I think my nanny candidate used a fake reference

A reader writes:

I’m looking for a part-time nanny for my young daughter. I posted on a reputable online job board that connects parents and caregivers, and I received several applications. One of them, a young woman I’ll call Aurora, quickly became my top candidate. She had great experience, special expertise, and her caregiving philosophy matched mine. Her phone interview went great and our in-person meeting went well. She gave all the right answers.

There were a couple of hiccups. There was, at one point, a long pause in communication — so long that I thought she ghosted me. But when she reached back out, she said there had been a sudden family emergency and she apologized. She also very quickly provided me with one reference, a former coworker, but it took her much longer to provide a reference from a parent she’d previously nannied for.

Her coworker reference was good, no problems. But her parent reference … Well, the person on the phone sounded very young to have school-age children. I didn’t think to ask her about it at the time, and I’m not even sure how I would have worded such a question. But it kind of ate at me. So before I offered Aurora the job (I was literally about to text her), I decided to just do a quick search.

The parent reference has a highly unusual name and was easily findable on social media. As far as I can tell, she has no children. (No pictures of any, no mentions, no posts or connections to anything parent-related. She gives thanks for her boyfriend and dog but not her kids.) Aurora and the parent reference routinely like each other’s posts. And I found a photo of Aurora, her coworker reference, and her parent reference posing together as part of a friend group, all of them in their early to mid twenties.

I mean, maybe this is explainable? Parent reference had kids very young and keeps silent about them on social media? They’re both friends and former employer/employee? But I’m a researcher by nature and training — I’ve built my career on finding information and weeding fact from fiction — and this feels icky.

What do I do? Ask Aurora about it directly? (But if this is innocent, I’ll look like a loon and blow the best candidate I’ve got.) Ask her for a third reference? (But am I going to trust that?) Just drop her and say I’m going in a different direction? I’m lost. Help!

I’d be highly suspicious too. And you can’t trust someone with something as high-stakes as your kids’ care once you suspect they’re lying about something as fundamental as a reference.

So. Did she have multiple child care jobs listed on her application? If so, one option is to ask to be put in touch with references from those too. It’s always okay as a reference-checker to ask, “Can you put me in touch with your manager from X job?” Candidates sometimes bristle at that advice to employers — but your situation illustrates why it’s so important to feel comfortable doing it. Sometimes the reference(s) the candidate proactively offered seem off. Sometimes they’re not people who can speak to the specific things you’re interested in learning about. And to be clear, sometimes there’s a legitimate reason why the candidate would prefer not to connect you (they left on bad terms, etc.), and then that can be discussed — but it’s reasonable on your end to ask.

Another option is to just ask Aurora about it: “I did speak to Valentina Picklebrush, but I wasn’t sure if I had the right person — she sounded quite young. I just want to confirm: she has school-age kids that you nannied for?” She’s probably not going to confess on the spot, but her response might push you more in one direction or the other.

But unless something happens that puts this completely to rest for you — like, I don’t know, it turns out that Valentina’s daughter answered her phone and posed as her mom for laughs, and the real Valentina speaks with you and it’s clear she is indeed a parent who employed Aurora — which is pretty unlikely — then I think you’ve got to pass on Aurora. The stakes are too high.

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. No Crying in Baseball*

    I agree with Alison – the stakes are too high and go with your gut. The “family emergency” might be real, but it might be a pattern that you haven’t seen yet. I though we had a great nanny, but her emergencies just kept popping up. Eventually she had to take a longer term leave and we agreed to part ways (it was too long a period for me to find temporary care). A few weeks later, I got a call from someone who was considering hiring her. I gave my honest opinion (great caretaker, lacking reliability). They decided to take the chance, and then later let me know they were seeing a pattern as well. If you talk to others, ask about patterns and history. You’ll be able to call out their bluff.

  2. Lady Danbury*

    This is definitely a trust your gut situation. There are plenty of orange flags, but the picture of Aurora, coworker and parent together would definitely have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, given all the other circumstances. To use another animal analogy, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. While it’s possible that there’s a legitimate explanation, it’s far more likely that Aurora is having her buddies lie and act as fake references for her.

  3. wondermint*

    Yeah, trust your gut LW.

    I will say, my sister has children and you would never know looking at her socials. She is very wary of social media companies keeping tabs on those without accounts (aka, her kids). I wouldn’t take “no photos or mention of being a parent” online as the only indicator, and my sister definitely seems to be in the minority, but again, follow your gut. You don’t want to hire someone who is blasé about lying to watch your kids.

    1. Dell*

      I definitely know people like this as well. I think it will be more common as younger generations who have been burned by social media in childhood have their own children. I often have a gut reaction to that level of privacy as “weird” in a negative way, just because it’s so outside the norm for my generation (mid-30s) but after taking a beat to think about it it’s not a bad thing.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have a friend who does not allow any pictures of her kids on social media, full stop. However, I’m pretty sure she acknowledges that she has them.

        1. Karo*

          This is the nuance that gets me. I have a number of friends who don’t post pictures of their kids, but they talk about having kids. I also have friends who don’t talk about their kids online, but then they don’t give thanks for their pets and partners online. Neither X nor Y is one thing, X but not Y puts a different spin on it.

          1. Despachito*

            I do not think it is weird at all if the person has NO information on social media altogether, not only about their kids but also on themselves. If this was suspicious I would be suspicious as hell because I see no point in posting any non-work info about myself and I don’t.

            I think in this case there are plenty of OTHER red flags, and I would not employ Aurora if I am not 100% certain that she is reliable.

            1. Varthema*

              Yeah, but she does post info about herself, her boyfriend, her dog… but not her kids? I agree with the post farther up, it’s one thing to not post about yourself or your kids, but posting about everything in your personal life BUT your kids is a zebra situation.

          2. Ellie*

            Even if she does have kids, the picture of the group together indicates that she’s a friend, not an employer. OP didn’t get an unbiased reference.

            OP – if this were for a regular office job, then I’d take the first advice and ask for another reference (in fact I’ve done this before… an applicant for an IT position gave what was obviously his friend and peer as a reference, and we asked him to supply his former manager as well. The former manager gave a decent reference, we ended up hiring him, and he worked out great). But for a Nanny… I’d just nope out of there. She lied to you to make herself sound better. That’s not a trait you want in someone who will be looking after your kids.

      2. Banana Pyjamas*

        I’m a similar age to Dell, and I’m transitioning to not sharing my kids online. I have school aged children, and everything I’ve shared this year has been memories from several years ago.

        That being said, a person in their early 20s with school aged children was most likely a teen mom. Given the way society treats young mothers or even the way behavior can change once someone realizes a woman was a teen mom, it makes sense not to telegraph that information.

        Additionally, many mothers, and teen moms especially, rely on friends and family for free child care. If the two are friends, and she was a teen mom it’s very probable Aurora did care for her child.

        All of that being said, I do think LW would need more information to decide in favor of Aurora, and it’s probably easier to move on.

        1. Molly Millions*

          Even if that was the case, it still sounds like Aurora might be inflating her resume. It seems like she’s told LW she has more extensive professional experience than just babysitting for her friend.

          And the fact that it took her a long time to provide contact information, when the reference is obviously a close personal friend, suggests she’s not being truthful. I could understand taking some time to re-connect with a former client and verify that they’re willing to provide a reference, but it shouldn’t have taken any time at all to put the LW in touch with her friend if everything was above board.

          1. Yadah*

            Exactly. Helping a friend with childcare is a totally different job (and dynamic )than professional nannying. There’s a completely different level of professionalism and familiarity with an existing friendship.

            Even a friend who does the absolute best, above and beyond job with childcare is working under different expectations than when they’re doing the same work for a stranger.

            And that goes x1000000 when the dynamic is “my friend was a teen mom and needed all the help they could get so I stepped up to support them”

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      It would be the picture of the three together that would concern me, that and just the whole combination. I don’t think it’s unusual not to mention your kids on social media, people can be a lot older than they look/sound and a 24 year old could easily have a 5 or 6 year old child anyway, but…her only references being part of her friends group strikes me as concerning in itself and would definitely lead me to scrutinise things more carefully and be more suspicious than usual of things like o mention of kids on the mother’s profile.

      1. wondermint*

        Yeah, maybe LW can go back and ask Aurora how she met the parent, and then ask if she has any references outside of her friend group.

