Entrusting the health and well-being of your children into the care of a relative stranger is difficult, regardless of how great her references are and how glowing her recommendations may be. Ultimately, she is still a stranger, and you’re well within your rights to be concerned about what goes on in your home when you’re not there. However, while most nannies do not mind being recorded by a nanny cam if it’s disclosed, the discovery of a hidden camera could be hugely problematic, and the laws governing their use vary from state to state. For employers who are concerned about privacy rights, honesty with their nanny, and legal use of nanny cams, there are alternatives to the nanny cam that still allow monitoring of a nanny’s behavior.
Talk to Your Children – If your children are verbal, asking them how their nanny treats them and what they do during the day with their nanny can be an effective way to get an idea of what goes on while you’re away from home. Keep in mind, though, that very young children often have trouble separating fantasy from reality, and may give you an exaggerated account of their experiences.
Ask Her to Keep a Daily Nanny Log – Nanny logs are a great way to not only monitor your nanny’s behavior, but also to stay informed about the events in your kids’ daily lives. These logs can include diaper changes, feedings and other routine information in addition to any new experiences and events. Going to the trouble of fabricating a nanny log entry is unlikely, but you’ll be able to spot any discrepancies between the log and her verbal accounts if she’s been dishonest.
Call Her Periodically – While it’s not feasible or rational to call your nanny every 15 minutes, you should make a habit of calling at least once during the course of your work day to make sure that everything is going well. Listen for signs of stress, anger or that the children are not being supervised properly.
Count Diapers – Infants can go through as many as 12 to 15 diapers each day, so counting the number of diapers your nanny has on hand before you leave and comparing it to the number available at the end of the day can give you an idea of how often she’s changing them. Just because you come home to a clean, dry baby does not necessarily mean that she’s been vigilant about diaper changes all day, and neglecting to change diapers in a timely manner can lead to irritating rashes.
Track Food Supplies – You should be able to get a fairly accurate idea of how often your child is being fed by the amount of formula, expressed breast milk or solid food that’s remaining at the end of the day. Nannies that willfully withhold food from a child are rare, but you will be able to tell if yours is one of those very few by taking note of how much food, formula or breast milk is used during her shift.
Examine Kids’ Bodies – When you come home to a child who’s already in pajamas and leave before they wake up in the morning, bruises and other injuries can go undetected. Making a point of checking a child’s body for signs of injuries that are not age-appropriate can help you detect abuse on the slight chance that it’s occurring.
Observe Kids’ Behavior – A child who is being mistreated or is suffering abuse at the hands of his nanny will almost always exhibit changes in behavior, so be alert for any such signs. Kids that are normally outgoing and gregarious can become withdrawn and reluctant to socialize, among other things.
Ask Her About Her Day – A direct question about your nanny’s day and the events it held can be one of the most accurate methods of monitoring her behavior, unless she’s a particularly skilled, smooth liar. If she doesn’t meet your eyes when she relays the events of the day or gives an account that seems off, don’t be afraid to press the matter further.
Come Home Unexpectedly – Stopping in when your nanny least expects it is a surefire way to get a feel of what’s going on when you aren’t home. Having to come home to get a forgotten item or for lunch periodically and stopping by the house at various times can give you a sense of the quality of care your child is receiving.
Ask Around – If your nanny and child attend a mommy and me class or library story time, ask other parents or the class or group leader for feedback regarding how your nanny interacts with your child. If you have trusted neighbors or friends that see your nanny at the playground, ask them what their impression of your nanny is.
Though it’s absolutely imperative for any parent who leaves their children in the care of someone else to be alert for signs of abuse or neglect, it’s also important to remember that the vast majority of nannies are dedicated to their careers and would never dream of harming one of their charges. For parents who opt to use a nanny cam, they should be cautioned about having a false sense of security. Nanny cams can only capture what is in the camera’s view and less expensive models may not stream real-time footage.
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