Babysitter’s Arrest Highlights Background Check Confusion

“Nationwide” Computer Checks NOT What They Seem

We have often discussed misleading advertisements by nanny and babysitter web sites that claim they pre-screen job candidates, when we all know it’s impossible for them to do so. The biggest danger of using job listing web sites is the lack of properly conducted screening and background checks of job applicants.

What separates reputable nanny placement agencies from nanny web sites is that nanny placement agencies screen job applicants with extensive applications, personally conducted phone and in-person interviews, and references calls for the parents prior to sending caregivers on job interviews. Then, nanny placement agencies conduct extensive background checks, which cannot be conducted instantly for $10 as offered on many nanny and babysitter web sites.

The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA) raises this issue in light of this week’s news that two Glendale, California brothers may have been sexually molested by a 19-year-old babysitter. Investigators say the suspect may have communicated with more than 100 families using online childcare sites.

“Online babysitting sites give families a false sense of security by stating things such as the applicants are ‘mom approved’ or have gone through a nationwide background check, “says Daryl Camarillo of Menlo Park, California’s Stanford Park Nannies and president of the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies – A Household Staffing Alliance (APNA). “Most online services are just electronic bulletin boards and the computerized background checks they suggest are not enough to ensure a family’s safety.”

“What most parents don’t know is that the quick and inexpensive computer background searches offered online can easily miss a problem,” adds Judi Merlin, owner of the Atlanta, Georgia nanny placement agency A Friend of the Family and an APNA board member.

“I’ve found that most nanny candidates with criminal records have committed misdemeanors which rarely show up on the low-cost, nationwide computer searches that are offered online. Felonies are more likely to be listed. So, the nationwide computer check sounds good, but it probably won’t find a person’s minor run-ins with the law which can tell you a good deal about their past and their character,” says APNA sponsor member Lynn Peterson whose Oakland, California company, PFC Information Services, offers comprehensive background checks.

“Because of the danger to families, APNA has worked for years to try to educate the public about the effectiveness of different types of background checks,” says Camarillo. “Hiring a professional background check company is the safest way.” While the cost is higher (hundreds of dollars typically), it is just one of the ways APNA agencies screen candidates before referring them to work in a home environment with young children.

Among the issues that can arise with an online background check:

1.) It might not cover every state (some post disclaimers listing the exempted states).
Top notch nanny agencies will require that applicants’ social security numbers are traced to identify every state in which they have lived. That information is used to check records in those states.

2.) Misdemeanor records that are supposed to be forwarded to state or national databases are not sent, get lost or misfiled.
A record search of each county where the person has lived is more likely to find them

3.) No personal screening
Professional household staffing agencies meet with each job candidate in person and know how to analyze resumes for red flags and ask the right questions during a reference check.

Concludes Camarillo, “After screening, my agency chooses to represent only about 15 percent of the people who come through our door looking for work. Most online sites will represent anyone who can fill out the form.”

•Daryl Camarillo, APNA president, (650) 462-4580 or
•Judi Merlin, APNA ethics chair, (770) 725-2748 or
•Go to to find an APNA agency in your community and valuable information for families and people seeking household employment

APNA is a self-regulating organization that helps set the bar for industry standards and practices. APNA member agencies have their contracts, applications and business practices scrutinized by peers to ensure they know and follow all applicable laws. You are dealing with a quality household staffing service when you see the APNA seal.


  1. There is NO way you can look at someone or read their resume and know if they are a pedophile! Idiots! Parents must must must pay for background checks. They are expensive! On and in the past I the nanny candidate paid $9.99 to be a "prescreened" nanny! I filled it out and all they know is my credit card number! It's instant indeed and claims I'm prescreened! Damn, when will parents learn? Sadly I hope this will reach parents. Why would you hire a male teen of all people? Not that most male teens are pedophiles but the lack of experience? I am so sickened by this story.

  2. But agencies don't call you back when you submit your resume. The agency chooses who interviews with the parent and who you can interview with. No thank you. Be smart and figure it out on your own in your pjs and free time online.

  3. I am waking up early to write this as I couldn't sleep and need to respond. I have said this before but want to explain this once again. Agencies and APNA and INA need to put their energy in marketing against nanny websites or to help regulate the nanny website industry. Then agencies should strive to end the au pair program while there is so much high unemployment of American citizens in this country.Nanny websites are the biggest threat to agencies and are exactly the Number 1 priority agencies should focus on! They absolutley must market against nanny websites! Their biggest competition are nanny websites, yet everyone is using the websites without knowing the dangers of not prescreening properly!I was hired using a high end nanny agency. I am getting married and moving and my boss found my replacement on sittercity and she's amazing with a masters decgree! She's going to be a teacher! Despite our arguments about misleading ads and background checks, my boss is now going to use sittercity for now on because it was so much easier. I am really really scared becaus most parents see no reason to use nanny agnecies anymore. I am like most nannies though and hate that fact. We love our agencies but it's just reality. I have also brought up before that the next thing agencies must focus on is getting rid of the au pair program. With high unemployment and while in a recession au pairs are taking jobs away from American citizens.

