The PSP Guide To Hiring a Nanny/Babysitter: Part 5: Safety Reminders, Background Checks, the Nanny Cam and Words of Caution

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Learn about doing doing due diligence and the precautions you need to take - both before you hire and on the job.

 

Safety: Doing Your Due Diligence

Checking Nanny’s References

Background Checks

Spot Checks and Drop-Ins

The Nanny Cam

Quick Links

If you are going to have a Nanny your home, make sure to do your due diligence and take precautions. While there have been very few incidents on Park Slope Parents about situations when Nannies have done anything that is negligent, abusive, or criminal, it doesn't mean that it can't happen.

 

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: "While it's easy to be cynical – particularly after a bad experience-- the overwhelming majority of interactions are fine. Most people are trustworthy and helpful, and PSP facilitates recommendations from neighbors who can provide you with some of the information you need to make a hiring decision." 

 

SAFETY: DOING YOUR DUE DILIGENCE

 

Get Proper Recommendations: Get two (or more) recommendations (including their full name, address, and phone number; try to check their validity by doing a Google, veromi.net and whitepages.com) for any person who you will have in your house on a regular basis. The 78th precinct emphasizes the importance of double checking references for people recommended online - there is more scope for fraud.

 

Ask for ID- Ask for at least one form of identification from the person. (Tell the person before they come to your house that you'll expect it). Scan it for your records. If the person is not willing to provide it (or says, "they forgot"), then don't hire them.

 

Emergency Numbers. Ask for an emergency number for the person. It could save their life or could help you track down a problem person.

 

Watch valuables. Keep valuables out of sight and use a police engraver to mark your valuables.

 

Prescriptions- If you have medications that are re-sellable, consider buying a small box with a lock to store prescription medications.

 

Key Access- Keep access to your apartment limited and inventory your keys. It is interesting to observe that some Nanny's in Park Slope insist on giving their key back to the family at the end of the day, for fear of undeserved retribution if anything goes wrong at your house after hours. As one parents shared with the group: "My nanny, who I completely trust, is always adamant about giving back the key at the end of the day. And I think it is to protect herself lest anything should happen so that she does not fall under suspicion. And while I am comfortable with her keeping the key, I respect her wishes to make sure it is not in her possession. And I completely understand. I would not want her to fall under suspicion should we get robbed or have to be subjected to additional inquiries by the police or by my building. Sure the chances are slim (I hope!) but I can see it from her perspective. Some people are just careful."
 

CHECK YOUR NANNY'S REFERENCES

It’s important to check more than just one of your Nanny’s references. Park Slope Parents not only recommends that you check at least two references (which 57% of employers in the 2011 Nanny Compensation Survey did), but to meet them in person. Double-check the authenticity and veracity of the references by checking them out on Facebook as well as on other sources such as Property Shark. Look at the other posts they have posted on Park Slope Parents to determine whether they are ‘real’ references. We do believe that the overwhelming majority of references are for real, it’s important for your peace of mind that you double check.

 

BACKGROUND CHECKS

You may feel inclined to run a background check on your potential Nanny. One in ten employers on the 2011 Nanny Compensation Survey said that they conducted a background check. Be sure to notify your potential Nanny that you want to run a background check. If she/he is not happy with this decision, then this too is red flag to be wary of. However, a background check is not sufficient on its own and for many Nannies hired in NYC complete background checks cannot be done. Be sure to have checked all your Nanny's references carefully (see Park Slope Parent's advice on interviewing references here).

Tip: run background checks on all the names your Nanny has had, including (but not limited to) your Nanny's maiden AND married name.

 

Who can help me with a background check?

 

1) The State of New York Office of Child and Family Services
http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/cps/http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/Forms/cps/
 

2) New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/abstract.htm

The New York DMV offer what they call a "masked abstract."  A "masked abstract" provides you with any prior license or driving convictions, accidents, suspensions, or revocations.  However, to get a "masked abstract" you must get permissible use prior to obtaining.   To find out more information (and also to find out what you can and cannot obtain in a "masked abstract" visit the New York DMV online: http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/qaprive.htm

 

3) The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/ojis/recordreview.htm

 

4) Sex Offender Registry
A free search in available through the Division of Criminal Justice Services: criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/.