        1. WellRed*

          I think it’s time to cut her losses. At this point, will she trust anything Aurora says?

        2. Serena*

          I think if you’re at the point where you’re considering asking someone for new references because you think they’re lying about the references they already gave you, you should just cut your losses, especially when the job is something as important as watching your kids.

      2. CTT*

        Yeah, I almost think the lack of kid pictures is a red herring and the group friend picture is the real red flag.

        1. Managing While Female*

          I agree with this — I think it’s pretty clear from that picture that Aurora just asked her friends to pretend to be references. Can someone come up with an off-the-wall reason why this is totally above board and one big misunderstanding? Probably, but it doesn’t matter. You have to err on the side of caution when it comes to your kids, rather than giving a stranger the benefit of the doubt.

          1. Green great dragon*

            This was the one that troubled me. Even if they are also coworkers/employers, they’re still not reliable references since they’re her friends, and she didn’t offer anyone who wasn’t a friend.

          2. ferrina*

            Yep, this is where I am too. I agree with Irish Teacher. that everyone being in the same friend group makes me very skeptical of the references. I’d be skeptical of that reference selection for any job. And having them watch your kids is just too high stakes

          3. Carl*

            I will say, I just gave references that were all friends! But it’s different – I’ve always been at small companies, where I stay 5-10 years, and my coworkers and bosses (all professionals in same field) ARE my friends.

            But, likely very different dynamic than childcare.

        2. Reebee*

          I agree that LW should just cut and run, but, for security purposes, it’s actually refreshing to see people not posting photos of their minor children on social media, at least if viewable by anyone.

          That’s how certain faces get slapped onto – ahem – certain websites.

    3. Annony*

      Yep. In this case, I don’t think the question about whether or not she has kids is even the biggest issue. The only parent reference she provided was a close personal friend and it took her awhile to even provide that reference. I don’t want a reference from a friend, especially if they have “great experience” and “special expertise”. If that is all she can provide, I would move on. If I’m hiring someone because of their experience, they should be able to verify it.

      1. wondermint*

        How does someone start watching kids without experience? Seems like watching for a friend would be a good way to get started, but it should be disclosed to the next potential employer for exactly this reason.

        1. amoeba*

          Maybe more like babysitting first before you progress to full time nanny? No personal experience, but I’d guess the level of trust required for an evening or a few hours wouldn’t be quite as high, and a lot of experience with that would certainly give some credibility?

          1. Ginny Weasley*

            Not relevant to the OP, but if you want to go down an interesting internet rabbit hole, look up Norland College in the UK! It’s a 3-year nanny training program (plus a 4th year of on-the-job training). The students get a BA in early childhood development and then are highly sought-after nannies. The royal family’s nannies were trained here!

            So, that’s one way… but probably not the easiest!

          2. Bear Expert*

            My amazing, magical nanny had a bunch of siblings and a neighbor down the street who ended up with preemie twins and no better options. So the neighbor girl got hired to handle the medically sensitive twins until mom could find someone better. And eventually the twins went to school, like kids do. I was magical nanny’s 3rd or 4th family and basically every reference (including mine!) was some hair on fire emergency and the family was only intending on keeping her for some limited period of time and she kept being the best choice.

        2. Audrey Puffins*

          Training in childcare so you have qualifications to point to, or starting off working in a nursery and going solo later are pretty good starts

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I know at least one person who started out working for someone they knew through church, so they were friendly and the employer knew her well enough personally to hire her without previous experience, but they were not close social friends.

        4. Guacamole Bob*

          You start out in lower stakes situations and disclose that you have no experience. That often means starting as a teenager or college student babysitting for your parent’s friend or a neighbor for school-age kids who don’t need a ton of support, working as a counselor-in-training and then a counselor at a summer camp, working with younger kids in an extracurricular activity (e.g. coaching a younger sibling’s soccer team or being an assistant teacher at the dance studio where you take lessons), and so on.

          If Aurora had said that she’d never been a full-time nanny but had done X and Y with kids and provided solid references, perhaps OP would be happy to hire her! With less experience she’d probably charge a lower rate. But faking references is such poor judgment that OP can’t really trust her now.

        5. Sam I Am*

          Younger people often start out with being a mother’s helper — that’s what I was doing as early as 11 or 12. That built up into babysitting for sleeping kids or older kids, and then to babysitting babies and toddlers. I had plenty of experience by the time I got a nannying job after college.

        6. Charlotte*

          I agree with you on the disclosure. I have hired sitters who eventually turned into fulltime nannies. Some of the sitters had no prior paid or formal experience, just babysitting siblings or cousins. But they were upfront about it.

        7. Annony*

          They start out low stakes (babysitting on date nights, ect.) or in an environment where they are not alone (daycare). Alternatively, they offer to do it a low enough rate that someone is willing to take the chance. Experienced nannies are expensive. Someone who works from home may be willing to hire someone with no experience if they are saving $5-$10 an hour.

        8. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Talk about how you cared for your siblings & nieblings. Give references from a parent who called you back for regular babysitting jobs. Talk about how you worked at x y z business but miss the kids. Talk about any job you had that was related to child care whether that be summer camp counselor, Is a sports instructor, or dressing up as a princess to sell teddy bears on the weekend.

          My biggest thing: Be honest if you haven’t done it yet! Then pivot into why the parent might want you instead of someone else.

        9. Earthtomatilda*

          When I was 15, I babysat for family friends, just watching one 4yo girl. That was enough experience to get hired to work for the city & county summer camp, where I watched 30 kindergarteners for $6.50/hr for 6 hours a day. After that, I was a coveted nanny

      2. Lab Boss*

        That’s what I thought as well. “Are the kids real” is a bit of a red herring (although obviously a falsified reference speaks extra poorly to character). Even assuming the reference was both legit and fully honest- it looks totally different doing a “great job” watching friends’ kids than it does professionally nannying for someone with just an employer/employee relationship.

        1. I'm the OP*

          Yeah, she was clear that this was a professional job that lasted two years. Not “I watched my friend’s kids and she can tell you about me.” If it had been the latter, I totally would have been okay with that! But I would have wanted to know.

          1. Charlotte*

            I have had nanny candidates who gave fake references… that’s why we do pretty long or multiple calls with the same reference. We once asked for a second call with a reference “to check on a small detail” and realized they couldn’t remember the details they made up in the first call. Or rather than yes/no questions, we ask them “take us through the day, what would Nanny Candidate do once they arrived” and realize that the reference didn’t quite understand a kid’s schedule (forgot to mention infant naps etc). It’s not foolproof and my partner and I may be overly paranoid but I prefer to be safe than sorry.

            1. I'm the OP*

              I love that! Fabulous idea to ask them to take you through a typical day with this nanny candidate. I have asked about experiences and what the nanny did with their kids, but I never asked for a play-by-play. Thank you for that suggestion!

    4. Turquoisecow*

      I don’t share photos of my kid on fb but I do talk about her and sometimes share kid related things like articles or artwork that she’s done, so if you scroll down long enough you’ll see it, but depending on what time of year you may have to scroll for a bit.

      A few days ago we finished a project related to her room so I posted a photo of that, but before that it’s been a couple months since I mentioned my kid, and before that a couple of months. But I don’t post a lot nowadays in general.

    5. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

      YES! 100% go with your gut with this one, but if you find someone in the future who you love and who checks all the boxes and passes the gut check, don’t worry about the lack of kids on social media. Keeping kids off social media seems to be more common now. Several of my friends don’t post pictures of their kids on social media very often or at all, although they talk about them. I have one friend whom, if you did not know she was a mother, you would not be able to tell based on her social media- she does not talk about her kids or post pictures of them.

      But this whole situation is raising red flags. Even if she had a family emergency (totally possible!) the lack of communication is concerning. Only one reference is concerning. Gut feelings are often right- pass on this candidate!

    6. Jinni*

      I am this person. People (social media friends) are always surprised that I have a 14yo. I’ll even delete references to him in other people’s posts if I see them.

      The idea of posting a child or about a child makes me so uncomfortable. He’s a boy, but some of those recent articles in the NYT about the sheer number of predators attracted to female ‘child’ accounts is horrifying.

      My nanny only had a single reference, but I got such a great vibe from her that I hired her on the spot. She’s no longer my nanny, but a great family friend.

