Babysitter background check

How to Run a Background Check on a Babysitter

(The Complete Guide)

You're done interviewing a potential babysitter. Now it's time for a final screening to make sure they're responsible and trustworthy enough to watch your child.

How do you run a background check on a babysitter? Performing a babysitter background check isn't a one-step process. You'll need to confirm your babysitter's identification using their driver's license or passport. Then you can use that information to check their criminal history and driving record. As well as verifying any certification or training they have. And don't forget to follow up with references.

Doing a full background check on your babysitter is recommended for safety and peace of mind. In this article, we'll discuss the types of background checks you should do, and how to do them.

Should You Run A Background Check On Your Babysitter?

Safety of your kids is a primary concern as a parent. So when hiring a babysitter, you can never be too safe. That's where a background check can help. They're an excellent way to make sure your babysitter is really who they say they are.

It can be tempting to just skip the background check once you have a prospective babysitter that you like. But don't rush into it. No matter how great they seem, it's worth doing some basic background checks. It might reveal information that can help you make a more informed decision about hiring your sitter.

So you should always do at least a few basic background checks. However, there are certain legal requirements.

Get permission. In most places, you need to get your babysitter to consent to a reference and background check. Usually, you can't legally do a background check on someone unless they consent. A simple form that gets you permission in writing is all you need.

Just get what you need. You don't need to know absolutely everything about your babysitter and their entire life story. Limit your background check searches to things that are important and relevant in your decision.

Respect Your Babysitter's Limits

Some questions are illegal to ask a job candidate, even in the course of performing a background check. This includes things like:

  • Marital status
  • Disability status
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Age (you can only ask if they're old enough to work legally)
  • Where they were born (you can ask if they can work legally in your country)
  • If they're pregnant or plan to get pregnant any time soon

Background Checks

There isn't one standard type of background check that you can run on a babysitter. Every agency or online service will provide you with different information in their background checks.

Here are some background checks that you might want to consider for your sitter. Doing all of these will probably be overkill, especially when you're just hiring the teenager next door. But taking a little time to check out your babysitter's past will give you peace of mind and avoid any obvious mistakes.

Identity Confirmation

Before you can do any other kind of background check, you need to confirm your babysitter's true identity. Ask them for their full name and social security number. Record information from their driver's license, or simply take a picture of the front and back with your phone for future reference.

If your babysitter isn't a US citizen, ask to see their passport and any required work permits.

In the US, you can get your babysitter to fill out an I-9 form which will help you determine if they're eligible to work. You can use the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website to confirm the information they gave you.

References

Don't hire a babysitter without checking with their references!

Even if they were referred by a family member or friend, you should still check with third-party references for added security.

Past families will want to inform you if there were any safety concerns with the babysitter or the relationship didn't work out for any reason. For an experienced babysitter, you should check on at least two of their references.

How to check your babysitter's references:

They should provide you with a list of references along with their resume in most cases. If not, feel free to ask for one. Be wary of babysitters who are hesitant to share their past employer's contact details with you.

Calling strangers can feel a little awkward. But fellow parents will understand the importance of checking references and are usually willing to spend a couple of minutes speaking with you.

Call the reference and say something like "Hi, my name is X. I'm calling because (babysitter name) had you listed as a reference and said he / she previously babysat for your family. If now is a good time and you've got a moment, I'd love to ask you a few questions about their performance and personality, and get your overall opinion."

The reference's initial reaction after your introduction can say a lot. Pay attention to the demeanor and tone of their voice. If they seem excited to talk to you, that can be a good sign.

If they seem uncomfortable or say they aren't able to speak right now, that might be a red flag. Although they might just be busy. Try to arrange a better time to call back if you run into this issue. If your reference says "who?" and it's not just because they didn't hear you the first time, this should be a big red flag.

Questions to ask your babysitter's references:

Are you related to the babysitter? Give more weight to the opinion of an unrelated employer, they're less likely to be biased.

