going to the beach can be quite the adventure.  Said Kristin offers a few ideas for taking toddlers to the beach.
  17. Scope out the zoo together.  Everyone loves animals so going to the zoo together with the family will give you some down time to get to know everyone.   The Examiner shares ideas for going to the Miami zoo.
  18. Try letterboxing as a group.  If you have never been, Letterboxing will answer some of your questions before you take off, it’s kind of like a treasure hunt.
  19. Go to a local festival.  Explore a local festival together.  If you’re not sure where to go try Festival Network to find festivals near you.
  20. Drive around the city.  Earnest Parenting explains that long drives will give everyone a chance to bond and the nanny can learn about her new city.

Get to Know You Activities

If you are a live-in nanny you might want to try some ice breaker types of games to learn about the family and for them to learn about you.  You may need to play some of these games off the clock, but it will be worth it because you can start to bond with the family.  The closer you can get to the family the sooner you will pass that stressful awkward period.  Living with a stranger is difficult and will take a little time.  Even if you are a live-out nanny, playing ice breaker games can help you and your charges get to know each other better.  Take a look at these twenty ideas and see if any of them seem appropriate for your situation.

  1. Ask some questionsShe’s Crafty has come up with a getting to know you game where you ask each other questions and try to guess the answers.
  2. Prompt a response with worksheetsWhat the Teacher Wants has worksheets that may help you open the conversation to get to know each other.
  3. Play Human BingoFamily Reunion Success suggests filling a bingo board with facts about different people in the family and you have to walk around and discover facts in order to fill the board and win the game.
  4. Try Hot Potato Camera GameAdventure suggests a variation on Hot Potato where the first person sets the camera’s timer and then the camera is passed around the circle until the picture goes off.
  5. Host a family talk showiMom suggests going around and asking a series of questions of all of the family members and then sharing the answers.
  6. Give everyone a quizSpoonful recommends this game for step-moms to get to know their new step kids so it should also work for the nanny to get to know her charges.
  7. Play the string gameIce Breakers explains how to play the game and how to prepare for the game so that you can get to know everyone better.
  8. Bowl of namesThe Red Headed Hostess suggests a game where everyone has to write ten names on ten slips of paper and put them in a bowl.  The game has three rounds and each round is played differently.
  9. Use conversation starters.  Sometimes it’s hard to get the conversations going.  Aha Parenting lists 150 conversation starters you may want to try.
  10. Play the name game.  Ask each person where their name came from.  The kids may not know so mom or dad can fill in the blanks with this game from Evite.
  11. Two Truths and a Lie.  If the kids are old enough to know the difference between truth and a lie this would be a fun game suggested by Crupress Green.
  12. Spin a web.  Scholastic has an interesting idea for students getting to know each other, but it can work for a nanny and family too.
  13. Play the relationship game.  Life Learning Today has come up with a list of questions you can ask and many are geared to young children.  You can incorporate drawing, charades or tossing a bean bag around the circle.
  14. Try this funny game called, “Honey I Love You”.  Urbanext explains the rules on how to play this game that will make people smile.
  15. Act it out.  Highlight suggests Charades as a fun family game to get everyone laughing and having a good time.
  16. What If? Extension recommends this to help families laugh and get to know each other better.
  17.  Wrap a mummy.  Get the family giggling by breaking into teams and wrapping one member of the team with toilet paper.  More explanation about the game from eHow.
  18. Play a tasty game of Rainbow of FunPerfect Party Games suggests getting a bag of colorful candy and asking everyone to take a certain number and based on the color of candy that person has to say something about themselves.  This works better for kids who know their colors.
  19. Play online games togetherYahoo Games has tons of games for all ages that you can enjoy together and bond.
  20. Slap the deck.  Learn the rules from Tips 4 Families.  Playing games together can give you time to bond and learn about each other.

Be Active Together

Another way to bond with your charges is by getting active with them.  Show the kids that you are willing to run around and play with them.  Parents are often busy with work and when they do have time at home they are trying to multi-task doing housework while watching the kids play.  Instead of watching the kids play, you need to play with the kids.  Here are twenty different ways to be active with the kids and even the parents if they are willing.  Maybe you can show the parents ways that they can play with their kids.