      LW your gut is pinging, trust it.

    7. Office Plant Queen*

      Even in cases like that, there will often be references to having kids/being a parent if they’re active on social media. Mentions of celebrating Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, sharing scenic photos from a “family vacation,” talking/asking about children’s toys or clothes around gift giving holidays, etc.

    8. You can call me Flower if you want to*

      I agree completely. Not having any mention of kids on social media isn’t weird by itself. Like your sister, I don’t post anything about my son ever. But when you look at everything you’ve noticed together something seems off. It’s not worth the risk in my opinion. Trust your gut.

    9. Devious Planner*

      It’s true that plenty of people keep their kids off their social media pages. But they probably don’t also have easily findable social media pages and post frequently about their boyfriend and dog without even a passing reference to the existence of additional members of the family. Add that to the vacation photos with the candidate and reference, and I’m 99% sure this is a fake reference.

    10. collateral damage*

      Yes, in my social circles there are (1) people who post only impersonal stuff (articles, etc.); (2) people who will occasionally post photos of themselves and their friends/family but not any children; and (3) people who regularly post family photos.

      I definitely think she should ask the nanny about her concerns, but the social media piece of this doesn’t bother me.

  4. Melissa*

    I think this is a “trust your gut” situation. I know how hard it is to find a nanny. Because of how hard it is, I went against my gut several times (like, “Oh, she was late to the interview and seemed really disorganized, but she was probably just nervous”), and it came back to bite me each time. Not like they harmed my kid or anything, but the issues that I was hoping would just go away if I ignored them ended up coming back as huge problems with the nanny.

    1. Helewise*

      I did the same once. I was very much between a rock and a hard place, hired the person, and ended up getting calls from neighbors asking me if I knew that my 3- and 5-year-olds were wandering around the neighborhood by themselves. The kids said the sitter was great because “we get to do whatever we want when she’s here!” Finding reliable childcare is so, so hard, but I wish I would have paid more attention to the underwhelming conversations I’d had with references.

    2. I'm the OP*

      Thank you for this! That’s it exactly, I don’t want to ignore my gut and have it to come back to bite me because this wouldn’t just hurt me, it would hurt my child.

      1. Properlike*

        Always always go with your gut when you’re deciding who spends time with your kids.

        Always. In all situations. If something feels off to you – even among people you know well – then you stick around. You don’t have to be accusatory, but definitely watchful.

        As for sitters – as hard as it is, you are spending way too much time trying to explain what looks like lying. That’s not your job. The first red flag should be the last one.

        1. Properlike*

          PS – I say this as an experienced mom who’s giving you permission to embrace your Mama Bear and not worry about being nice when it comes to your child’s welfare. We’re not talking bubble wrap or never leaving the house, but simply to honor the “this doesn’t feel right” and have that be enough to move on.

      2. Anonym*

        Yep, it’s too important. We want to be fair and reasonable, but in a situation with unresolvable unknowns, err on the side of kid’s wellbeing.

        When we were looking for a sitter for our baby, we had a great-seeming candidate with solid references, but she felt off to me. We started working with her, and she would off-handedly mention how she didn’t follow other parents’ rules when caring for their kids. And not excessive or weird rules/guidance, just really normal stuff, including around health and safety. (Still not sure why she even told us that, maybe to imply that in contrast she would follow ours? But thankful that she did.)

        A friend gave me a nudge and said, “Follow your gut. Stop trying to be fair and rational, this is information about this person.” She was right. We went with a different sitter who has turned out totally wonderful, reliable, well informed and kind, and our only concern with her is hoping she doesn’t move away!

      3. Seconds*

        I almost ignored my gut when I sought out childcare for my first child.

        The first home daycare I tried just seemed a bit off—the most significant thing being that the woman’s boyfriend seemed to be around a lot.

        The second seemed better in most ways, but the woman agreed to take my daughter despite the fact that she was already at her legal capacity, “because she seems like a good kid.” Also, she mentioned that she had to put her knife block on top of the refrigerator when she had an inspection, but that she otherwise kept it on the counter.

        I almost accepted the place at the second home. I was new to the workforce, and new to daycare, and I didn’t think I’d be able to find anything better.

        Fortunately, I did find something better, directly next door to KnifeBlockPlace. My daughter loved her days there, and I couldn’t have been more pleased.

        Within two years I learned two things:

        The boyfriend at BoyfriendPlace had been arresting for abusing the children.

        And at KnifeBlockPlace, the woman had been putting the children down for naps in a *separate outbuilding in the back yard*, leaving them completely alone (and this was before monitors). She had not mentioned this arrangement to me or, apparently, the other parents. That outbuilding, which had been wired by the homeowner, caught fire, and the outbuilding burned down! Fortunately, the children were all rescued.

        But let me tell you—I learned not to ignore my gut!

        1. Another Lab Rat*

          (Content warning)

          Oh yes, trusting your gut is so important. When my daughter was a young toddler, I was in a parent-toddler group and we were discussing daycare options (daycare is unbelievably expensive and hard to find in my city – 3-5 year waitlists are the norm). One of the other moms mentioned that she had just gotten her kid into a licensed home-based daycare – she wasn’t feeling great about the place and had spotted a few red flags, but didn’t feel as if she had other options, as she had to go back to work.

          Several weeks after that conversation (but before her child had started attending), the daycare owner made the news because one of the children died in her care due negligence. All of us in that parent-toddler group are pretty good about trusting our gut feelings now…

    3. Some Words*

      Every time I’ve doubted my gut and ignored it regret followed. In any aspect of my life.

      That gut instinct is made up of millions of facts and experiences your brain is assembling at a subconscious level. You may never be able to put your finger on exactly what the problem is, but your instinct has picked up on something and is warning you.

  5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    IF she faked a reference, does she have the experience she claims? Especially that special expertise. Is there some way to check that or ask for documentation? I dunno. In my state if you took an early childhood care class or something, you get an official certificate.

    Because if someone will fake a reference what else did they fake? She could be perfect or she could be faking it to get a job.

    1. WellRed*

      It’s a shame the site doesn’t do any vetting. Time to tap the local parent network for recommendations?

    2. I'm the OP*

      That’s my concern as well. What else may be false? And in the future, what else would she be untruthful about?

      1. B*

        Trustworthiness is a non-negotiable requirement and she has already made you question it. Gotta move on (as frustrating as it is to go back to square one).

        1. Sam I Am*

          Agreed. It’s so hard to find a nanny, but trust is at the heart of the parent-nanny relationship. And better to start over now than to hire her and have her ghost you later, leaving you starting over anyways, but unexpectedly and urgently.

      2. Kara*

        It sounds like you’ve already gotten the answer you need, but there’s a detail I’ve been wondering about. You mentioned that your childcare philosophies were very similar. Who brought those up first, you or her? Did she start off by saying ‘oh, i do redirection and follow this school of thought on tantrums, or did you say that you were looking for redirection and this school of thought on tantrums and she enthusiastically agreed that she did these?

        1. I'm the OP*

          She actually raised her philosophy first. I asked her to talk about her experience first, then asked some what-would-you-do questions to learn more about how she handles situations, and then told her more about us.

          1. Kara*

            GOOD! I still think you have your answer (hard pass is my vote), but at least that isn’t one of the flags!

  6. Dell*

    This is an outside possibility – but if folks foster kids, they are often prohibited from talking about them on social media. Some folks still choose to post without any names included or with photos blacked out, but many foster parents just play it safe and just keep the kids off social media altogether. This might also explain an odd age differential between parents and children. There’s also the possibility of a nasty custody situation or DV to consider.

    1. amanda_gh*

      People are sure bending over backwards to find alternative explanations, but the simplest explanation is probably correct. The reference is a friend of Aurora’s who lied for her. Don’t hire her.

      1. doreen*

        Yeah, there are some very unlikely possibilities – I know someone who ended up with custody of her younger siblings including a 16 year old when she was 22 . But there’s really a one in several millions chance of that happening and it’s much more likely that Aurora is lying.

      2. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

        I think there are a lot of possible explanations for the social media/young sounding reference thing, but I also think that’s the least important part to fixate on. I’d be done with this candidate after they failed to communicate to the point I thought I’d been ghosted.

    2. HannahS*

      Nothing would prevent Valentina from talking about being a foster parent to the person asking for a reference.