How long did they babysit for you, and how often? If the answer is never and they're just a family friend, that's a bad sign. It means your babysitter probably doesn't have any actual previous babysitting jobs to use as a reference.

Why aren't they babysitting for you anymore? There are lots of legitimate reasons a family might not be using a babysitter anymore. They could have moved across town, their kids might be too old for a babysitter now, or they just might not be able to afford it. If the reference seems uncomfortable with this question and doesn't give a clear answer, it's time to dig a bit deeper into the babysitter's performance.

Did they have any attendance issues? You want to make sure your babysitter will be dependable and reliable. They should show up on time, rarely cancel, and give plenty of advanced notice if they did need to cancel in the past.

Did they follow the rules of your house? This will give you a good idea if you've got a babysitter who might be flaky or a bit of a pushover.

Did your kids like them? What did they like? Their child's opinion of their sitter likely gives a more honest opinion than the reference you're speaking to. If their kids loved the sitter because they played with them all the time that's good. There can even be situations where a child not liking their sitter can be good though, for example, if the babysitter made them do their homework!

Do you think they could handle an emergency? This will give you another good idea of how dependable the reference thinks they are.

Were there any incidents or issues during their babysitting you want me to know about? Even for a babysitter they recommend, there may have been some initial growing pains with a new babysitter, or rules they had to discuss or reinforce.

Would you hire them again? If they have to stop and think, or anything besides an immediate yes can be a bad sign unless they've got a legitimate reason to back it up.

Don't stretch it out too much. It's probably best to pick your top 5 most important questions to ask and limit it to that. You don't want to take up too much of the reference's time.

Once you're ready to end the call, thank the reference for their time and let them know that you appreciate their honest feedback. You may also want to give them your phone number, just in case they think of anything else that they feel like sharing with you.

For more example questions see our list of the top 20 questions to ask babysitter references and choose some that best suit your situation.

Check Their Social Media

Anything your babysitter posts publicly online is fair game for you to use as part of your background check.

Take a quick look at your babysitter's Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts and be on the lookout for any photos of behavior that might make them inappropriate for the job, like excessive partying and drinking, drug usage, etc.

Using a "people search engine" like pipl.com can help you find their social media accounts by searching their first and last name, plus location. If your babysitter has a really common name like John Smith it can be hard to find their specific profiles, but less common names are easy to find.

CPR and First Aid Verification

All babysitters should really have this training. It's often included as part of babysitting courses offered by the Red Cross and YMCA. Most cities offer these courses on a regular basis, usually every week.

You want your babysitter to have emergency first aid training at the very least. These courses usually only take about 8 hours in total and cost around $50. If you're going to be regularly using a babysitter that doesn't have first aid certification, you may even want to offer to pay for them to take it.

In the US, first aid training is offered by the American Red Cross. In Canada and Australia, it's also offered by St. John Ambulance. There are plenty of private organizations which are also licensed to teach first aid in different countries as well.

How to verify your babysitter's CPR or first aid status:

Most organizations provide a wallet-sized laminated card with your name and certification information when you pass a course. Check your babysitter's card, and be sure to pay attention to the expiry or recertification date as well.

Swimming Lesson Verification

If you've got a backyard pool or live near a beach or other large body of water, it makes sense to hire a babysitter that can swim.

They don't need to be certified as a lifeguard or swim instructor. But the more training and experience they have around water, the better.

Verify they're comfortable in and around the water. As well as that they have a basic understanding of water safety and know what to do in an emergency.

How to verify your babysitter's swim qualifications:

All swimming classes provide certificates of completion and verification that your babysitter should be able to provide to you.

Criminal Database Search

Government organizations like the Department of Corrections or Offices of the Court usually have a compiled list of criminal records for your country or state. These records can go back 7 to 10 years.

These databases cover felonies, misdemeanors, convictions, and other offenses.

If you know your babysitter has lived abroad, it might be worth checking for criminal records in those countries as well. Unfortunately, there isn't one global website to search for a person's complete background. You'll need to run individual searches in each country, state, or jurisdiction. This isn't an easy job, as every country has different regulations and laws that you need to abide by. But the results of your search can be worth the extra effort.

