Guest Bloggers

What a Background Check Covers (And What it Doesn’t) by Kenney Myers (Guest Blogger)

The background check. It sounds intimidating, all-encompassing, legally binding and almost invasive in scope. Many people — employers or employees — never deal with them directly, and have only the vaguest ideas of what they really are or what they might reveal. In the childcare industry, though, background checks can be life-changing documents, for both nannies and families. They can guide parents to make hiring or firing decisions; they can proudly vouch for a nanny or haunt them for years. For these and many other reasons, it’s important for you to learn about background checks no matter what part of the hiring process you’re in. When you truly understand what a background check is and what it isn’t, you can use them to make the best decision possible regarding childcare.

Background Checks: A Definition

A background check isn’t just a phone call to someone’s former employer to verify work history. If you’re dealing with childcare, it doesn’t mean just verifying that your nanny worked where she or he said they did. There’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, the phrase “background check” is so broad it’s almost meaningless.

In the context of employment, a background check is a thorough investigation of criminal and automotive history, and it’s performed to give employers the most information possible when it comes to making a hiring decision. According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners — a trade group devoted to ethics and best practices in the field — these types of background checks are typically conducted by licensed third-party consumer reporting agencies that are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA regulates the method of collecting and distributing consumer information as a way to protect employees and consumers. It’s crucial to note that fair and legal background checks require the consent of the person you’re investigating. If an agency tells you they can run a background check on a nanny you want to hire without actually telling the nanny, that’s a red flag. You need their authorization for the search.

Things That Will Appear on a Background Check

A proper background check can cover a variety of areas, including (but not limited to):

  • Drug test information
  • Verification of employment, and if the applicant has earned any licenses or degrees they claim to have earned
  • Criminal record checks verified through local, state, federal and even international courts
  • Registry investigations, including searches of sex offender registries and child abuse registries
  • Credit history (minus an applicant’s actual credit score)
  • Driving records

As you can tell, the point of a good background check is to give an employer as much information as possible about the applicant in front of them. This is important in any job, but it’s especially important when you’re hiring a nanny, someone who will spend long, unsupervised hours every day with your children for months or even years. A nanny needs to be able to transport the children, make purchases for household items and be trusted caring for the kids; all things that tie into the areas covered in a background check.

To find this information, consumer reporting agencies check a variety of databases, including a family of systems at the FBI. There’s the FBI Identification Record, which covers criminal history and information connected to arrests. There’s a caveat here, though: some state laws prohibit using arrest and conviction records when making hiring decisions, so even if you find out an applicant had some criminal issues in their past, you might not be allowed to let that bias your decision. According to the NAPBS, California restricts the use of some marijuana-related convictions in the decision-making process if the applicant’s conviction is more than two years old. You should always consult with your consumer reporting agency about the findings of a background check to see what’s clear for you to know and use for employment purposes.

There’s also the Interstate Identification Index System (aka, the III), which allows for federal and state law enforcement agencies to share information about misdemeanors and felonies for background check purposes. However, the burden falls on the states to keep the databases updated, so sometimes the III might not have the latest data, especially about someone who’s lived in many states.

In addition to database checks there are also primary records searches. Considered the “gold standard” in criminal background checks, the county courthouse criminal records check requires a court runner to manually check the records at county courthouses if the records aren’t current and available online. Since sometimes records for felonies and misdemeanors are stored in different courts within a county, it is imperative that the proper court house records are checked to get an accurate picture of what, if any, records are available on an applicant.

The point of all this is that, though there are many helpful resources available for conducting background checks, there remains no single unified system that contains complete and updated criminal history for people. Searching multiple databases and sources is a good measure, but it’s also the only one we have.

Things That Won’t Appear on a Background Check

This naturally leads people to wonder: if there’s no single database for background checks, is it possible for some things to be overlooked? Yes.

Some things won’t appear on a background check because they’re not relevant or allowable to the scope of employment. For instance, medical records are out, as are records for anything that might have happened to the applicant as a juvenile. As mentioned above, while credit history is covered, specific credit score isn’t. Minor things like parking tickets may not be included, either, because they’re not fingerprintable incidents.

But the biggest thing that a background check won’t catch is obvious: if the applicant committed a crime and got away with it. That, and if the applicant committed a crime outside of the area that was searched. By definition, a background check can only turn up things that made it to the courts. A check can list a person’s criminal history, but that doesn’t mean it lists their entire history. Such a thing would be impossible.

That’s why it’s so important to remember that a background check is not a shield against future criminal activity, but merely an information-gathering tool designed to give employers the most information possible to help them make the best decision they can. You should absolutely perform a background check on anybody you’re considering hiring as a nanny, but you should never let that check give you a false sense of security. Just as old criminal history can be a sign that someone’s turned their life around and gotten their act together, so too can it indicate someone who might be willing to break the rules again if given the opportunity.

The bottom line is that there’s no such thing as a bulletproof background check. A background check should be used in conjunction with other interviewing tools, ranging from fact-finding questions to time spent with someone to gauge their personality. Using as many information gathering tools as possible and pairing what you’ve gleaned with good judgment will help you to make an educated and informed hiring decision.

Top Lessons I’ve Learned as a Nanny by Kellie Geres (Guest Blogger)

I am approaching 25 years as a professional nanny/household manager. I’ve been fortunate to work for some amazing families, and am blessed with friends and colleagues near and far. I’m not the perfect nanny nor the perfect household manager, but I am the best I can be in a profession I love.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way that have helped shape me into the professional I am today.