 

5) Private Organizations
You can also pay a small fee to an organization who can run background checks for you:
4 Nannies: http://www.4nannies.com/background/
Nanny Pro: http://www.nannypro.com/content/pages/background-checks
My Nanny Track: http://www.mynannytrack.com/
 

Ultimately, if everything still checks out in black and white, and your gut is still hesitant - follow your instinct. While starting the search process all over again may seem like a hassle, you could end up saving yourself big time in the future.

 

SPOT CHECKS AND DROP-INS

Many parents find it useful--on occasion--to come home early or drop by without warning the Nanny ahead of time.  This gives them a great sense of security since it's hard to know what happens when you are a way.  So while Park Slope Parents feels that the chances of something horrible happening to you or your child is slim. it can give you peace of mind to take precautions and check in on your Nanny at odd times just to make sure.

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE:“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.”

 

THE NANNY CAM

Using a nanny cam is an issue that has come up amongst members of Park Slope Parent enough to mention it in the context of hiring a nanny. To give you some context, only three percent of employers surveyed in an early PSP Survey said they had used a Nanny cam. It is a topic that always yields a wide range of emotions and opinions, bringing up everything from trust through to issues of surveillance, privacy, a comfortable workplace, and your home. Two things that you need to know is that using a Nanny Cam is generally legal to use in common areas (not in a bathroom) and also in the state of New York it's illegal to record audio.

 

Here is a set of responses gathered from the PSP email group archives:

 

People who APPROVE and ENCOURAGE using Nanny Cams:

Things are not always as they appear.. "Having had a terrible, heartbreaking experience with a caregiver who was stealing my children's clothes (amongst other things), I have to say, I wish I had followed my instincts and had a hidden camera. I found out that you can't tell by looking at someone (or by what their references tell you) how they are going to act or what they are capable of. Things aren't always as they appear, so sometimes, you can't be too careful."

It's part of the employee/employer relationship: "Many jobs are "monitored," but employees are told in advance."

Daycares use it: "My son's school uses a [nanny cam type] service, which I can access from any computer"

Reveals interactions (or lack thereof): "We had an experience where our child was resisting his nanny. We thought it was just because he didn't want us to leave, but I wondered what was going on. Sure enough we put in a nanny cam and discovered she ignored him while she spoke on the phone or watched television all day. Your child may be trying to tell you something. Trust your instinct and your child's."

 

People who DISAPPROVE and DISCOURAGE using Nanny Cams:

Look at the bigger picture: "Will a nanny cam make it easier to leave one's child with a caregiver? It's difficult to leave your child with another caregiver, and to feel comfortable with that arrangement, but I think one is much more likely to work out a long-term solution to this problem not by depending on a nanny cam but by trusting one's instincts, thoroughly checking references, being honest with one's caregiver about problems/ concerns, and continuing to pay attention.”

A Nanny Cam is pointless in Brooklyn! "In the Slope it's very customary for a lot of sitters to spend the days OUT of your house not inside it. A  nanny cam won't give you the feedback you need when your child is out much of the day. For that it's good to be friendly with neighbors including a combination of stay at home parents and flextime people who go to the parks and playgrounds and see what happens in real time, just for extra feedback."

Build trust: "It will only provide a false sense of security. A good, trusting relationship with the person who will be caring for your baby will do much more to help you feel comfortable.

What is your gut telling you?: "I think that if you do not trust your nanny to faithfully report and represent to you what is going on with your kid during the day, then you shouldn't be leaving the house. If you have any suspicion that what she is describing isn't what it happening, then you have hired the wrong person, full stop. Secondly, I think recording the nanny without disclosing that you are doing so is a highly disrespectful and offensive invasion of her privacy.  The cornerstone of a nanny/parent relationship is trust, in both directions. You have to trust her and she has to trust you, and if you spy on her you have effectively destroyed the environment in which trust can thrive, in both directions, and that that is the first element of what will eventually become a very damaged relationship, to the detriment of your child."

