Written By: Rosalind Prather, TC Co-Founder
When it comes to the safety and well-being of children, one can never be too cautious. We recognize that not all families are able or wanting to use an agency to find sitters or other childcare providers and we believe that knowledge is an incredibly important aspect to keeping your kids safe. So we want to share some expert advice that we hope will help you if you decide to hire a nanny on your own.
Here are our Top 5 Sitter Safety Tips.
1. Online nanny finder sites should be used with extreme caution. Anyone can create an online profile. Often times, candidates who respond to our posted positions, disappear when they find out we are an agency. Why? Because the “bad apples” like flying under the radar. And an online site is a place where they know they will not encounter as much scrutiny or a thorough vetting process. If you do decide to use online sites, understand that they are not agencies. The website has not personally met the nanny or sitter behind the screen. So be sure to do your own extensive screening process before offering a candidate the position. Our agency has a DIY Screening and Consulting program for families that want to find a nanny on their own but still want to use our robust screening tools. Click here to learn more about all the screening tools you can purchase a la carte.
2. Background checks and background investigations are not the same thing. Many online nanny finder sites tout “background checked” candidates but what does this mean? Families also feel that if they have purchased a subscription to an online background check program that they are getting a thorough screening. However, many of these online background checks only scratch the surface and simply give you a false sense of security. Only a licensed, private detective (which is what our agency uses) can give you a thorough, in-depth analysis and fact-based, unbiased information on a nanny or sitter you are considering for hire. Private detectives have access to additional databases that online sites do not and can also identify inconsistencies and misrepresentations in information.
3. Just because someone you know and trust referred someone, doesn’t make that sitter safe. People commonly refer nannies and sitters who go from one family to the next but no one has ever taken the time to do an actual background investigation and screening process. Referrals should be given the same careful screening as any other nanny or sitter you are considering. Any nanny worth having is one that will be happy to undergo a hefty vetting process. When a nanny or sitter you are considering is uncomfortable or impatient with this, consider it a major red flag. Background checks are only one piece of the screening process. Click here to learn more about other important parts of the screening process including reference checks and drug tests.
4. Honesty really matters. If a sitter or nanny can lie about the small stuff they can lie about the big stuff. While it might not seem like a big deal when your nanny fibs about her age, exaggerates her experience or says she fed and watered the dog when she really forgot to, this is not something that should be taken lightly. You should consider what other untruths you have been told and how this could affect the quality of care your family is receiving.
5. Interviews and reference calls are a must. (Even for your occasional date-night sitter who lives down the street.) Anyone who is spending any length of time with your kids should undergo a formal, in-depth, in-person interview. When interviewing, be sure to ask “open-ended” questions, or questions that require more than a “yes or no” answer. For example, rather than saying, “Do you like to read to children?” you could ask, “Tell me about your favorite children’s books and why you enjoy them.” The second question will tell you a lot more about a person that the first. You will also want to take it further and talk to previous employers or families the nanny has worked for. Reference calls should also aim to dig deep into a candidate’s past performance. To get the right kind of information, ask the reference to rate the nanny in areas that are a priority to you and explain their reasoning. You should also be comparing the information the nanny gave you in the interview with the information shared by her references to look out for any inconsistencies. Consider verifying each reference as well. There are programs that enable you to cross-check someone’s name and phone number to ensure you are speaking to the correct person.