  1. Go to a different park than the child normally goes toBlogher explains that sometimes reserving something special just for you and your charges will get them to be excited for when you arrive.
  2. Do family Olympics.  Purple Trail explains how to put together different obstacles for each person to do.
  3. Play Catch my Tail.  Family Games Treasure House explains the rules to this game of chase.  You will need bandanas or something to use for tails.
  4. Do the Hokie PokieKids’ Health suggests games that are appropriate for toddlers.  This funny game should get everyone laughing.
  5. Kick the ballKidspot explains that toddlers need at least 2 hours of exercise each day.  Getting the kids active and having fun is also a way you can bond with them.
  6. Get musical. Mom 365 explains how you can get toddlers to play with musical instruments.
  7. Play ‘roll the ball’Parents suggest rolling the ball back and forth with 2 and 3 year olds.  This play can build skills while building your relationship.
  8. Sing and dance to Allouette.  Find the words and make up actions for this French song that goes over the body parts from Dragon.
  9. Watch and sing the Sleepy Bunny song.  Rainy Day Mum includes an animated video to help you learn the words and tune to this funny song.
  10. Make wet footprints.  Family Education describes how to make wet footprints and get the kids outside and moving around.
  11. Go ride a trike.  Walk around with your charge while he rides his trike and gets some exercise recommends Disney Baby.
  12. Chase the bubbles.  If your charge is a toddler you can blow bubbles and let him chase them, but if he’s older he can blow his own bubbles to chase says Everyday Family.
  13. Teach the kids to play hide-and-seek.  Older kids may know this game, but younger ones may need some help explains Early Childhood.
  14. Freeze dance with your charges.  Pull out your iPod and play some kid-friendly music and let the kids dance and then freeze like statues as explained on Wired.
  15. Create a back yard maze.  Best Kids’ Games explains how to set up a maze that the kids have to get through in the back yard.
  16. Play in the water.  If you are a nanny for a baby six months or older you can put some water in a low box and float some boats or duckies in it recommends Just Mommies.
  17. Color hop.  Learn Play Imagine suggests creating colored spots with sidewalk chalk in a circle and encouraging your charge to hop from spot to spot and say the color.
  18. Go sledding.  If you are in an area where there’s snow you can bundle up your walking charge and head for the closest hill says Mom Meet Mom and ride on the sled together.
  19. Ready, Aim, Learn.  Toddler Approved has come up with a game where the child throws a ball at a number that’s been taped to the fence.  This way the child can learn while being active.
  20. Run and play in the sandBaby Center urges kids to run around and play in the sand whether it’s at the beach or a local park sand box.

Spend Time Being Creative

As the nanny you will have plenty of time to do crafts with the kids, but some of these ideas are specifically about getting to know each other.  You can make collages with the kids and you can learn about each other through the craft.  The same thing goes for the personality flag.  Even playing dress-up can tell you something about the kids.  Other craft projects are just fun an allow you to get messy with the kids and interact with them while their guard is down.  Read through these twenty ideas and see if you can use any of them in your job.