How to check for a babysitter's criminal record:

There are lots of private websites that offer background checks. Depending on where you live, these may not be appropriate for employment purposes. For example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the US puts strict limits on what kind of information can be included in criminal background checks, so you need to check and ensure the service you're using is complaint with your federal and state laws.

You can check through your state or local police department. They can check their records for criminal activity, but they will only have access to crimes that have taken place in their jurisdiction. So if your babysitter has committed offenses elsewhere, they won't come up on local searches.

In some locations, you might need your babysitter to go to the local police department and request the background check themselves.

If you don't have the time or don't want to go through the effort of figuring it out yourself, there are services that will complete screening on your behalf for a small fee. Some of these include Checkr, BeenVerified, and eVerify.

SSN / SIN Trace

Performing a screening that compares the babysitter's social security number they provided you with public records can help identify discrepancies. If names and addresses don't match during this background check, your babysitter could be using a fake name or alias.

How to check someone's social security number:

In the US, you can do this through the Social Security Administration online for free. Most governments offer a similar service, although you may need to fill out an application and include a reason for your request.

National Sex Offender Registry

All countries have a sex offender registry. Some like the United States make it publicly available and easy to access by simply searching a first and last name. While others like Canada only make it available to law enforcement and don't provide access to the public.

A sex offender registry provides information like an offender's risk level, their offenses, photographs of them, as well as personal information like their name, age, height, weight, and identifying scars or tattoos.

Child Abuse and Neglect Records

In some places, this is a distinct database kept separate from the sex offender registry for non-sexual offenses. All US states keep records of neglect and abuse, which the state's child protective services maintains.

Not all states allow you to search these records. About 30 states will let employers check these records if they're hiring someone for a childcare position. Be sure to check what your state's specific laws are on what you can or can't request.

Driving Record

Your local driving authority (for example, the DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles – in the US) can provide information such as collisions and violations.

If your babysitter will be driving your kids regularly, this is a good search to conduct. In that case, you'll also want to make sure your sitter has proper insurance and their car has safety features like airbags.

In some places, you can conduct this search yourself with your babysitter's driver's license number. In other countries, your babysitter might have to request their driving abstract themselves and then provide a copy to you.

If your babysitter holds an international driver's license or a license from another country, you can try to contact that country's equivalent of the DMV to get their driving records. You can also ask the US embassy for that country what the best way to get their driving records would be.

Education

If you want to verify your babysitter's education, you can ask to see transcripts, diplomas, or certificates. Normally this isn't necessary, but if you're hiring your babysitter or planning to pay extra based on the fact that they have early childhood education or some other related degree, it might be worth verifying.

Drug Testing

In some locations, it's legal to ask your babysitter to complete a drug test, while in others it's not.

This is one of the more invasive background checks you can perform on a babysitter, and not all of them will be willing to go along with it.

For a part-time babysitter, this might be a bit over the top unless you really suspect something. But for a full-time babysitter that you potentially want to use for years, this might be a step worth going through.

Use An Online Babysitter Service

There are online babysitter services that you can go through. These either work as a job agency that you can directly hire a babysitter through. In that case, they'll perform all the necessary background checks and paperwork for you. That's a good way to ease your anxieties and worries as a parent using a babysitter for the first time.

Other online babysitter services operate more like job boards. They'll let you choose your own babysitter and provide you with online tools to run background checks on potential babysitters, but you'll have to do the work yourself. Depending on how much information you need about your babysitter, this information might be free or there may be a fee associated with it.

Why Do A Babysitter Background Check?

Unfortunately, crimes like theft and abuse are all too common in the world of childcare. As a parent, the last thing you want is to endanger the life of your child.

Asking a babysitter to perform a background check might make you feel bad or seem unnecessary. But they are pretty standard in the industry, especially for full-time babysitters and nannies who work for agencies and undergo mandatory background checks. There's no need to feel bad about asking your sitter for a background check.