 

People who are ON THE FENCE about using Nanny Cams:

"If you are not sure about using a nanny cam, you could always come home at odd times unannounced to gauge the situation when the nanny is not expecting you, or you could ask friends to drop by if you are comfortable asking them to do so. I used to take care of other children many years ago, and I am quite certain that the friends who sometimes dropped by during the parents' part time work schedule were not there by coincidence. I never minded because I understood that every parent needs to know that their child's safety and wellbeing is secure, and that takes priority, in my mind, over my own privacy issues."

 

Recommendations and reviews of Nanny Cam services:

 

www.pigear.com

"We use them for all sorts of equipment."

 

https://nest.com/camera/meet-nest-cam

"We use dropcam (nest) and have 1 in each child's room and 1 in the playroom - all 3 are up in a corner to provide a nice view of the room overall (with nest you can zoom in quite a bit too). We also use them as monitors. And yes definitely let the nanny know, ours is well aware of each location. We love it!"

"We installed a Dropcam in our living room and I did not consult our part time nanny on it. It doesn't record (it's an option but you have to pay separately for cloud recording) so it's only a live feed. It is not a true nanny cam that's hidden and it's visible if you look for it but not obtrusive (we got a black one). She hasn't said anything to us about it if she's noticed it. We didn't mention it since it wasn't something we were trying to hide. It's made me feel safer too and I like it because it also works as a security camera for our living room."

"We installed a Dropcam in our living room and I did not consult our part time nanny on it. It doesn't record (it's an option but you have to pay separately for cloud recording) so it's only a live feed. It is not a true nanny cam that's hidden and it's visible if you look for it but not obtrusive (we got a black one). She hasn't said anything to us about it if she's noticed it. We didn't mention it since it wasn't something we were trying to hide. It's made me feel safer too and I like it because it also works as a security camera for our living room."

"We also use the drop cam in the baby's room but as a baby monitor since the resolution is so good and it does all sorts of cool stuff like letting you talk to the baby from your room, if you're out to dinner and want to check on the baby on your cell phone, etc. I like the record feature bc I can go back and see if and when my little guy woke up in the middle of the night...and my husband and I love occasionally watching in the morning to see how he moves and rolls around in his crib ;) So we didn't install it as a nanny cam, we've had it from the beginning as a baby monitor. I showed our nanny how I can see him on our phone and just mentioned straight up that it's our baby monitor."

 

Voices of experience:

 

"I was just straight forward and honest about it - showed her where they are, explained it's combo night monitor / safety / fun to take a peak - I think being straight forward about it but also not making a huge deal about it helped (kinda like yes of course we have them!). She's totally used to it by now and we've caught some *hysterical* moments reviewing the dropcam history, like the 2 times my son climbed out of his crib and solo dance parties and some super sweet snuggles with daddy. Also super convenient - we travel with them as monitors."

 "I would absolutely disclose it. As a former nanny, being videotaped without my consent (even if understandably to soothe a parent's fears about their child) would have been a massive breach of trust and a dealbreaker, whereas most nannies probably will not mind knowing there's a camera on. Again from personal experience, most of the girls I knew operated under this assumption while working without any issues. Daycares have cameras too. They can also be a useful tool for a nanny, who, while doing her job correctly, has video footage to back her up should anything ever happen. If your nanny candidate has an issue with the camera, then she's not a right fit for you. I would not install or operate a video camera without the nanny's consent unless you already suspect her of doing wrong."

"I chalked it up to my anxiety about being away from my baby, end of story.  Although, our nanny cam is viewable on our phones, and is more like a remote baby monitor.  Different vibe than something where I would come home and review footage (it does have storage capabilities and I disclosed this to her).  I would disclose it; but it's your call. Our nanny didn't react at all - that made me feel better right away. I tell our nanny I trust her but I feel more at ease knowing I can see my daughter throughout the day.  Nanny cams can't follow nannies outside; best advice someone gave me: if you're gut tells you that you are unsure of a nanny but you can't pinpoint the reason, go with your gut.  It doesn't matter what a nanny's qualifications on paper are."

 

Useful Links:

NY State Background Checks http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/Forms/cps/

Protecting the Gift http://life.familyeducation.com/child-care/safety/40493.html