Background checks on childcare providers; what do you do?

childcare, childcare providers, DBS, disclosure and barring service

Who is looking after your kids? Are you comfortable looking into their background?

Here’s a question for you. Okay, it’s not so much a question but a series of questions. Do you ever use some kind of childcare provider, be it a childminder, nanny, pre-school or nursery?

If so, have you ever checked the business’s Ofsted registration? Have you asked to see an individual’s Disclosure and Baring Service (DBS) certificate or peadiatric first aid certificate?

I’m asking this because I had a very enlightening conversation with a childminder the other day. It was an atypical situation. I was at my brother’s wedding reception (hooray!).

It was in a part of the world where we didn’t know anyone and we had to arrange some childcare for the latter part of the evening. We were in the slightly awkward position of having to hire someone we hadn’t physically met before.

It’s not like we hired the fifteen-year-old child of some random person from a nearby village. This individual happened to be a very experienced nanny who had worked for my sister in law’s family so she knew them all on first name terms. The reception itself was taking place in the grounds of a family home and the kids were going to be a few paces away from us at all times with various close and extended family members constantly in the vicinity of the children. It wasn’t a high risk operation.

When I spoke to the nanny on the phone I felt compelled to ask whether she was DBS checked. Only thing is, I did it in a typically British and awkward way.

“I’m sorry to have to ask,” I said, “but you are DBS checked and registered with Ofsted aren’t you?”

She was completely unbothered and unflustered by the question.

“Yes of course, I’ll bring my folder with me and you can see all my qualifications on the night.”

I then bucked up my ideas and found my confidence.

“I don’t know why I’m apologising,” I said, “you are looking after our children, all things considered I think it’s quite a reasonable question.”

She then said something I found quite extraordinary.

“I often go to childminding jobs. I take my folder listing all my qualifications etc. I’ll offer it to the parents and they say ‘oh no I don’t need to look at that’.”

Maybe I’m just a bit fussy, but whenever we’ve used childminding or childcare services, we’ve always checked out the individual or business beforehand. If I’d asked that question of our childminder and she had said “no” or refused to show her documentation, well, the deal would have been off. I don’t think that would be an unreasonable response.

The qualifications and background checks are all done for a reason. If I ran a childcare business, I think I’d feel mightily offended if people didn’t check out who I was and that I was properly regulated.

I guess I have a message to parents; don’t be so British. I bet a million quid you’ll check out an online retailer’s reputation before making a purchase. Why not do the same with those providing childcare services?

Oh, on the night our childminder did a superb job. In case you’re wondering, yes, she did arrive with a folder detailing her background and DBS certificate and Mrs Adams and I spent a few minutes going through it. Better still, she seemed quite happy for us to do so.

Pic credit; US Army. Reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

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17 Comments

  1. December 8, 2015 / 7:26 am

    Too right. I’m on the committee for the playgroup my son attended and part of my responsibility is to ensure DBS checks are up to date for all staff members. #thetruthabout

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 8, 2015 / 10:39 am

      And a very important job that is too! Quite a responsibility actually. I used to work at a place where all staff had to be DBS checked and odd things would surface from their past. Decisions had to be made as to whether they were employable. It wasn’t always easy.

  2. Betty and the Bumps
    December 8, 2015 / 10:36 am

    Gwenn goes to a private day nursery one day a week. She started when she was 18 months (she’s 30 months now) and we had to do it for childcare reasons. Well, it was that or I went down to two days a week which would’ve had financial implications for us … Anyway, I visited the nursery once and then I made the decision on the spot to sign her up because they only had one place left. Over time I realised that most people tend to shop around a bit more than that! I suppose I just reasoned that it was an Ofsted registered, established provider so it would be perfectly safe?

    #thetruthabout

  3. John Adams
    Author
    December 8, 2015 / 10:41 am

    Most couples do shop around but needs must! Sounds like you struck gold anyway. I can’t pretend I’ve checked the credentials of every staff member at a childcare facility. OI haven’t, that is ultimately the employer’s responsibility but I was amazed that a childminder would hand such information to a couple on a plate and they’d simply ignore it.

  4. December 8, 2015 / 12:25 pm

    As a parent and a nursery provider, I always encourage prospective parents to make checks on us (we have a checklist on our website http://bit.ly/1lLG8zt). No reputable provider should object to being asked about staff qualifications and safeguarding checks. You are entrusting your child to another person / organisation – it is entirely reasonable to ask for evidence of credentials. We understand that we need to earn trust and satisfy queries. DBS (police) checks are only part of the story. As well as reading Ofsted reports, it is also important to ask others who have used them before and to actually meet the person / people who will be caring for your child – ideally at a time when they are with children so you can assess their character and interactions – are they a nice person and someone you would trust to care for your child?

