Best practices for hiring a nanny?
December 25, 2013 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the process of hiring an occasional daytime babysitter, who may become a more regular babysitter if the freelance work I'm getting turns into a regular job. I'm feeling rather panicky about leaving my baby with someone. Help me figure out best practices to keep my baby safe and soothe my fears.

I've been friendly with a nanny in the neighborhood who's cared for a little boy for the last few years. I've admired how affectionate and conscientious she is with him, and asked her if she'd like to double up when I have freelance work. She agreed and the other family agreed. I am now having somewhat irrational fears about far-fetched scenarios like abduction and am picturing crazy things like gps devices in the stroller.

What are my best practices for keeping my baby safe? So far I've thought of obvious things like:

--ask for address and social security number
--check references
--check out the other family's home, if they're going to be spending time there
--ask if she knows first aid and CPR, and if not, offer to pay for a class

What else? Is a background check crazy? How do I even do that?

(I recognize tht people leave their kids with sitters every day and I should not be so worried, but I'm an anxious gal in the best of circumstances, so take it easy on me.) I've seen this question.
posted by Ollie to Work & Money (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If she is registered on Sittercity then you can do a background check and check her driver's license through that site (it's definitely not crazy to do these things). I also recommend doing a number of days where she comes over and you are home but doing chores around the house, as a trial period. Make a contract and specify that if it doesn't work out after the trial period then you can cancel the arrangement. I also detailed exactly which chores I would like help with in the contract and wrote out all the safety instructions I wanted her to know as well as tips on how to use our laundry machines and so forth, so she would have a printed copy of this. There was also a page with all our contact information at work and family contacts for if we couldn't be reached, etc.

You could try explaining to her that you struggle with anxiety issues and that if she could humor you with it then you would appreciate it. Ask if she can send you a photo each day of what your baby is up to (my nanny does this and I love it). Then you could have her do something like Google Latitude, where you would be able to check on your phone or computer to see where she is, but it would be a voluntary thing so not as extreme as like, installing a tracking device on your child. I suspect after a little while you'd forget to even check Latitude and realize that you trust her. After all, you have known her for years, so you're in a pretty enviable position here.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:18 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Of course you should be worried about this! Your job as a parent is to protect and nurture your child - and to ensure that any person selected by you to provide short term care in your absence will also protect and nurture. Ask lots of questions and give clear directions. Training in CPR is important for any care giver, but training in first aid will probably be more relevant in the care of a young child.

For best practices, check with the Child Care Resource & Referral Agency for your state. Even if you don't choose to use a licensed or certified care provider (which CCR&R strongly recommends) they will share other best practices for screening and monitoring a nanny.
posted by kbar1 at 6:40 PM on December 25, 2013

Best answer: I was a full-time nanny for a while and I've babysat regularly for pretty much my whole life. I think all the things you suggested above are all great and eminently reasonable (except for the gps tracking thing, obvs).

One thing I think is really important is to make sure your nanny is comfortable coming to you with concerns. If the baby takes a tumble down the stairs, will you respond calmly and reassuringly, will you flip out and rush home, or will you get angry and blame her and make her fear for her job? The people I nannied for were always really straightforward about the fact they trusted me (sometimes more than I trusted myself) and that meant I was never afraid to tell them when things went "wrong," or if I was unsure about how to deal with some problem. They even parented me a little bit, to the extent that they treated me as someone who was in the process of being educated about how to take care of their kid, rather than someone being evaluated to insanely high standards I could never live up to. That made it a lot easier to be honest with them about the inevitably messy, imperfect business of taking care of a kid, and less scared, in general, of admitting when I didn't know something or needed help.