  1. Play dress-up with your charges and dress in the funniest outfit you can figure outNanny Net encourages you to interact with your charges and make them laugh to make a strong connection.
  2. Make an All About Me Collage.  Back-to-School suggests everyone create a collage using magazine pictures that tells about their likes and dislikes.
  3. Create personality flagsInsight suggests giving everyone a big piece of paper and crayons and asking them to draw a flag with symbols that represent them.
  4. Make sensory bottles.  Toddlers are so curious that making these interesting bottles will keep them interested for a while as explained on Step by Step CC.
  5. Whip up some cloud dough for your charge to play with.  Juggling with Kids gives the recipe for making this medium that the kids can play in.
  6. Do a sticker painting.  Buzzfeed explains how to use foam stickers and finger paint to make a one-of-a-kind art piece.
  7. Create some paint and put it in a squeeze bottle.  The paint is non-toxic and inexpensive to make and the squeeze bottles make the painting simple enough for toddlers says My Buddies and I.
  8. Try to create wrapping paper with flyswatters. No Time for Flashcards suggests laying out a big sheet of brown paper, paint and a flyswatter and let your charge swat with paint.
  9. Paint the snow.  Just because it’s snowy outside doesn’t mean you can’t let the kids be creative and get some fresh air at the same time.  Simple Fun for Kids has an idea for keeping the paint portable as well.
  10. Make a ladybug hand puppet.  Enchanted Learning explains how to use paper plates and construction paper to make this craft.
  11. Send a hug through the mail.  Toddler Toddler shares a craft where the child lies on the floor and you measure out ribbon or a streamer the length of their arms and then add traced hand prints to each end to create a mailable hug.
  12. Make a cartoon character.  Nick Jr. describes this clay craft to make a pizza dog from the cartoons.
  13. Create a handprint fishing picture.  Busy Bee Kids Crafts explains that you can trace your charge’s hand and arm and cut it out to use in this fishing picture.
  14. Stitch up a letter.  Family Crafts shows how to cut out a letter and make it into a lacing shape so that kids can learn while they lace.
  15. Sit down with the kids and create some colorful chicks.  iVillage explains how to color an egg carton cup and combine it with a plastic egg and feathers to create this amazingly colorful creature.
  16. Learn and paint like Jackson Pollock.  Mama’s Little Muse explains how to “splat paint” so that the painting comes out a little like a famous painter.
  17. Let the kids sand paint.  Lifescript describes how to mix food coloring into water so that the kids can paint the sand.
  18. Make a bookmark.  DLTK shares how simple it is to make your own bookmark.  Once it’s done you can read a book together.
  19. Try your hand at making raised salt painting with your charge.  Netmums have come up with a unique way to paint with this craft.
  20. Create some suncatchers.  Fun at Home with Kids recommends using inexpensive coffee filters from the dollar store and some water colors to create a sun catcher.

Have Fun in the Kitchen

Baking and being in the kitchen can be a lot of fun for kids.  This is especially true if they’ve never been allowed into the kitchen before.  Getting into the kitchen with the kids will serve several purposes.  First, it’s fun and the kids will enjoy it.  Second, you can use the activity as a way to teach the kids various lessons in math and science.  Third, you will end up with a tasty treat at the end of the fun.  These twenty ideas range in difficulty and ingredients in case your charge has any dietary restrictions.  Try this activity and see if you can form a closer bond with your charge while you are forming that loaf of bread.

  1. Bake some ice cream cone cakes.  Better Crocker talks about teachable moments and suggests you explain the difference between hot and cold during this baking session.
  2. Teach the kids to whisk.  Very Best Baking explains how to teach kids to whisk some egg whites and then use them in a recipe.
  3. Let the kids cream the butter with their hands.  Most recipes start by creaming butter and sugar.  Kids can have a lot of fun by getting their hands in there says Food Network.
  4. Make some no-bake peanut butter bars.  These yummy bars are simple to mix together and press into the pan with little hands from Six Sister’s Stuff.
  5. Help the kids put together these healthy oatmeal cookies.  Simple Bites explains the recipe and how to modify it for kids.
  6. Thrill and amaze the kids by letting them help make bread alligators.  Become a Better Baker explains the steps for making this yeasty creature.
  7. Whip together some Snickerdoodle Muffins with the kids.  She Knows explains that this recipe is simple and quick to do so the kids can get in there and help.
  8. Knock out some tried and true chocolate chip cookies.  Kids and adults alike tend to love a basic chocolate chip cookie and King Arthur has written detailed directions with kids in mind.
  9. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge anyone?  Sally’s Baking Addiction describes this fudge as almost as good as raw cookie dough.
  10. As American as apple pie.  Mighty Nest explains how to show the kids techniques for making pie crust and putting together a tasty pie.
  11. Tuck into some Pigs in a Blanket with this recipe.  The recipe with the funny name is simple enough for kids to help with especially if you have a bread machine says Red Star Yeast.
  12. How about a salty snack of soft pretzels?  Show the kids how to create the traditional pretzel shape and then let them create their own shape with directions from Food 52.
  13. Get scientific in the kitchen and have some fun at the same time.  Just because you’re in the kitchen doesn’t mean that you have to make something to eat.  PBS Kids explains a baking soda experiment that the kids will love.
  14. Bake some bread with your preschool charge.  Something Edible shares how simple making bread can be by using only four ingredients and a zippered storage bag.
  15. It’s okay to play with your food.  Better Homes and Gardens explain how to create snackable snowman out of marshmallows.
  16. Teddy bears aren’t just for cuddling.  Land O Lakes shares this simple recipe for making Teddy bear cookies with kids.
  17. Include the kids when making their favorite mac’n cheese.  Try this recipe for Bacon Infused Macaroni and Cheese and let the kids help says Chef Druck.
  18. How about a snack?  Cozi shares ten simple snacks that kids can make by themselves or with minimal supervision.
  19. Let the kids help with dinner.  Put together this quick dinner of Peanut Butter and Chicken Noodles with Carrot and Cucumber Ribbons says Real Simple.
  20. Toss together this strawberry salad with the kids.  You can be a hero to your charges by making them feel like they are big and responsible enough to help make supper for the family, recipe from Parade.

