For most Canadian households with young kids, childcare costs are a pressing concern. Whether it's a single-parent home or a household where two parents are working, childcare can mean thousands of dollars streaming out of the family income on a yearly basis.
Childcare has certainly been an issue in my household. After my year-long maternity leave, my husband and I had to decide what plan of action made more sense.
I had planned to return to work after my leave, but at a price tag of $2,600 a month to put our infant twins in daycare, we realized that a too-large portion of my income would be going towards childcare expenses. (At our local daycare, that price tag is up to $2,850 monthly for two infants – kind of puts Prime Minister Harper's $100 a month per child into perspective, doesn't it?)
For us, the answer was that I would stay at home with my kids and do freelance work on evenings and weekends (and fortunately, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom). But for several of my friends, the answer came in the form of a nanny. Particularly for families with more than one child, a nanny can be more cost-effective than daycare, plus many people prefer having a single caregiver in their home rather than a daycare setting.
But how can you find a good nanny? Word of mouth seems to work best – and the majority of my friends with nannies found theirs through referrals by family and friends.
I've also heard great things about Canadiannanny.ca, a service which connects families with potential caregivers and offers substantial online resources about how to interview, hire and employ a nanny.
There is also a program offered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada that might be appropriate for a family looking for a live-in nanny. Through the Live-In Caregiver program, you can hire a nanny who is not a resident of Canada to live in your home and take care of your child or children (or an elderly or disabled person in your care).
It's not a simple process but then when we're talking about a caregiver for your children, should it really be easy? Potential caregivers are screened by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to ensure they have sufficient education and training, and families looking to hire a foreign caregiver must meet requirements as well, among them proof of sufficient income and appropriate space for the nanny to live in their home.
The minimum salary requirements for each province are laid out on the HRSDC website, including the amount that can be charged by a family for room and board. The bonus for the caregiver is that after they have worked for 24 months in Canada, they can apply for permanent residence here (something that 90 per cent of these caregivers do).
The program was changed in 2010 to further protect the caregivers enrolled in the program. These changes included giving nannies four years to complete their 24 months of employment (to quality for residency), allowing caregivers to use overtime hours towards their required months of employment, as well as requiring employers to pay from their transportation from the live-in caregiver's country of residence and provide private medical insurance before their provincial insurance kicks in.
A live-in nanny won't be the right choice for everyone, but if you're considering it, the HRSDC program might be worth checking out.