NY Nanny: Preventing a Parents’ Worst Nightmareby Rosalind Prather on Nov. 09, 2012, under Uncategorized
The slayings of two beautiful children in New York by their nanny has horrified parents across the country. Such a gruesome story has also forced parents to think about the unthinkable and consider whether or not the precautions they have taken to ensure the safety of their children are adequate. Until law enforcement officials release additional information, we can only speculate regarding the motive or what, if anything, could have been done to avoid this tragedy. But aside from the details in this particular case, the fact remains that parents can’t be too vigilant when it comes to screening their own child care providers.
Most people involved in the nanny industry would agree that it lacks necessary regulation. Currently, anyone can call themselves a nanny and the invention of online nanny finder sites only makes it easier for potentially harmful people to pose as a qualified and safe child care provider. Jordan Liu, a babysitter with a care provider profile on sittercity.com and care.com, was arrested in 2011 for molesting two children in his care. He had apparently passed numerous background checks conducted by the online nanny locator sites his profile was listed on. I have personally encountered nannies who have also passed these background checks but have failed a more thorough background investigation. While many wonderful nannies and sitters have profiles on these sites, the risk may be too great for parents to rely completely on the self-proclaimed qualifications and accolades presented in these online profiles.
Thankfully, organizations like the International Nanny Association are making efforts to professionalize the nanny industry by setting high standards for both nannies and nanny agencies. Good nanny agencies will usually go beyond a standard background check and will also require that an applicant be fingerprinted, pass drug tests or personality-based tests and some nannies found through agencies will also be bonded and insured. One may also argue that industry professionals have been able to fine tune their intuition when it comes to weeding out bad candidates since they meet and interview hundreds and hundreds of candidates each year. They simply know what to look for when it comes to identifying some of the personality traits or warning signs that may not be apparent on paper or be revealed in a background check. Unsuspecting or inexperienced parents on the other hand are less likely to pick up on these nuances, especially when the nanny they are considering was referred by someone they trust. In this case, many families forgo a background check or reference checks altogether. Neglecting to do so can have disastrous consequences.
Crimes such as the ones in New York by caregivers against their charges are extremely rare. But parents should think beyond those worst case scenarios. A nanny who verbally or emotionally abuses children, a nanny who steals, a nanny who neglects the children in her care or fails to uphold the parents’ wishes while they are away—all of these situations can be seriously harmful, too. So what is a family to do?
According to INA, families who choose to find a nanny on their own, whether through an online site or through referrals from friends, should conduct their own background check and screening process on any candidate they consider for employment. Parents should, “Verify and authenticate a nanny candidate’s identity to ensure that the candidate is using real and accurate information about his or her own identity, verify employment and educational history and applicable credentials and licenses, perform state and county criminal record searches for every jurisdiction where the candidate has worked and lived, using any and all names the candidate has used, for at least the past seven years, depending upon applicable state laws, perform a sex offender registry search for all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam, review the candidate’s driving record,” and more. (www.nanny.org)
As a nanny and as a mother, my heart breaks for the parents of the children who lost their lives at the hands of the nanny they trusted. The pictures displaying the grieving mother’s agony resonate with parents everywhere. What could be more devastating than to come home to find such a scene? Parents will never be able to protect their babies from all harm and even when we take all precautions, we can’t always predict or avoid evil of this magnitude. But educating ourselves on resources available may make all the difference. May those precious babies rest in peace.
For more information on best safety practices for families and nannies, the International Nanny Association is an excellent resource. INA is a non-profit dedicated to professionalizing the nanny industry and making the process of finding a nanny safer for all parties involved.
Rosalind Prather, a local “momtrepreneur,” is a former professional nanny and currently co-owns Trusting Connections, Tucson’s premier nanny agency. For more information visit www.trustingconnections.com.