For that reason, slightly contrary to treehorn+bunny's (otherwise excellent) advice, I might suggest a certain degree of fake-it-til-you-make-it regarding your anxiety. Pick someone you have every reason to trust (the nanny in your neighborhood sounds like an excellent candidate), vet the hell out of her, make it clear what your rules and expectations are, and then make an active, obvious, explicit effort to trust her. Even if you have to lock your phone in the drawer to do it, resist the impulse to call her to check in every ten minutes. If she admits that she had a rough day, ask her if she needs anything and offer advice, but don't immediately swoop back into to take over. Instead of following her on Google Latitude, spend twenty minutes when you get home talking over the day, and listen to what she's telling you.

People rise to the level of trust you give them, in my experience. Find someone worthy of your trust, and then trust her to do her job, in much the same way you will later trust your child's teachers to do theirs.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:55 PM on December 25, 2013 [17 favorites]

Best answer: If you've personally seen this nanny in action, and you trust the other family, then you already have the highest quality references available.

The more important questions are actually how you are going to manage the nanny share situation with the other family and nanny. Are they on the same nap schedules? What if one is sick? Do you need to get gear, like a double stroller? Etc.
posted by yarly at 6:58 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I fully agree with pretentious illiterate's advice - if you feel you'd be capable of working through your anxiety issues on your own (maybe even with an actual therapist if your worries are driving you to distraction), it would be far better to fake your trust until you are really there.

This was actually the method my parents used on me with their parenting (and I use it with my nanny and the staff I oversee, and that I plan to use with my daughter when she is older). People want to live up to your expectations of them. A scenario where something accidental happens and she's afraid to tell you about it because she's worried what you will think of her (and she wants to adhere to the high standards she knows you have) is far more likely than a scenario where she purposefully does something unethical and you need to bust her on it. Planning for the former rather than the latter might serve you well not just as a best practice for employing a sitter, but as a best practice for life.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:42 PM on December 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was a nanny too, and pretentious illiterate and treehorn+bunny speak the truth. If you hire someone you don't/can't/won't trust you're kinda setting them up to fail... and it's scarring for both of you. Find someone you trust, and trust them.

Definitely put things in writing... standard pay, when you pay extra (and what that is), house rules, parenting stuff etc...

You won't do everything perfectly all the time as a parent, and neither will the sitter - and it's okay.

Listen to what the sitter tells you about your child. She has unique insight!

Babysitting for someone who is daydreaming about putting GPS on the stroller would creep me out... if you're really anxious>> therapy. You PAY babysitters for a reason... because it's a job. And as much as I like my job and coworkers, it's not something I'd do for free, either. Your kid's not THAT cute ;) Part of what makes babysitting fun is that you get paid to play and then give the kid back to their parents. That last bit there is key.

As someone in the other thread pointed out, are you infant + child CPR certified? Did you take early childhood education classes or the babysitting class at the Y? And I bet you're doing a GREAT job anyway! So will your sitter - especially one you already know and like. Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 8:11 PM on December 25, 2013

Best answer: As a former nanny, I nth all of the advice given so far. Only thing I came to add is that there are services that do background checks and I never minded getting one. Of course parents wanted to check, I was in their homes with their kids! I don't know any names offhand, but I do know that families I worked for used them without needing to go through a nanny agency - so, it does exist.

I also would feel uncomfortable working for a family that dreamed about GPS on the stroller. If you really need to be able to check in on your kiddo, a lot of daycare centers have webcams that parents can log in to during the day to peek into the classroom. That might be something worth looking into if you truly can't let your guard down when your little one is in someone else's care. Also, all daycares will require background checks and CPR training. This doesn't really answer your question about your nanny, but it's something to think about as a back up if you find yourself truly unable to trust someone else caring for your child.
posted by sonika at 6:23 AM on December 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. The other family has a dog, lives rather far away, the kids are not the same age, the dad works at home and the share would be there, and the nanny had no license, ss#, or passport...all of which means not a match made in heaven. I'm still looking, though the situation is not urgent. Thanks for all your kind advice.
posted by Ollie at 5:49 AM on January 15, 2014

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