Hiring a babysitter is a big decision. The thought of leaving your precious child in the hands of someone else can be daunting. As our lives get unavoidably busier, however, it’s a decision you may have to make sooner or later. After interviewing prospects, conducting background checks for babysitters can help to ensure they're responsible and trustworthy enough to look after your child. A background check is essentially a thorough search of a person’s public record, including any criminal history or history of other legal charges against them, that may indicate that they are not well suited to care for children.
For many parents, it can be awkward to ask your prospective babysitter for permission to consent to a background check, but it shouldn’t be. A trustworthy babysitter would understand your concerns and be willing to provide information that helps you carry out a deep background check.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the best background checks for babysitters. We’ll also help you understand what to look for when running a background check.
How to Run Background Checks for Babysitters
It is important to mention that checking a babysitter on social media does not count as a background check. For the sake of your child’s safety and your peace of mind, please don’t simply rely on this. Also, running a prospect’s name or phone number through a commercial source is not a real check. Running incomplete background checks for babysitters is nearly as bad as not running one at all because all you accomplish is giving yourself a false sense of comfort.
To do a thorough background check on a nanny or babysitter, you’ll need their permission, their full, legal name, their social security number, and some form of identity verification -- whether it’s a drivers’ license or a passport, or passing a test of questions that only they would know the answer to.
Many legitimate babysitting agencies claim that they conduct background checks on all of their sitters and caregivers before allowing them to work for them. Once you've found a prospective babysitter you like, it can be tempting to believe this claim and skip a thorough background check. But don't get too carried away.
Most agencies only really run the high-level national criminal check, which is not exhaustive. To help you understand what to look for in a background checking solution or sitter platform that says they run checks, let’s check out the types of background checks there are.
Types of Background Checks
Not all background checks are equal. Here is a list of some of the checks you might want to consider.
1. National Criminal Database Check
A national criminal database check collects information from all jurisdictions that digitize their records and report those digitized records to centralized sources. It’s important to know that although this type of check may sound very complete and comprehensive, it is in fact the most limited version of a background check you can run (and often the cheapest). Because many jurisdictions do not digitize their records or report them to these national criminal databases, this type of check will not return all the possible results that would be available in a county-level check (discussed below). So, while a national criminal database check should be part of any thorough background check, it should never be relied on as the ONLY check.
2. County-Level Criminal Check
To run a county-level criminal check, a court researcher must go to a courthouse (or other location where criminal records are stored) and retrieves all criminal history records on the individual being screened.
A county-level check does not yield instant results- you usually have to wait a few days for the researcher to pool his or her findings. And because they are more labor-intensive, background checks that include a county-level criminal search are usually more expensive than a national criminal database check alone.
When hiring a babysitter or nanny, a county-level check is the gold standard. It is exhaustive enough to clear your doubts about a prospect’s background and identity. You can rest easy knowing that they are not wanted lawbreakers from another county hiding out in yours.
3. Social Security Number Check
Checking a candidate’s social security number is important for a few reasons. It’s a necessary part of the identity verification step -- making sure they are who they say they are -- and it confirms that the candidate is authorized to work in the U.S. -- which is important even for hourly contract workers like babysitters. But it also returns a list of every county where the candidate has resided, which lets the background checking company know which counties to search in their county-level check.
Note: It’s a safe bet that any background checking product or service that does not require the candidate’s social security number will not include a comprehensive county-level check. And again, without a county-level check, a background check is incomplete and unreliable.
4. Sex Offender Registry
The Sex Offender Registry was established to provide the general public with information about sexual predators in their community. This is an important resource that all parents should consult when checking babysitters or nannies.
You can search by first and last name, county, town, or ZIP code on the National Sex Offender Search page. You can also search a radius around your house for sex offenders you should be aware of, and it would be wise to share this information with your chosen babysitter.
4. Global Watch List
You may think that there’s only a slim chance that your prospective babysitter is an internationally-wanted criminal, but remember, we’re taking no chances. A Global Watch List screening lets you know if a prospect is wanted across domestic and international government, law enforcement, and regulatory sanction databases. This is particularly important for babysitters, nannies or au pairs who have spent substantial time outside the U.S.
Global Watch Lists usually contain terrorists, drug traffickers, and those convicted of fraud. Those who are wanted for sanctions, exclusions, and other shady activities are all on global watch lists.
Because global watch list records are constantly updated, it's important to rely on trustworthy sources of high-quality data that track these updates in real-time.
