Eight Ways to Protect Your Children When Hiring Domestic Help

By May 16, 2013background checks

How safe are your children around your new baby sitter or nanny? Learn eight strategies for protecting your family below.

According to conventional thinking, children are the least protected when they’re outside the home. However, this isn’t always the case.

In fact, twenty percent of all children’s deaths are the result of accidental injuries that occur within the home. In addition, most cases of kidnapping and abuse also occur at the family home. As a result, if you’re planning to hire domestic help, you have every reason to be concerned, worried, and want to take additional steps before letting a stranger into your house. Besides your immediate family, your employees will be the closest contacts to your kids, helping raise them, help them study, and remind them to mind their manners.

Before hiring help, consider the following eight tips to help keep your children safe:

1. Ask for References

First impressions matter. However, don’t base your domestic help decisions on first impressions alone. Even if you find potential candidates to be warm, friendly and easy to talk to, you should still make it a point to insist that they provide references. You can learn a lot more about your domestic help by contacting their former employers.

When you talk with former employers, find out more about the judgment and abilities of the people you’re thinking about hiring. Were they to handle emergencies on their own? Did they always arrive on time? Did the children in their care ever have to let themselves off the bus and wait for their care providers? Do they have an abusive past? These are extremely important questions to ask references that will give you additional insight into how reputable your candidate is. These references can help beyond any background check.

Most of the time, if there any concerns that you need to know about, this approach will help reveal them. Just be sure to watch out for possible red flags. Sometimes, a reference may know something, but choose not to reveal it. If you get short, curt answers to your questions or replies that sound vague, there may be more to the story than you’re getting. In addition to this, there are laws in place that don’t allow references to

2. Run a Background Check

Background checks don’t have to be elaborate. You don’t need to know where your domestic help candidate was born or what high school she attended. But you do need to know if she has a criminal record and what for, as a past criminal history can – and should – influence your hiring decisions. It’s always good to know if the person is hopping address to address also – and can’t pay their rent in time. This might be a warning sign that you have a thief on your hands or someone unreliable working for you.

If you aren’t sure how to run a background check, a private investigator can help you with this. A good PI firm will be able to check criminal records to see if your potential worker has been convicted of a violent crime. A private investigator will also screen for possible aliases and follow up on any past complaints that have been filed against your candidate. A background check is doubly important if the worker appears to have gone through multiple jobs in a short period or if her work history has too many unexplained gaps.

Bear in mind that most PIs don’t recommend using the $15 checks that are available online for the simple reason that the facts aren’t verified and that, oftentimes, they mix up individuals with common names and similar dates of birth. This could be disastrous for some individuals – as they might show a criminal record when, in fact, your potential worker isn’t a criminal. By working with a reputable PI agency, you’ll get accurate, thorough results.

3. Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Once hired, your domestic worker will become a vital part of your family. For this reason, you have every right to be paranoid!

Watch out for any possible red flags that your worker tries to gloss over. For instance, is she refusing to give you her phone number or home contact details? Is he unwilling to provide a social security number or offering to work for much less pay than he’s entitled to?  If so, pause before you make a decision.

Ask candidates specific questions related to running a home and proper childcare practices in order to gauge their responses before offering employment. Is the babysitter forgetful or does she have glazed-over eyes? Make sure there are no substance problems with your domestic help workers, as this could be detrimental to your child’s well-being.

4. Check Your Children for Bruises

Although nobody wants to think about the possibility of domestic abuse, it’s a concern that must be addressed whenever the custodial care of your children is placed outside of your hands.

Make it a point to give your kids a bath several times during the week and use this period to check their bodies for possible scratches or bruises. Many cases of abuse go undetected because parents return home to find their kids already dressed in their pajamas and then leave the house early the next morning while a nanny or baby-sitter gets the kids ready for school. If you spot any injuries on your child, find out what caused them. Don’t dismiss frequent “accidents” as your child being hyperactive, as frequent injuries could point to something more sinister.

5. Talk and Listen To Your Kids

Unfortunately, your kids won’t just send you an email informing you that you’ve hired the help from hell – but they will reveal their opinions in many other ways. Talk to your children when you get home and listen to what they have to say. If your child appears to resent or hate your domestic workers, find out why. Observe their behavior around the help. If they appear scared or distant, you could be dealing with a bad situation.

6. Call Home as Often as You Can

Once you’ve hired a domestic worker, your understandable temptation will be to dismiss your home-based concerns and dive into work once you arrive at the office. However, it’s important that you to take the time to call home periodically.

Plan your calls around mealtimes or your child’s bedtime. That way, you’ll be able to find out how your children are doing and get an early update on what’s been happening throughout the day. Increase the frequency of your calls during the first couple of weeks or until you’re more comfortable with the care being provided by your domestic workers. Insist that your workers always have their cell phones charged and nearby to prevent the excuse of missed calls.

7. Install a Security System

When you’re home, any domestic workers you’ve hired are bound to be respectful, friendly and dutiful. But what happens when you’re not around?

A nanny camera can be your eyes while you’re away. These types of equipment allow you to monitor what goes on in your home when you can’t be there in person. If you’re unsure how to install a system, a private investigator can help you to place several cameras around your home in order to detect any negative or dangerous behavior by your domestic workers.

8. Set Rules

Have rules in place before you hire workers, and then make sure that your employees understand and enforce them. For instance, make sure your help has your instructions on what to do during an emergency. Give your nanny or babysitter emergency numbers to call, as well as information on other means of getting in touch with you if necessary. Set out rules for what your children can and can’t eat, as well as how your children’s days should be structured.

Pay attention to how your workers react to your rules. If they continually break them, consider hiring different help.

In addition to setting rules for the help, make sure your children know not to overstep their boundaries. You don’t want your children to scare the domestic help away – over and over, thinking that it’s the help’s fault, not your children’s behavior.

Above all, trust your instincts. If you suspect that there’s something “off” about the worker you’re about to hire, you could be dealing with a potentially dangerous situation – and it’s better to be proven wrong than to be proven right. By taking the time to carefully screen your domestic workers and provide an optimal environment for in-home care, you’ll minimize possible threats to the youngest members of your family.

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