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Hiring an In-Home Childcare Provider

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Interview Discussion
The interview of prospective nannies is the most important part of the hiring process. This is your chance not only to get information about each candidate by asking questions, but also to observe the demeanor of each interviewee, which will give you some insight into her personality. In fact, it is a good idea to pose some hypothetical scenarios to her, to see how she responds.

The truth is, most nanny candidates will know the right answers to give to your questions regarding how to care for your child. The manner in which the questions are answered, however, may speak volumes as to the nanny's true beliefs in a particular area. For instance, you should be reluctant to make an offer to a candidate who has trouble looking you in the eye when you ask if she has used physical punishment as a method of discipline, even if she denies ever doing so.

In your earlier contact with the nanny, you should already have established that she is legally authorized to work in this country. Even if she has already provided copies of documents indicating proof of citizenship, legal residence, or a work permit, request that she bring the actual documents with her to the interview for you to examine.

The interview itself should be a dialogue, not simply you asking questions and waiting to hear her answers. It should be an interview discussion, with emphasize on the importance of the conversation. You should review your expectations of the nanny along with her expectations of your family. Ask questions in a way that makes her have to explain her answers, rather than simply using "yes" or "no" questions that only require her to say what you want to hear.

In addition to the actual interview discussion, you should introduce the candidate to your children. Keep it brief, but use this meeting to observe her manner with the children. Do not be alarmed if the children do not automatically warm to this new person, but do ask them later what they thought of her. Once you decide on a candidate, you should ask for a trial period of one or two weeks. During this time, be present and see how the nanny relates to the children. For now, you are just trying to see if she seems comfortable around your children, if she seems to like them, and so on.

Here is a Childcare Provider Evaluation Checklist of items that you may want to cover during your interview discussion. Perhaps not all of them are applicable to your situation. For instance, some questions will be pertinent only if you are looking for a live-in nanny. Depending on your family's circumstances, there may be other questions or topics not listed here that you will find necessary to talk about.

References and Background Checks
If you find your nanny through an agency or service, be sure to ask what screening process is used for the nanny candidates. A good agency will have some sort of screening process for nannies that are sent out on interviews. However, do not take that agency's word for it. Get the name of every screening company or investigator the agency uses, and double check directly with them to be sure that they have, in fact, performed the background checks that the agency claims. Even if you use an agency, be sure to obtain and check at least three references, at least one of which comes from someone else that used the candidate as a nanny or sitter. Other references should come from other former employers, teachers, or members of the candidate's church.

Those parents who find a nanny on their own have the burden of doing their own criminal and background checks as well. If you will be doing this, you will want to obtain a written consent from your nanny candidate to perform the check. You also need to get the following information from her (if you do not already have it in her application):

  • Social Security number;
  • driver's license number;
  • addresses of places she has lived for the last ten years; and,
  • complete work history, including contact information for all former employers.
You will probably not have the resources to conduct a thorough background check on your own. There are record-checking services that will perform the work, for a fee. The problem is knowing whether the service you use is reputable. One way to help ensure that you have a trustworthy service doing the background checks for you is to hire a private investigator to do the work. States usually require private investigators to be licensed, which may afford some measure of reliability. Internet outfits that offer background checks abound, but generally are subject to little or no regulation. Keep that in mind if you are not interested in doing your own legwork.

In general, a complete background search will consist of a trace of the applicant's Social Security number, usually going back about seven years, to ensure that the applicant is who she says she is. The trace should be able to tell you where the applicant has lived during that period of time, which will allow the background check service to narrow down which states it will focus on for criminal and driving record checks. Credit reports can be obtained by contacting one of the following three major credit reporting agencies in the country.

Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374

475 Anton Boulevard
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022

Finally, contact former employers listed on the nanny's application. Verify that she did in fact work where she has claimed, and ascertain why she left the previous employment.

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Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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