      1. Bunch Harmon*

        There’s no reason for Valentina to mention the kids are her foster kids to a stranger on the phone – but it would explain why Valentina doesn’t have photos of kids on her social media. I’m certainly not arguing that the OP shouldn’t be wary or dig deeper, but Valentina talking about her foster kids without disclosing that they’re foster kids wouldn’t be that unusual.

    3. I'm the OP*

      Thanks! I’m actually a former foster parent myself and my social media was almost completely silent on specific kids for exactly that reason. So definitely a possibility! But you could still tell I was a parent because I was part of or liked online foster parenting associations, I followed parenting groups, I asked questions about or commented on kid-related matters. The parent reference, though, didn’t have any of that and her interests (on Instagram, for example) were completely those you’d expect of a young 20-something with no kids– fashion, vacations, etc.

      1. Venus*

        You make a good point, that the friends I know who don’t say anything about their kids online are also not saying much at all. If she’s posting all about her life and there isn’t anything related to children then that would be more concerning.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I have a sibling who does not post pictures of their kids, ever, and if the kids are mentioned online it’s Kid 1, Kid 2, etc., rather than names or even daughter/son, but there are still some mentions, and mentions of kid-related activities (scouts, swim meets, etc.).

        1. TheBunny*

          I have a friend who kept totally silent online about her kids because she is a reasonably high profile person in her town.

          But as her kids started turning 18 they all started appearing seemingly out of nowhere unless you knew her personally. I told her it was like her kids were like those toy sponges that start in gel capsules and expand in hot water.

          So yes people with kids do keep them off social media. Not saying that is what is going on here… but it’s always possible.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, and that’s smart. The kids have the right to create their own online identities when they’re old enough. Some kids have sued their parents for posting embarrassing pictures of them on social media.

          We’ve had a pretty strict policy, and it’s been very easy to follow because neither I nor my husband are active on social media, with the single exception of Whatsapp, and even there I never posted recognizable pictures of our son except to the grandparents, and they aren’t on social media either.

          At some family parties I got a bit of pushback when I said that I didn’t want any identifiable tagged photos of my son online, but mostly it’s been fine.

          But yeah, that doesn’t change the fact that it sounds like Aurora’s not the person to hire here.

      3. Sarah M*

        OP, we went through a nearly identical situation with a former au pair. The agency checked all provided references, which were supposed to be from employers. She asked friends and a friendly co-worker to provide them instead (she let it slip to me). She spoke flawless English, had “lots of relevant experience”, was super friendly and interviewed really well. It turned out that she was/is a compulsive liar who neglected the kids to Sex-Skype her latest interest, and even mistreated them when I wasn’t there. I actually caught her in the act of mistreating my infant son – literally watched he do it when she couldn’t see me – and she lied to my face about it.

        Every time I caught her in what seemed like a small lie, I made excuses for her. Because She Was SO Nice! It really shouldn’t be this difficult to get a reliable reference from Aurora. Please don’t do what I did. My kids are fine, but I’ll never forgive myself for giving that demon witch so many chances. Please trust your instincts here. My alarm bells are ringing and I don’t even know her. Hard pass.

    4. RagingADHD*

      From experiences in my family with foster kids, foster parents are also strictly prohibited from having anyone care for the children who hasn’t been vetted by the placement agency. If Aurora had this type of extensive background check / certification, surely she would put it on her resume.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      My sister fosters, and she has to have sitters who are cleared by the agency that manages the foster parents program. They do full police checks, etc. In fact, come to think of it, she is only allowed to use respite care providers that the agency provides. So if she needs a sitter for her own kids and the foster kids will be there, she has to use the agency’s approved sitters.

      Not sure how that works in other jurisdictions, but I think it is unlikely that this purported parent is a foster parent.

  7. Lillian*

    I am kinda wondering if Valentina considers herself a pet parent (rather than an owner) and that Aurora has taken care of the dog in the past. Does the dog have a human name? This probably veers into useless speculation – I don’t know how it would change the advice. They would both still be lying to the OP.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, it would still be lying–she wouldn’t have nanny/childcare experience. And I say that as the “mom” of two extremely needy cats.

    2. compliance!*

      Ann M. Martin’s lawyers are on the phone and they are not happy about this rip off of a very minor plot point in the debut Babysitter Club novel (but one that would forever affect club policy)
      (One of the club’s first clients were crazy pet people who didn’t specify their “kids” were 2 large dogs and Kristy, being 12 years old, didn’t think to ask. Tame hijinks ensued).

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        And not forgetting the Mancusi menagerie – “Where’s the beef?” (Frank the bird who watched lots of TV)

      2. Delta Delta*

        By chance, did you watch the Babysitters Club series? I can’t remember if it was on Netflix or a different streaming service. It was shockingly close to the books, and I was even more shocked by how much of the books I remembered, even though I read them more than 30 years ago at this point.

    3. Coconutty*

      No qualified childcare professional would list someone they’d pet-sat for as a reference for a childcare position and forget to mention that it was a dog, not a child

  8. ChattyDelle*

    as someone who ran a child care home for a dozen years, I’m really suspicious of only one prior reference. how long did Aurora say she been a nanny? while a nanny is different, there is still usually a high turnover in childcare – someone moves, has another child & will now work from home, child outgrows the need for a nanny or starts school….. I like Allison’s option if asking for other references. if her sike experience is being a nanny for a friend, that’s not a lot of experience….

  9. Jellyfish Catcher*

    Same here: trust your gut. We’ve all ignored that at one time or another – and it bounces back on us.
    It’s tough to find a nanny (been there) but keep searching.

    1. TheBunny*

      I ignored my gut when I accepted a job last year. It was a nightmare and I resigned after 8 months.

      Different scenario, but yes trust your gut.

    2. Johanna Cabal*

      I didn’t trust my gut about a prospective candidate and it bit me you know where. Fortunately, the hire (who hardly did any work) barely lasted three weeks…longest three weeks of my life.

  10. bamcheeks*

    I think this is a situation where speaking to two or three previous employers should be your minimum standard, LW. Not only because of the potential for deception, but also because previous employers are so likely to be non-professional managers, and it’s much harder to gauge the difference between “we liked her, for reasons that aren’t necessarily relevant to your family” or vice versa “we didn’t like her, for reasons that aren’t necessarily relevant to your family.” If your candidates don’t have three or four previous nannying employees, by all means ask for volunteering managers or camp counselor managers or whoever else can speak to their work ethic, reliability and relationships with children.

    I’m curious about what kind of conversation you had that didn’t reassure you she definitely had kids, though! For future calls, can you draft some specific questions about how Aurora (or Rapunzel, or Moana, or whoever) handled things like taking kids to sports activities, food likes and dislikes, toddler meltdowns, last minute changes of plan, children wanting to wear inappropriate clothing for the activity/weather, etc? As with interviews, the more detailed your questions are, the harder it is for someone to lie. Not by any means impossible, of course, but coming up with spontanous made-up examples of “how my friend dealt with my imaginary two-year-old’s sudden hatred of bananas” is way, way harder than saying, “yeah, my friend was always on time and my imaginary two-year-old loved her”.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      You make a really good point: childcare is idiosyncratic enough that multiple references are a good idea anyways.

      LW, trust your gut. This doesn’t sound great.

    2. I'm the OP*

      More specific questions is a great idea! I haven’t needed to do that because references from other candidates have been obviously legit. For example, one woman I talked with said she just set her daughter up with a video of Ms. Rachel so she would have a few minutes to chat with me. No one on earth knows who Ms. Rachel is unless you have a child under 5.

      1. Jinni*

        I just googled that and will forever be regretful. I miss somethings about toddler years, but not these kinds of videos. Our Rachel was Coleman and Signing Time…

        More specific questions are great. Honestly I hired a nanny when my kid was 2 weeks old and would never have known what to ask.

      2. Anonychick*

        FWIW, while I agree overall, I think this example isn’t a great one: I have zero kids, and my niblings were just barely too old to be Ms. Rachel fans…yet I know all about her, because posts about her come across my Instagram feed all the time! I have no idea why; maybe my interest in special education makes the algorithm think I have kiddos? But I’m definitely aware enough of her to use her in conversation.