Kenney Myers Morningside Nannies HoustonA special thank you to INA member Kenney Myers for contributing this article. Ken is a Christian, father, husband and entrepreneur; he has combined his passion for helping families find nannies with writing to make a difference in the World.   Ken is very active in social media participating in industry Facebook groups as well as active on Twitter @KenneyMyers.  It’s his goal to listen to nannies, clients and other agency owners to get a better understanding of how business in this industry should function in order to work better for everyone involved.  Most importantly, everything we do is focused around providing safe, quality in-home childcare to families across the U.S. 

Ken is the owner of Morningside Nannies, Houston and

School is out and the weather is beautiful! It’s a great time for a nanny to get outside with her charges. If you heading to the local playground, park or nature preserve you’ll want to be aware of poisonous pants that can be growing in your area.  Three of the most common plants are poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Poison ivy and poison oak have three leaflets per leaf and poison sumac has nine leaflets per leaf.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac

Image Credit:

The oils from these plants can cause redness, itching, swelling, and blisters that can last several weeks. If you’ve come in contact with one of these plants take a shower as soon as possible, scrubbing all affected areas with soap. Wash all clothing immediately as oils can stay on clothing for up to a year.

If you get a rash you can treat it at home by applying a wet cloth or soaking in cool water, use calamine lotion to relieve itching and trying not to scratch the rash. Seek medical attention if the reaction is severe or widespread, the rash affects the face or genitals, blisters are oozing pus, a fever develops greater than 100F, and/or the rash doesn’t get better within a few weeks.

Be aware of poisonous plants commonly found in your area and educate your charges on what to do if they see or come in contact with it. A few helpful resources are,, and your local Natural Resources office. The great outdoors can continue to be a fun place to play and learn.

Bonus Nanny Resources:

Outdoor Enthusiasts recommend Tecnu cleanser for when you are exposed to Poison Ivy or similar irritants. This is applied to dry skin at point of exposure to release the oils from the skin before the irritation can begin. Even helps after the rash has started, because the rash gets worse the longer the oil is on the skin. Single use packets are convenient for use away from the home.NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN UNDER 2.


Fels-Naptha soak, used as a laundry soap before the days of automatic clothes washers, has been recommended for more than a century to remove the oils of poison ivy from the skin. Must be used with water. Lather up the effected area, rinse well with warm water, repeat and pat dry.AVOID GETTING IN EYES.


A special thank you to INA member Amanda Schultz for sharing this information with us. Amanda is a newborn care specialist, and currently serves on the INA Board of Directors as a member-at-large.

Article submission from INA members is encouraged. Publication is at the discretion of the INA. If you have a topic you would like to share with other INA members, please submit your article for consideration to the INA office with the subject INA Weekly Brief Submission.

It is summer, and nannies and parents every where are searching for exciting, engaging and educational outdoor play suggestions for their children.  Sharon Rief, owner of Teacher Resources For Parents, would like to share some fun multi-sensory ways to teach letters and numbers to young kids.

1) Sand or shaving cream on a cookie sheet : Place a handful of sand or shaving cream onto a cookie sheet and have your child write letters with their fingers. While they are writing the letters, have them say the letter and its sound. Once they have completed the task they can wipe the sand or shaving cream away and then write another letter. The cookie sheet can be painted beforehand to make an even more attractive learning surface.

2) Aqua Doodle Mat or Travel Book: This non-toxic ink free writing tool provides hours of good clean fun with its large surface that turns water into color.  Once the mat dries, the letters and numbers disappear and make room for new ones allowing for endless opportunities for learning.

3) Wikki Stix, Pipe Cleaners, and Play Dough: These materials are all very inexpensive, non-toxic, flexible, reusable, light-weight, and easy to store and are therefore excellent tools for forming letters and numbers.

