Mary Poppins or Cruella Deville? How to know which babysitter you’re hiring


Recently there was an issue in my town where a nanny was arrested for abusing two small children in her care.  She was at the local pharmacy when apparently she was screaming at the children and grabbed the 2 year-old by the neck.

The police arrested her and called the mother who was at work to inform her of what had happened.  Can you imagine getting a call like that at work!?!!  I’m sure this mom had checked the woman’s references and felt that she was safe but it just goes to show, you never know.  I don’t know if it’s because of the stress of the economy or something else, but it seems that people are literally “snapping.”  And the last person you want to snap is the person entrusted with caring for your kids.

Of course, there are those isolated incidents – those momentary lapses in judgement that we all have where we just lose it.  Whether as parents or caregivers, they happen.  But what about when it’s more than that?  What about the nanny or babysitter that we learn is stealing from us or truly neglecting our child?  And particularly, what about those of us who have a special needs’ child where we absolutely must find someone who is highly qualified to care for our child?  Sure, there are nanny agencies out there but often they’re extremely expensive and not all of us need someone full time.


So, what’s a parent to do?  I’ve often relied on recommendations from friends or asked around in my local community but I know many instances where the person came with glowing references only to turn out to be a disaster for the next family.  Even if you’ve received the reference from a trusted source, you still should do a background check.  A great place to start is Free Public Record Sites ( .  This lists available resources by state including driving, criminal, civil and financial records.  Prior to starting your search however, find out the privacy laws for your particular state.  Each state’s laws are different.  Some require written consent from the person for whom you’re conducting the background check but others don’t.  If you inform the person and get their date of birth and social security number you can run a check through the Federal Bureau of Investigations ( ).  I’ve had people say to me that this is insulting but the bottom line is this is my family’s safety.  They are free to refuse and I am free not to hire them.

The relationship with a caregiver is different than any other one.  I mean after all, they’re caring for your kids and, while it’s a business relationship, it’s far more personal than any other.  Sometimes it’s hard to maintain the level of professionalism that’s needed.  They become a part of your family and you want to trust them.  But unfortunately that trust can be abused.  That’s why I firmly believe in nanny cams and security systems that provide video monitoring.  Again, I have people tell me they think this is an invasion of privacy but, if it gives you a sense of security when you’re away from your child, that’s your right.

Have you had nanny nightmares?  Share them here.



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