Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pre-Screened Nannies? Part II

Misleading Nanny Web Site Ads

What separates a nanny placement agency from a nanny web site is that nanny placement agencies screen job applicants for the parents prior to sending caregivers on a job interview.

Yesterday we started a discussion about misleading nanny web site advertising. Some nanny web site advertisements claim that their site lists pre-screened nanny candidates.

But, nanny industry experts clearly note that no nanny web site can pre-screen their job applicants.

Nettie Weber, owner of Perfect Match Nannies & Sitters in Wisconsin explains, "Nannies and parents using online sites to locate nannies and sitters are generally under a false truth and very mislead that the candidates have been properly vetted."

Ms. Weber says, "If they only had read the fine print of their online search site they would see what their $9.99 background check gets them, or rather, doesn't get them."

"It's unfortunate both that some online listing services aren't more forthright about their so called 'screening processes,' and that many families put background screening at the very bottom of their 'must do' list when hiring. Unfortunately, in most cases, you get what you pay for concerning this topic," says Ms. Weber.

Most nanny web sites clearly state that they do not pre-screen the nanny candidates and do not falsely advertise that they do so.

One such reputable site is 4nannies.com, a nationwide nanny referral web site that includes the nanny background check in their membership. Yet, Kathy Webb, the owner of 4Nannies.com, 4nannytaxes.com, and HomeWork Solutions in Potomac Falls, Virginia says, "The family and the nanny need to know that they are the ones responsible for their own due diligence when seeking a match. We go to considerable lengths (to our financial detriment I might add) to make sure everyone understands that."

In fact, the 4Nannies.com web site states, "You must interview, reference check, and order the background check -- we provide you all the tools. No nanny job sites pre-screen the nanny for you!"

Steve Lampert, owner of eNannySource.com also tries to educate parents how to properly screen nannies. He says, "This is an area of passion for me and my goal is to attempt to educate families and nannies about proper Internet hiring."

Mr. Lampert explains, "At eNannySource we offer families the tools needed to screen candidates and don’t imply or state in any way that we pre-screen and in fact work hard to make our screening tools available to families."

The nanny web site owner says, "Even when a family uses a full-service agency that professionally screens the candidates, it is still the family’s responsibility to thoroughly interview and reference check anyone they are considering hiring. It’s puzzling to me that people are so skeptical (and rightfully so) about anything that comes from the Internet and take many precautions, but yet when it comes to their children and home they sometimes hire with what seems like a blind eye."

Deborah Smith, President of Parents With Nannies, Inc. and of NannyClassifieds.com a nationwide nanny web site, says this is one of her biggest pet-peeves of sites that purposely mislead parents and nannies. She says, "We make it very clear to families that we do not pre-screen nannies. We do not want families assuming the nannies have been screened."

Ms. Smith continues, "It is virtually impossible for any online service to reliably pre-screen candidates. This is why nanny agencies get $2000 and more for nanny placements. It is why I named my site NannyClassifieds.com . I did not want any families to be confused as to what and how we operate."

"We offer thorough background checks through a reliable company that cost between $89 and $129 depending on which state the nanny resides," says Ms. Smith.

Candi Wingate of Nannies4hire.com and Care4hire.com says, "Nannies4hire.com and Care4hire.com do not pre-screen the nannies or caregivers, but give members the tools and resources they will need to do the screening they require."

Monta Fleming, President and Founder of GoNannies, Inc. also candidly states, "We do not conduct background checks directly. Since we're not a placement agency, we offer families the ability to order and run background checks through our site."

Ms. Fleming explains, "We recommend to families that they run our full background checks on any final candidate they are considering hiring to work in their home."

Despite the fact that nanny web sites do not perform any screening of job applicants and should not advertise as such, it is appropriate for reputable nanny placement agencies to advertise that they pre-screen nannies.

Reputable nanny placement agencies have extensive applications, personally conduct phone and when possible in-person interviews, and finally conduct background checks on the nanny job candidates. In fact, this thorough process is what separates a nanny placement agency from a nanny web site.

Most nanny placement agencies cannot afford to actually pay for the pricey background check prior to sending applicants on interviews, but they do extensive pre-screening of the nanny candidates.

In fact, Pat Cascio, owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas explains, "It is my understanding that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says that the pre-employment criminal check should not be done until the person has been offered employment pending their background report," says Ms. Cascio.

Susan Tokayer, co-president of the International Nanny Association and owner of Family Helpers in Dobbs Ferry, New York agrees. Ms. Tokayer explains, "Our clients know that the background check is not performed until a candidate is offered a position."

"But, we do extensive screening before sending job candidates on interviews with parents," says Ms. Tokayer.

