How to Run a Proper Background Check on Your Nanny
Deciding to hire a nanny is a significant decision for any parent. Hiring a nanny means handing off a portion of your childcare responsibilities to another person. While some parents avoid using nannies, for others, hiring a caregiver is key to going back to work after the birth of a child. To ensure the best outcome possible, parents must make a thorough nanny background check part of their vetting process.
Why should you run a background check on a nanny?
Depending on the age of the child for whom you are seeking care, the person you hire could spend from a few hours a day with your kids during the after-school hours to an entire workday or longer. With some nannies spending dozens of hours each week with the kids they care for, it is vital to make sure that the person you give this responsibility is qualified, trustworthy, safe, and fully capable of taking on the role.
A candidate history investigation is the best way of establishing peace of mind before you leave your kids in someone else’s care.
How to run a background check on a nanny
How you proceed with a nanny background check will depend on your hiring process as you select someone to take care of your kids. In this section, we will examine how the background check process works.
Imagine that you are planning to use a nanny agency. There is a good chance that the agency has already conducted nanny background checks for its professionals. You can and should ask any agencies that you consider working with to provide details about their employee vetting policies. Reviewing this information and asking for pertinent details about the person you’re considering will help you gain a better understanding of their history regarding criminal records or other red flags.
There are also online databases, such as Care.com, that you can use to hire a nanny. Care.com is similar to “gig economy” businesses such as Uber or Postmates. It helps customers connect with a certain type of worker—in this case, nannies or babysitters. Care.com is not the employer of any of the nannies listed on its site.
If you choose to hire someone through Care.com or other similar online databases, you will be entering into an independent arrangement with that individual for the care of your children. Care.com does claim to conduct background screening on the individuals it lists on its site. However, the company has come under fire in the past for problems with its background checks. You may wish to run background checks on your own as an extra due diligence step.
In independent hiring—such as if you’ve learned about a potential nanny through your local newspaper—running a background checkcriminal records will fall to you. At backgroundchecks.com, we offer an affordable and easy-to-use service that enables parents and other individuals to run background checks for personal reasons.
These checks aren’t the same as our employer-focused background screening services. They are often used by individuals to vet partners before dates, neighbors who just moved in, babysitters, and nannies.
Note that there is an employer-employee relationship between a family and the person they hire to care for their children, even if these parties forge an informal arrangement for hours, payment, and other terms. Parents in this situation should observe the formality of obtaining each candidate’s consent before looking into their past.
How long does it take?
How long does it take to conduct a background check on a nanny? The answer varies depending on the hiring method that a family chooses.
At backgroundchecks.com, we have a partnership with BeenVerified for personal background checks that process in minutes, searching resources from criminal records to address histories to social media records. However, you may wish to conduct some of your own checks to supplement a BeenVerified search.
One of the primary steps that parents often take when choosing a caregiver for their children is to call references. Calling parents and families who have previously worked with the person and can speak to their character, trustworthiness, and professional qualifications can help you decide whether you want that person caring for your kids. How long this process takes will depend on how many individuals you are calling, how quickly you get in touch with them, and how long those conversations last.
Which information should be included in the nanny background check?
To conduct a thorough background history search of a prospective nanny, you will want to assess their background from multiple angles. A detailed candidate history check—including the checks that we provide through our BeenVerified partnership—will include this information, but you may wish to supplement with some additional checks.
Most public record information is filed based on a person’s name, which means that a criminal offender or sexual predator can hide from detection by adopting an alias. However, there are search tools that can use a person’s Social Security Number to verify their identity. A Social Security Number check can find names or aliases associated with that SSN, including maiden names, pre-name change names, and assumed identities.
Criminal records are top-of-mind for many parents when vetting nannies. If someone has a history of violence, drug crimes, reckless behavior, theft, embezzlement, or other convictions that might represent a risk to a child or family, this information is essential to know upfront. A national criminal background check can reveal this information.