      3. Moose*

        This is absolutely not true. I know who Miss Rachel is and I don’t have children. I do have friends with children. And, if I was going to lie about having worked with kids, I would definitely be throwing in little references like this.

        I agree your interview questions need to be made more specific.

    3. Washi*

      Yeah, I had a friend who was looking for a nanny and she had pretty specific questions that helped her weed out the fake references because they just sounded off compared to other reference calls.

      (Only one candidate gave fake references, but the one who did gave multiple fakes.)

  11. pally*

    Would it be out of line to hire someone to do a background check on Aurora?
    This is your kids’ welfare after all.
    If they come back with not much more than what you have, then go with your gut and pass.

    1. Managing While Female*

      Not out of line at all, but I probably still wouldn’t hire her if she faked her references.

      1. pally*

        Hard agree!

        I’m just wondering if there is a legit reason to explain what the OP found and maybe the background check will yield this (a reason none of us have thought of).

        If the background check yields faked reference, then pass on hiring Aurora. Non-starter there.

    2. Jinni*

      in LA many of the nanny referral places do the background check before you even meet the candidates. (of course there are fees…)

    3. Elsajeni*

      I don’t think it would be out of line, but I also don’t think it would get you much useful information — if they can’t verify her past employment, does that prove it didn’t happen or does it just mean she worked under the table, as a lot of nannies and babysitters do? On the other hand, if it does come back verified, does that make you feel better about the communication issues and the fact that the only two references she gave you are also personal friends? I think you’d mostly be spending some money to end up back where you are now.

  12. Khatul Madame*

    Oh, Aurora. If you are going to lie, cover your tracks better.

    LW, this is a hard pass – your candidate does not have the requisite experience AND is a liar.

    1. Tio*

      Kinda leaning toward this. Like, give your friend an imaginary name, like Jane Smith. Something much harder to verify than with a simple google search!

  13. raincoaster*

    Having worked with various service providing websites and apps, I suggest you look at the requirements and guarantees. Care.com does no vetting as far as I am aware, and makes its money like dating sites by charging people to message prospective clients, while Rover.com requires a criminal record check and insures petsitters while they’re working. If the site insures and screens their workers, that’s a better sign.

    1. Bast*

      There may be some truly amazing candidates on Care.com, but they are really hidden beneath the not so great ones. We tried Care at one point, and went through many, many rocks to find one gemstone. The most common rock would just up and ghost either for the interview or the first day– and then the rocks that showed up! My goodness. We had one woman who decided that caring for kids was “too hard” after a couple of days. One that showed up hung over. Another that was great — until she wasn’t, and started to want more and more time off, and showing up late/leaving early despite the fact that we needed her for work, not for date nights or anything fun, so she knew the exact (standard office hours) that she would be working from the get-go.

        1. Bast*

          We went through many rocks to find a gem on Care, so we eventually did find someone there, who worked out nicely until we moved. She was a single mother who had a daughter our oldest kid’s age, and was looking for a job to keep her daughter with her, so it worked out well. She was organized, upbeat, and always had the kids doing something instead of just TV all day.

          Eventually, we transitioned to Au Pairs and used Go Au Pair. I learned a lot of interviewing from my first Au Pairs there, as there were things I never even thought to think about until they became An Issue with someone, and then I’d attempt to screen for it the next time around. We had different experiences there, varying from the Okay to the Fantastic. The difficult part with certain au pairs was that while they were excellent with the children, some were quite difficult to live with. It would have been a great situation if they went home at the end of the day, but living with them muddied the waters. One example — we made clear in the beginning we have cats, and that if you did not like cats we were not the right fit. One au pair expressed that she was fine with cats, but then began demanding we rehome our cats once she got here because she declared that did not like cats. This was not happening, and resulted in multiple tantrums and melt downs because we refused to get rid of our cats to suit her, and instead suggested rematching. We also had a male au pair who was low key fantastic, very hands on and actually played sports with the boys, and was pretty low maintenance as long as he could order Domino’s and go to the gym regularly.

  14. MsSolo (UK)*

    At least half of the parents I know don’t post any pictures of the kids on social media, so that in itself isn’t a red flag. One of my friend’s has recently adopted a child, and she was advised to change her name on all social media, and to avoid making any reference to being a parent for several years at least – and the name she’s switched to is fairly unique because her surname is pretty uncommon as it is. I think this is less likely in this scenario (adoption is a long and slow process, so the odds of being an adoptive parent in your early twenties are definitely lower), but it’s something to bear in mind when asking for parent references.

    All that said, the friend group thing is a pink flag, at the least, and the long pause before being able to produce a reference is definitely a red one. I’m assuming her application included information about how many families she’d nannied for before – I would definitely be asking for more references and also from any other childcare settings she’s worked in. Because it really feels like she’s padded her resume and been caught out that you asked for references, so scrambled to get a friend to fill in, which speaks very badly to her honesty, which needs to be scrupulous when looking after kids – you need to know that if a kid bumps their head or gets into a cabinet they shouldn’t she’ll tell you immediately, even if she’s at fault. It’s one thing to have no references because you’re looking for your first role (though some childcare experience is really a must before becoming a nanny!), but another to pretend it’s not your first role.

    1. allathian*

      There’s also the idea that kids have the right to create their own online identities as they grow up without having any embarrassing-to-them photos crop up in online searches.

      In France authorities are actively discouraging parents from posting pictures of their kids on social media, and posting a picture of anyone without their explicit permission is a crime that can land you in prison for up to a year. With kids it’s often difficult to judge when they’re actually giving consent voluntarily and when they’re saying yes to a photo being posted because their parents pressure them to do so. And obviously very young children can’t give consent even in theory, which is why parents are expected to act in the best interests of the child.

  15. Sneaky Squirrel*

    If this was a reference for a company where the candidate is handling widgets all day, maybe one questionable reference doesn’t sour the candidate if there’s enough other evidence the candidate can do the work.

    For your personal child’s welfare? If anything smells fishy, pass on it.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah on the whole, I get why the reference system is a crappy one. It gives employers too much power, and I’d say at least 50% of the time they’re just likely to be the crappy one. It stinks that having one bad experience with a boss is basically hanging over your head for the next 5-plus years (because people do sometimes go back – and they can talk to your boss without going through you to do it). I also wish we would stress to potential hiring managers more often to use discretion if they hear a less-than-glowing reference – not everybody is a glowy rock star 100% of the time in every job, especially with lousy management!

      … All that said, yes, this is your child, you probably can’t hire Aurora.

  16. radish*

    On the other side of things, my sister is not the greatest and totally has asked me to fake a reference for a nanny job. I think she’s a good nanny and maybe this is just easier/less anxiety-inducing for her? My impression is that she has happy clients, but my sister is again not the greatest and can be impulsive, immature, and highly emotional. If something looks and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Your kids are too important to play this game of “well maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation.” Ask her for more references and ask questions only a parent could answer.

    1. Sloanicota*

      As a freelancer, I do actually get why it feels tough to tap your clients and ask them to be a reference for you – it’s a different relationship than a former employee, and it feels over the line to ask favors of customers. But, I would give them a friend I actually worked with, not my sister or whatever.

      1. radish*

        Yeah, I don’t approve at all and refused to do it with the excuse that I wouldn’t know how to answer questions. I have zero experience with kids. But my sister should just have asked her current client or something. I don’t know why she didn’t. This parent did do a background check though.

        Of course, it’s always possible that there are details my sister hasn’t told me that would have prevented her from getting a reference. But I think, knowing her, anxiety and shyness probably played the biggest role here.

        I can just say that it sounds highly unlikely to me that Aurora *didn’t* fake her reference.

  17. Can Relate*

    Trust your gut here. I can think of two reasons that might go against the assumption, but both would be things I would be more concerned about in isolation:

    – Some people sound young. Small women with high pitched voices happen, and I have a few friends who struggle with people not taking them seriously because they are in their mid 30s. One gets regularly harassed because strangers think she’s a teen parent!

    – Some people purposefully keep their kids completely off of social media, especially if they are easily searched. Dating also factors into this, with some people not wanting mom to be the first thing people see about them (for better or for worse).

    But the timeline, the concern you feel, and the combination of the factors are reasonable to doubt. If its this concerning already, I would feel alright moving on to other applicants.

  18. Momma Bear*

    Honestly, due to past bad experience I’d say pay the extra to use an agency.