4) 3D Chalk: Your kids will have a blast creating eye-popping 3D letters and numbers outside using Crayola’s Giant Colorful 3D Chalk and glasses.

5) “Magic letters”: Crayon Resist is such a fun way for kids to learn letters and numbers by “magically” making them appear. Simply write a letter or number using a white crayon on white paper and let them “magically” appear when your child paints over them using watercolor paints.

These creative play ideas are incredibly affordable. For your convenience we have assembled a shopping list for you on

A special thank you to Sharon Rief for contributing this article. For more fun and enriching activities go to Teacher Resources for Parents and follow Sharon on Facebook.

To learn more about Sharon’s Child Enrichment  Online Training For Nannies email Sharon Reif or call her at (818)730-6820.

Do you have an idea or a topic you would love to share with other INA members? We welcome your blog articles – and we are happy to edit so no worries if you don’t believe you are a ‘great’ writer. Email them to the INA office.


1. Know Your Business – Thoroughly.

Nanny Agency Marketing GuideYou knowledge of your industry, and your market, are the first keys to success. You need to know:

  • What services are you offering?
  • How will your clients benefit from using your services vis a vis alternatives?
  • Why are your services better than the competing services?
  • Who are your customers? Do you have buyer personas? What is it about your client that makes them want your services? Do they all have common characteristics that make them more likely to buy from you? This is your target market. The key to attract clients and expand your client base is marketing to them, and just to them. Focus on this target market, don’t waste time and money on costly “scatter shot” approaches.
  • How will you sell your services to your target market? Will they call you? Visit your website? Respond to an offer of a ‘free guide’? Your marketing efforts need to be directed toward reaching prospective clients in the places they are. Put your nanny referral agency in front of prospective clients to increase your visibility in the marketplace. INA member Rosalind Prather offered many practical suggestions in her Moneyless Marketing workshop at the INA’s recent Annual Conference in Los Angeles (yet another great reason to attend conference!).

The INA is committed to helping its nanny agency members answer these questions and be successful. This INA Weekly Brief, our INA Annual Conference and our Nanny Agency Marketing Tool-it (FREE!) all help you intimately understand nanny agency’s marketing, the nanny industry, and help you apply what you know.  You must learn everything you can about the nanny industry and your clients to maximize your probability of success.

2. Keep Good Financial Books – or Get a Great Accountant.

Great bookkeeping and understanding financial metrics is what will make or break your business. A professional accountant who specializes in working with and coaching small businesses is a great asset – and if you can scrape together the budget you should get one. Fast. All small business owners should learn to read financial statements and balance sheets,  ask lots of questions, and evaluate your financial situation and metrics with those of your peers. Failure to understand, track and adjust financial metrics is a key reason many new nanny referral agencies fail.

A good accountant/financial coach can be found through networking, and due to the intimate nature of this relationship you should shop and interview until you find one with the background and personal chemistry that works with you.

3. Great Contracts are Created by Knowledgeable Lawyers.

Agencies who attend INA Annual Conferences routinely report that well thought out client contracts are a work of art, and invaluable to both  the smooth financial operation of your nanny referral agency and the satisfaction of clients. INA member Bob King Esq. is one of our most popular conference speakers for good reason – he ‘gets’ the household staffing industry and totally understands the key elements of an iron-clad client contract. You nanny referral agency may have other legal needs – partnership agreements, corporate documents, and lease agreements to name a few. Network – both within the nanny industry and in your local small business community – and find the legal talent that will allow you to focus your efforts on sales and revenues, not contract disputes.

4. Network and Stay Informed.

Attend the INA Annual Conference, download our Nanny Agency Marketing Guide, host nanny workshops, network with other local business owners (particularly those who are marketing to your target market) and subscribe to the INA Weekly Brief. Keep your finger on the pulse of the nanny industry, childcare issues both local and national, and small business concerns. The competitive landscape is constantly changing, and you want to be in front of these changes to maximize your revenues and profits.

5. Plan For Retirement and Develop your Nanny Agency Exit Strategy.

INA Exit Strategy DownloadThink ahead: While your agency is running at full steam right now, one day you’ll be ready to sell your business and retire. Or perhaps you’ll just hand the day-to-day decisions over to someone else. The INA’s Nanny Agency Exit Strategy Guide (FREE!)
will help you plan for these life transitions, so you either have the resources to finance your next business venture, or retire on a beach in Miami. You own your own nanny referral agency – and planning for your future is part of your job! It isn’t rocket science yet all to many small business owner fail to make any plans for their own exit and financial future.

