PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Many parents in need of child care rely on babysitter and nanny services to find the perfect caregiver, but sometimes finding a trustworthy stranger is a difficult task.
Popular online services such as Care.com and sittercity.com, and nanny agencies offer background checks, but even those don’t always reveal everything a parent would want to know about their potential sitter’s history.
Kristina Sillers’ family moved to Portland recently and unexpectedly found themselves in need of full-time child care. With no community connections or the networks of moms she left behind in the Midwest, Sillers turned to popular online resources to find a nanny.
She found someone she liked, and checked into her online accounts to learn more about her. Sillers also asked an online nanny agency for a background check, but learned the sitter would have to provide the results.
“It’s approved by her and paid for by her then sent to her even though it’s really my check I requested,” Sillers said.
Sillers, who is a producer at KOIN-TV, ended up doing an online check of social media accounts as well as a check of her references. She also did a Google search and learned enough information that put her mind at ease and hired the nanny.
Breanna O’Connell is a Portland engineer and mom of 2. Uncomfortable with the idea of relying on the companies nanny agencies use for background checks, O’Connell looked into online background search services like US Search and Intelius.
These services just require typing in the name, age and city of the sitter and paying a fee of usually less than $100, depending on how extensive the search will be.
“I usually waited until interviews, poke into their history,” O’Connell said. “I warned them I would do a background check.”
Despite the warning, O’Connell was surprised by what she found in the background checks she ran on one potential sitter.
“There’s one woman I found a surprising rap sheet on…a bunch of theft and driving charges,” O’Connell said. “If she’s going to drive my kids and stay in my house I felt very uncomfortable with that.”
She confronted the sitter candidate, who didn’t deny the charges but tried to explain herself.
What’s important to remember is that not all background checks are comprehensive, and some states don’t provide certain information, like driving records. Parents should run background checks every year for every sitter, and don’t necessarily rely on the agency to provide a reliable check.
O’Connell ended up being happy with a nanny she eventually found, and has used Craigslist as well, but still checks in who she hired.
“Sometimes I pop home for lunch,” she said. “I have a nanny cam set up.”
She also asks her kids for updates, such as if the nanny is texting while driving or if they feel unsafe. Some parents told us they use nanny cams as well. And they suggest parents keep in touch with other possible candidates in case the one they choose doesn’t work out.
Mostly, the takeaway is that parents should be proactive in searching the work and background history of the caregivers they may hire.