    A lot more parents are cautious about their children on social media, so I wouldn’t flag that. I would, however, be suspicious if you think they’re former classmates and this might be a friend posing as a parent reference. I’d at least want to talk to one of the others. But even before that I’d be concerned about her reliability since she was talking to you about a job and rather than explain right away that there was a family emergency, she waited until you’d almost given up to respond. I’d be worried she’d leave me high and dry with the children unexpectedly. That right there would be a no from me.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Ehh the family emergency didn’t throw me. I mean if I have a family emergency that last thing I am thinking about is notifying a potential employer (if I can even remember who it is) that I am unavailable for a bit due to a family emergency.

      But the whole friend/possible fake reference is a major concern.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing – it’s rather difficult to excuse going radio silent these days. I’ve had candidates do it on roles I’ve recruited, and complete radio silence has almost always been a red flag of more issues down the line. A brief email to the effect of “I have a family emergency and will not be able to respond or meet with you for 2 weeks” is a much better way of managing things in a job hunt situation. Or at least putting an auto response on one’s email to the effect that one is going to be unavailable for 2 weeks.

      While nannying is likely more informal, you expect the person to be highly reliable – managing communications is part of that.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      In a true family emergency you don’t have the presence of mind or energy to try to inform anyone and everyone of why you’re not answering emails. You often don’t know how long the emergency will last either, so it’ not like you can say “I’ll get back to you next week”.

      1. Managing While Female*

        That’s understandable, but I think when someone is an absolute stranger and you’re trying to assess whether they would provide quality, reliable care to your child, you have to look at all the evidence you’re given. Yeah, maybe she really did have a family emergency and couldn’t send a message letting OP know that. However, she doesn’t have enough credibility built up at this point to give her the benefit of the doubt. If communication is an issue right off the bat, maybe it’s just a one-off thing, but it also is just as likely to become a pattern because you literally just don’t know.

        That, combined with the very questionable references, is information OP would be foolish to dismiss especially considering this is someone she needs to trust to take care of her child.

      2. Runcible Wintergreen*

        That’s not a great look for someone who is expected to be the responsible adult in the case of an emergency. What if there’s an emergency with OP’s child and the nanny doesn’t have the presence of mind to call/text? Of course the “obligation” is lower to a potential employer vs an actual child who is in the nanny’s care, but it’s not unfair for OP to consider this data point in their assessment of the nanny.

  19. Managing While Female*

    Yeah, in this situation, your BIGGEST most important responsibility is to your kid. If something feels off, err on the side of not hiring this person. People on this forum often bend-over-backwards trying to find a reasonable explanation and throw doubt into the situation but in a case like this, always err on the side of protecting your kid, rather than giving a stranger the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having a person be responsible for the safety and care of my child if she potentially lied about references.

  20. Mouse named Anon*

    I agree with the above. I am a Mom and try and always follow my gut when it comes to my kids. It has never failed me once.

  21. M2*

    I would keep looking. Too many red flags. Or ask to speak with another child care reference and ask specific questions. You can find ideas online.

    Honestly my friends who paid under the table or low to mid end of salary for nannies didn’t get the best ones. Friends who had au pairs had the issue too. Other people I know who paid above board paid for health care costs, vacation, sick leave, and paid a good salary got good or great nannies. I have the you get what you pay for mentality and I think it’s always better to get the best person you can to watch your kids. Friends who are both surgeons have had the best nanny now for 6.5 years! Her kids are in school FT but they still pay her minimum 40 hours a week (so if she doesn’t use those hours she still gets paid for them) but she’s available if kids are sick, nighttime and getting them ready for school if both parents are called in. They are surgeons so both have excellent salaries, but also demanding schedules.

    On the other side of things can you look at daycares or nurseries? Many now have cameras and those might be a good option too.

    Ask friends and families especially maybe people at a playground with older kids who might know a nanny now that kids are at school. I took my kid to a playground some afternoons and early mornings and met Nannies who knew other people and met some of older kids who would be going to public pre3 so needed more hours. Good luck!

  22. Cat*

    I think there’s an argument to be made for asking outright, in addition to the previously mentioned gut-trusting.

    If there is some simple explanation or mix up, and Aurora is in fact a reliable enough person to be trusted with children, she won’t be offended at being asked for clarification. If she isn’t, Alison is right that any further obfuscation will probably be super obvious.

    I recommend this only because I’ve watched friends look for childcare and absolutely agonize over having so few options! Hope you find the right person soon LW~

  23. Bast*

    If this were any other role, I would advocate giving Aurora the benefit of the doubt, but I agree with Alison that the stakes are just too high with this one. While it’s true that there may be perfectly reasonable explanations for the “holes” (it is becoming more common for people not to post about children online, for fear of predators, or perhaps being someone who just does not get too personal on social media) if there is any doubt in your mind as to whether she is truthful you cannot hire her. I say this as a mother who has hired nannies before, if you have doubts now, they will plague you when you leave your child alone with her. Aurora may be a perfectly lovely person who gave honest references. Aurora may also be someone who fudged her references and still be a lovely person. But you are not hiring Aurora to be an admin assistant or warehouse manager or mechanic; you are hiring her to come into your home while you are not there and take care of your children.

    Flakiness is something I have dealt with child care providers before and try to assess well ahead of time — emergencies happen, but I will never forget hiring a new nanny only to have her flake out on her first day and fall off the radar, right as I started a new job. I was left scrambling with friends and family members trying to fill in the gap, as I was too new to have any PTO and was in fear of being fired for a solid month while I tried to find someone else.

  24. H.Regalis*

    My friends who work in retail and food service give each other fake references all the time. This 100% sounds like that. It’s also a lot easier to get away with there, because it’s not unusual to have managers who are in their late teens-early 20s.

    Trust your gut. You barely know Aurora and you already don’t trust her. That’s not a good sign! This is going to be someone you are trusting to take care of your kids.

    If this weren’t about childcare—for example, if Valentina had pretended to be Aurora’s manager from Restaurant A because the actual manager slept with Aurora’s boyfriend or something—that’s not great but it’s not utterly damning, but this is a situation where the person you’re hiring is alone with vulnerable people all day. The stakes are a lot higher.

      1. Rach*

        Then you should pass and not feel guilty about it. I mention this below in a comment, but well into my 30s callers would ask to speak to my mom, by that time I hate late elementary/middle school aged children. Also, it isn’t unheard of for parents to have zero social media policies for their babies. But none of that matters if you don’t trust this person to watch your children.

        1. Observer*

          But none of that matters if you don’t trust this person to watch your children.


          1. BubbleTea*

            I decided against putting my kid in a specific home daycare because I discovered that the owner and I have very different views on things like vaccinations (and, uh, a lot of conspiracy theories). I don’t especially care whether my mechanic thinks the president of Canada is a lizard person or whatever, but I have much higher standards for someone I’m trusting with my child’s wellbeing.

  25. VeraVerka*

    I know how frustrating it is to pass on a great childcare candidate – but I think you have to. My kids are older now but I learned the hard way that anything but a stellar, specific, and truthful reference from another parent is setting you up for problems. If she really has a lot of experience she will have another parent reference.

  26. lefteye*

    She’s lying. I say this as someone who in my youth routinely acted as a fake reference for a friend (for various food service jobs that wanted job experience not commiserate with the pay rate, and for a highly capable friend who excelled at those jobs once she got in, I feel 0 guilt about helping her lie), it’s much more common than you think. I never did it personally, not because I have a moral stance about it but more that it just never occurs to me lying is an option in those types of circumstances, but plenty of friends did (though typically for lower stakes jobs than nannying), enough that I feel confident in saying that your evidence is sufficient to assume guilt and you should keep looking for other candidates.

  27. Astronaut Barbie*

    I am suspicious not only of that parent reference but the following also-
    1) The coworker reference, since you know they are friends.
    2) Her caregiving philosophy – did she actually explain her philosophy before you told her yours, or did she fake it and agree with you after she knew what you were looking for?
    3) Any child expertise at all, since that parent reference is now questionable.

    1. pally*

      For #2: “the more I talked, the better she sounded.”

      It’s hard with interviewing. Sometimes it is just easier to agree with the interviewer. Because disagreements will cost one the job. For sure.

      Not that this excuses anything.