The one thing I wish I had done from the start of my career was save. Even if it was just $10 a paycheck, over time that adds up. Instead I accrued debt, believing there’s always time to save. The debt has been paid and the savings is building, but I wish I had done things differently. Find a system that works for you. I have money automatically withdrawn each week from my account that gets put into an another account.

Over the years, I have come to know my strengths and weaknesses. I excel at organizing, time management and details. My weakness is I take things very personally, tend to take on too much at a time and give too much to my job without leaving enough time for me. I’m a work in progress, as I think we all are throughout our lives. That I recognize these traits helps me do my job well, and recognize when it’s time to just stay in my pj’s on a Saturday, read a good book and clean off the DVR.

Embrace your nanny community! If there isn’t one in your area, create one. I’ve been fortunate to be part of several nanny groups in each area that I’ve worked – Northern NJ, Atlanta, Philadelphia and DC. I’ve been a member and a leader. No one knows what your day and job are truly like other than another nanny. Reach out and meet others. If it’s just coffee once a month or daily online communications through a Facebook group – connect with other nannies.

Check out my advice on creating a nanny community for ideas on how to get started.

With any profession, information and techniques change. Continue your education by attending conferences, workshops, nanny group meetings, agency offerings, online classes, webinars, podcasts and more. Check out my recommendations for conferences you should attend and how to get the most out of your conference experience. Additional opportunities can be found at

Be a mentor. Take all your years of experience and share that with others. Open the lines of communication with other nannies and help them learn, grow and understand this profession and industry. Invite new nannies to meet for coffee and get to know them. Engage with others on Facebook groups and offer your insight and expertise. Step out of your comfort zone and offer to do a presentation at a local nanny group, or even submit a proposal to INA or Nannypalooza. Host a NNTD event in your area, for other nannies to learn from.

Our industry is ever evolving with information and new faces. Friendships are formed and legacies are created. What have you learned on your career road?

Meet with Your Nanny by Hannah Anderson (Guest Blogger)

The following was written and submitted to us by Hannah Anderson of More about her and this company at the bottom:

Let’s face it; nanny employers are busy. And so are their nannies. When things are going well in the employment relationship, it’s easy to skip regular nanny/family meetings. You talk to your nanny at end of her workday and she fills you in on what’s happening with your child, so what else is really needed? Actually, there are lots of good reasons to have regular meetings with your nanny. Here are a few.

Only the basics really get covered in the daily check in. It’s essential that you and your nanny check in with each other at the end of each day. This is when your nanny can let you know what happened during the day, including any issues or problems that you should be aware of. However this limited time doesn’t allow for discussion about more serious or more complex issues. And those will come up. When you have regular family meetings scheduled, your nanny has the opportunity to talk with you about concerns she has about your child, plans she has for handling a behavior challenge or making an ages and stages transition, questions she has about your expectations, along with anything else that needs your attention. Without these family meetings, these bigger issues may get overlooked or rushed through. This can be harmful to your child and keep your nanny from doing the best job possible.

Family meetings ensure you and your nanny continue to be on the same page. Things with your nanny can change fairly quickly as your child grows and develops. What you need from her may change as your child moves from one stage to the next. What your expectations are may change as the needs of your child change. What your nanny needs from you may change the longer she stays in the position. Family meetings give you and your nanny the opportunity to check in with each other and make sure that you both continue to be on the same page. If either side has changed their ideas, perspectives, needs or approach, this is the perfect time to talk about it.

Meetings give you and your nanny the chance to talk about problems. Sometimes there are big problems in the employment relationship, and either you or your nanny will call an immediate meeting to discuss them. More often, there are small but bothersome issues that come up. They don’t require an emergency meeting; however, they do require conversation and action. But when? Neither you nor your nanny are likely to call a special meeting to talk about these non-critical issues. If you did that, you’d be spending a lot of time in family meetings. However, when you have regularly scheduled meetings, both sides know they can add their issue to the agenda and they’ll have the chance to talk about what’s happening and come up with a plan of action. This built-in opportunity means small problems won’t grow into big problems because they were never addressed. It means things that might otherwise get swept under the rug and cause real damage to the long term success of the relationship will be dealt with as they come up. This type of regular attention to potential stumbling blocks can be the difference between the nanny leaving after her contract is up and her staying in the job over the long haul.

You have the chance to have input into your child’s daily environment. Your nanny is responsible for planning a well-rounded day for your child. She’s also responsible for supporting his physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. What exactly does all that mean? Family meetings are a great time to talk with your nanny about her goals and plans for your child. It also allows you the chance to give real input into what you want her to be doing. Do you want your child to have more opportunities to play with neighboring kids? Are you concerned that he’s having a hard time transitioning into a one nap per day schedule? Would you like a more detailed plan on how she’s going to help him get ready to enter kindergarten in the fall? Regular family meetings are your opportunities to ask questions, outline and update your expectations, share resources and get input from your nanny. All of that information can help your nanny do a great job for you and make sure that she’s providing the type and level of care that you’re happy with.

It is hard to find the time to sit down and meet with your nanny regularly. However, the benefits to your family far outweigh the effort involved.

Hannah is a frequent contributor to “” & you can check out her recent submission You can get in touch at her e.mail at “”.