Nanny of the Year Joanne Barrow’s Rules for Hiring a Caregiver

Is it any wonder 2013’s Nanny of the Year (NOTY), as designated by the International Nanny Association, was snagged by a Westchester family? NOTY award-winner and British expat Joanne Barrow came to the States as an au pair in her 20s and, nearly a quarter of a lifetime later, the 42-year-old is a seasoned, in-home caretaker (for two elementary-school kids in Rye), whose title, she says, represents “the best of what a professional nanny can achieve through commitment to the children in their care.” 

As far as the selectivity her standing affords, Barrow says, “I’ve been told I interview [prospective employers] harder than they interview me—after 20 years, you ask a lot of questions.” Having worked for just six families in that time, she explains, “I take my time, with the intention of being there for a few years.” 

Anxious about securing the same caliber of reinforcement? Barrow tells us her top fives tips for hiring—and holding onto—a great nanny. 

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1. Use an agency.
“For a lot of tri-state-area positions, [your hire] needs to be educated and demonstrate management skills. She may be in charge of family scheduling or take on a half-manager or ‘head nanny’ role and direct other staff. Agencies thoroughly screen, and handpick this person out of 100 résumés when you’re worried, ‘How do I know she can be trusted?’” 


2. Don’t read into pop culture.
“Shows like Supernanny and Nanny 911 shed light on how [nannies] can help support a family. Childcare gets blanketed by these horrendous stories…it’s a difficult decision. Then there are other reality shows, like Beverly Hills Nanny, with these 20-year-olds with nothing better to do struggling to make a box of mac-and-cheese and gossiping all day.” 

3. Talk it out.
As far as navigating boundaries, Barrow says, “Oftentimes, you’re living in someone’s house. I’ll say, ‘Let’s sit down for 30, uninterrupted minutes every week and communicate.’ Integrating into a family like that, you have to talk about these difficult situations. When a child scrapes a knee and goes to the nanny [for example] it’s a horrible feeling, that guilt.”

4. Let her butt in.
“I don’t know everything, but I’ve been through kindergarten several times; I’m drawn to where I can be useful. I’ve worked for families who’ve gone through separation, divorce, loss of a parent, relocation…and who appreciate the value of my experiences and input. A successful parent/nanny relationship is based upon mutual respect.” 

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5. Set—and stick to—the rules.
“I do believe in setting boundaries, and that a ‘no’ is a ‘no’ and whining isn’t going to get a ‘yes.’ That’s something I establish up front. The sense is children are busy enough with schoolwork, but there are other lessons to be learned, like caring for their things and learning what they have. Mean and do what you say, and kids will learn to trust your word.”

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