Safety Matters

Regardless of how you search for a childcare provider, safety must be your number one priority. Whether you learn about a caregiver through an agency or an online profile, the ultimate responsibility to screen and hire lies with you.

For parents who opt for Au Pair care, screening a caregiver can be more difficult. Since parents rely on the designated sponsor organization to do their screening for them, they must ensure  they are comfortable with the organization, their representative and the screening process before deciding to commit to program enrollment.

When searching for a caregiver online, keep these tips in mind:

  1. If a caregiver sounds too good to be true, she is. If a candidate has 10 years of experience and is willing to accept a job that pay minimum wage, something’s not right.
  2. Provide enough information. The more specific information you share about your family and care giving needs, the more viable candidates you’re profile or posting will attract. Be sure to include your children’s ages and interests, a job description, the nanny’s duties and how envision the nanny fitting into your family.
  3. Be honest. While it can be tempting to give the best case scenario and paint a picture of how your family is on a perfect day, don’t. Now is the time to be realistic about your expectations and schedule so that you can attract an appropriate match.
  4. Use the communication tools provided. Most sites have built-in communications tools that allow you to protect your private contact information until you’re ready to share it. Take advantage of these tools.
  5. Prescreen potential candidates. Ask each application to complete an application or to answer a few preliminary questions with regards to your main hiring criteria. If you’re certain you want to hire a caregiver with 5 years of experience, make one of your first questions “How many years of experience do you have?” Immediately weed out candidates who don’t meet your criteria.
  6. Have a phone interview. Once you’ve found a caregiver that’s sparked your interest, conduct a phone interview. Ask questions about the nanny’s experience and educational background and plenty of situational questions like “Can you tell me about a time where you had to put a child in time out and they wouldn’t go?” to learn more about your candidate’s care giving style.
  7. Have an in person interview. After your phone interviews, you’ll want to interview those candidates who you are interested in personally. Your first face-to-face interview should be in a public location, like a coffee shop, and without the kids. This allows you to focus on the interview and keeps your children from having to meet a string of possible providers. Have a second in person interview with candidates you’re serious about at your home. This is the time to introduce her to your kids.
  8. Don’t take shortcuts on screening. Before you hire a caregiver, you’ll want to gather as much information about her so that you can make an educated and informed hiring decision. Even if your gut says she’s the right match, confirm it by conducting a thorough screening.
  9. Conduct a background check. Many online sites have background screening streamlined in. Be sure to conduct a social security trace, to check county and/or state courts for misdemeanors and felonies and to check the state sex offender registry. You’ll also want to review the driving record of your potential candidate.
  10. Call references. Don’t skip out on calling references, even if you feel confident in the caregiver. Call at least two care giving references and two character references. Listen to the one of the reference and pay attention to what the reference doesn’t say, in addition to what she does.
  11. Check out social media sites. Use the Internet to your advantage and search for your potential provider. Check social networking sites, social media sites and do a basic Internet search. You may be surprised by the pictures you see and the status updates you read.
  12. Have a working interview. Even if you feel like you’ve found the right caregiver for your family, have a working interview. A working interview allows you both to experience what life’s like working together and to confirm that it’s the right employment match.  Look for a connection. Even the best nanny isn’t the best nanny for every family. Caregivers and parents must have a real connection for a healthy, lasting relationship.

For parents who opt to hire Au Pairs, many of these tips don’t apply. Since Au Pairs are foreign nationals, parents who choose Au Pair care must solely rely on others to do their screening for them. While parents may get to Skype or talk to Au Pairs on the phone prior to inviting them to live in their homes, they don’t have the opportunity to meet them in person and to see if there is that much needed personal connection.