- Parent Category: Advice - Childcare and Education
- Category: Nanny 101, Hiring a Nanny, Ending the Relationship, Important Member Communication, Safety in the Home
Have a nanny in your life or looking for one? You definitely need to read this.
-- Hiring a nanny is tricky. Do your due diligence when you hire a nanny
-- Once you find a nanny, check in on them. Do spot checks and ask around.
-- Helping a nanny move on is complicated. Don’t shortchange other parents by over-glamorizing a nanny you’re recommending, don’t forward ISO posts to a nanny you know needing a job, and make sure you post recommendations using our template and our guidelines.
-- Wanna read some stories of nanny/employer relationships gone awry? Read the long story below
NOTE: The document below is LONG—but super important so we post in its entirety.
Dear PSP Community,
Let us start by saying--- from our experience over the past 13 years the overwhelming majority of nannies and house cleaners are honest, trustworthy, and reliable. We start with that fact since listing situations where people are less than honest may make these situations seem more common than they are. We felt, however, that it was important to share situations with you as a reminder to do your due diligence when it comes to hiring someone to work in your home.
You need to do your part. While it can be uncomfortable checking up on someone who seems perfectly nice, has worked for a friend, or is a friend of a friend, it’s a discomfort you should overcome to keep your children (as well as your belongings and home) safe. Some nannies are desperate for a job and will go to desperate measures to land one.
Checklist before you hire a nanny:
-- Don’t EVER hire a nanny without talking in person to references. Glowing references can be forged and there’s nothing like asking pointed questions about the nanny to help give you some piece of mind that the reference (and nanny) are legit.
-- Search Google, Craigslist, Facebook, and LinkedIn for references to both the nanny’s and the reference’s identity. Knowing more about both the nanny and anyone who has employed the nanny in the past can give you insight into the type of situation in which the nanny worked and the people the nanny worked for.
-- Request an ID and documentation of potential employees to confirm identity and address. If they indicate they use multiple names (married, nickname, etc.) ask for documentation and keep a record of it.
-- Ask the references about where they had put up advertisements and recommendations for the nanny.
-- Double check facts given by the nanny and the reference about the working situation (e.g., names/ages of children, dates worked, employers' job, etc.).
-- Look for holes in employment stories. If there’s a gap in the reference history, ask why? While there can be employers that are over demanding and difficult to work with, it’s good to know the full picture.
-- Alter details when you talk to the references and see if the reference corrects you. Consider changing the age or sex of the children or where the people live ("You are the family in Cobble Hill, right?”). If they don't correct or catch the error this is a big red flag.
-- On Park Slope Parents, nannies are not allowed to reply to ISO posts. Communication needs to be from employer to employer. If you post an ISO ad, do let us know if a nanny reaches out by emailing us at " target="_blank"> .
-- Check multiple references, meeting them in person if possible. Ask detailed questions and request examples of their "glowing" abilities. If they can't come up with specific examples you may have a ringer. Do not rely only on written recommendations (which can be plagiarized).
-- Consider asking for a reference beyond the employer. If they have past work experience outside of being a nanny, ask for a reference from a former boss. If they have been in school, ask to speak with a former teacher.
-- Do a background check. Although this has limitations, it can be illuminating and money well spent.
-- Do your own investigation, even if you are using a service or website who conducts “background checks.” Background checks may only reveal convictions and not arrests, and for someone who will work in your home you probably want to know about both. Knowing as much as you can helps you make informed decisions.
-- Ask tough questions, even if it’s uncomfortable. “Have you ever hit a child (including your own)?” “Have you ever been asked to leave a job?” Silence and reaction are important pieces of the puzzle.
-- Rely on employers to contact you rather than nannies themselves on Park Slope Parents. Recommenders are NOT supposed to be forwarding your information to their nanny but contacting potential employers directly.
If you are RECOMMENDING a nanny...
-- Don’t give glowing recommendations of mediocre nannies. Do you feel responsible for helping your nanny find another job? Yes. Might you feel class issues related to their predicament? Yes. Despite these complicated, uncomfortable feelings, please figure out a way to help families find a great nanny (even if it’s not your nanny). Highlighting only the good things makes sense, but please tell the whole story, come clean and don’t assume that an inadequate nanny is the fault of you not setting appropriate expectations.
-- Don’t forward ISO posts to nannies. Communication needs to be from employer to employer. Even if you’re trying to make things easier, forwarding posts to people outside Park Slope Parents is against our policy. Also, when you forward someone’s post you end up forwarding their personal information to a nanny and possibly her whole nanny network of friends.
-- Put the nanny’s full name and contact information. There are nannies who have multiple names (given name, married name, alternate names) so the more information you include the easier it is for her to be screened and (hopefully) hired without there being surprises later on.
