Finding the right person to care for your children is a big deal. Whether you need a babysitter for the occasional night out or a full-time nanny, you want to be confident that your children are in good hands. However you find the perfect caregiver, part of the search process should always include conducting a background check.
What Are Your Options?
When you’re ready to hire a babysitter or nanny, your options for conducting a background check depend in part on whether you use a service to find someone or rely on word of mouth. If you use a website to find a local babysitter online like Care.com or Sittercity, many of these companies include basic pre-screening before allowing candidates to list on their site. Most of these websites will also conduct a more comprehensive background check for you, often as an optional service.
Some local nanny services also conduct background checks for you. Most importantly, each company has their own procedures, so you need to make sure you know exactly what is included and when you need to request a more thorough check.
If you find a sitter or nanny on your own, obtaining a background check is up to you. Many people assume that all background checks are the same, but “background check” is really an umbrella term that can include a variety of information about a person’s history. Most often, a background check consists of a criminal records check, identity verification, and verification of employment history and qualifications. In some cases, you may also want to check their driving record, verify relevant certifications, and request specific criminal history information, such as checking the sex offender registry.
When you are ready to run a background check, you can choose to obtain some of the information yourself, or you can get the help of a company that specializes in background checks.
Do You Need Permission to Run a Background Check?
Any time you conduct a background check using a third party, you must comply with certain standards and limitations based on the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), including getting the employee’s permission in writing.
What Should You Check?
Criminal Records of a Babysitter
Most criminal records checks will show:
- Current pending charges
- Past misdemeanor or felony convictions
- Past charges that were acquitted or dismissed
A thorough criminal records check should cover everywhere the candidate has lived over the time period you’re searching, including county, state, and federal data. You will need the candidate’s name, driver’s license number, and all addresses where they have lived over that time period. Most criminal records histories are limited to 7 to 10 years. However, you may be able to request records dating further back, depending on where you live. Some states have laws limiting criminal records checks to 7 years, although these limitations often apply only to certain types of offenses.
Specific Criminal History Information
Depending on the service you use, some types of criminal information may or may not be included as part of a basic criminal records check. Some of this information is vital to have when it comes to a person who provides child care, which is why it’s so important to know exactly what your search includes.
- Driving Records – If a nanny or babysitter will be driving your children, you may want to check their driving record to ensure they don’t have a history of speeding or other unsafe practices. Some states have laws regulating who can access driving records, but where it’s allowed, you can often contact your local DMV or search records online
- Sex Offender Registry – Anyone can conduct a free online search of state and national sex offender registries.
- Child Abuse and Neglect Records – Some states have records of child abuse and neglect cases that are separate from sex offender registries. There may be restrictions on who can access these records, so this information is something you would need to check into on a local level.
Verify a Babysitter’s Identity
One of the most basic things to include in a background check is verification that the person you’re planning to hire really is who they claim to be. You can do this in several ways:
- Social Security Number (SSN) – You can verify an SSN through the Social Security Administration (SSA) website.
- Employment Eligibility – Verify that the person is legally eligible to work in the United States through the E-Verify system.
- ID Check – If you want further confirmation, many background check services offer ID checks that verify identity by checking a driver’s license or passport.
When you’re hiring a babysitter or nanny, you may or may not expect them to have formal education in childcare. However, you can check a candidate’s other qualifications that are relevant to the position.
- CPR and First Aid – Some CPR and first-aid courses are designed specifically for childcare providers. If your potential caregiver has completed one of these courses, they may have a wallet-sized card that includes certification information and an expiration date.
- Swimming Ability – If your caregiver will be responsible for your children around water, it’s a good idea to be sure they can swim and know what to do in an emergency. You may want to ask if they have a certificate of completion for swim lessons.
- Child Care Credentials – Some nannies have additional training and certifications. These may include infant care, basic nanny skills courses, and early childhood education, just to name a few. You can verify most of these yourself through the accrediting organization’s website.
Check You Babysitter’s References
Perhaps the best way to verify qualifications is to check your potential caregiver’s references. When a candidate is serious about working with your family, they should provide a list of people who have employed them for childcare in the past. This is one of the simplest steps you can take yourself to ensure they are qualified and a good fit for your family. Before you do, make sure to brush up on the most important questions to ask when checking references.
Going through all of these steps may seem like a lot to take on, which is why some parents find it’s easiest to work with a full service company that can make sure everything you need is covered. No one wants to think that the person they’re welcoming into their home could have a shady past. Most of the time, your gut instinct is right, but conducting a background check is the tried-and-true way to be completely confident in your choice.