I am a 20+ year nanny industry veteran. I have seen many successful nanny agencies, and sadly more than a few that have been rising starts only to crash and burn. Your success is only limited by your imagination and motivation. Put some time aside weekly to focus on these 5 keys to a successful nanny referral agency – don’t be all consumed by the myriad demands of your clients, your family, and your employees. I strongly encourage you to consider an annual sabbatical – attend the INA Annual Conference, learn from your peers, expand your industry network, focus on tomorrow instead of today, and return to your business with new skills, knowledge and most of all enthusiasm.

Kathleen Webb Nanny Payroll and Tax Service

Kathleen Webb
HomeWork Solutions Inc.

A special thank you to INA member Kathleen Webb for contributing this article.

Kathy is the co-founder and President of HomeWork Solutions, a leading household payroll and payroll tax compliance service, and a member of the International Nanny Association since 1993.

Kathy serves on the INA Board of Directors as Co-President and chairs the Governmental Affairs committee.

Differentiation - Definition: is the act of designing a set of meaningful differences to distinguish the company’s offering from competitor’s offerings.

INS Nanny Agency Marketing DifferentiatorsNanny agency owners know – it is tough out there! You compete with each other for families and qualified nannies. You compete with online nanny matching services for the same. You are constantly educating families about the difference between your $5,000 staffing fee and other’s $49/month search fees.

What are your service differentiators? How do you stand out from the crowd?

  • Your professional commitment is evidenced by your Member INA seal on your website and promotional materials?
  • Client intake process that WOWs and imbues the client with confidence in your process?
  • Nanny Candidates who have been personally screened by your office?
  • All Candidates have passed the INA Basic Skills Exam?
  • Thorough, independent background screening?
  • Help with compensation agreements and work agreements?
  • Referrals for Payroll and Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Wait! You are NOT using the INA Nanny Basic Skills Assessment?

This assessment tool is a wonderful benefit of your INA membership. INA Agencies can purchase these tests in bulk, 150 exams for $200 – that’s $1.25 per test! And only INA Agency members can use this powerful tool to differentiate themselves from competitors and online matching services.

My agency, Family Helpers, has been using the Basic Skills Exam as an assessment tool in screening nanny candidates for several years. It has become an important part of our vetting process and we find that both clients and candidates find value in it, too.

Candidates like getting the feedback about what areas they are very knowledgeable in and what areas they may need to do some continuing education. Clients appreciate that we give the exam to candidates and view the exam as an important part of the assessment process.

Susan Tokayer, Agency Owner

The INA Nanny Basic Skills Exam was developed to assess a nanny’s basic child care knowledge. The INA Nanny Basic Skills Exam is a 40 question timed, multiple-choice exam that is available to be taken online. The exam addresses Health, Safety, Nutrition, Professionalism and Child Development. The minimum passing score is 70%. Order online. You will receive an email containing your customized exam link within 3 business days.

Agencies purchasing the INA Nanny Basic Skills Exam Bulk Exams For Agency Use, are prohibited from printing pass/fail certificates for individuals taking the exam, or charging individuals to take the Exam.

Tip! If you log into your INA account BEFORE you purchase items from the INA eStore, you get an additional discount on all purchases!

Related Agency Marketing Links:

2014 Workshop: Authentic Self Promotion by Jess Ponce

INA Nanny Agency Marketing Tool Kit

Nanny Agencies: Managing Your Online Reputation



The online world provides seemingly endless opportunities for those who dream of working for themselves. As a nanny, why work with a nanny agency like mine when you can cut out the ‘middle man’? All you need to do is put an ad on a nanny job listing service website, at little or no cost, and find your own work. Get paid cash and you won’t even need to pay taxes. Easy … yes?

Well, actually, no.

nanny online job search cautionThe recent experiences of a family friend of ours demonstrated all too well the risks associated with taking this ‘solo’ approach. Her story shows how cutting corners and bypassing ‘the system’ works both ways. If potential employees can cut corners, so too can potential employers, and that can lead to some very dubious, if not downright scary, situations.