Ms. Cascio says that pre-screening nanny candidates includes finding out all information needed to make a great placement for the family and job seeker. Pre-screening nanny candidates requires the caregiver to complete an application for employment, be personally interviewed by nanny agency staff, and have all references verified to ensure the individual has professional childcare related work experience.

Ms. Cascio says, "Nanny placement agencies must assess the nanny's skills and ability to handle the job requirements before ever sending the job applicant on job interviews."

Annie Davis, President of the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies and owner of Annie's Nannies Household Staffing says, "We conduct the background check before the nanny candidate interviews with the potential family."

We are still awaiting replies from some nanny web sites. One nanny web site says they will provide us with their screening process. So, we will continue this discussion as it progresses.

Tomorrow we will post the International Nanny Association's recommended practices for background screenings that nanny agencies and parents may conduct.

22 comments:

englishnannyny said...

It will be interesting to see what the other sites you found saying they pre-screen job candidates say tomorrow. It's a pretty convincing argument esp. when Ms. Cascio describes what pre-screening is. There is no possible way hundreds of postings can all be screened, at least right now. Will see what they say. But if confirming your email address, home address, name is valid, and have a credit card are ways to pre-screen that won't quite cut it.

That's why I am thrilled my employers hired me through a very expensive agency that only places a few candidates a month. Better to place just a few high end well referenced nannies than save money and just see what you get.

tobagonanny said...

It is really good to actually learn what pre-screening means. It could mean simply confirming someone's name is verifiable as is their credit card and home address but in fact I don't think nanny web sites can even do that. That is the key difference between a nanny referral agency and nanny web site and it is vital parents and nannies know the difference.

WIth nanny web sites you are on your own. The web site can post all the information but it does not mean the parents or nannies read it. If the parents don't do the reference checks, pay for criminal check, DMV check, credit history, and so on then it won't be done when finding a caregiver online.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how a suffix "pre" can be so important. The key is the screening IS NOT done for the parents!!!

Every try contacting these sites? No phone numbers listed. You can't even contact them, how they going to know if you are a safe person to hire?

Thanks for bringing it to our attention. If parents AND caregivers are going to use the Internet they have to dish out the time, energy, and money to screen the caregivers and the parents. We have heard of nannies killed going on interviews found on craigslist.

Parents might think using a nanny web site will save them time and money but they must invest time and money on the backgrounds of those they hire. The safety of their children and home depend on it.

The convenience of web sites are wonderful but as with everything on the Internet it can be dangerous.

Not fair of nanny web sites to try to convince parents they are helping them hire someone safely. The parents have to do it all themselves.

Anonymous said...

I did my own little search and immediately found:

citinannies
nannies4hire
sittercity
care.com

But care.com ads are saturated all over the internet. They state pre-screened on their web site. They say "safe" and "pre-screened" but you can't even call them or get a response from them when I used them.

Melinda, RI

Courtney said...

I was a nanny for many, many years and found most of my jobs through classifieds (mainly Criagslist). I have also owned a nanny agency (the traditional kind) and an online service. There are many GREAT issues addressed in your blog entry and in the comments that follow. I just want to touch on a couple of them. I have owned and operated a full-service nanny placement agency in Boulder, Colorado. It's true that we never ran background checks until employment was offered and we needed the nanny to sign various release forms before running any background checks. However, we did check every reference, did extensive interviewing, including phone and in-person interviews. Once a family made an offer to a nanny, so ran her criminal background search and social security trace. Then we got her CPR and 1st Aid certified. All of this "pre-screening" is VERY time-consuming and very expensive. For this reason, we charged a large placement fee. However, over the years, especially during the economic crises, we found that MANY families didn't want to or could afford to pay steep placement fees. Furthermore, many families wanted to do their own screening. There are many different kinds of families in need of childcare- families with various styles, various budgets, expectations, comfort-levels, etc. Some families like using classifieds (like Craigslist) but they want to be able to run narrow searches on candidates, which online nanny agencies allow users to perform. Bottom line is this: full-service nanny agencies are quite different from online services. But this is not to say that online services don't have great benefits. Each family needs to weigh the differences and choose which is right for them. But either way, families should take ultimate responsibility for educating themselves, researching reputable agencies, asking questions, etc. It's true that most online services do not personally "pre-screen" each individual nanny; however, they are beneficial for many families and nannies because they provide a great Internet venue for connection that gives families and nannies the resources to conduct a safe and informed search if they choose to put in the time.

lovebeingananny said...

After reading Courtney's message I just wanted to mention that I don't think they are choosing or promoting nanny agency vs nanny website. In the beginning of your message it sounded defensive or mad about something but I don't think there is a pro-agency vs pro website vibe in these articles.