Other Ways To Screen Your Babysitter

There's more than just background checks and following up with your babysitter's references when it comes to making sure they're a good fit.

Start by defining your roles and expectations. Even before you start looking for a babysitter, you need to decide what you want. Are you just looking for a babysitter who will be around watching TV if your kids need help with anything? Or do you want a really in-depth babysitter that plays with your kids the entire time you're gone, and even drives them to activities or takes them to the park? Are you looking for a part-time or full-time babysitter?

Do they need to have flexible hours in case you're later than expected? What duties, like cooking meals for your kids or washing their laundry, will they also be responsible for? What training like CPR and first aid will you require? How much are you willing to pay them? These are all questions you need to consider before you even begin looking for a babysitter.

How you look for candidates. Finding potential babysitters who come recommended by family or friends is an ideal place to start. Then you already have at least one positive reference before you even speak to them.

Hiring a babysitter through an app or agency provides a good level of reassurance since many of them will screen babysitters and verify them for you in advance. You usually pay a fee for your application that helps fund these screening services.

If you find a babysitter on a website like Gumtree or Craigslist, you'll have a lot more due diligence to do before leaving them with your children. These are complete strangers and you have no reliable way to verify them with people you already know, so you'll want to do more in-depth background checks including their criminal record in this case.

Your interview. The questions you ask and the general feeling you get when interviewing a potential babysitter can provide just as valuable of information as a background check. You learn a lot about a person just by speaking to them face to face. Ask open-ended questions and get them to give specific examples that draw from their past experience. Make sure to give them time to ask their questions too, so you can see any potential concerns they have.

For more detailed information about interviewing your babysitter, check out my articles on how to interview a babysitter and my list of babysitter interview questions.

Outsource it. If you're too busy or feel like it's too much work to verify your babysitter's information, you can outsource it and let a company do the work for a fee. There are several online services that you can use to conduct background checks, including verifying their education, work experience, and criminal record. Costs can vary significantly depending on how much information you need and what you're looking to find out.

Even if you're paying a company to run the background check for you, you still need to make sure your candidate knows you're going to conduct a background check. Get them to sign a statement authorizing you to run a background check yourself or use third-party services to do it.

Let your kids screen them. Your last step before leaving your new babysitter alone with your kids is to let them meet your family beforehand. Pay careful attention to how your child interacts with the sitter, and vice versa. Do they seem natural and comfortable around kids? Does your child seem apprehensive? You might even want to do a paid trial run and let them watch your kids for a few hours while you're at home working on something else.

Conclusion

Unfortunately checking your babysitter's background history isn't as easy as a single button that you can press to perform a comprehensive search.

You'll need to perform background searches through multiple different sources to gather all the information you need.

Make sure that you're aware of local laws and what kind of information you can or can't collect about your babysitter.

No matter how you go about hiring your babysitter, a background check can give you peace of mind that your kids are in safe hands.

But even if they pass, be sure to look out for bad babysitter warning signs once you start working with them and act immediately if you suspect anything.

You may also consider installing a nanny cam for added peace of mind. If so, please read this article first: Is it legal to record a babysitter to learn what you can and can't do in your country.

Related Questions

How much do background checks cost?

It depends on how many different background checks you plan to conduct, and which kind of searches you'll use. The cost of performing all the different background checks discussed in this article can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars.

A basic criminal record check from your local police station usually costs around $20 and is a good place to start. If your babysitter has worked with children in any capacity before, they likely already have a copy of their own criminal check that they can share with you.

If you're concerned about cost, you can still perform multiple free searches on your own. Verify your babysitter's ID, follow up with references, and manually check proof of certifications that they provide.

How might a babysitter fail a background check?

Your babysitter candidate might fail their background check if they've been convicted of a crime that's relevant to their job duties. Especially if the crime involved a child. Lying or embellishing about their credentials or experience is another reason why you might choose not to hire them. As well as if their name, address, date of birth, or other information doesn't match up with the information they provided to you.

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Written by:

 Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.

Published: 9 February 2019

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