Nannies vs. Au Pairs: Is There a Security Difference?

by Caitlin Trent


Finding childcare support at home can be stressful. Not only are parents leaving children at home regularly in the hands of a stranger, but this person can have an incredible impact on the life and development of young children depending on the length of the relationship. 

If it’s the first time a family is hiring in-home childcare, there are a lot of options for in-home childcare relationships. Understanding the right fit for a family is important, and understanding the screening differences is a good place to start. What’s the security difference between an au pair and a nanny?

What is an Au Pair? What's a Nanny?

An au pair is a young person from another country who lives with a family, and they are usually provided room, board, and a form of payment in exchange for taking care of the children they live with. Young people will make this exchange for a variety of reasons, including to travel more cheaply, attain reliable and safe housing while moving between countries, or having a place to stay while studying outside their homeland.

Nannies, on the other hand, are domestic childcare workers, and they typically do not live with a family. Nannies can serve families in part-time and full-time capacities to provide on-call support or to assist in raising children for the greater portion of their family’s early childhood. Part-time nannies may work with a variety of families in a region, and full-time nannies typically only serve one family at a time.  There are pros and cons to both types of childcare, including cost, comfortability, accessibility, and security factors. 

Security Considerations for Hiring a Nanny

A nanny is generally more expensive than an au pair, but this is because they may come with decades of experience as a caregiver. Many nannies are not expected to be integrated into the household, as they come and go from the home. Depending on what a family is looking for in a childcare provider, this can be an advantage for a family. 

A family should be certain they can trust their children day-in and day-out with a nanny, or even in a short-term capacity with a temporary, part-time nanny. A thorough background check process is important to confirm a nanny’s credentials, references, qualifications, and prior history. This helps parents ensure their children’s safety with a nanny.  

Nannies are not necessarily part of an agency, and they may or may not adhere to agency standards if they work independently. Many agencies will offer a formal background check as part of the search process, but at the end of the day, it’s the family’s responsibility to conduct secure screenings in ways that offer the breadth and depth of knowledge that would support them in making the most informed decision possible. 

Because nannies are domestic, this can make the background check process easier and more familiar.  Before hiring a nanny, eKnowID suggests covering these bases in a highly personal, relationship approach to background checks before making a new nanny hire:

  • Past experience/employment history: Get a background check that will confirm previous employers and relevant experience as a caregiver.
  • Criminal history: Know before entrusting the care of children for any arrests or convictions, particularly the Sex Offender Registry and Child Protective Service Records.
  • Civil cases: It may be important to see if a candidate has been involved in any civil lawsuits, particularly relating to caregiving
  • References: Talk to other families who have hired the nanny and will know best what working with the nanny was like


Before hiring a nanny, it’s best for a family to assess why they need one, for how long, and with what kinds of expertise. High-quality background checks can help confirm these metrics and give families confidence that they have selected well for their children. 

Security Considerations for Hiring an Au Pair

Au Pairs can provide children with an international cultural exchange experience in the home, and these childcare workers often have more flexible schedules since they are living and working with a family directly for the duration of their stay.  More regulations exist for hiring an Au Pair since they are required to meet key visa standards regulated by the U.S. government and must adhere to specific agency standards, unlike nannies.  

Because the trust levels are so much more difficult to discern when hiring from another country or for a live-in childcare provider, parents will need to rely more than ever on background checks, paperwork and the sponsoring agency in place of meeting the Au Pair in person. Hiring an Au Pair can be a fantastic experience for everyone...but it needs to be done thoughtfully. 

Generally families hire an Au Pair through a sponsoring agency.  Digging into the specific agency, and comparing agencies for what they screen (and do not screen) is extremely important: it’s not enough to simply rely on the marketing of the business but to really explore the exact functions of their screening process. The level and degree of background check will also vary depending on the country the au pair is coming from due to the spectrum of legal standards in each country. A more notable family may also require different kinds of security precautions if they are celebrities or otherwise may need to protect their privacy interests with a more secure hiring choice. 

Au Pair agencies can usually look at the following to assess a new recruit: education and employment history, references, psychometric/personality tests, and a criminal record check (dependent on the laws of a given country). Here are other examples from different companies of what agencies screen: 


So long as a family enters the search for an Au Pair with a fair mind to understand a different individual’s context and also to protect their children, a safe, fun experience with an Au Pair can be life changing for kids. Families need to make sure they have the right, secure fit.

Au Pair or Nanny? Do the Homework

Whether hiring an au pair or a nanny, families are undertaking a major life commitment, and this makes the hiring and background check processes especially crucial. Families need to be prepared to ask the right questions before hiring.  

Whether they are seeking a nanny or an Au Pair, families should thoroughly research childcare options to meet their needs and what kind of background or qualifications they may want a provider to have. This will help them navigate making the right, secure hire.  Asking for additional international background checks for an Au Pair, or getting an advanced background check independent of an agency or nannying website, can give families peace of mind before making a final decision.  Nannies and Au Pairs can be some of the most important influences in a child’s life, and it’s essential that families understand the process, what to look out for, and how to distinguish security differences between the two.


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