The key is just to not mislead parents and nannies no matter who the business is.

Most importantly parents must spend time and money calling references personally and pay for background checks whether they use a nanny website or have help from an agency.

Either way, the parent pays for the background checks. Agencies don't pay, the parents pay the agencies to do it for them.

There is an important place for both traditional agencies and Internet nanny referral sites in hiring nannies.

I am a nanny and most nannies I know use nanny websites and it's difficult to find many that use agencies. Many still think they have to pay an agency (not true for nannies) and some won't go to an agency because they are illegal, some just don't know about them, some never made a resume and are insecure about how to fill out the applications, and so on. Some nannies I know do not have a computer and they don't go online at all so nanny websites aren't a possiblity for them.

There are many reasons nanny web sites are more convenient.

How frustrating for parents to not control who they can or can't interview with. I don't like how agencies control who parents meet (sometimes at least, I don't know if they all do that).

What is important is not to mislead anyone. The checking of references and performing background checks are too important to just advertise as doingm then not do as a service.

It is 100% fine for parents to hire household help however they want to. But, they should never skimp on the background checks. They end up spending money to perform the checks whether they use a traditional agency or web site so no saving money there.

I admit though the 2 jobs I found on nanny web sites the parents did NOT do background checks on me. But the agencies it took over a week -- what a stressful week waiting for the checks to be completed so I could get the job!

THE CHANCE THAT NANNY WEB SITE STAFF HAVE MET ANY OF THEIR POSTED NANNY CANDIDATES IS NIL. I doubt they personally met anyone posted on their sites.

Anonymous said...

In any other industry the company might get sued for misleading advertising. When something happens to your house or kids you bet you are going to want to sue somebody. It's great that some nanny web sites explain that they don't prescreen but if their advertising brings parents to their site by stating prescreening then they feel confident and hire a pedophile....

Not worth it, fix the ads.

Anonymous said...

What about this misleading article? Sounds way too slick for my liking.

http://theparentingchallenge.net/parenting/an-expert-nanny-save-time-on-finding-expert-nannies/

Concerned Dad

Best Nanny Newsletter said...

I am Stephanie the editor of "Be the Best Nanny Newsletter" and just wanted to mention one important fact that I overlooked.

There are third party web site directories that list names of other business's with links to their web sites without the business's knowledge.

For example, third party directories have placed text and links to our newsletter web site at: BestNannyNewsletter.com.

The directories often state that we are a nanny placement agency, which is misleading. We are not an agency, but a nanny trade publication.

I often have parents call me looking for help in finding a nanny and I have spent many hours calling back parents to explain I am not a nanny placement agency. The parents were mislead by the listing by a directory I did not know about.

The same thing may happen to nanny web sites and au pair web sites. In these cases it is not the fault of the nanny or au pair web sites that a third party directory they never knew about states that the nanny or au pair web site "pre-screens" nannies.

Please take into account that some directories were unauthorized to post the links and misleading text.

Anonymous said...

http://theparentingchallenge.net/parenting/an-expert-nanny-save-time-on-finding-expert-nannies/


Concerned Dad again to point out the article above again. They are not endorsed by Dr Phil or CNN.

I suspect, they do not supply 500,000nannies that are all perfect for your child.
This article is another example to be cautious af ads and Dr Phil, both of which you have addressed before.

Robert said...

There is no such thing as a free background check, beware of companies posing as background check authorities who offer free or unlimited background checks for one low price, These are simply link farms to a few free county courts online searches.

Use a reputable company who provides data and check their coverage before purchase. Background checks can be provided by www.integrascan.com

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to put a name and face to what sometimes seem like faceless websites. My name is Monta Fleming, and I'm the President and founder of GoNannies.com. We're one of the largest nationwide online nanny sites. Thank you, Stephanie, for presenting such a balanced overview of a really critical issue. And double kudos for encouraging those 3 websites to take action!

People should know that, just like the woman who posted that she wanted to create a site of integrity, there ARE already a few of us out there. I have 3 small children myself and know first hand the concerns, questions, and even fears that parents have when they need to find a trustworthy nanny. I actually created the site for that very reason after I had my first child 7 years ago. Both my staff and I take extreme pride in the honesty, integrity, and hands-on guidance we provide to our customers to make sure they are aware of and guided toward conducting proper screening. We would never compromise our families' or our nannies' safety to win business and, quite frankly, marvel at how people who do can sleep at night. We sincerely feel that we offer the best of both worlds to our customers, providing experienced hand-holding and guidance via our live "Anything-You-Need" customer support paired with the undeniable conveniences both families and nannies gain from our online features. We feel that as long as we continue to be passionate in our efforts to keep our customers educated about how to conduct a safe and thorough screening process AND provide them the resources to do so, we are offering them an amazing value and service, WITHOUT compromising their safety.

