The Fraught Process of Hiring a Nanny

As details continue to emerge in the case of the Upper West Side nanny who allegedly murdered two of the children in her care, there is no clear answer on what could have been done to prevent the tragedy. Reflecting on the incident, parents and nannies in the city say that since the hiring process is not regulated, it's not an exact science.

"It's hard. You kind of want to take people at their word and believe that they are what they represent themselves to be," said Sally, a Brooklyn mother who did not give a last name. "And I don't know how you would do some kind of check on their mental health history."

Sally described the process of hiring a nanny "a nerve-wracking experience" because it's hard to hand your children off to a complete stranger for 10 hours a day.

She decided to do a criminal background check on her daughter's nanny and interviewed two references covering her last six years of work. She also spent a week with her daughter and the nanny before going back to work full-time — measures she deemed sufficient for figuring out whether it was a good fit.

"Whatever it takes for a parent to feel comfortable I feel like they should do," said Vivia Smith, a nanny who has been working in Park Slope, Brooklyn, for 13 years.

Smith said she's not opposed to rigorous background and reference checks, or even to a so-called "nanny cam," a video feed that parents can watch remotely to monitor what's going on at home.

"Background checking and reference checking are absolutely critical," said Kathy Webb, president of HomeWork Solutions, a company that helps families recruit, screen, employ and pay household workers.

Webb also suggested that parents and nannies sign a work agreement that lays out the rules of pay, performance and etiquette for both parents and nannies.