Don't skip the nanny background check

Wed Jul 27, 2011 5:43pm EDT
 
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By Mitch Lipka

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hiring well is a challenge no matter what the business, but when choosing a nanny or full-time babysitter, the stakes are higher than any other position that you might fill. After all, this person will take care of your child when you're not directly supervising.

You can find a caregiver in a variety of ways - some of which are more fraught with risk than others, and some of which can take an enormous amount of time and effort.

Amanda Abbott of Austin, Texas, a former TV news crime reporter and now a vice president at anthonyBarnum Public Relations, went about finding a nanny for her 3-month-old daughter the intuitive way - placing ads on local job boards and parenting sites like Craigslist and Yahoo jobs - the way that many parents do. Turns out that this was both one of the riskier ways to hire a nanny as well as one of the most time-consuming, according to Marisa Reddy Randazzo, managing partner of SIGMAThreat Management Associates.

Randazzo, a former Secret Service psychologist, said this isn't a model that most people should follow particularly the affluent. The problem? Relying on an old-fashioned gut feeling as the primary decision-making criteria.

Abbott thought her experience as a reporter would prepare her for the task, and that her methodology was sound. She pared down 250 emails to 50 based on resumes and email communications. "I then held nearly 40 phone calls, then about 25 in-person interviews," she said. "I'm also a big believer that it is a gut thing. She wasn't my first choice from her email but the first time I met her I just knew she had all the nurturing skills and characteristics I was looking for in a caretaker for my daughter."

Even though Abbott was satisfied with the result, the vital step she was missing, said Randazzo, was a background check, including checking whether the person had any arrests or red flags on their driving record. She recommends going through an established nanny agency, since they are likely to attract the best candidates and will have already done a lot of the screening. This can cost anything from a percentage of the first year's salary of the nanny you hire to a fixed rate of a few thousand dollars.

"I want to know if the person I'm hiring has trouble obeying the speed limit on a regular basis," she said.

You'll need to get the permission of the candidate for you to run a background check.   Continued...