  28. MistOrMister*

    Am I the only one absolutely in love with the name Valentina Picklebrush?!

    I think when it comes to your children you can’t be too careful. It is certainly possible that there is an explanation for why the reference doesn’t seem to be a mother, but I would be inclined to trust my instincts. There are so many people out there who will put down friends as a professional reference and the friend will lie about where they worked/what their job was. I think asking for another reference would be the way to go.

  29. anonny*

    The sad truth is, you can pay for references and fake certifications/diplomas. She didn’t even do that right.
    Maybe go through an agency that can provide someone with experience and references? It can be harder doing all this yourself.
    But whomever you go with, I would install nanny cams because you just never know.

  30. Gimme all you got*

    I would pass on Aurora for all the reasons stated, but also because she clearly bungled this assignment.

    You don’t give a fake reference but then tell that person to use their real name! You also prep them – you need a backstory – two kids, Dylan’s 4 and Madison’s 2.

  31. TheBunny*

    I agree with Alison. In this instance as this is definitely concerning.

    But this is also why I’m not a big fan of references in general. Not that I don’t think they will be a good source of data, but because people are awful for all sorts of motivations that have very little to do with the job performance of someone. There could be reasons she’s using what seems to be (and very likely is) a false reference.

    I resigned on good terms at my last position. I gave notice, completed my exit interview, did what I could to support on my way out and worked my entire notice period. I was invited to come back for an event I planned and still keep in contact with some of those coworkers.

    My boss literally stopped speaking to me after I resigned. She was…sort of…polite when there were witnesses, but she literally fled from rooms when I was the only other person present.

    Putting someone down who wasn’t my boss at that position is going to cause questions. Explaining this is both going to make me look bad AND to make it worse she was mostly mad because replacing me was going to be very difficult… for reasons I literally can’t discuss due to an NDA.

    If I’m one of the final candidates for a position in the future, all of this is going to be a black mark on me even though all I did wrong was to find a new job.

    So I really do think one should take references with a grain of salt and when something seems odd please make sure you keep an open mind allow the person a chance to explain or clarify references.

    1. I'm the OP*

      Definitely! If she’d told me from the beginning that she didn’t have great references and explained why, I would have taken that into account. (Maybe her last boss sexually harassed her? Maybe she had a medical crisis and had to leave them in the lurch? Maybe she just wasn’t a great fit for their family because of reasons, but she learned from that experience and is now going in a different direction? There are tons of reasons why people might not have a lot of references or might not have a great reference from their last job. But I would have needed her to be honest about that.)

    2. Hydrangea MacDuff*

      I recently was hiring and had someone’s former boss just…straight up refuse to be a reference. Like, I reached her on the phone, and she just said “I’m too busy, and Candidate didn’t do me the courtesy of letting me know she was listing me as a reference, so I decline to provide one.”
      In that case I had a different reference I could call, though less relevant to the job, but I did let the candidate know so she could update her file—that was an awkward phone call! I ended up hiring a different candidate, who had been my top choice anyway, but I felt bad for the other person.

      It was so odd. Part of being a supervisor is expecting to be a reference on occasion for former employees!

  32. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    A woman I met once put my name down as a reference for a child minding job, and didn’t even ask me if she could. I got a phone call out of the blue and was completely honest, explaining that I barely knew the woman, and that I didn’t even have children (I was expecting my first at that point). The mother seemed hesitant, asking “but do you think she might be OK as a childminder? I don’t really have any other decent candidates”, and I asked her “how could you ever believe anything she said? She’ll be caring for a baby who can’t speak yet”. NB nanny cams are not allowed here, it’s considered an intrusion in privacy.
    It sounds like the “ghosting” period was just before she managed to find the “young mother”? She took a long time to persuade her friend to pretend to be a mother!

  33. Alex*

    The stakes are too high here to take a risk. The worst that can happen if you’re wrong but don’t believe her is you lose a good candidate. But the worst that can happen if you are right but put aside your reservations are…well, who knows.

    Unless there is some really good explanation, it should be really easy to get references from former employers if she has been employed as a nanny before. Easier than office jobs! Nannies typically have their employers’ personal phone numbers and contact info (because that is what they used to communicate with them while working), and it’s not like parents “move on” from being a parent and can’t be reached, like office managers might. If Aurora has fishy explanations for why she can’t give X or Y reference…well, I’d move on. There are other nannies out there.

  34. Hyaline*

    Honestly–skip the extra checking around and just go with someone else. The stakes are too high, you’re on alert already with this person, even if another reference checks out, you may never feel completely comfortable. Any hint that someone is lying when it comes to workin with kids is just bad news, because young kids can’t speak for themselves. You have to be able to trust someone implicitly when it comes to caring for your kids, and I would not be able to do that with this person. Unfair? Don’t care, actually.

    There are other good candidates; the worst you risk not going with Aurora is that she would have been a great nanny, but there are lots of other great nannies out there.

  35. Kitano*

    Go with someone else – putting aside all the orange/red flags, you are nervous about her. That will weigh on your mind while you’re working, making you less effective and more stressed. It honestly defeats the pount of even hiring someone in the first place. Go with a second choice who is reliable and honest, even if their parenting philosophy is slightly different. It’s better for you to know that your kid is in good hands so you can focus 100% on work, even if those hands are a little stricter or more lenient than you’d ideally prefer

  36. Observer*

    I’m torn here. On the one hand, the stakes a just SO high, that you really have to trust your gut. And the friend group thing is a bit of a red flag, because even if the job was legit, a friend might give a better reference than was warranted.

    But the age thing? I had my first kid before my 23rd Birthday, and many of my friends (and my siblings) had children even younger. Same for my kids and their cohort. And many of them are professionals. So the fact that the parent may be in her 20’s just doesn’t mean anything to me. Similar with the social media stuff. My public facing social media would never have lead you to believe that I had kids. And I know I’m not alone.

    I think that if you can get a second reference, that would be great. A couple of questions that I always asked:

    How did you come to hire her?
    Why is she no longer working for you?

  37. Mary Poppins*

    This is your KID. Don’t take chances. Don’t be afraid to “look like a loon” by asking questions. Move on from this red flag person. Do a criminal background check on any nanny you hire.

  38. Rach*

    I’m now in my early 40s and no longer have a house phone, but, when I did, I routinely got asked if my mom was home well into my 30s when I had late elementary aged children. It was very annoying.

    Anyway, there are other flags and asking for clarification from the applicant and another reference is warranted, especially since children are involved.

  39. BellyButton*

    I would ask her about it. I remember what it was like back in my late teens and early 20s when I was a Nanny and had a couple of really bad experiences with the parents. I knew they wouldn’t give me a good reference. I remember feeling like it was my fault- and of course now looking back, I know better. I never lied about it, but I wonder if she found herself in a bad situation and doesn’t know how to talk about it. No excuse for lying, but it might be the why behind the lie.

    This may not be a popular opinion- I might still consider hiring her if she comes clean and explains about her last nanny position and what happened. What if the father hit on her, what if the mother had unreasonable expectations (like the time I got fired because I put the wrong colored toilet paper in the child’s bathroom) what if the children were holy terrors with no rules or respect– the question would be can you believe her? Is she genuine, does her story sound plausible? Maybe I am too trusting, or maybe it is just from so many years of bad bosses, remembering what it was like to be young and not knowing how to handle tough situations, maybe it’s because of my job in people development and seeing how young people handle difficult situations.

    I am not a big fan of manager reference checks. I know throughout my 25+ years in the professional world I have had some really bad bosses, some who had no clue what I did, who threw me under the bus to cover themselves, who stole my work. I feel like I learn more from peer to peer references (not the nanny’s FRIEND, but a professional team member) and people they collaborated with outside their own team.

    1. Managing While Female*

      I get what you’re saying, but OP’s responsibility here is to keep her child safe. In other situations, I can see giving her a chance, but not when her child’s safety is on the line. There’s too much that could happen. And the question of whether OP can believe her? Well, she’s already lied, so the trust has already been broken. Maybe she has a good story or maybe it’s just that – a story. There’s just no room for doubt in childcare.

