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How to Do a Background Check on a Nanny

Vetting tips and questions to ask nanny references

Great resume? Check. Positive interview? Check. The feeling that THIS is the nanny for your nanny share? CHECK. Congrats! You’re almost ready to offer them the job. Before you move forward with this ideal nanny, it’s time to vet them. That means it’s time to verify everything they’ve told you (experience, job history, etc) and make sure they're trustworthy and right for the job. And before you ask, “Do I really need to?”, let us just say, YES.

This part of the nanny hiring process can be pretty time consuming and a little overwhelming (no sugar coating here), but it is so, SO important and should be taken seriously. You should never employ a nanny without conducting a background check. We repeat: you should NEVER employ a nanny without conducting a background check. At CozyKin, we conduct multiple background and reference checks on every single nanny we employ. It's important that we completely trust the nannies we hire and that we give our families the peace of mind that their little ones are in great hands. Remember that this is someone you’re trusting with your little one’s life. It’s great that you had a really positive interview and a good gut feeling —now it’s time to back that up with some facts.

What You Need to Get Started

Before you dive in, you will need to get the candidate’s permission to run a background check. Why? Because you’re considering employing this person and prospective employees have legally-protected rights. It’s the law (numerous laws, really) that you need written permission from the candidate before running any sort of background check.

Here’s what you should ask the nanny for:

  • Permission to run a background check (All states have slightly different requirements so it's best to find your state’s form online. There are several websites that provide these downloadable forms.)
  • Their full, legal name
  • Social security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • 3 references that are former employers, supervisors or colleagues. If they can’t produce three of these, then one character reference is fine (but family members don’t count!)

If you are requiring the nanny to have immunizations, you should also ask for a photocopy of those records.

Run a Nanny Background Check in 4 Steps

The vetting process should involve four buckets: 1) Google Search 2) Social Media Check 3) State and National Background Checks 4) Driving Records & Child Protection Services Check. This is also the order in which you should tackle them.

1. Google Search

Running a Google search is by far the easiest so it’s best to start there in case anything glaring comes up. Start with a simple Google search of the nanny's name to check for anything concerning. Make sure to run searches for their full name as well as nicknames.

Check Google for the following:

  • Racist, sexist, or discriminatory behavior
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Threats or acts of violence
  • Potentially illegal activity
  • ANYTHING that indicates harm towards or endangerment of children

2. Social Media Check

You can search social media platforms on your own or there are several services you could purchase to run the checks for you. Considering most people these days have had social media profiles for years, it’s probably worth using a service to scan through all the posts for you. Otherwise, put on the coffee and get scrolling.

Check social media accounts for the following:

  • Racist, sexist, or discriminatory behavior
  • Sexually explicit material
  • Threats or acts of violence
  • Potentially illegal activity
  • Drug use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Criminal behavior
  • Any behavioral red flags (for example, there are several posts where they bad mouth their previous employer)
  • ANYTHING that indicates harm towards or endangerment of children

3. State and National Background Checks

Online searches can be helpful, but they shouldn’t be relied on solely when you run a nanny background check. At CozyKin, we use several different local and national services as well as social media intelligence services to run our background checks.

There are several online services you can use to conduct a background check and they vary in price and in the scope of the searches they handle. You’ll want to look for services that can run background checks in your state and on the national level.

Make sure the services can search:

  • State and national criminal offense records (any records that detail whether the nanny has a felony, misdemeanor, were an inmate, is on probation, etc)
  • State and national sex offender lists
  • Terrorist watch lists
  • FBI’s Most Wanted List
  • America’s Most Wanted List

It’s also a good idea to make sure the service you use is FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) compliant. This is the primary federal law regulating employment background checks.

4. Driving Records & Child Protection Services

If the nanny will be driving littles ones around, it’s important to make sure their driving records are up to snuff. That means it’s time to visit the oh-so-fun DMV. If you bring the nanny’s driver’s license number and social security number, the DMV should be able to look up their driving records for any convictions, violations, suspensions or accidents. What they can provide may vary by state so best to call or visit their website first to see what you can find out (and what you can do online rather than in-person).

Next, it’s time to search for the one thing that makes all parents shudder (and would rather avoid having to think about all together)—sex offenses and child abuse. All sex offender registries are public information so you should be able to easily look up their name and make sure it’s not on the list. For child abuse and neglect records, contact your state’s child protective services and see if they allow prospective employers to check for a nanny’s name on their registry.

All of these services vary by state, which can get a little confusing and hard to navigate. If you’re overwhelmed by the process, you could also consider hiring a private investigator to scour local, county, state and national records. CozyKin handles all of this background work for our families. Other childcare providers do the same, but some don’t. So, if using a service to find a nanny, make sure you ask them about their process when it comes to nanny background checks (the more details the better!)

Nanny Reference Check Guide & Questions

You’ve now conducted the background checks and the nanny has passed with flying colors. You’re over one of the biggest hills! Now you just have one more to go. It’s time to call the nanny's references to see if they can echo your positivity for this nanny.

Three is the magic number when it comes to references. Ask your nanny candidate to provide three former supervisors, colleagues or families they’ve worked for previously. If they can’t provide three professional references, then subbing in one character reference is fine...as long as it’s not a family member (because everyone’s Mom will give a glowing reference).

When you’re ready to check references, it’s best to give the candidate a heads up on when you’ll be calling them. That way, they can reach out to the references and let them know a call is coming their way. When speaking with a reference, a phone call is always best. Details are what matters here so emails or texts aren’t going to cut it. If all you have is an email, start with that and ask to set up a call.

When checking references, you will most likely be speaking to parents just like you who understand that the person you select will be caring for your little ones. They know what this process is like and are sure to be open to helping you. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions! Ask about the nanny's credentials and demeanor and ask if they can give you specific examples.

During these calls, make sure you trust your instincts. If the reference is having trouble remembering the candidate or recalling details, the nanny could have exaggerated their time in the role. And unfortunately, fake references are also something you’ll need to watch out for. If it feels like the reference is trying to sell the nanny as the perfect candidate rather than sounding like an enthusiastic former employer, then something might be off. Trust your gut.

If you question the references in any way, it’s perfectly fine to go back to the nanny and request additional contacts. If they can’t provide additional references—or refuse to—that may be a red flag that they’re not being truthful about their work history or don’t have any former employers who are willing to refer them.

Not sure exactly what questions to ask nanny references? Download our checklist!

Vetting a nanny is no easy task. But you’ve got this! It’s important to be as thorough as possible to make sure the nanny you select for your nanny share is going to be trustworthy, reliable and a nurturing presence for the little ones. It’s a lot of work upfront, but it’s always best to weed out any problem candidates now instead of months into the nanny share. Remember: all of this work will be worth it in the end when you can confidently leave for work each day and come home each night to smiling faces!

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