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Five Ways to Avoid Fake Caregivers

Photograph by Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Finding someone to care for your child can be a scary and even overwhelming task. There are many emotions at play as you evaluate strangers who, after a few meetings, might be left in your home to care for your precious little one. Although there are countless wonderful, honest and amazingly devoted caregivers, there are a few bad ones out there. So how do you find the truly good ones—and steer clear of the fakes? Here are some tips to guide you along.

1. Do some online digging. In the past, it was much more difficult to determine whether a candidate was who she said she was. With the internet, parents are able to search and verify every aspect of a candidate's information. Having worked with parents and caregivers for many years, I have seen quite a few nannies who misrepresented themselves. Take notes during your initial call, email or meeting and request a resume—and then head to Google as well as social media sites. I have heard candidates swear they "will be a nanny for the rest of their life" only to see that their Linked In profile says "hoping to work in advertising." Or candidates stating experience with companies that could not be found anywhere online. Yet another woman stated how much she loved children, yet on her Facebook page she complained about the "annoying children" she had worked with that day.

2. Use the Right Background Checks. From criminal checks, to driving screens, to fingerprints and social security number searches, almost anything can be searched. National searches are usually very reasonable and will check database covering all US categories. To be complete, a background check should to check every single address where the candidate has lived. This is because if a caregiver committed a crime in Texas, but you only check records from her recent address in NYC you may miss the criminal charge. Finger printing recently brought to light a candidate who used someone else's ID and Social Security number. Take the time to investigate things beyond criminal activity such as a history law suits against previous employers or financial data which may reveal extreme debt or repeated situations showing poor judgment. You also want to do reference checks with as many previous employers as possible to make sure the employee was a good, honest and reliable caregiver.

3. Ask the Right Questions: Go beyond the basics to target questions that pertain to your family's specific needs. Listen very carefully to the answers to spot any inconsistences or red flags such as not remembering detailed information from a previous job, what they did during the day from morning until night, what their starting and ending salary was. If a caregiver cannot remember the name, address or duties from a family with whom she worked for two years, that is a red flag.

4. Ferret out Fake References- Some imposter caregivers may use friends or family to serve as their reference when they have no experience to list. There are ways you can ferret out these fake references by asking many very detailed questions only an employer would be able to easily answer. Start by asking, "How did this person come to work for you?" If the reference says "a friend," probe "which friend? Or which agency? Or which online company?" Then ask details about what the candidate did all day from morning until evening. "How did her morning start? And then what did she do?" Ask for specifics such as "If she did the cooking, what did she typically cook and how." Then ask, "Could you verify the salary she had stated to me?" (this stumps many fake references). Or ask more detailed questions about how payroll or taxes were handled. Ask about the reference themselves as well; I've spoken with references who stated they had one profession at the start of a call, and a different one at the end. Take notes so that you can call back if something does not sound right.

5. Make Sure They Can Walk the Walk. When working with families, I always mandate trials, as they are the only true way to assess: 1. If the caregiver can actually perform her stated duties and 2. How well the caregiver and family will make a good match. Have a sitter or nanny candidate spend several hours during the nights, days or weekends to verify that they can indeed handle two preschool twins, make wonderful arts and crafts projects with preschoolers or handle bath time and bottle feeding with infants as their resume states. Of course, no caregiver will come into a trial and work perfectly and there will be bumps along the way, but you are looking to see if the person responds well to correction or re-direction well as an employee, and if they truly have the ability to be patient and caring. I have heard of many trials where it was obvious the candidates had no experience or got annoyed or even mean --showing character traits no one would want in a person taking care of their loved ones.

About the Author: A licensed therapist and certified parenting coach, Tammy Gold (LCSW, MSW, CEC) is the author of Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and founder of Gold Parent Coaching. A frequent guest expert on Good Morning America, Fox News, & CBS News among others, Gold is one of the first therapists to bring traditional psychotherapy tools to the process of finding and enhancing the quality of childcare.

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