Nanny 911: How Safe Is It To Hire Child Care From Online Agencies?

Article by Vania Brown,  Image  Source: Getty

WASHINGTON – Every month there seems to be another case of a horrific child care incident that results in the trauma or death of an innocent child.  In December 2016, a day care worker in Indiana was arrested for molesting a 9-year-old girl. A few months ago in January, Sterling Moore, 3, died after choking on food at a daycare facility. To assure their child’s safety, more parents are considering at-home child care because they can install hidden cameras, and conduct background checks. However, finding a good nanny or sitter is difficult. Some families hire nannies from online agencies, while others question if it’s really a safer option than day care.

A Massachusetts police department reported that  a babysitter on, a popular online nanny-hiring company, was found drunk and high while on the job watching a 3-year-old boy. The Inquisitr reported “Lawsuits have also been filed against by parents whose children actually died while under the care of a hired caregiver,” however, “In all of these cases, nannies and babysitters passed background checks.”

While comprehensive background checks are very problematic, parents entrusting their child to someone’s care without conducting background check is even more of an issue. Contrary to popular belief, most parent do not carefully investigate and get to know the person they are allowing to care for their children. According to a 2015 survey conducted by, sampling one thousand parents, “surprisingly, a whopping 62 percent of parents have hired a babysitter without checking references and 64 percent have done so without running a background check.” However, the site concludes that 41 percent of parents do in fact trust their sitter.

One nanny is confident the hiring sites are safe option for families and nannies if users take precaution. Ariel Smith, 21, is a Howard University student who has worked as a hired nanny for three years and babysat four years prior. Smith said she prefers over other online child care hiring platforms because the site simply shows listings of sitters.

In the years she has worked, Smith has been required to get one background check.

“I’m about to do another one for a job this summer,” she said.

Smith said in most cases prospective clients reach out to her through the hiring website, which then leads to a phone call where they schedule a time to meet and test her chemistry with the child or children. Smith said, typically after the client has called a few references, she then starts working. However, to Smith’s surprise, not all parents even meet the sitter before hiring him or her.

“I had one time where [a parent] called me and literally had me start the next day without meeting her or anything; it was a little crazy,” Smith said.

She said not having met the parent or children in person made her uncomfortable. “I had to go and pick up the kids, but I didn’t know who they were, not knowing if they were going to like me, because I didn’t know any of them,” she said.

The opportunity did not end up working out for Smith due to complications with the parent.

“We created a schedule and then she completely bailed on that and stopped all of a sudden,” Smith said. Smith had already quit her primary job to work that particular nanny job full time.

Erica England, 26, worked at a daycare in her hometown of Raleigh, N.C. for two years, and has worked as a nanny using sites like and since 2013. England said she encountered more horror stories while working in a daycare than from her experiences in being a  hired nanny online.

Recounting some situations, she said, “typically it wasn’t the kids,” but rather, parents and daycare administration that caused problems, England said. Some issues she raised about daycares were discrepancies in the child-to-caretaker ratio.

Because of this, England said she was overworked and “stretched too thin” in the daycare setting and often had to wait hours to use the bathroom because there were not enough staff.

For parents considering using an online nanny finder website, England said profiles with more details are usually a safer bet on the side of the parent and the nanny.

Information like a daily work schedule or specific hours needed for the care, England said, “Whenever they’re kind of more detailed like that, that’s a giveaway that this really is a parent.”

England said she has encountered odd messages on some sites that appeared to have been sent from scam artists who request money wires. While the site usually notifies users of suspicious activity, she cautioned parents and nannies to use better judgement.

According to Smith sites, like SitterCity, are proactive about removing fraudulent content or deleting accounts perceived to have foul activity, which she said, “it’s a benefit that they’re constantly filtering out their system to avoid having something bad happen.”

England said of the safety precautions used in both sites, “they discourage people from using their actual email addresses and just to keep everything on the website so they can track everything.”

Amid some strange messages, England said she believes, “Most people on these websites are not frauds, most of them are parents looking for child care, because people really do need child care.”

For parents considering to hire a nanny from an agency online, England and Smith said to definitely meet with the other party in person before a hire. Smith said to make certain both parties are “meeting in a safe place.”

She also said, “be thorough with questions, have targeted questions in reference to the children’s specific needs, and actually call the references.”

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