-- Ask the potential employers about where they found your information. If you get a “cold call” to give a recommendation when you didn’t make the connection find out where the potential employer got your information.
-- Don’t give your nanny access to any of your accounts. We’ve had situations where nannies have posted references from the employers’ account without the employers’ knowledge.
DEVELOPING TRUST AND PUTTING YOUR MIND AT EASE:
-- Have an on-boarding period. Have the nanny start a week before you actually need her.
-- Have a one month trial period. This is very important because while a week is a good time period to see how the nanny is in front of you, a month gives you both a chance to settle into a routine and for some of the honeymoon phase to rub off.
-- Have a "family day" journal the nanny fills out. This is a log of what happened during the day, such as feeding (and times), sleep log, diaper changes, where you've been, etc.
-- Have frequent reviews. A review after the one month trial period and quarterly reviews after that will help you continually modify the working relationship.
-- Ask around for feedback from others. Check with the instructors of classes that your child attends. Inquire with your neighbors if they hear the baby crying a lot more when you're gone. Have a housekeeper you trust spend some time "observing." Set up playdates with friends you trust that are stay at home moms and get feedback. However, never ask other nannies to spy on your nanny (it’s a quick way for you or your nanny to get ousted by the community).
-- Be able to reach your nanny at all times. Upgrade her calling/text plan if need be; being able to reach your nanny will give you a peace of mind. Ask your nanny to send photos if that helps. You may want to help her set up an alarm on her phone to remind her to check in.
-- Do your own spot checks. Come home early and unexpectedly several times in the first few weeks/months (and continue throughout the nanny’s tenure). This will give you a good sense of what's going on when no one is supposed to be watching.
-- Set up an Emergency Plan. If something happens to you or your nanny, what contingencies are there to help you get in touch? Do you have emergency contact information for the nanny’s family? Your nanny should at all times carry a copy of your child’s health insurance card and contact numbers for you, your emergency contacts and the doctor, addresses and poison control (1-800-222-1222).
“You don't really know what is happening when you are not there, so it is a good idea to try and find out. Work from home sometimes. Ask friends to keep an eye out in the park or on play dates. Listen to what your children say. Mine told me they didn't like a couple of nannies we have had and really predicted the problems that arose. Kids have a hard time articulating what they don't like but they know when they like someone. It's very tricky to know what is going on when you are not there.” PSP member
SAFETY IN YOUR HOME
It’s also important to be smart and safe in your home. While you may trust your nanny, you may not always know who comes to drop off or pick up your kids from a play date. Here are some reminders:
-- Hide valuables. Keep valuables out of sight and keep things in places that don’t invite temptation.
-- Mark your valuables (use a police engraver when possible). The NYPD has an Operation ID program where they will lend you their engraver.
-- Conceal prescriptions. If you have medications that are re-sellable, consider buying a small box with a lock to store prescription medications. At the very least keep them out of sight.
-- Limit key access. Keep access to your apartment limited and inventory your keys. (Some nannies actually don’t want to keep a key to their employer’s apartment so they won’t be suspect if something happens.)
-- Have a policy about guests/playdates in your home with your nanny. Know who is coming and going in your house.
-- Have emergency contact numbers. Ask for an emergency number for your nanny. It could save their life or could help you track down a problem person.
-- Do random spot checks. Come home (or to a class, or the park) at times the nanny is not expecting it.
-- Talk to your local NYPD Precinct Community Affairs Officer. They can help guide you through your options if you run into issues related to criminal activity.
-- Check out the stories. If you suspect that the nanny is pocketing money you’ve given for a class, stop by the business and check it out.
-- FINALLY--- Don’t shrug off that uneasy feeling. Trust your instincts if you feel something isn’t quite right. Investigate until you are satisfied. Even people we trust can turn out to be deceiving us.
-- Nanny hired based on a false references. A nanny (previously banned from PSP) contacted someone who posted an “ISO Nanny post.” The nanny offered references that didn’t quite check out but somehow seemed “reasonable enough.” It turns out the employer hired the nanny through false references. Upon discovery, the employer fired the nanny “with cause.” The nanny is now seeking unemployment and the employer is dealing with the Department of Labor to fight the case. Park Slope Parents discussed the fake references with the DOL as well.
-- Nannies fired for stealing. There are two cases that we were alerted to. In one case an employer was suspicious that the nanny was stealing things such as jewelry, socks, and underwear. The employer confronted the nanny (after contacting the 78th precinct, who said they receive quite a few inquiries about this). The nanny confessed and returned many of the family’s items (via a pawn broker). In the end the employer did not file charges against the nanny. In the second case the nanny was suspected of stealing, it was confirmed, the nanny has been arrested and a court date has been set. (NOTE: Neither nanny was hired off the PSP Classifieds and in the second case the employer felt that since the website they used did a background check they didn’t need to do further investigation. Upon some Googling it was clear that there were red flags they should have spotted.)
