Tom and Lisa are a young couple living in Austin, Texas. They have two boys, both under the age of five. Tom and Lisa are trying to get ahead in their careers, so they both work full-time and sometimes have to bring work home. While the children are enrolled in daycare, it is hard for Tom or Lisa to be there for pick-up every day, and they decided to hire a Nanny. After some interviews, Tom and Lisa chose Lainey. Lainey is a college student with experience in childcare, a driver’s license, and first-aid certification. She seemed perfect. One afternoon, on her way home, Lisa got a phone call from the police department. Their children and Lainey were fine, but they had an accident. She was speeding and missed a red light.
What did Tom and Lisa Miss?
Lainey was a great nanny. She had credentials, references, and a very good rapport with children. She would have been perfect if the job did not entail driving. If Tom and Lisa had run a background check, they would have known that Lainey is not a very responsible driver and has several speeding tickets. While this would not necessarily mean they should not have hired her, they might have found alternatives (such as Uber or public transportation). Background checks are fast, and services like Check People will give you results in less than an hour. And, what is more important, they help you minimize risks.
Background Checks and Safety
In a way, Tom and Lisa were lucky. Their children were scared but unharmed. The story could have been very different if, instead of having missed a history of bad driving, they had missed a record in the sex offender’s registry. While risks are impossible to avoid completely, information is the key to risk mitigation. Background checks are rapidly becoming standard for any hiring process, especially those in which children’s safety is at stake. Some aspects that you should always include in a background check for a potential nanny are:
- Identity and address verification
- Criminal records, and especially any child-abuse or violence-related record.
- Sex offender’s status
- Traffic records (only if your nanny is going to be driving your children)
- Credential and Qualifications verification
Some families also opt to have drug screenings as part of the process.
The Importance of a Thorough Interview Process
While a background check will give you important data to help you make a good decision, it is only a step in the interview process. A thorough job description, good interview questions, and checking references are all important steps, and none of them should be overlooked. Because the background check costs money, we recommend that it is the last step of the process, and you only run them on one or two applicants that you are actually considering to hire. Remember that there are legal responsibilities when it comes to background checks (in some cases you may need written consent from the applicant), and if you are unsure about any of them, you must find a consulting attorney.
While a background check is essential in order to ensure your children’s safety, you also need a well-written contract. We recommend having an attorney write your contract, but if you decide to do it yourself, remember to include:
- A clear description of responsibilities, including schedule and activities.
- Fees, payment dates, paid time off, and vacation agreements.
- Reasons for termination
A contract is better and stronger when it has a very high level of detail, so try to think about anything that may become a problem and write it down.
Because people are constantly changing, we also recommend running a yearly background check on a nanny that you have already hired. This should also be a part of your contract.
While background checks and interviews can give you cold facts about a candidate, you should always trust yourself. Because a nanny will become an important part of your family life, you should always hire someone with who you feel comfortable. Remember that a nanny will have access to your private life, so refrain from hiring someone that makes you feel uncomfortable, regardless of their background check results.
Finally, it is also really important to hire someone that makes your kids feel okay. They should feel safe and happy. Have open conversations with them and let them know that they can tell you anything. Open communication with children is the best way to avoid any form of child abuse.