Protecting Your Child - Even from Caretakers
Lori Berke is the co-author of Making Childcare Choices: How to Find, Hire and Keep the Best Childcare for Your Kids and co-founder of Care Check, Inc., a company that provides video surveillance equipment and answers the needs of parents who hire in-home help. Dr. Phil and Lori Berke offer advice for hiring a nanny and monitoring his/her relationship with your child.
When hiring potential nannies, keep the following in mind:
You should have clear expectations of your nanny.
Will they be a caretaker and housekeeper? What will the hours be? How many days of the week? Vacation time? Pay?
Request the following identification from an applicant:
Social Security card
Valid driver's license
Home phone and address
Proof of physical exam from the last two years
Work references and phone numbers for the past three years
Character references with addresses and phone numbers
Record and confirm all contact information and references.
Confirm name and birth certificate or passport
Make copies of I.D.
Confirm home address (go there or ask for utility bill as proof of residence)
Confirm home number and/or cell phone number
Call all references
Visit home of references (to see if they really have kids)
Contact number for next of kin
Do a criminal background check.
Check for aliases
Check for numerous addresses over short period of time
Check for past complaints and follow up on them
When asking a question, ask for specific examples.
Ask what makes her frustrated and how she handles it
Ask about her childhood
Ask about her child rearing philosophy
Question all gaps in her work history
Ask about her experiences with their previous families: What worked? What would she have changed?
Ask empathy-related questions: Why does she like working with children? Why does she choose to be a nanny? Why does she want to work with your family?
Ask about her experience in emergency situations and find out how she would respond in certain situations
Look for red flags during an interview that may indicate problems.
Applicant refuses to give home phone number and doesn't have numbers for work references
Too many unexplainable gaps in work history
Applicant refuses to give a valid license or social security number
Applicant refuses to sign a release for a criminal background check
Applicant has a lot of short-term jobs
Applicant doesn't interact very well with your child or shows little interest in the child
Applicant has moved around often
Applicant requests a very low pay and/or is willing to take less pay than her previous position
Applicant has a number of traffic tickets and will need to drive for you
Applicant if overqualified for the position
Be wary of over-qualified applicants.
They will say what you want to hear in interviews
They have excellent résumés that give the parents a false sense of experience
These applicants know how to manipulate personalities and skills tests
Their references are often friends, not previous employers
Keep in mind: "a stranger with a résumé is still a stranger"
Some additional tips for the interview process:
The applicant must interact well with your child and show an interest in him/her
The hours, days, and job description must fit what the applicant is looking for
The applicant must have reliable transportation to your home
The applicant must have reliable coverage for her own children if she has any
If you are a stay-at-home mom, make sure the person you are hiring feels comfortable with that set-up. Or, if you are able to take breaks from work, let her know that you'll be dropping in periodically and that she's equally comfortable with that
You should really feel good about the reasons the applicant wants to take care of children and specifically your children
The applicant should be looking for a long-term job opportunity
You should interview all applicants at least twice with the second interview taking place around 5 or 6 p.m, which is the dinner, bath and all around cranky time for many babies
If possible, visit the applicant in her home
The nanny should expect:
Two days off each week, unless otherwise discussed and agreed to
On-time pay and overtime
Holiday and vacation pay (two weeks per year)
Respect from children and you
Clear communication from you
Support and understanding from you
Raises in pay and a stated timetable for them
Appreciation and bonuses when necessary (holidays)
Food for her meals
The attitude that you are a team and in it together for the healthy development of your children
There is a way to monitor your caretaker without installing nanny cams. Consider these tips to find out whether your child is protected or neglected:
Newborns should be changed every four to six hours depending on how much they eat
Count how many diapers there are and how many bottles of formula there are before you leave and when you get home.
Infants can go through about 12 diapers a day
Check the baby naked.
Parents often arrive home to find their kids already in pajamas. Then they leave in the morning and let the nanny put the kids in daytime clothing. So they never see their child undressed. Examine their bodies for bruises, scratches, bites or other injuries.
Be aware if you child is unusually clingy or has fear of caretakers.
Separation anxiety occurs between 6 to 8 months of age and may last until 2 to 3 years of age. Signs of separation anxiety before 6 months may suggest a problem. If it goes too far and goes too long and it's just not within their range of personality, that is a red flag.
Trust your instincts.
A "mother's instinct" is even better than a camera. Keep in mind, it may always be hard to turn your children over to someone, but you should trust your instincts if you have suspicions.
Allow a trial period where one parent is there with the nanny.
People will take a car for a test drive before they buy it, but they don't always think to take a potential nanny for a test drive.
Consider these warning signs that your nanny may be mistreating or neglecting your child:
Explanations of injuries are inconsistent with the baby's age and abilities.
For example, if your baby is not a crawler, he shouldn't be bumping into things. Ask yourself, "Could my baby possibly be doing this?" Listen carefully for the explanation that is given.
Your child is more clingy than normal and shows prolonged fear of caretakers.
Again, there can be separation anxiety. But when if it goes too far and goes too long and it's just not within their range of personality, that is a red flag.
Nanny over-exaggerates the extent of their daily activities.
Does every day sound like an exciting field trip? Sure, some days may include a trip to the park, going for walks, watching developmental videos, etc., but question whether it realistically occurs every day.
Nanny avoids eye contact and answers questions that are not asked.
You really have to see if they're talking too much, if they're telling you things that you don't need to know.
Nanny leaves as soon as you arrive home.
The nanny should want to tell you about things your child did that day.
Is the nanny late a lot?
Being late doesn't necessarily mean she's neglecting your child, but a nonchalant attitude about when she arrives could carry over into the way she treats your child.
When your child is sick on weekends, does the nanny call to see how your child is doing?
She should care about your child whether she's working or not. Does the nanny feel like part of the family?
Recent and unexplained behavioral changes in your child.
Insufficient amount of diapers or formula being used.
You may come home to a child who's dry, but has your child been changed as many times as needed throughout the day?