Nannies, Sitters and Your Children's Safety

Nannies, Sitters and Your Children's Safety

When we think “nanny” or “babysitter” we think of a loving, kind and nurturing person who we can trust to leave our children in their care.

Who would even think that a nanny or babysitter would harm our children? It happens more than you know.

The anxiety parents go through when hiring a nanny or sitter is high to say the least. And with good reason! Your child’s safety depends on a thorough background check of the person you are considering hiring as their nanny or babysitter. And think again if the nanny or sitter comes highly recommended by a friend or family member. This is a mistake many parents make.

Scrutinize their background. Have the potential employee complete a formal job application. You can find these application forms and background check companies on the web. Having their background information will give you the information you’ll need to make a smart decision.

All nannies and sitters must provide original documents that verify their identity (drivers license, passport, college ID card, etc and some form of a government issued ID with a photo.) at the beginning of the job interview. Do not accept any identification without a photo ID and insist on originals. No copies.

If any documents show a nickname rather than a full name – question it. Carefully check chronological dates in their work history and education. Make sure all work history and education dates include the month and year. If there is a discrepancy in dates or a gap in dates – question it. In addition to dates, make sure the applicant supplies you with supervisor’s names and phone numbers.

The interview process should consist of at least two (preferably three) interviews. Don’t include your children in the first interview.

Remember, you are hiring the person who will be caring for your child. They don’t have to be your friend. You don’t have to have anything in common.

In addition to experience, location, age, requirements, hours, salary and benefits. Assess and discuss their personality, lifestyle and child-rearing philosophy. And always ask age-appropriate interview questions. From general child-rearing questions, to questions that pertain to your children’s age group … it is important for you to know how they handle certain issues and behaviors. Talk to them about their neatness and organization skills. Ask a lot of questions.

The second interview should be in your home with all family members present. If you are still interested in pursuing the applicant, give the applicant a job description and have an initial discussion about compensation expectations. Confirm phone numbers of references and tell the applicant that you require her to provide information necessary for you to do a criminal background check and driving record check (if she will drive your children). The applicant’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, driving license number and state, and her signature (in some states) are required. If she hesitates or says no, rule her out as a potential candidate.

Check references, ask for third-party references and do a complete professional background check. Don’t delegate this responsibility to someone else. It is critical for you to personally speak with all references.

Tell references that your discussion is confidential and encourage them to be completely honest in their comments. Ask about the applicant’s creativity, dependability, strengths, weaknesses, self-esteem, why she left, would they rehire her, and her ability to communicate. And make sure some of those references are clergy and teachers. After you’ve heard from written references, call them. Sometimes people would prefer not to put things in writing. If you can set up an informal meeting.

The following are some questions you should ask references:

  • How long have you known (applicant’s name)?
  • What is your relationship to (applicant’s name)?
  • What is your occupation?
  • How long was (applicant’s name) employed by you?
  • What duties were required by you of (applicant’s name)?
  • How many children do you have?
  • Does/Did (applicant’s name) obey your rules and regulations?
  • How does/did (applicant’s name) discipline your children?
  • Can you describe (applicant’s name) appearance?
  • Can you describe (applicant’s name) personality?
  • Would you hire (applicant’s name) again?
  • Would you consider (applicant’s name) mature, emotionally stable, and healthy enough to work as a full-time, live-in nanny away from friends and family for at least one year?

When you are satisfied with the complete reference check, you should begin a professional background investigation. Generally these cost between $50 - $150 on an average.

Professional investigations will verify the applicant’s social security number. The social security number will provide you with names and addresses associated with the candidate's social security number for the last 7 years. This will allow the professional investigator to order criminal records checks in various jurisdictions. If an applicant has moved around a lot, more searches may be needed.

If your nanny/sitter is expected drive your children around, insist that she give you an original, current DMV record. This can be part of the professional background check. A good background check company will require the signed consent of the applicant when ordering the drivers record report.

If you are satisfied with all references and background checks, call the applicant to schedule a time to meet so you can make an employment offer and review the job description.

It’s a good idea to give the applicant a day or two to review the job description and accept or reject the offer.

If the applicant accepts the position, both you and the caregiver should sign the written job description as well as a summary of the financial terms of your offer. It is especially helpful to also include “house rules” related to the job regarding petty cash, phone use, where she can go (and not go) and what she can do with the children without asking for prior approval. Include a clause that states if for any reason you terminate their employment, they must leave your home immediately. It might be a good idea to have an attorney review it.


If your spouse or co-worker think you’re paranoid ... let them. Go with your gut feeling …because if it tells you something is wrong … it probably is. Move on to other candidates. NEVER …

  • Employ a nanny/sitter without checking references and employment history.
  • Ignore unexplained gaps or discrepancies in work and education history - always check them out until you are completely satisfied.


You want to trust the person you’ve hired to care for your children. The truth be told … you hope you can trust them, but you never really know. More and more parents are considering using hidden in-home surveillance devices to watch their child's caregiver. Is it a good idea...or an invasion of privacy?

Most nannies/sitters wouldn’t mind, but feel that it’s deceptive. Yet parents need to know that their children are safe. There are many different cameras on the market today. Most are wireless and can be hidden in almost any type of household item from a plant to a toy.

The prices vary from about $100 for a basic camera offering remote computer access to more than $500 for digital systems, which can send video images live via computer or cell phone.

Peace of mind and confidence in child care are reasons why some families opt to watch their child's caregiver. While media stories have focused on abuse and inattention as reasons why parents should consider using a nanny cam, some sitters have indicated a camera can provide a positive connection with the families while at work. In addition, more daycare centers are installing cameras and even provide parents with the ability to spot check and watch their child while at work.

Is It Legal To Use A Nanny Cam?

Experts in law, ethics, privacy and electronic surveillance are split over whether it's right or wrong to use a nanny cam in secret. Some nannies/sitters don't exactly welcome a camera watching their every move — or, if one is, they want to be told about it. But if the nanny/sitter is abusive and knows about it, parents wouldn’t know if their children are being abused or not. Legally, the decision is up to the parents when it comes to using nanny cams.

It is legal in New York State and others. It is legal in all 50 states to use a hidden camera. However, it is illegal to record speech without a person's consent in the following 15 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington .

Whatever you decide to do make sure your children are loved, nurtured and protected!

While a parent hopes that they can trust their nannies and sitters, many have given
parents good reason not to trust them. Do you know where your nannies/sitters take your children during the day? How they treat your children when you're not around?

The ultimate goal is not to catch nannies/sitters being bad -- you want to catch them
taking excellent care of your children.

Two good sources of making sure your nanny is taking care of your children are:  Here you can learn about purchasing license plates for your child's stroller that enables the public to anonymously report good or bad nanny observations Here you can learn about .GPS systems and nannycams.

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