Everything you need to know about how to conduct a background check on a nanny or homesitter.

It may be that you're going back to work after a maternity leave, or it could be that you're taking on part-time work and need to find someone to watch your children while you're out of the house. Whatever your situation, it's not enough to just wish for Mary Poppins or Nanny 911— you need to do your research.

Unlike other professions, there are no national standards in the United States for nanny training, and there is no state or national group in charge of regulating job performance. Therefore, it is imperative that parents thoroughly interview and screen a potential nanny before she begins caring for their children.

The easiest way to verify the background of a candidate is to hire a high-quality nanny agency. If possible, seek out an agency that belongs to the Alliance of Professional Nanny Agencies, a professional group that requires members to conduct rigorous background checks. Agencies usually charge 10 percent of a nanny's first-year salary, plus a $100 to $300 application fee.

If for whatever reason you're going to search on your own, it's imperative that you know what to look for and what to ask about. And even if you do use a nanny agency, you should know what makes up a good background check.

When hiring a nanny or homesitter for your family, don't ever employ anyone without checking references and employment history. Additionally, always trust your instincts. Don't worry if you're alone in your hesitation; if you're not feeling completely satisfied with any single aspect of your nanny's application or it just doesn't feel right, move on to other candidates.

Some tools to help you narrow down your search:

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