A nanny is not in everybody's budget, but having one has helped Sarah Wilson and her husband, Andrew, more smoothly navigate their demanding jobs.

The Edina mother of three formerly traveled a lot for work, so it was a relief to not have day-care drop-offs in the morning. They also didn't always have as much flexibility to take off work every time their children were sick.

"Having a nanny, for me, has helped me get where I wanted in my career," Wilson said. "It's something I'm really passionate about: helping keep women in the workforce and making sure they have the support that they need."

Through the past eight years, the Wilson family has employed three nannies, using a different method to find each. When they first looked, they turned to a placement agency for help.

"We just didn't really have any idea where to start," Wilson said. "We had just moved back to the area and so didn't necessarily have a large network of friends with children."

A couple of years later, Wilson used care.com to find their next nanny. When it came time to hire her third and current nanny, Wilson knew exactly what she wanted, so she tapped into the Minnesota Nanny Network, a popular Facebook group.

On the social media page, families looking for caregivers and nannies looking for work can make posts, often with pictures of themselves and their children, listing their preferred hours and wages, location and other needs and wants in hopes of finding a good match.

If you're exploring the option of adding a nanny to your child-care routine, here are some resources and things to think about in finding a trustworthy addition to your kids' lives.

The Minnesota Nanny Network

The Minnesota Nanny Network started a little more than a decade ago as a Facebook group for nannies to network with one another and organize play dates or meetups.

When Melissa Sax joined in 2014 and became one of its administrators, the group had about 100 people. As time passed, nannies started posting about families looking for a caregiver. Then they started letting families in to ask directly themselves. It's taken off from there.

"Word has just spread like wildfire," she said.

The Facebook group now has more than 38,000 members, and it's very active. In a recent four-week span, it had more than 500 posts from families seeking caregivers or nannies searching for short-term or long-term positions.

One of its biggest spikes came during the height of COVID-19 when there was a surge of people looking for nannies as child-care centers frequently closed classroom and many families juggled remote learning with remote work.

One of the Nanny Network's rules is members must note they will abide by tax laws in their job posts.

"What we were finding is that so many families were coming in, and it was really driving the market down because people were trying to pay cash, and that's not beneficial for the nanny or for the family," Sax said. "It's against the law. And we really wanted to advocate for fair and legal pay."

The group, of course, does not monitor what happens once a family and nanny link up, but she said they wanted to make sure people were aware of the tax requirements.

In Minnesota, nannies are considered household employees, which means employers have to pay employer taxes and abide by overtime rules. Families must also have a workers' compensation policy.

In addition, the state's new paid sick and safe time law, which went into effect in January, covers nannies. That means nannies must receive at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work, earning a maximum of 48 hours in a year unless the employer decides to give more.

The Minnesota Nanny Network is a great free resource to find a nanny, Sax said, and "everybody loves free."

But some families and caregivers still prefer going through an agency. That includes Sax, who has been nannying for 12 years.

"It just gives such a sense of security from both sides to have both the nanny and the family pre-screened and match up personalities and do all of the checking of references and backgrounds," she said.

The agency route

Erin Hammill, owner of Apple Valley-based Above and Beyond Nanny Services, explained the difference between searching yourself and using a nanny agency this way:

"It's like a carwash where you drive through, and it washes it for you," she said. "Or a carwash where you pull over, and you get out, and you bring your soap, and you do the process yourself. Both accomplish a completely clean car. But it's just who's responsible for the efforts. It's my job to make it a faster, easier, more professional experience."

A search for a nanny through an agency usually takes six weeks.

After meeting with families and discussing their needs, Above and Beyond typically introduces clients to three to five qualified candidates. There is usually a second interview, with the top contender and sometimes a one-day paid trial run to make sure it's a good fit.

Nanny agencies will also often run background checks and call references. Some online platforms, such as care.com, also run background checks on caregivers.

Many agencies also have a guarantee that if the nanny does not end up working out in the first few months, they will find you a replacement for free.

Above and Beyond, which charges $2,000, will also send back-up care if its nanny is sick and helps connect clients to payroll services and tax specialists.

Jovie, a nationwide company that started in the Twin Cities two decades ago as College Sitters and Nannies, offers nanny-finding services through franchise locations. It charges a placement fee of 10% to15% of the nanny's first-year annual compensation.

"We're like a headhunter," said Laura Davis, a Jovie franchise owner who covers the western part of the Twin Cities metro area. "We go out to our team of caregivers that we know and referrals we have in this massive network we have."

There's nothing wrong with doing it yourself, she added. It's just a matter of how much time you have and how much guidance you might need.

"We have an HR department," she added. "We have a legal compliance department. We have just a larger team to serve."

In addition to helping to find nannies, Jovie also offers the option to be the employer of the nannies for families, handling all taxes and related administrative duties and requirements for an additional 18% to 25% annual fee.

Industry standards

Before you start looking for a nanny, Sax said it's wise to first sit down and figure out if you can financially afford one.

It's not just the hourly rate for the nanny and possibly holiday or annual bonuses to consider but also employer taxes, a workers' compensation policy and possibly using a payroll service such as HomePay (through care.com) or HomeWork Solutions, which help you keep track of paid time off, sick days and taxes.

When it comes to pay, there is a range based on experience, the number of children and any special skills. But between $18 and $30 an hour is fairly common around the Twin Cities these days.

Beyond pay, there are other benefits to keep in mind. Two weeks of vacation is standard, with one week the nanny chooses and one the family decides.

Guaranteed hours is also an industry standard where families will ensure nannies will earn a certain amount, for example, 40 hours a week. In reality, nannies may work less than that some weeks, such as when the family takes an extended vacation.

A family usually lays out the pay rate, vacation, guaranteed hours and other terms in an employment agreement with the nanny. The written agreement is also a place where families can set expectations, such as how often they want a nanny to do laundry or how much screen time for their children.

Agencies often have templates for employment agreements they share and build off for clients. There are also some sample contracts you can find online or buy and customize to your needs, such as A to Z Nanny Contract.

Wilson, the Edina mother of three, has a nanny contract she's used in some form for years and shares it widely with her friends and colleagues.

"Anyone who will ask, I send ours to because that, for me, was the hardest part of getting started," she said.