  4. It was really excellent post! nice job 🙂

  5. 'Anonymous' commented that agencies choose which nannies interview with which families. This is actually one of the benefits of working with an agency…they screen and match the needs of the nannies to the needs of the families and vice versa. It saves so much time and energy for me as a nanny to have the agency eliminating all the families who need coverage during my unavailable hours, outside my (live-out) commuting range, or below my needed pay scale, etc. And the agency educates the first-time nanny employer about reasonable expectations and compensation package (including paid sick/vacation time and other benefits). Also, the good agencies refuse to work with parents who are clearly looking to take advantage of a nanny. Agencies generally provide at least a rudimentary work agreement, and support after placement if issues arise.I always recommend that nannies who are job-hunting sign up with a brick and mortar agency!

  6. Is there anyway APNA can share this with more media outlets? I really really wish shows like Dr Phil or Lisa Ling documentaries would explain these dangers of using web sites on their shows instead of being ads for them. They seldom mention experienced, reputable agencies, just web sites that are marketing businesses that no nothing about the nanny industry. I'm not against web sites entirely. I resent they advertise prescreening and not enough about background checks. They need to be regulated. No jobs allowed under minimum wage, without paying taxes, etc,

  7. I'm glad they finally came out and said something officially about this. I don't mind using web sites but parents then have to do all the hard work of checking backgrounds themselves. I know it's easier and cheaper to use web sites but the dangers are the same. Agencies are experienced it checking references and criminal records. It's a very sad story to hear anyone has someone they trusted hurt their child.Think about all the adults that didn't recognize the penn state scandal had happened. You just can't hire anyone that cares for kids by a gut feeling alone. You got to take the time, money to check backgrounds.

  8. I would do word of mouth, but in 20 years I've never found a job that way. It's always been through agencies. It's not my concern how much the family has to pay the agency, thats between them, but if the money is a problem for the family they aren't likely to end up with me anyway. When families complain about the cost of the agencies I see that as a red herring.Agencies provide not only a service to the families, but to us. Well the good ones do anyway. They not only check the references and do a background check for the families, but they vet the families for us which is a time consuming process that we don't even have to pay them for. When you job search online (which even though it's never worked out for me I still continue to do cause you never know..) your left to sort out the crazies and cheapskates from the good ones. If you feel like you have to deal with too many of those and your using an agency, time to change agencies. The only thing I don't like about the American agencies I've used is they only put you forth for the positions they think you would fit well in. I once had a long term position in VA that I found through an agency in NY even though both the family and I were also searching through the same local agencies. When I notified the agency that I'd accepted a position she was upset that she'd had them on her books and didn't put me forward for the position. It was because the family had told the agency they wanted to ideally hire someone older.

  9. It's good that APNA finally make a statement but websites are the way things are turning and typical agencies are less and less. Good info but most parents still want to save money and do it themselves. Sadly.

  10. I sure hope this gets lots of press. Still so many families are fooled by the sneaky advertising of the on-line sitter/nanny sites. I have come in contact with many families from the sites and most felt it was safe to have nannies come to their homes for the interview since they were pre-screend by the on-line sites! They were shocked to hear no one was screened and a $9.99 background check shows nothing! I wonder if the $9.99 check ever comes up with anything?I just spoke with a friend who needs a sitter and said she was going the on-line route- as she felt comfortable that everyone who had a profile listed was legal.She was shocked to learn the truth!

  11. I worry that these on-line sites will put agencies out of business. I personally hate looking for a job on these sites. There is no way they can really complete background checks on nannies. The new tv ads for says choose from nannies who are pre-screened STILL. My sister put an ad on She has raised her own children but any families she sat for moved away so she put my name as a reference. I was never contacted but she STILL was called one of the "pre-screened nannies"

  12. Parents must do a background check because some agencies do not conduct a background check to their nanny applicant, that's why it's very important that parents conduct background check to ensure the safeness of their children, like physical, sexual and child abuse.

  13. that is right there are many agencies who do not conduct background check. It is important that they have credible nannies to be recommended to their client. Their reputation will also be affected.

  14. Atlanta IT Staffing service is a mixture of both temporary staffing and permanent staffing. The temporary-to-permanent staffing service allows a client company to take an employee on a temporary basis for purpose of evaluation and should the employee meet their satisfactory requirements.

  15. Yeah! Parents should be tactical in hiring a babysitter. I agree that they should take a background check on their babysitters before hiring them.

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