Child sCare Part II — Nanny Care and Babysitters.
Thanks for coming back to read some more about child care. This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. If you haven’t read the first part, please check out the introduction of Part I here, and then jump right back in over here.
…Now, maybe your family has decided that a nanny is a better choice so, here are some guidelines for finding nannies or babysitters.
The main difference between nannies and babysitters, in addition to more individual contact, which is typically a good thing if you can afford it, is that now you are the gatekeeper for the vetting. In daycare, most of the questions listed above are handled by the provider. Now you will be in charge of ensuring the questions above are answered. Whether you find a nanny/babysitter through a website like Care.com or off a recommendation from another family/friend, we will provide some ideas for resources that may assist you in getting to the next steps.
Take some time to sit down with the person who will be watching your child, even if it is a next-door neighbor. Ask them questions about their experiences and get a basis for what they will be like in a situation watching your child/children. Some questions include:
How long have you been involved in child-care? We were looking for someone with experience.
What ages of children have you worked with? Maybe you want to be the family for this person’s first time with a five-month-old. We did not.
Are you still in contact with any of the families you have worked with in the past? If not, why not? We were looking for a nanny who had good relationships.
What is the shortest time you have ever worked with a family? If less than a month, can I have the name and contact information for that family? If there is one or some and they can’t provide it, this is a red flag.
Do you have first aid training? Have you ever had to use it? We ensured they had basic training, that they were aware we had a first aid kit, and that we saw their certification.
We plan to conduct a background check. Is this okay with you? You can save yourself your money in conducting a background check with this behavioral question.
What is the worst thing we will find when we conduct a background check? We were looking for a clean record and even someone with more than one speeding ticket would have been disqualified. This is a good assumptive question that forces them to give you a little bit about themselves.
When was the last time you were put in handcuffs? If you ask, have you ever been arrested, you may miss something. Asking an assumptive question about handcuffs or appearances in court are pretty solid alternatives. Another would be how many times have you had interactions with the police? Describe all of them to me. If there are more than they can remember or they are unsure, you should ask more questions or maybe just end the interview. Outside of work, I can tell you every interaction I have had with the police and I am probably at least twice the age of your prospective nanny.
Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit? If yes, have you ever been the defendant in it? Many people have been involved in lawsuits. Few have been defendants.
To your knowledge, do any of your roommates or boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife have a criminal record? The polygraph I conducted and described in Part I was on the boyfriend of the woman whose child was abused.
Do you consider yourself a patient person? Give me an example from child-care where you have had to show patience.
On a scale of 1–10, 1 being not at all and 10 being very high, how frustrated have you ever been while watching children? You are not likely to get a truthful answer here but ask some follow-up questions to lock down an answer that makes you comfortable they are in the ballpark. Babies can be frustrating but I wouldn’t want someone answering this question with anything higher than a five. Plus, it gives you another opportunity to discuss the concept of frustration and babies with a potential provider.
On a scale of 1–10, 1 not at all and 10 being very high, how responsible do you consider yourself? We were looking for a seven or higher, mostly to ensure we didn’t get someone who would be flaky.
If we decide to hire you, would it be okay if we were to come by your house/apartment to see where you live before you start? If they are going to be watching your baby at their house, this is a no-brainer. We didn’t go this route but if this is the case, you will have to be on your A-game when you visit, looking for safety measures and dangers within their house. If they aren’t watching your child at their house/apartment, it is still good to see how the future protector of your child lives — squalor is probably not a ringing endorsement. Plus, it is an additional level of a security check.
Before they left we asked:
1) To take a photo of their driver’s license (ensuring it had their current address).
2) For their present address and last address, including the information for their landlord.
3) For their cell phone number, email address, and any social media accounts.
4) For three references, with at least one reference in the immediate area who we could speak to in person.
5) For their parents’ (or one of their parents’) phone number and address. Less as a reference, though it helps, but more to have an additional known location for them.
6) For their vehicle and license plate information if they owned a car.
From there, we conducted a two-step background check.
For criminal records and database checks, we used a commercial vendor that specializes in conducting backgrounds. Care.com offers this as a service as do a number of other vendors you can find on Google.com. It will cost a few dollars but it is worth it. (For all of our law enforcement friends, remember your ethics — especially with state and federally owned database checks — they should only be accessed for professional, not personal, purposes.)
Then we conducted our own checks on their social media accounts and references. Ultimately, we never visited anyone’s house but this would have been a good final move.
Finally, if you are going to have someone watch your child in your house, we recommend installing some video cameras — either in the open or hidden — to monitor the nanny and your child. It also serves as a deterrent and reminder to the nanny that they could be watched. Asking the nanny not to be alone in any of the rooms where there aren’t cameras present is a good idea. Explain that the cameras are there for you to see your little one while at work, which takes some pressure off the nanny who, at this point, thinks you are the manifestation of a character from George Orwell’s 1984.
Some people may read these two series and think, “Wow. This is really invasive.” And, yes, it is. But it does not all have to be followed to the letter. My wife certainly didn’t let me ask that entire arsenal of questions listed above. We worked many of them in with other care-related questions that we thought would be pertinent.
Almost without a doubt, the 16-year-old who lives next door, who is coming over so you can go on a date with your S/O for the first time in three years, probably does not need to peppered with many of those questions. Then again, I personally conduct periodic background checks on all of my neighbors and their kids so, maybe that is why I made that comment.
In all seriousness, everything here is information to raise your family’s level of awareness about child-care providers and some suggestions to stay safe. Asking your neighbor’s son or daughter how they would respond to your child if they won’t stop crying is reasonable. And a good conversation to have before you leave for the evening.
And think about this.
This is someone to whom you will be entrusting the life of your child. Next to your significant other, your child is [hopefully] the most cared for thing in your life. Keep this in mind too. Most of the above steps — rigorous interviews with difficult questions and background checks — were things my colleagues and I experienced to become law enforcement officers…and none of us are directly responsible for kids at work!
So, why wouldn’t you do the same to ensure the safety of your child?
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