Sunday, July 9, 2006

Big need for nannies: Qualified childcare providers in high demand in the valley

By Liz Garone
Special to Sunday Jobs

To be a nanny, you can't just like children. You have to love them, says Tonya Halvorson, the owner of Nannies by Nature, a Modesto-based childcare placement agency. "Nannies have to have tons of experience. They have to be people who have childcare in their blood," she says. "This is their career choice, not just a job."

Some nannies work full time while others do it part time. Some live with the families for whom they work while others live out. No matter what the case, the job involves taking care of infants, toddlers and children. Nannies are in high demand in the valley, and Halvorson is always looking for qualified and energetic applicants to fill open positions. She places around five nannies per month.

Crystal Say, 19, works as a nanny with two nine-month-old infants from two different families. She was hired through Nannies by Nature after working as an assistant manager for Halvorson. "I want to go into the nursing field, and I love working with children," she says. "Not all nannies are lucky enough to have babies who excel and are always happy. You have to be very patient as every child is different."

In addition to being patient, a nanny who works with infants and toddlers needs to have "a strong stomach," according to Say. "I would have to say that diaper duty is probably the least favorite part of my job," she says. On the other end of the spectrum is seeing the babies develop, she says. "It's just wonderful to watch them become individual personalities."

While Halvorson doesn't specify "strong stomachs" when advertising for nannies, she does look for people with at least three years of professional experience working with children. Many of her nannies are former preschool teachers or teachers' aides. She also has received applications from former daycare owners. "I am looking for people who have tons of experience," she says. She also likes applicants with coursework in child development. Humphreys College, with campuses in Modesto and Stockton, offers associate and bachelor programs in Early Childhood Education.

Potential nannies need to be registered through Trustline, a California database of nannies and babysitters who have cleared criminal background checks in California. The Trustline service costs around $130, and the nannies are responsible for the cost of it. In addition, the nannies who Halvorson places must be CPR and First Aid certified.

In addition, Halvorson interviews potential nannies and checks their references. "By the time the nanny comes to the client, they have been background checked and reference checked," she says. "At that point, all the client has to worry about is whether the person is a match."

When choosing nannies for her agency, Halvorson looks for certain qualities. "I'm looking for intelligent, articulate, well-groomed, well-mannered people," she says. "These are people who are going to be responsible for other people's children."

Families pay Halvorson a one-time referral fee, which is 10 percent of the nanny's annual salary. Nannies do not pay a fee to sign up with the agency. On average, Halvorson's nannies make $10 to $15 an hour. Nationally, live-in nannies make an average of $532 per week while live-out nannies make $590 a week, according to the International Nanny Association, which is based in New Jersey.

While Halvorson doesn't specify gender in her advertisements, she hasn't received any applicants from males yet. Not that there isn't a need for or an interest in male nannies. Families do request them, according to Halvorson, but she doesn't have any applicants to offer them. In general, there are two categories of nannies that she sees on a regular basis. They are college-age women, from 18 to 22, and grandmother types, who are 50 and older. "They almost always fall into these two age groups," she says.

Halvorson says she is always accepting applications as the demand for nannies far outweighs the number of qualified applicants. Even the best applicants aren't always the right match for a certain family. "The need for nannies is definitely there," she says.

Additional resources

Nannies by Nature:


International Nanny Association:

Craigslist Modesto:

Humphreys College:

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