-- Nanny and disappearing liquor. An employer suspected a nanny of stealing cognac out of the liquor cabinet. Her hunch was correct (she marked the bottle and checked daily) and the nanny was fired.
-- Nannies and fake emails. We were questioning an employer about a suspicious recommendation and found out that the nanny had created a fake email for the employer that the employer didn’t authorize and was posting recommendations on behalf of the nanny.
-- Nanny not stealing, but nanny’s friend was. There was an employer who suspected her nanny of stealing but it turned out it was another nanny who was at the house for play dates who was stealing.
-- False posts and illegitimate references. Caregivers sign up as “happy employers” and post recommendations about her ‘great nanny’-- themselves. This happens frequently on other parenting groups (one just last week where the reference had been plagiarized from another recommendation). In one case the caregiver (after being questioned by the Kings County DA’s office) claimed she had their permission to post on their behalf. None of the recommenders ever came forward or contacted us to corroborate. The caregiver and the other identities/aliases have been banned from PSP and all her recommendations purged.
--Nanny pocketing class money. Although the nanny came home with detailed facts about the music class, turns out the nanny was pocketing money and not attending. The employers checked with the staff at the music class and found out the nanny and child had never checked in and that the themes being offered weren’t on.
--Nanny identity theft. A nanny with good references says she needs more hours than the family can supply and offers up her daughter for work. Turns out the daughter/nanny has a criminal background and within weeks the employers’ identity is stolen and poof… both mother and daughter are gone. (This happened on a parenting group in Manhattan.)
-- Nannies aren't the only ones misbehaving! One employer installed snooping software on a nanny’s phone. Someone on one of our baby groups posted that they helped a former nanny remove snooping software that tracks texts, phone calls, etc. that was installed by the nanny’s current employer without informing the nanny.
Bad Situation? What can be done?
-- Tell former employers. If you have a bad experience with a nanny, contact the former employers. Explain the situation so that former employers don’t continue to recommend a bad nanny.
-- TELL US if something happens by emailing " target="_blank"> . If you are connect with someone and things don’t add up, let us know. This could include a “former employer” recommending a nanny via email with other glowing references but saying they are unavailable to talk to you, a nanny contacting you directly (against our policy) or disturbing behavior that has happened.
-- If you see something, say something to the authorities. While you may just “want the situation over with," charging someone with a crime is a way to help keep a searchable paper trail on people who are behaving illegally while protecting other families from falling victim to the same crime in the future.
-- Did you see something that you didn't like about a nanny you saw at the playground/ street/ park or elsewhere in the 'hood? Before posting to the list with what you saw, please review what PSP has to say about these kind of posts first. We ask you post only a brief description of the location, babysitter and child (clothing, stroller type, etc.) and ask that interested parties contact you without reference to an "upsetting incident," "disturbing" or other 'bad nanny' indicators.
-- Will PSP create a “bad nanny” list? No, we do not have a “Black List” of nannies-- it’s legally and morally problematic. We do not condone snooping software and nanny cams (we feel you should inform people if you use them). We do understand there may be incidents where this is necessary. We DO reach out to employers if there is illegal behavior (like stealing) to see if we can help and loop in authorities when necessary. However it is ultimately up to the employer to press charges (or not).
-- Are false recommendations illegal? There are laws against fake nanny posts. False nanny posts are considered “false advertising” under Section 190.20 of the New York State Penal Law, which is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable to up to a year in jail. We work with the 78th Precinct, the District Attorney’s office, and Brad Lander’s office to make sure that we are doing what we can to protect the community from false advertising -especially as it involves our children’s safety.
Park Slope Parents continually does its best to screen posts and catch fake references. We vet our posts for authenticity, matching our records with information submitted, cross-checking with other posts made by the employer, searching Craigslist and even LinkedIn to validate identities. If questionable, we contact the reference/employer for verification and will even get on the phone/Skype to make sure things are legit. However, in many of the situations we hear about employers felt there was something wrong, knew they were cutting corners, and just didn’t do their due diligence.
Finally, if you’re hiring a nanny or trying to find a great nanny a new home Park Slope Parents has tons of information on our Website. There’s so much information it’s on the main navigation of the website under Nanny Hiring and More. Check it out before hiring or firing a nanny. Find it here: http://www.parkslopeparents.
We hope that you all have fabulous relationships with your nannies or house cleaners free of incident. While these incidents are few and far between, taking the right precautions will help alleviate much of the worry. Finally, trusting your gut when things seem amiss will help keep everyone safe.
Founder, Park Slope Parents
Melissa De Witte