Our friend – I’ll call her Claire – is a university student who was out of work and was very keen to find a job. She decided to place an ad on the ‘Gumtree’ website, a sort of modern Trading Post on which you can advertise, for free, anything from a used lawn mower to your own labour.

Claire’s ‘Work wanted’ ad began “I’m a 20-year-old female looking for cleaning, babysitting or waitressing work…” In order to maximise her chances of a response, Claire included her mobile phone number in her ad, something the website recommends.

In the week or so after placing the ad, Claire received four responses.

The first was from someone who sent her a message giving her the opportunity to “be my girl”, for which she would be paid $2000 per week plus free accommodation.

The second was an offer to be a ‘masseuse’. When Claire replied that she was not qualified to do this, the employer told her that she would be trained and that she would quickly get “regular clients”. Claire asked them for their company name but they had none, nor a website or any other form of proof that they really existed.

The third offer was a little more promising, though only just. It was a text message offering bar work at $15 per hour. After Claire established that the work would involve essentially running a cocktail bar on her own – practically managing the bar – and questioned the pay rate, she was offered “$20 an hour if you wear revealing clothing”.

The fourth offer was the most dubious of all. I won’t go into the details, suffice to say it involved ‘working’ in front of a camera for a fairly substantial fee.

Eventually Claire did get a genuine offer of cleaning work but as she drove to the house of the client – oddly enough within the grounds of a converted prison – these previous experiences made her very wary. It worked out, but so easily might not have.

This is the sort of world that ‘going it alone’ potentially takes you into, and it applies as much to in-home child care as to the sort of work Claire was looking for.

Nannies need to be careful about who they work for and who they work with. They need to protect themselves against low pay (most cash employers pay less than the award rate), against maltreatment (there is nowhere to turn when working on your own) and against the tax department (cash-in-hand arrangements are illegal for both employer and employee). These are all the things a reputable, accredited nanny agency helps you with – plus things like legal pay, unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance in case you are injured at work, holiday and sick leave, and ongoing training.

Claire has learnt her lesson. In future she will be dealing with agencies and employers who play by the rules. In her view, any potential benefit of flying solo is just not worth the risks.

Have you used an online nanny listing service to find a job? What steps do you take to protect yourself from online predators?

INA Nanny Employer Handbook DownloadHave you seen the International Nanny Association’s Nanny Employer Handbook?

Available to members and the general public, this handbook offers expert tips on:

  • Identifying a Quality Nanny Agency
  • Interviewing Candidates
  • Negotiating Salary and Vacation Time
  • Writing A Work Agreement
  • Identifying and Managing Problems
  • Employer Tax Obligations
  • Sample job applications, performance review forms, home emergency templates and more

Publication of the Nanny Employer Handbook supports the International Nanny Association’s educational mission. If you too support excellence in in-home child care, we invite you to support the International Nanny Association.


A special thank you to INA member Louise Dunham for contributing this article.

Louise is the Managing Director of Placement Solutions, a nanny referral service in Melbourne Australia.

Louise also serves on the INA Board of Directors and chairs the Ethics Committee. She is the only international member to serve on the INA Board.


By Marcia Hall – INA Board of Directors, Nanny Program Committee Chair

INA 2015 Annual Conference Cancun MexicoSo many amazing professionals  – subject matter experts actually – come to speak at INA conferences, often either at their own expense or at deeply discounted speaker fees. I am always in awe of the time and attention these professionals put into their INA Conference presentations. Some of our speakers are the very people that sit next to the rest of us in many other workshops while others are experts outside of our industry. I would personally and publicly like to thank each of them for the amazing conference they helped provide this year.

There are three program committees – Nanny, Newborn Care Specialist, and Agency/Business.

As the chair of the Nanny Program Committee, I wanted to give you a little behind the scenes look into the process the program committees goes through selecting speakers. Speaker selection starts pretty much right after conference when we gather suggestions for topics and speakers given to us via the evaluations and social media. We value the input from attendees and welcome all suggestions, as well as introductions by members to extraordinary, talented professionals you may feel are a good fit for INA. These potential speaker introductions are especially appreciated.

