Running a Background Check for a Nanny or Babysitter

I wish there was an easy button you could click to run a background check on a prospective babysitter or nanny.  The reality, though, is that no such thing exists, and that's primarily because of the way our judicial system works.  The quick explanation is that its totally fragmented, and records of criminal activity or driving violations are usually held at the state or county level.

Your first (and most important!) step is collecting some basic personal information from the candidate you're considering hiring: previous addresses, social security number and DOB, driver's license number, employment history, and references.  (You can download a PDF authorization form here.)  Ask candidly if there's anything in her history that she wants to make you aware of, before you run a background check.  

Whether you're hiring a firm to run a background check or conducting your own, you'll want to make sure it includes these things:

  • Criminal check, at the county, state, and federal level: Confirm that the agency or firm is filing a record request at the county-level for the individual you’re vetting.  You should already know from the previous addresses she lists on the background check form how many counties they’ll need to check; find out how this will impact the pricing.   
  • Social security trace: This will turn up addresses used for the past ten years, which can be cross-referenced with the addresses the candidate provided.
  • DMV-check: This comes from your state’s DMV and will turn up any driving infractions (moving violations, major violations, DUIs).  Check previous addresses to see if you need to check any states beyond where you’re currently living.
  • National Sex Offender Registry Check
  • Child Abuse and Neglect Registry Check: These records are held on a state-by-state level and are maintained by various state agencies (in some states, it is the DOJ; in others, it’s Human Services).

In California, TrustLine maintains a database of caregivers who have submitted their fingerprints for background checks, which offers a more thorough screen than name or social security number searches.  Unfortunately, fingerprint checks aren’t yet available to most parents.

Match what you find against what the babysitter has provided, and probe into any discrepancies.  You'll also want to do a deep dive when you check a babysitter's references to turn up trouble spots that might not be top of mind for a busy parent who has little time to spend chatting about their previous sitter.

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