How to Investigate a Nanny’s Background (& Avoid a Terrible Tragedy)

When I first had my twins, I thought, “Nah, I don’t need a nanny.” Once I started trying to juggle the care of two babies though, along with my work-from-home career, I realized that I needed help…and fast. The idea of entrusting a stranger with my precious little ones though was absolutely terrifying to me. So I immediately settled on someone our friends had used because, technically, she wasn’t really a stranger. After a couple of months though, it was clear that despite the vote of confidence from our friends, she was kind of shady when it came to the care of my kids. So, we parted ways and I decided that the next time around, I would use an online service to find a nanny who not only had multiple references, but had been given a background check as well. I’m so glad that I went that route because I found someone absolutely amazing, who I trusted implicitly. And because I’d done all of my research in advance, I felt like I could breathe a little easier, and trust her a little more.

So, if you’re looking for a nanny to care for your little ones, my best advice is to do the background check, and not just rely on references alone. “You should never trust anyone alone with your babies if you haven’t done a thorough investigation of their background,” says Melanie Daria, a researcher with the private detective service Trustify. “Many nannies seem perfect upon meeting them, but do they have history of DUI, drug issues or a criminal record? These are questions you need answers to.”


Of course, your hands are probably more than full already, which is why you need the nanny. But the research you do will be time well spent, I promise. With that in mind, here’s how to run a background check on any potential caregivers…

1. Find the right resource. If you’re using an online service or professional nanny agency, then they will likely provide the background checks for you, at an additional cost. Some will even provide the service a la carte. If you’re doing your own search though, you can try online background check sites like Nanny Background Check or Nanny Verify, which offer a variety of search packages. Just be sure they’re reputable. “Steer clear of scam companies that will charge you a cheap rate for some computer generated report that may not actually cover all the relevant areas,” warns Daria. For that extra sense of security, she recommends enlisting the help of a private investigation firm, like Trustify, who may be able to get even more detailed info than the basic sweep for red flags.

2. Get authorized to run a background check. In order to run a background check on anyone, you first need them to fill out an authorization form, which you’ll get from whatever service you use. “Don’t worry, an experienced nanny with nothing to hide would never object, or be offended, by a request to run a check on her,” says Katie Provinziano, managing director of Westside Nannies in Los Angeles. “In fact, if a nanny is evasive at all, that’s a total red flag.” 

3. Be thorough with your research. For starters, you want to make sure your potential nanny is who she says she is, and is legal to work in the US. In addition, you also want to check for previous addresses, any criminal convictions or warrants, sex offender reports, and any dings on her driving record (especially since she might be chauffeuring your kids around). Even with all of that information though, a background check still won’t show you any court records that have been sealed or expunged, and they won’t include her credit report, which might indicate financial strain.

4. Call the potential nanny’s references. While a background check will tell you about her legal history, you’ll still want to talk to previous employers to get a real sense for how she’ll be with your kids. Obviously, having a clean record is essential, but it’s even more important that she loves kids, knows how to keep them engaged, and won’t be spending all day on her cell phone. At the end of the day, you want a nanny who is not only trustworthy, but loving, playful, and well-respected, too.


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Photo: Getty

*This post is sponsored by Trustify.