Background Checks

The most important requirement of hiring a Nanny is also the most often overlooked: that Nannies have minimum health/safety and background checks conducted as a condition of employment. Too often parents overlook these requirements as not essential, particularly if their Nanny came on recommendation from a known source. Parents argue, “She worked for my neighbor for years and I’ve seen her with the kids. If I ask her to go through a background check, won’t that imply that I question her character and integrity? Why would I start a relationship on that level?”  The answer is simply because her work is taking care of children and that is serious business. Just as in any profession with minimal employment standards, Nanny employment should have set standards. Unfortunately there is no government agency that sets standards for in-home childcare providers.  Parents are expected to set the bar for Nannies – and this bar often sinks to the lowest level.

This is an unlicensed and unregulated market. Anyone can say they want to care for children. An applicant does not need experience in childcare, knowledge about how to handle medical or safety incidents with children, a safe driving record or have a clean criminal record. It is a parent’s responsibility to set the standard and expect a Nanny meet it.

Essential Background Checks


  1. Driving license valid in the state you reside
  2. Driving record clear in all states in which she has held a license
  3. Criminal and court records clear
  4. Social Security and/or green card verification
  5. Authorization to work in the U.S.
  6. Verification of Education


There are many online organizations, such as private investigators and background check companies offering services to run a criminal record report on an individual. The industry standard in California is the TrustLine Registry of California. TrustLine is the only statewide agency with access to three databases that are not accessible to other companies. TrustLine uses both fingerprints and a California driver’s license (or California Identification Card) to process a candidate through these three indices:

  1. California Department of Justice Records for any convictions or allegations of crime in the State of California;
  2. California Child Abuse Central Index for any substantial allegations of child abuse and neglect; and
  3. FBI Criminal History System for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Once candidates have received clearance from TrustLine they are placed on its Registry and will remain on the Registry until such time as they do something to warrant removal from the Registry. Parents must check periodically to see if there have been any changes to the Nanny’s status. Many Nannies are on the Registry when they seek employment. Parents considering hiring a Nanny on the Registry can call TrustLine and receive a clearance letter. A Nanny not on the Registry can receive application forms and instructions online at

Reputable background check companies provide a valuable service for parents, particularly in combination with TrustLine. These companies check a candidate’s records in areas that TrustLine does not access. Pre-employment background checks cover the following eight areas:

  • Criminal and civil court records
  • Driving records
  • Credit reports
  • Academic and professional license verification
  • Lawsuits
  • Social Security number verification
  • Reference checks
  • Bankruptcies, tax liens, judgments

Parents should ensure the checks provided are thorough and meaningful.  Chirp recommends PFC Information Services (510-653-5061).  Lyn Peterson, owner of PFC Information Services provides reliable nationwide pre-employment screening services for all types of employees - from licensed professionals to Nannies and factory workers.

According to Lyn Peterson, there are several ways to evaluate information provided in a pre-employment background check:

  • Social Security Number (SSN) verification gives address and name history associated with the use of the SSN. This informs where and under what name(s) the criminal checks should be made.  Social Security Number verification information can be cross-checked with an applicant’s verbal and written work/personal history for inaccuracies or missing information. Social Security Number verification can detect fraudulent SSN’s numbers issued to someone other than the candidate.
  • Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records can show reckless driving, driving under the influence (DUI) convictions, moving violations, accidents or numerous unpaid parking tickets. These can indicate a substance abuse problem, impulsive behavior or just poor judgment.
  • Credit reports will show whether a candidate has excessive debt, judgments, tax liens or bankruptcy and can indicate poor judgment in the handling of finances.

Typically a report is issued within one to two days. The service conducting the check will provide the necessary authorization forms for the candidate to sign. Parents cover the cost as it is to their benefit and at their request. It is a parent’s choice whether to give a copy of the report to the candidate for her records.

The more types of background checks you conduct on a candidate, the more powerful the information received. Usually, if someone has a criminal record, there is a greater chance of inconsistencies with names and addresses on a Social Security Number, unpaid parking tickets and poor credit. Taken together, they point to patterns of behavior.