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 9, 2015 / 5:15 am

      Thanks for commenting Dave and providing the practitioner’s opinion. I love the idea that you should see your child with their carer. Makes complete sense. Also great to hear you encourage people to do their own background checks. I appreciate there’s loads of red tape, but your industry is highly regulated for very good reason.

  5. December 8, 2015 / 3:42 pm

    This is really interesting actually. My little boy goes to nursery and we looked at a few before we settled on the one we did #twinklytuesday

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 9, 2015 / 5:08 am

      Ah ha, you shopped around. Very wise indeed and glad to hear you did. It’s essential to do these things properly. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Suz
    December 8, 2015 / 8:45 pm

    Elliott is not attending playgroup yet but these are things i never knew but will be looking into when chooing a playgrup for him! thanks for sharing! Suz x Beauisblue.com

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 9, 2015 / 5:03 am

      Well Suz, Ofsted registration certificate should be displayed prominently at the playgroup and you can also check online. As for DBS checks, if you’re hiring a childminder for ad hoc care, don’t be shy of asking to see it. It’s what it’s there for.

  7. December 8, 2015 / 9:36 pm

    EJ goes to a childminder and a pre-school. The pre-school is based in the nursery attached to our local SureStart centre and the childminder I chose because I made friends with her through our local toddler group which is run by childminders. I probably wouldn’t have asked to see her documents as I know her so well and I totally trust her but she let me have all the documentation and is always very professional about our ‘business’ relationship which is also reassuring. My job is linked to DBS. I read a lot of stuff which means I know that people with dubious backgrounds are regularly applying for jobs which will bring them into contact with children or vulnerable adults. You cannot be too careful. I am also reassured that I don’t feel the need to ask to see certificates for people like JJ’s Beaver scout leaders – they will not be in position without a DBS certificate. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 9, 2015 / 5:02 am

      Interesting you say you wouldn’t have looked and checked the documentation….but that you did anyway. I was jut a bit surprised ot hear that a childminder could offer this material to parents and they just not bother reading it. Very British mentality. More conerned about causing offence I guess!

  8. December 12, 2015 / 3:39 pm

    I think it’s important to understand that a DBS is (in my view) not quite as much of a guarantee as many people think it is. It’s a snapshot – that’s all. It merely states that there are no ‘previous’ issues – at least, none that the individual has been convicted for. It isn’t even dated, which raises another issue. How recent should a DBS be for it to be considered relevant?
    The DBS doesn’t (and can’t) guarantee that the person in question is ‘safe’. It’s a possibility they’ve simply never been caught. The DBS also doesn’t prevent future illegal practices.
    In my own tutoring agency business, I actually take far more notice of the employment history, the personality, the ‘feel’ I get, the personable communications and so on. I still insist on a DBS as it forms part of the picture, but I’m under no illusions as to its limits.

    • John Adams
      Author
      December 13, 2015 / 7:38 am

      You’re quite right, a DBS check isn’t cast iron. I’m aware that if someone has spent time abroad the check falls off a cliff and is worthless. If a check has been carried out, however, it is worth asking to see in my opinion for peace of mind. As for being dated, I have a DBS certificate and it has a date printed on it!

  9. December 13, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    We have used various forms of childcare over the last few years, Thankfully the first childminder we saw blew us away with not only her personality but also her documentation and organisation. She set the bar pretty high for the next one should we need it. You are so right though, us Brits love apologising for stuff we shouldn’t! Fab to have you join us at #coolmumclub (#cooldadclub for you ;-))

  10. BusyChildminder
    December 14, 2015 / 10:00 am

    I have been a childminder for almost 19 years. When I first registered there was no such thing as DBS or CRB. My husband and I had enhanced police checks done, which was part of the registration process at the time. Paper copies weren’t issued, so I have never had any document that I could show a parent. Social Service (who registered us back then) and Ofsted wouldn’t register unless we were police checked, CRB checked or DBS checked, so it can be a assumed that if a childminder is registered, they have had the necessary checks done during the registration process. For a childminder working alone, it isn’t strictly necessary to see a CRB or DBS certificate and for some us, it wouldn’t be possible to see anything as there isn’t anything to see! As long as the childminder can show you their registration certificate it can be accepted that they have had the necessary checks.

    So the registration certificate is the important bit. This should be displayed for parents to see, but if it isn’t and if the childminder doesn’t show it as part of the interview process, parents should ask to see it. They should then also check the Ofsted website to check the registration is still up to date. Registration certificates don’t have an expiry date and aren’t updated so they can be a few years old. A childminder could have given up their registration, but still have a certificate, so parents should check on the Ofsted website that the childminder is still registered. They’ll also be able to see inspection reports, details of any conditions of registration and any complaints that have been made.

    Checking the First Aid certificate is up to date is also something a parent should check as this isn’t routinely checked by Ofsted, other than during an inspection. The certificate lasts for 3 years and should have an expiry date on it.