I say all this to re-iterate the fact that not all online sites are the same. If you're ever unsure about the integrity of a site and the services they offer, call them and see what kind of response and support you receive--that will always tell you!

A technical note: People should be aware of how Google sponsored ads work when searching for the term "pre-screened nannies". Sites who advertise for the generic word "nannies" will show up whenever any term that INCLUDES the word "nannies" is searched for. So even though a site may be listed, does not mean it advertises specifically for that term. In fact, many of the sites returned for the search term "pre-screened nannies" do not actually advertise pre-screened nannies, including us. We do not, have not, and never will advertise that we pre-screen nannies in any way.

Nettie Weber said...

The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA) has published several blog posts about this topic in recent time that are well worth the reads...

#1:
http://theapna.org/blog/2008/03/14/apna-response-to-abc-nbc-about-online-only-nanny-services/

#2:
http://theapna.org/blog/2008/01/09/nanny%E2%80%99s-arrest-highlights-difficulty-of-conducting-background-checks/

#3:
http://theapna.org/blog/2008/09/08/background-checks-by-lynn-peterson-pfc-information-services-inc/

Anonymous said...

Wow! Lots of good info. I love everyone's responsed too. Great job to everyone!
Beth, San Diego

Courtney said...

In response to LoveBeingANanny, I just wanted to say that my intention was not to sound angry or defensive. I only meant to point out that if parents are looking for thoroughly prescreened candidates, they should definitely go the route of the traditional placement agency (since online services do not prescreen). This option comes with a higher price tag but certainly has its benefits. I am also really glad that Monta Flemming discussed the way that Google Ads (and other search engines) often produce content-based ads of their own. Any agency could show up in search results under a tagline that the agency itself didn't create. For that reason, unfortunately some online services may appear to be participating in false advertising. Every business should strive for ethical and honest advertising and business practices. All of these comments have been great to read. I'm so glad to find a nanny-related blog where such pertinent issues are being discussed!

lovebeingananny said...

I agree with you completely Courtney!

Anonymous said...

It looks like Care.com (who was one of the online sites that advertised as "Pre-screened") now advertises as "Mom Reviewed Caregivers". From what I can gather, a mom reviews the caregiver's written description and corrects typos and grammar so that it reads better than it was originally written by the caregiver. So basically, they don't do any reviewing (or screening) of the actual "caregiver", but rather their "profile" description. I'm not sure how this translates into a benefit for families. It still sounds incredibly misleading to me!

Anonymous said...

My name is Jamie and I have a website called Helpformommy.com. I prescreen all families and personally help them handpick help. I call referernces and do background checks. Which are not free by the way. I work with a background check company. I know most of the people on my website, and interview all that plan to work for families either personally or by phone. I do not have thousands of people on my website but since doing this, I have had plenty of happy customers and happy nannies. I do not advertise that I prescreen, however I still provide a great service.

Christine said...

I've been a fulltime nanny for over 4 years. The family found me through 4sitters.com. The employers checked references and after I was hired, they performed a background check through http://www.fullsearch.com - not only was it beneficial for them to see that I had no criminal past, but it helped me by finding a discrpency with my social security number. Background checks are not that expensive, especially when you have the money to hire an individual to care for your child. I recommend that all parents do a background check on their nanny/babysitter and to share.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad someone finally confronted the online Nanny services.
I worked at an Agency that had 100s of Nanny applicants come in through the year, some of which we had to "reject" due to DUI, DWI, arrests, etc....After we gave them their rejection letter, we would find them on Care.com! We were appalled!

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of things ppl are saying about this! I recommend to other nannies who have come to me about this that they should also get their own background check and have it in their portfolio. I am listed on www.care.com,www.sittercity.com and www.4nannies.com and I have bought my own on all 3 of them. I personally like 4nannies.com background check because its detailed and covers everything. I also have a drug screen results in my portfolio as well. I think its all about professionalism as well and how you as a Nanny present yourself to future families. On the other hand of the this issue what about background checks on Parents? I mean if I am willing to give up my SS# and background to a complete stranger who could have a criminal past or anything I think there needs to be something in place for nannies as well! I think Nannies 4 Hire is offering this service now, but how many parents you think would be willing to do this?

background checks said...

just be careful in hiring a new nanny because nowadays, there are some cases that the nanny abusing babies. do a background check first to know if the nanny has a criminal cases to their past employment, doing these will be sure that your children or babies are in good hand