Nannies may be responsible for picking kids up from school, taking them to sports practice, and managing other pieces of a family’s transportation schedule. As such, it can be appropriate to incorporate a driving record search into the vetting process. A red flag on a driving record or motor vehicle record might affect a family’s decision to hire a caregiver, or it might just impact the responsibilities that they ask that person to assume.
No one knows a nanny’s work style, rapport with kids, personality traits, and other caregiver attributes the same way as a parent or family who has trusted that person with childcare responsibilities in the past. Most parents will ask prospective nannies to provide several references who can speak on their behalf.
Sex Offender Registry
Searches of offender registries can identify predators. These checks are typically an essential part of the background screening process for nannies.
Child Abuse and Neglect Records
Similar to sex offender checks, child abuse and neglect registries provide a record of individuals who have been convicted of mistreating children.
Drug use can put children at risk, whether by exposing them to dangerous drugs directly or by leaving them in the care of someone whose alertness, response times, judgment, or motor functions are impaired due to the influence of drugs. Because of these risks, drug testing may be a part of the nanny background check process.
Social Security Number Information
A Social Security Number check can help identify aliases, past names, or alternate identities for candidates, improving the accuracy of name-based background checks. SSN information can also provide address histories, which can help guide geography-based checks, including criminal records searches, driving record checks, and court records searches.
There are other types of searches that may be worth running as well, such as civil court records checks. Court records can reveal child custody battles, child support disputes, lawsuits, and other issues that could speak to a candidate’s ability to perform key childcare functions.
Questions you cannot legally ask a potential nanny
Choosing a nanny isn’t regulated in the same way as hiring an employee. If you are a business owner and you need to hire an employee, you will be required to abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and other employment laws. Nanny agencies hiring individuals to take on nannying jobs are also required to follow these regulations.
However, as a parent hiring someone to take care of your children, you are not obligated to follow the same guidance as these employers. For instance, EEOC guidance says that employers should not reject a candidate for a criminal conviction that is not relevant to the job at hand. As a parent hiring a nanny, you are within your liberty to trust your instincts. If anything about a person makes you uncomfortable about trusting them with your kids, including any aspects of their criminal history, you can opt not to hire that person on those grounds.
There are still questions that parents shouldn’t ask. Personal and private information should remain off-limits, including questions about marital status, sexual orientation, health and disability, religion, race, and nationality. These details have no place in standard job interviews because they can lead to bias or discrimination in the hiring process, and the same holds true for families hiring nannies.
Other tips for hiring the perfect nanny
- Define the role: Childcare jobs look different depending on the needs of the parents, family, and child. For instance, one family might only need a caregiver for a few days per week, while another is looking for someone who can work every day. Other variables, such as whether the child has special needs, can also affect what you might need from a nanny. Take the time to write down exactly what you need, including time commitment, responsibilities, and skills.
- Map out the interview: Nanny background checks are a crucial part of the vetting process, but they aren’t the only part. You can learn a lot about someone just by sitting down with them for an interview. Get to know the person better before you conduct a background check: based on your job description, map out the specific questions that you want to ask during your interview.
- Trust your instincts: The right caregiver isn’t just one who can pass a pre-employment investigation and say the right things in the interview; it’s someone who feels like the right fit. A nanny will often become a part of the family, so finding someone who works well with you and your kids is a must. Taking the time and care to find the right fit will lead to peace of mind.
Frequently asked questions
What should you check before hiring a nanny?
Criminal background information, identity verifications, court records, motor vehicle records, reference checks, sex offender and child abuse registries, and drug tests are all background checks that you should consider when vetting a candidate.
Can you do a nanny background check without a Social Security Number?
You can run nanny background checks without an SSN—for instance, our BeenVerified check does not require Social Security details. However, using an SSN as part of the check can lead to a more thorough search of county, state, and national criminal background check information, as it incorporates alias and identity checking as well as address history checking.
What personal information do you need for a background check on a nanny?
Full name, birthdate, address, and SSN are the pieces of information that you should obtain for the most thorough and accurate investigation possible.
Does the nanny need to know that you are doing a background check?
Yes: families should notify the candidate and obtain their consent before they conduct a thorough background check.
About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments