How can parents ensure that the people they find on child-care websites are completely trustworthy? The short answer is that they cannot.
The case of David Ettlinger – a Newton teacher arrested on child pornography charges who also advertised his services on online baby sitter listings – sheds light on the limits of background checks and the reliability of endorsements by child-care search websites for who post their services online.
The websites are often subscription-based, and they offer parents a quick way to find a sitter. Potential baby sitters post profiles with a photo, and employers and child-care providers can message one another to make plans for an interview.
Would-be baby sitters are automatically screened to verify their identity and checked against state sex offender registries. And though additional background checks may sometimes be performed by the sites or by parents, Ettlinger’s case highlights their limits, especially in the case of someone who has not been convicted of a crime.
Sittercity.com, a site that removed Ettlinger’s profile from its listings after his arrest, said they stand by their practices.
Yesterday, Mary Schwartz, spokeswoman for Sittercity.com, outlined the company’s efforts to check the background of people in their listings. Parents can also choose an “enhanced background check’’ option, which includes a visit to the courthouse by site employees to check criminal records in person.
Ettlinger, a second-grade teacher at Newton’s Underwood Elementary School now on administrative leave, pleaded not guilty last week to charges of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, posing a child in a state of nudity, and possession of child pornography.
Before his arrest, Ettlinger had posted a background check with his listing on Care.com, another popular child-care website.
The record included Social Security number verification, along with cross-references against state and county criminal databases, state sex offender registries, terrorist watch lists, and state prison, parole, and release files. No red flags were raised.
That is why some warn that relying on background checks simply is not enough.
“You can’t just go to a website and pick somebody,’’ said Ollie Smith, interim executive director at the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies. “There’s no way of vetting people on websites; you just don’t know enough.’’
On websites such as Care.com and Sittercity.com, Ettlinger seems to have extolled his child-care credentials.
“Hello, my name is David, and I am interested in becoming your babysitter,’’ began one of his messages, which he sent through Care.com on Oct. 16. The message was forwarded to the Globe by the parent who received it.
“I have tons of energy and I guarantee I can keep up with your little ones,’’ Ettlinger wrote. “I love doing all sorts of activities with kids and I’m not shy about singing, dancing, or doing anything I’d be completely embarrassed to do in front of my peers.’’
Smith vouched for Care.com, saying it is a reputable website that conducts adequate research on the caretakers it lists. But those checks cannot find someone who has not committed crimes in the past. Ettlinger, she said, was also fit to pass a state background check.
“People assume finding someone on a website is the end of the process,’’ Smith said. “But it’s actually the start of the process.’’
Schwartz, of Sittercity.com, said the company urges parents to perform their own due diligence: Read online reviews and ratings about the person’s past baby-sitting performance, conduct an in-person interview, and check references.
Some websites, such as Care4Hire.com, do not perform background checks themselves, but instead give parents advice on conducting their own research.
Candi Wingate – owner and president of Care4Hire.com, Babysitters4Hire.com, and Nannies4Hire.com – said that while those sites post profiles of potential baby sitters, they do not take on the task of background checks. Instead, they share advice with parents on how to check out potential babysitters or nannies on their own.
When asking for references, she suggested, request land line numbers instead of cellphone numbers, so they can be verified against public records. Compare notes with references with dates and details on the résumé.
Most important, conduct an interview in person and meet in a coffee shop or bakery, rather than in your home. “You can never be too safe,’’ Wingate said.
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.
I was reading TLC’s Facebook post today and wanted to “borrow” Kimberly’s post about Winter Sports safety. Although this winter has been a mild one for St. Louis, I still feel the chill. Everyone starts to get a but of cabin fever this time, so check these precautions and get out of the house this winter!
Top Winter Safety Tips
- Always wear sport-specific, properly fitting safety gear when participating in winter sports.
- Kids should always wear helmets when they ski, sled, snowboard and play ice hockey. There are different helmets for different activities.
- Parents should wear helmets too. Remember, your children learn safety habits by watching you.
- Dress in layers and wear warm, close-fitting clothes. Make sure that long scarves are tucked in so they don’t get entangled in lifts, ski poles or other equipment.
- Stay hydrated. Drink fluids before, during and after winter play.
- Kids — or caregivers — who become distracted or irritable, or begin to hyperventilate, may be suffering from hypothermia or altitude sickness, or they may be too tired to participate safely in winter sports. They need to go indoors to warm up and rest.
- Children under 6 should not ride a snowmobile, and nobody under 16 should drive one. All snowmobile drivers and passengers should wear helmets designed for high-speed motor sports. A bike helmet isn’t sufficient for a four-wheeled motorcycle that can go up to 90 miles per hour.
Have a great week!
10 Challenges for the Nanny of Work From Home Parents
I found this article on enannysource and it sums up the challenges that I hear about from many St.Louis nannies and families. The employer/employee relationship between nanny and parent can be affected differently when they are in the same home all day.
With one or both parents working from home becoming more popular, these unique challenges are bound to arise and need to be addressed.
I know TLC nannies manage to communicate with their employers when issues arise, I wonder which of these below are most common?
When a household includes both an in-home business and in-home childcare, the situations which the nanny deals with may have some unique challenges. Discussing the various issues and keeping the communication open between employer and nanny is important in working through these situations.
Noise levels – There may not be a lot of sound proofing between the home office and the rest of the home. Small children are bound to be noisy when playing and babies sometimes can only communicate through crying. The nanny should not feel a need to keep the children any quieter than in any other household. It is up to the parent to protect themselves from those distractions.
Saving Questions – When the parent is in the home, rather than a phone call away, a nanny can be tempted to interrupt them with questions that would normally be saved until the end of the day. Remember that etiquette regarding interrupting them ‘at the office’ applies equally, no matter where that office is located.
Clinging children – Most work from home parents will not be hidden away in their office for the entire day. They are bound to come out for lunch and breaks, just like any other worker. This can be an issue with the small children who don’t understand what ‘going back to work’ means.
Known presence – The presence of the parent or parents in the home is not going to be a secret from the kids. Even when they are not in sight, the children will be aware of their presence. In order for the nanny to maintain her leadership role with the children, the parents must cooperate in not giving in to demands by the children for their attention during the work day.
Listening ear – Unlike the nanny whose employers leave the house in the morning and return in the evening, a nanny for work from home parents is likely to be questioned about every bump, cry or other strange sound that is overheard by the parents during the day.
Variable hours – Unless the parents are strongly structured in their own work hours, a nanny may find that work from home parents expect her to be as flexible with her schedule as they are with theirs. This is an important item to be well clarified in the work agreement.
Wandering workers – Not all work from home parents stay confined to their home office. Wireless internet connections and cell phones enable them to do much of their work from any room in the house. This can mean that the nanny needs to adjust her work habits to fit in with various unoccupied territories within the home each day.
End of day – Most people who work from home are also doing a job that they really enjoy. When you love your work and you work within the comfort of your own home, it is easy to lose track of time. Rather than waiting for the parents to ‘come home’, the nanny may need let her employer know when it is time for the work day to end.
In and out – Working from home doesn’t necessarily mean that all the work is done from the home office. Most likely, the parent will have outside appointments that they will need to attend. This means there will be some coming and going of the parents at various times, which can be disruptive for the children.
Roles and duties – A parent may take on some of the nanny’s duties from time to time, at their own discretion. This requires much flexibility on the part of the nanny and consideration on the part of the parent. Open and honest communication will be a key ingredient for nanny positions of this type.
Thanks for reading, Jessica
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone … One Baby Step at a Time
By Glenda Propst
Nannies have a rich and lengthy history that spans hundreds of years. The title and job duties of a nanny have evolved and continue to evolve even to this day.
The professional nanny movement that began back in the early 1980’s culminated in 1985 with the founding of the International Nanny Association. As a founding board member of INA, I realize that my roots and commitment to my profession were solidified within this association.
I had always been committed to what I did. I had always been dedicated to improving my profession. But being able to connect with other professionals from across the United States and even abroad, introduced a whole new frontier to this country girl who grew up in a small Midwestern town.
Being involved with the nanny profession on a national level has taught me many lessons. Some lessons have been harder to learn than others, but the most important lesson that I have learned is that as far as our profession has come, we still have so far to go.
I belong to the pioneering generation of the professional nanny industry. My involvement with INA connected me to a bigger part of the nanny world and made me realize that I could not simply be an observer of our industry; I had to step out of my comfort zone and be a leader within it.
I can’t tell you how important it is for each of us to be involved in our profession in a bigger way. While we may say that we want the nanny profession to be recognized, respected and revered, for that to happen it requires each of us to step out of our comfort zone.
The nanny industry is multi-faceted. The issues that we face as nannies are different than the issues agencies and educators face, but as an industry, we need to work together to change the future. While we may not always agree on everything, we can agree that there is work to be done and if we want results, we have to do the work together. As members of our industry, it is up to us to push towards our common goals that will result in progress for our industry.
I cannot imagine how different my life would have been if I had not been influenced, supported, encouraged, enlightened and inspired by the people I met when I stepped out of my comfort zone. As professionals, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on industry issues and then to speak out or take action.
Make your profession a priority. Keep educating yourself; keep learning and never stop growing.
I encourage you to make plans to attend the INA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada May 3-6, 2012. If you are new to INA and you have never attended an Annual Conference, you are eligible to attend at 1/2 price. If you are a current member who has never attended an Annual Conference, there will be several scholarship opportunities I urge you to take advantage of. The Annual Conference room rates are extremely reasonable this year and Las Vegas is a wonderfully fun location.
So this year take a chance. Step out of your comfort zone and attend the 2012 INA Annual Conference.
It just might change your life.