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When Nannies Go Bad

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Recently, a nanny in Los Angeles was accused of dumping the children she cared for at an unlicensed day care so she could go sell produce. Eventually, something felt amiss and the parents of the twin girls began to investigate. Five families have been named in the misdemeanor case against the nanny -- each family had placed two children in her care, including the twins. Authorities said they believe up to 30 children could be involved, and the investigation is continuing.

nanny with children and a bag of produce

One family said they trusted her and felt like she was a member of the family. But how well did they really know her? We asked "The Nanny Doctor," Lindsay Heller, a licensed Clinical Psychologist who provides consultation services to families and their nannies, to weigh in on ways something like this can be prevented. Dr. Heller believes that being diligent and using "layers of safety" is key:

1) Check Resume: Your potential nanny should be able to show you a resume of her work history. Be aware of gaps in unemployment and be sure to ask why there were periods she was unemployed. Also, make sure your nanny has had experience caring for children the same age as your child.

2) Check References: Sometimes parents skip this because they fall in love with a candidate. However, you need to make sure that the families they've worked for are real, that the ages are real and the dates that she worked match up.

3) Background Check: This is very important and many parents skip this process. It costs about $50 for a service to run the check; you can pay extra to check to see if they are listed in the sex offenders registry. You should also have your nanny provide you with a driving record from the DMV. The record dates 10 years back and will include any history of moving violations, DUIs, etc.

4) Nanny Cams: If you use them, it's important to be up front with your nanny. A professional nanny would not have any reason to be concerned. A nanny cam is used to prevent something from happening, not for catching it.

5) Set a Schedule: Not only is routine good for a child, but it's a good way to tell when something's off. By being rigid with your child's schedule, and expecting your nanny to follow it, you will know when something is amiss.

6) Have a Trial Period: Not every family can afford or have the time for this, but if you think you've found "the one," commit to spending at least one day training her and helping her to transition in to your home.  Some transitions can take weeks or months.

7) Pop In: If you can't pop in unexpectedly to see your nanny at home with your children, then enlist a friend or relative to help.  In the first few weeks or months, it's important to see your nanny in action.

8) Listen to your Mommy Sense: If your gut tells you that something is wrong, listen to it! Talk to another parent who has a nanny or who has been in a similar situation and have them weigh in. Never ignore yourself if you think something is just not right.

9) Hire a "Connected" Nanny: It is a good sign when a nanny is connected to other nannies in the community. They are -- in essence -- a part of your routine (daily walks, trips to the park, etc.) and are able to observe your children with your nanny.

10) Designated Destinations: Whether it's nearby park, or a trip to the zoo, you should always provide your nanny with a list of approved outings and know exactly how your child will be spending their day. Your nanny should not have carte blanche to just pack the car up and head out for the day. This can be a very dangerous approach.

Here are few red flag/warning signs to look out for:

  • Poor Communication: If you repeatedly have trouble reaching your nanny on the phone, or she doesn't check in with you as much as you'd like, this is definitely something to be aware of.
  • Oppositional Behavior: If there are times when you tell your nanny you want something to be done and you see a persistent disregard or defiance, this may be a red flag.
  • Change in Child's Behavior: If the child is scared of the nanny or saying things that aren't making sense or adding up, this is definitely a case that needs to be investigated further.

See Also:

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gloria October 7, 2008, 11:18 PM

Oh, I am a smoking gun on this issue, I have been on both sides of the coin on this one. But let me state clearly, I am for Mom raising the kids. The nanny is really over rated, over paid, and over done. It is extremely rare that you hit a true sense of being with someone you are about to trust your most precious asset with. Of course I do not advocate staying home and turning into a over protective mother, who is afraid to let her kids out of sight, (even though there are many of us out there that are very through) with who we choose to leave our kids with. And with right, there are just too many scenarios.I came across a book about 5 some odd years ago,I can’t remember the title, but it had a very in depth approach, to the silly things that can set people off. Even parents at times get upset with certain things, that seem to just get out of hand. There are too many to mention here, anything from baby making a mess both planned and unplanned, emergencies, fatigue, teething, potty training, these are not the ideal. Many people notice diaper rash, kids being testy, guarded, not happy to be with baby sitter, not unusual. Kids want to be with there mom or if dad is the great guy, then of course. But what people don’t get, is what I will call the shoe effect. You try it on in the store, and it feels great, you buy it, take it home, and begin to wear it. All of a sudden it hurts, it bites at your Achilles heel. We did not have babys for other people to watch, I am sorry but for every baby, or child that has been mishandled at the hands of some one else, that will take irrepressible guilt and trust to restore to have somebody else come in to your home, get involved with family, and get paid, for trying to do the right job, that you as the parent should be doing. Does that sound right? It sure dosen’t, the money that you are paying the baby sitter could be used other ways, to pay bills, buy groceries, and live with your kid knowing who you are. Not hopefully getting a match, or worse no match, or someone who barely tries to be involved with your kid. Your kid can do a great job of communicating, even if he or she is young, just watch for the body language when they see the care giver. That should be a sign, how your kid views this person would mean a lot to me. I don’t think all baby sitters are bad, I have seen many dedicated individuals, and no they don’t placate themselves with what degrees they have, they are just well rounded individuals who have a natural way about them, that function well with young children, and dare I say babies who are that much more vulnerable. Shame on us as a Country with so much,and yet refuse to give a new mom, especially those with higher paying jobs, the ability to stay home for at least the first year. Most professional moms know there benefits will run out, or they will lose the great job, with the paid va-cay and all the extras, so instead you get to sit tight and pay a stranger to sit with your new born. I think it sucks, I would like to have other considerations, but I just feel inherently that you aren’t going to get a second chance to watch your baby grow. That first year flys with all the subtle ways and gestures that give you that inexplicable feeling, of “so this is where you come from” and instead someone else will enjoy the first of all of your accomplishments? Does that sound right?

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