Parents should feel completely comfortable with their child's part-time caregiver. Here are some tips for conducting a background check, narrowing down criteria, and picking the perfect nanny.

By Nicole Harris
Updated March 06, 2020
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Are you returning to work after maternity leave? How about transitioning from stay-at-home parent to part-time worker? Whatever your reason for hiring a nanny, it’s not enough to simply cross your fingers for Mary Poppins—you need to do your research. 

Unlike other professions, nanny training has no national standards in the United States, and there’s no state or national group in charge of regulating job performance. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents thoroughly interview and screen potential nannies. 

We spoke with Lynn Perkins, CEO and co-founder of UrbanSitter, about tips for finding the perfect nanny for your family. 

Start the Search

Many parents nowadays use websites like Urban Sitter, Care.com, and Sittercity to search for nannies. You can also hire a high-quality nanny agency—preferably one that belongs to an organization like the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies or the International Nanny Association. Finally, consider asking friends, neighbors, and fellow soccer parents if they have any tips for finding a nanny.  Who knows—maybe one of the other moms in your child's class knows a stellar nanny who’s currently looking for work! 

Make a List of Criteria

After deciding to hire a nanny, “one of the first things you want to do is put together a job description,” says Perkins.  It’s also smart to make a list of “non-negotiables” for any potential nanny to meet. For example, the person must be available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., have first aid certification, or have experience nannying a two-year-old or child with special needs. Also brainstorm criteria that are important but not essential, like familiarity with the neighborhood or college education. Use these criteria as guidelines to narrow down candidates.

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Ensure She’s a Good Match

After narrowing down nannies, you’ll want to meet the candidates in person. Pay attention to their personalities and mannerisms. Would you be comfortable having these people around your child? Always trust your instincts!

Also make sure the nanny's parenting style aligns with your own. “If you’re an attachment parent, for example, you'll want a nanny who understands that approach,” says Perkins. Kids can become confused when faced with contrasting parenting styles, which could potentially lead to disciplinary issues. 

Conduct a Background Check

When hiring a nanny for your family, you should always check references and conduct a background check. "Get your care provider’s background checked at a county level too,” recommends Perkins. “National databases don’t have data from every state and county.”

Background checks usually look at criminal databases, sex offender registries, driving records, work history, and other public records you might be interested in. Some nanny websites (like Urbansitter) conduct background checks on their candidates—and many nanny agencies also do it for a charge.

Keep in mind that you need the sitter’s approval to do a background check, so be up front with your request. “It can feel very awkward to vet someone who’s going to be in your home,” says Perkins. “But the more you normalize it and make it part of the process, the better. Communicate up front to make it less awkward."

Once you get the results back, you need to see whether the nanny is a good fit for your family, adds Perkins. Every family has different guidelines. Some parents might not care if a candidate has a misdemeanor for “fishing without a license,” for example—but it could be a deal-breaker for others. And before the sitter starts, check her ID to make sure it matches her profile!

Don’t Think Long Term

When the vetting process is complete, “You may not have found the absolute perfect person, but you should find someone who meets your non-negotiables,” says Perkins. And remember: “The nanny you have when your child is an infant might not be the right nanny when he’s 4 or 14 years old. You're looking for a nanny for the present time—not for the next 15 years.”

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