Early in the summer the committees will begin sending out introductory emails to potential speakers, requesting speaker proposals. Simultaneously INA reaches out to all members – prior conference attendee or not – soliciting speaker proposals and introductions. Because this year we are gearing up for Cancun and know we need to have speakers lined up earlier than normal, this will likely begin as early as June. The speaker proposal form is also available on the INA website. The deadline for these proposals to be in is yet to be decided but will likely be near the end of the summer.

Once the deadline is passed, the program committees “meet” – typically via conference call. Every committee member is required to read though all proposals and come to that conference call with a good knowledge of every proposal. During this call, we walk though each potential workshop and select those we think will best fit what our nanny members have requested and what we feel will benefit the most attendees. Sometimes these choices are very difficult, and time and space considerations, as well as budget, often require that we pass on outstanding opportunities (we do keep these in mind for the following year!).

Most of our presenters agree to speak to INA for free or in exchange for an exhibitor booth or advertising. The bigger name speakers often work at a great discount for INA because we are a non-profit organization.

In early fall all program committees get together to make final scheduling decisions and speaker determinations. This is a complicated process that needs to take into account the anticipated popularity of speakers, room space, and opposing workshops. We also go high tech here – we have 3 different colors of index size Post-It notes, one for each track. Each proposed workshop has its own note. Add in a white board, a scheduling grid and we go to work, shuffling workshop around as needed! From here we work out a schedule and match the workshops we feel would best run opposing each other. This too usually proves to be a difficult decision. Once the presenters are confirmed, we begin gathering all the information we need – a/v equipment needs, internet needs, program bios and workshop descriptions, speaker head shots and more. The speaker biographies are then posted online, the INA Weekly Brief (our association blog) begins featuring the different speakers and workshops that are coming, the office begins working on the conference program, and we all anxiously anticipate conference!

If you are interested in being a part of a program committee you need to first make sure your membership is up to date. Then simply reach out to the specific program chair!

Nanny Program Committee: Marcia Hall
Newborn Care Specialist Program Committee: Cortney Gibson
Agency/Business Program Committee: Kathy Webb

Here are the ways you can help:

  1. Speaker/Workshop Suggestions – introductions to speakers you may know are super appreciated! Often our members encounter fantastic speakers at other industry and business events, and by bringing them to our attention with your enthusiastic endorsement you help the entire association. We will be experimenting with longer form workshops in Cancun – approximately 2.5 – 3 hours each – to provide attendees deeper, richer educational programming.
  2. Volunteer to participate in the workshop decision process and speaker coordination. To be involved directly in speaker selection, you must have been a member if INA for a minimum of 3 years and been to 3 conferences. You are also expected to bring to the program chair a minimum of 5 suggestions for workshops along with suggested speakers for these topics.

We are so pleased that so many people loved so many of the conference workshops this year and are expect this to continue into 2015 and beyond.

REMINDER: This INA Weekly Brief is a free publication, and we invite you to subscribe to this blog at the left.

Marcia Hall INA Nanny of the Year 2011
A special thank you to INA member Marcia Hall for contributing this article. Marcia serves on the INA Board of Directors, is the INA’s Secretary, Chairs the Nanny Program Committee and the INA Nanny of the Year Committee – she is a busy lady. Marcia is also a former INA Nanny of the Year!

Marcia is the founder of Strong Roots Family Coaching, a life coaching practice that centers on the relationship parents have with their children. She is a popular nanny industry trainer/speaker.

Marcia and her husband are also kept exceptionally busy, and rewarded, parenting two beautiful girls.



Related Posts:

2015 INA Annual Conference: Cancun SAVE THE DATE!

Optional Outings in Cancun

INA Annual Conference Planning – Behind the Scenes

I’m bored. I’m bored. I’M BORED!

Parents and nannies alike look forward to those lazy summer days free of schedules, school, activities and homework. What starts out as paradise can quickly turn to boredom. Children need activity, but they also need brain time. So when the pool no longer appeals, the park has become so yesterday, it’s too hot to bike, your suggested game of catch is met with an eyeroll, what do you do?

Turn to a book! Books can transplant tired bodies and busy minds to another place. They reinforce last year’s learning and keep a child’s skills fresh over the summer. Below please find some links to books suggested by elementary school librarians. And while you are reading, you can up the game by making it competitive! Join the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge!

Pre-K to Second Grade

Grades 3 – 5

Grades 6 – 8

Do you have some clear winners in the summer reading challenge? Share below the titles that your children have loved!

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