Review the Results
After the background check for babysitters is complete, your next step depends on what you find. If all is clear, your job is done. But what if you find proof of a negative past? Well, any negative data discovered should be discussed as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that even negative data is not conclusive until another investigation is complete. Negative information about someone with a similar name and birth date may end up in your hands by mistake. Although it is unusual, an individual's identity may have been stolen. All this is to say, don’t jump to conclusions until the data is proven.
If you have the time, there is nothing wrong with giving a prospect the benefit of the doubt and allowing them the chance to clear their name. However, if information pertaining to child abuse or sex crimes is discovered, it may be best to wait until the investigation process is completed before you make a decision.
A Quick Overview of Existing Background Check Tools
If you type “babysitter background checks” into Google, you will get thousands of results. It can be hard to understand what the differences are. We’ll try to help.
1. National Criminal Database Only Checks
Most of the search results you’ll see promise instant results and the ability to search anyone’s background without them even knowing. Though this might sound appealing, letting you skip over the awkwardness of asking your sitter’s permission to run her or his background check, it’s important to understand that any check that offers anonymous checking by definition cannot be thorough enough to be reliable. Yes, it’s possible that through these types of checks you may find out something useful about your candidate. But if you DON’T find anything in these checks, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be found.
It’s also important to remember that there is no single “national criminal database.” These types of searches are actually comprised of searches of several different databases, and many of the online services only check one or two, further reducing the completeness of the check.
On the plus side, these services are inexpensive. On average, they only cost $20 - 30 per month, which includes an unlimited number of checks.
Examples of this type of service include BeenVerified, TruthFinder, InstantCheckmate, Intelius, and PeopleFinders. You can usually tell that a site is in this category because they start by offering a free check, which then seems to take a very long time to search through all the records before presenting you with the opportunity to pay for the results. (In reality, these checks happen instantaneously -- they just add the wait time for effect.)
Ultimately, these checks should be used for entertainment purposes only. If you’re using a babysitting app or service that relies solely on national criminal database checks, that essentially means no serious background check has been run. You should either run a full background check yourself, or choose a different babysitting app.
2. General Employment-Focused Background Checking Sites
There are many background-checking services that specialize in vetting candidates for employment. These services offer a variety of checks, at different pricing levels, but the one thing they all have in common is that they must comply with federal laws regarding the use of background checks for employment purposes, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state laws known as “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal history on an initial job application. This usually means the furthest back they can look into a candidate’s history is 7 years in most cases. That means most crimes that are more than 7 years in the past will not be reported.
These checks can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 per check, depending on the depth of the check you choose.
If you choose to use one of these services, make sure you opt for the plan that includes, at minimum, a social security number check and the full county check in all counties where the candidate has lived. (Many of them only offer to check 3 counties, so make sure you’re looking at whether there are other counties where the candidate has lived that are NOT being checked.)
Examples of this type of check are GoodHire, HireRight, and ClearChecks.
3. Background Checking Services Specific to Nannies and Babysitters
There are several services that specialize in background checks for nannies and babysitters, that include comprehensive criminal background checks and sometimes additional checks like personality assessments, reference checks, etc. These tend to be the most comprehensive checks -- and also the most expensive, with the most comprehensive checks starting at $99. The most important thing to remember when using this sort of service is to confirm that they are truly running all the checks discussed above -- the SSN trace to find out where they’ve lived, full county checks in each of those counties, and then the national criminal database search, sex offender registry search, global watchlist search, etc.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is this: Just because a product calls itself a comprehensive background checking service (which they ALL do) doesn’t mean they are truly checking everything they need to check to find out a person’s complete criminal history.
Hire Through a Trusted Babysitting Tool
As we’ve discussed, background checks for nannies and babysitters have to be exhaustive, or else it defeats the point of running one in the first place. Instead of running the check yourself, another option is to use a trusted babysitter app that specializes in vetting sitters and nannies, and can present you with candidates who have already been background checked and screened beforehand. At Nanno, we take background checking very seriously. Running a comprehensive county-level background check is only the first step of our extensive babysitter vetting process. We also conduct a behavioral profiling test, a skills test, and a thorough review of the candidate’s other qualifications. (To find out more about how Nanno checks babysitter and nanny candidates, see our article, How Nanno's Babysitter Vetting Process Works.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be.
While conducting your own background check can be a lot of work, hiring a professional through a babysitting platform with a thorough vetting process will give you confidence and trust in your new babysitter -- without having to turn over every stone yourself. Reach out to us at Nanno today and rest assured that you have made the safest possible decision for your child and yourself.