    2. Bast*

      As a mother who has hired au pairs and nannies for my child, I understand that not all situations are ideal. There are some places where anyone that is viewed as “the help” is treated as less than human, which is appalling. I’ve heard of live in nannies/au pairs being promised a bedroom and instead set up in a laundry room or closet, having their hours lied about, being treated as maids and personal assistants instead of as a child care worker first and foremost, being screamed at, being sexually harassed, etc. I can usually get a decent feel speaking to the other parent if they are unreasonable and if their complaints are valid vs. “Who does she think she IS using the regular bathroom and not the STAFF bathroom in the back?” You do not want to work for the latter, and will have dodged a bullet. I have also been called as a reference and been completely honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly, because what is a big deal to me (such as being a poor driver) may not be a big deal to someone in the city, where public transit is more frequently used. There are plenty of valid complaints that make someone a bad fit for one person that may not for another, and that’s why I’d advocate for people looking for a child care position to just come clean and be honest about what/why the last position did not work. Telling me that your old boss made you work a 60 hour week regularly when you were promised 40 is a valid complaint. Stating that working with infants was more intense than you realized initially and that you prefer working with kids 5+ is a reasonable preference. Being honest and coming clean is more likely to get you the position than lying ever will, and lies have a way of coming out. This is a position that requires more trust than your average job.

  40. Dinwar*

    Trust is gone. Whether or not this person was honest, they appear to be dishonest and that’s enough in this case. If you do hire this person you are going to be questioning every decision this person makes, and every decision they DON’T make, and every moment they are not in your sight. That means that this person is not doing the job. They’re making your life harder, not easier.

    Reminds me of a sparring match I had once. I landed a blow, and the guy stopped to consider it, because it was borderline whether it was a good blow or not. I told him to not count it; it’s my job to make sure there is no doubt. I ended up losing the match, but won in honor. Same principle applies here: It’s the interviewee’s job to make sure the prospective employer is comfortable with hiring them. If there’s ANY doubt about integrity they shouldn’t be hired, full stop. If she’s being honest it sort of sucks for her, but this is a good lesson in maturity, professionalism, and how one presents one’s self.

  41. Crencestre*

    I’m on the “go with your intuition” team here: Aurora may indeed be Mary Poppins II, but it doesn’t sound as if you can trust her word – and the stakes couldn’t be higher!

    That being said; People DO sometimes look and sound much, much younger than their actual age. Decades ago, I was in a store and asked one of the saleswomen to show me something I wanted to buy for my husband. A customer nearby turned to her friend and “whispered” “That child can’t be old enough to be married!” I was 31!

    1. BubbleTea*

      Mary Poppins (from the original book) was MEAN. She lied to the children and put them in danger a lot. Don’t hire Mary Poppins either.

    2. Bast*

      Yes, I’ve been told I “didn’t look a day over 16” when I was 30. I was in my OBGYN’s office trying to refill my birth control and she kept insisting there was no way I was old enough to have 3 kids because I “looked like a teenager.” I’d say I can pass for 25 perhaps at the youngest, definitely not 16, or 18… those days are sadly long gone.

    3. pally*

      I’m told I have a Disney voice. It sounds very much like a very meek and childlike character.

      Kinda disconcerting coming from a 60-year-old woman.

  42. nonprofit writer*

    OP, I just want to say that I really feel for you. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how hard it is to find a nanny. But I’ve had a similar experience to yours and it didn’t turn out well. Actually, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but it happened twice with two different part-time nannies. I won’t go into details, but in retrospect I wish I’d trusted my gut more with the references. My kids were not harmed but both situations did not work out. The first one, I’m pretty sure did what your candidate did and gave me a friend as a reference. With the second one, I got 3 references and it seemed above board, but none of them were really as enthusiastic as they should have been, and when we started having issues with her, I realized that at least one of her references had been alluding to these same issues (too subtly!) Go with your gut. I really hope you can find someone great soon.

    1. I'm the OP*

      Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened to you! Thank you for sharing. It’s so hard to trust someone to take care of your child and my gut is telling me this is not a good situation.

    2. anon here*

      If it’s any consolation, I literally hired my kid’s daycare teacher (she had to leave the daycare because her kid was in virtual school during Covid, so we hired her part-time and told her she could bring her daughter) and we still had reliability/communication problems.

      Childcare’s just hard.

  43. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I don’t have kids but I do have a past of making decisions I’ve badly regretted due to not going with my gut instinct.

    When it comes to family and love there’s a social pressure, especially on women, to ‘give everyone a fair chance’ or ‘they just need an opportunity to change’ so when your gut instinct comes up against that conditioning it’s very hard.

    But here’s the thing: you’re not obliged to give everyone a chance. Speaking as a reformed manipulative liar this Auroa person is ringing a lot of my ‘oh I know those tactics’ bells.

  44. Audrey*

    As someone who has hired a lot of babysitters, there are a lot of really great ones out there! Don’t settle for one that has your gut feeling off.

  45. anon for this1*

    I read advice, during a similar childcare search, to deliberately ask questions with incorrect details during the reference check so as to confirm the candidate’s story.

    So: “You’re the family with the pre-school boy in Medford?” – hopefully you get a correction, “No we’re the family with the 10 month old girl in Cambridge.” If not, well, there’s the red flag.

  46. ArcticGlimmer*

    I too say trust your gut.

    But I have to say as an almost 40-year-old person: I never post my kids on socials and I regularly get perceived as being in my twenties mostly based in my voice that we need to be mindful about our prejudices.

  47. boof*

    Sorry LW, it sucks so much to be stuck searching for childcare you feel good about. I at least don’t have any disaster stories to relate, but I’d agree you either need to ask them for references you feel are accurate or just pass because at this point something seems fishy and when it comes to someone caring for your kid there’s no such thing as a “white lie” IMHO. Either they tell you the truth even if it doesn’t make them look the best or they don’t.

  48. ReallyBadPerson*

    I would not hire Aurora. This is not a benefit of the doubt situation. This person will be alone with your child. Years ago, I had similar concerns about a nanny candidate who seemed really great, but had sketchy references. I picked someone else (who also turned out not to be great, but she did follow the rules), and later read that the candidate I rejected was pulled over for strapping a toddler in a seat belt instead of her car seat. Your instincts matter.

  49. They Don’t Make Sunday*

    This happened to me. I was checking references to do a nanny share. The other mom called one reference and I called the other. The other mom said the first reference was great. The one I called was supposed to be the nanny’s current family, but nothing about what they said added up. There were other small signs that in combination with the reference made me sure that there was something dishonest going on. Her third reference was someone on care.com, and when I asked for contact info, the nanny said it was “just on care.com”—meaning the one-sentence review was meant to be a “reference.” At the interview she showed some certifications and letters in a binder. I asked to see the CPR certification, so she took it out. Once I could look at the back, I could see it had expired years before. She seemed to be counting on people going through the motions but not looking too closely.

  50. Pet Parent*

    I ask for more than one reference even for a dog sitter if they weren’t recommended to me by someone I know really well. Dog sitters are happy to give me 2-3 references, and sometimes it’s the conversation with the third reference that brings up a red flag that’s a deal breaker for me. I would 1000% ask for multiple references if I had kids and needed childcare. Don’t feel bad about asking for more references. It feels awkward, but it’s so helpful in making a decision!

  51. Tiger Snake*

    Hypothetically, its possible that you are being too protective and have too high expectations OOP. But, even in that situation – not only is AAM not going to be able to determine that, but us saying that would not do anything to absolve your concerns. This group on the internet isn’t going to make you feel any more comfortable with the nanny than anything you’ve already done.

    And at the end of the day; you don’t feel comfortable with Aurora? Nannying is such a personal job that the personality type and connection matters a lot. If she looks good on paper but you still aren’t comfortable, then she can be great at her job but not the right fit for you.

    So then; is getting a second reference or an explanation about the parent really going to make you feel comfortable? Or have you reached an impasse where there’s not actually anything Aurora could do, and the goalposts would just keep moving because of that gut feeling?

  52. OldHat*

    There might be a situation that I haven’t seen in the comment. It’s possible that Valentina is or was the step mom. That might explain the lack of mention of being a parent, especially if there has been a breakup and purging of social media. It’s possible that Valentina was pretty hands off or had the kids part time. Either situation would warrant more digging.

  53. uncivil servant*

    She had great experience, special expertise, and her caregiving philosophy matched mine.

    Those things are very easy to have when you make them up! Even the caregiving philosophy is likely to hit some roadblocks when she encounters real kids.

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