Saturday, June 6, 2009

Greenwich Nanny's Arrest Prompts Hiring Advice

On June 1, 2009, the "Stamford Advocate" reported on the arrest of a live-in nanny working in Greenwich, Conn. She was charged with first-degree larceny, eight counts of third-degree forgery, eight counts of fraudulent use of an ATM card and breach of peace. The article discusses how the woman would ace her job interviews, get hired and then go on to defraud her employers. Apparently, she became very adept at her practice as she moved from family to family applying her deceitful trade.

We are always dismayed to read about the “bad apple” getting picked for such an important job. “When you allow someone into your house, you should know who they are,” said Detective Pasquale Iorfino
of the Greenwich Police Department. We could not agree more. Unfortunately, more often than not, extensive screening and background checks are not properly conducted or done at all. We were disappointed (at the risk of sounding self-serving) that the article quotes the owner of a Web based "nanny" site for tips on screening and hiring a nanny. Mr. Lambert, the founder of Enannysource, stated that "screening is the most important part of the hiring process." That is absolutely true. However, these online listing sites by their very structures are unable to thoroughly screen a candidate. In fact, Web based sites contribute to many parents false sense of security in hiring a nanny. In effect, they are online databases with no barriers to entry. Anyone can post their profile and hold himself or herself out as an experienced and qualified caregiver. They merely list available jobs and caregivers and then offer an a la carte background check. Furthermore, many online sites advertise "National Criminal Checks" which can be very misleading. Those checks will often only determine if the subject was incarcerated in a state prison. Many online sites omit to inform you that those searches will not turn up persons that were convicted of a crime but not imprisoned or that served time in a county jail. Therefore, depending on the state, a county by county or statewide criminal check should also be done where the domestic worker has been shown to reside.

Since the hiring process can be overwhelming to a lot of families, we wanted to offer some additional practical advice. Most importantly, it is vital to meet and get to know the potential nanny in person. Together you should go over a detailed employment application and zero in on gaps in work history, discuss previous jobs and gauge responses to gently probing questions. For example, last week we had a nanny come in to register who seemed perfect. She was charming, sweet, athletic, a college graduate and had a recent six-year reference working with 3 children in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. However, the reference fell apart because the candidate told us she always lived in with the family but property records showed the apartment was only 600 square feet. Not a very likely scenario for a live-in job with a supposed family of five. Do online nanny sites expect a potential employer to think about that scenario or research it?

We understand it is difficult to properly vet a potential in house employee without being a seasoned interviewer. Therefore, it’s imperative to be able to recognize some common red flags from the prospective employee and/or her references. They include: 

  • Past employers who do not have a landline and can only be reached on a cell phone.
  • Past employers who do not reside in areas employing a high concentration of nannies and other domestics.
  • Tenuous explanations for wide gaps in employment.
  • Unstable work history.
  • Inability to provide authentic and valid federal and state photo identification.
Oddly enough, in my experience I have found that if a candidate is too perfect or throws around high profile names of previous employers, it’s usually a red flag that warrants a lot more digging. The stakes are too high to trust without verifying first.

Posted by Wee Care Nanny Agency