Parents from around the country are horrified by the news in New York City that a nanny, entrusted with the care of three children, allegedly stabbed two of them to death Thursday, then reportedly attempted to take her own life.
The children's mother, Marina Krim, returned to her luxury apartment with her 3-year old daughter Nessie after a swim lesson to find her 6-year-old daughter Lucia and 1-year-old son Leo bleeding to death in the bathtub. The nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, a woman in her 50s who had worked for the family for more than a year, stabbed herself in front of the mother, according to New York City police. Neighbors heard the screams of the 34-year-old mother, "You slit her throat."
Relatives of the nanny said she had worked for the Krims for more than a year and they had been careful hiring her. The Krims had even visited Ortega's family in the Dominican Republic. Neighbor Marcellina Lovera told ABCNews.com today, "I knew them for more than 20 years. And she's really nice. I'm in shock. It's out of this world. There was nothing to make me think she would do this. Nothing." Every day working parents entrust their children to the care of others in day care centers, in the homes of babysitters and in their own homes with nannies.
Today they are wondering how a parent could possibly know if their child is in the hands of someone who is mentally unstable. "This is beyond devastating and a nightmare," said Denise Albert, the mother of two boys who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near where the murders took place in a doorman apartment. "We walked by last night – it was in our neighborhood, close to home … There are no words."
Albert, co-creator of The Moms, a website that caters to parenting, is familiar with what she calls "nanny drama," when her children were younger. Albert, 38, fired a nanny after being with the family for more than three years. "Two other nannies said they couldn't lie for her anymore about where she was taking our son every day," she said. Albert's nanny wasn't truthful about where she was during the day with the child.
Now Albert uses college-age babysitters. "The big problem is there isn't enough vetting," she said. "In the past, I always used word of mouth. Parents in the neighborhood never went to an agency. I've gone through references, but if someone worked for someone for five years, that sounded good to me." "It's a real problem – and a daily conversation for working parents who are watching this story. What are we supposed to do?" said Albert. "I am sure this family never had reason to believe they couldn't trust this person. It's like school shootings, you drop your kids off at school and expect them to be safe."
Ron Book, a Miami lawyer, did all the right things when he hired a nanny from an agency more than a decade ago. But for six years the nanny, Waldina Flores, sexuality molested his young daughter Lauren from the time she was 11. "For years, I suffered the worst thing a parent could be exposed to – a child abuser," said Book. "I call all her references and interviewed women. We did our due diligence – all the things you should do." By 17, Lauren spoke up and Flores was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In the aftermath of the trauma, Lauren, now 28, and her father founded Lauren's Kids Foundation, which helps families and victims deal with abuse.
Book recommends parents insist on psychological testing before hiring someone to take care of their children. "It might give you the information that this person is a predator – that this person is off balance," he said. "It makes a difference, I tell parents every day." He also recommends using cameras in the house, and not just in the main area, but in bathrooms and closets. "You should not be ashamed of being paranoid," said Book. "You do what you have to do to make sure you are cutting any opportunity for harm to come to the kids when you trust them, to anyone other than a family member." In her book, "It's OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery," Lauren urges children to speak up when they are uncomfortable with a caregiver.
Talking to Children About the Murders
After the Krim murders, mother Denise Albert told her 7-year-old son about the tragedy. "Our older son reads the newspaper and is inquisitive," she said. "Our biggest fear was that he would hear from someone else. My kids have a babysitter. They need to know that they are OK. I needed to tell him to be very careful."
One of the largest hiring firms in the country The Pavillion and its specialty agency The nanny Authority, say that they exclude about 90 percent of all applicants for childcare positions. "We have built our company maintaining the very highest standards," said President Cliff Greenhouse, who is based New York City. "We are beyond strict. We won't see anyone without a complete accurate resume that does not have any gaps. The must display that they have long-term experience and stability – and are not here six months and there another six months."
The company prefers nannies who have worked for families for a minimum of two years and preferably five. And they recommend prospective families contact those who have worked with the nanny previously. They do not require psychological testing, according to Greenhouse, but many families opt to do that on their own. "We do not place people who have not gone through an in-depth interview with us," he said. "We look right in the eye and display that we care about them. And we do … Everyone here is passionate about helping families and finding caregivers that are the right match."
But ultimately, the employer makes the decision about who they will hire to work in their home with their children, according to Greenhouse. And most, like his company interviewers, "go by our instincts." Greenhouse said he was personally affected by the Krim murders. "It hit close to home, not just as owner of an ad agency, but as parents – I've got three of my own. My wife and I were literally crying all night, it was so sad." But Kelly Wickham, editor of the blog Mocha Momma, and an assistant principal at a middle school, said society is hard on working mothers who bear the brunt of the guilt when something does go terribly wrong.
The 41-year-old from Springfield, Ill., raised four children with the help of a nanny. "She came into our lives with a certain amount of trust from a trusted friend, another mom," she said. "We had no problem and the children adored her."
But Wickham acknowledges that the family knew nothing of the nanny's past and put her under more scrutiny than a babysitter. "What was she like with children?" they asked the prospective nanny. "Did she want children of her own? She was a single mom at the time. Whether her family was close and how would she interacted with our children. She must have a healthy sense of family and what belongs to her and what belongs to our family."
Still, she said people should not judge parents or nannies too harshly. "And what happens when the kid is lost at the park -- it's no different from than me losing my own children at the park,' said Wickham. "I think that we need to be careful not to judge so quickly nannies and the people who use them. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and beat up on moms." And regulations won't solve the problem, according to Wickham. "People trust in their family and friends for names more than an agency," she said. "It doesn't fix the issue. It could happen to my own children. You cannot control it when someone goes off the deep end. I feel bad for the mother and father. They probably didn't see the signs coming." "At the time, you don't think – is this a psycho person?" said Wickham. "But it's a fear we all have. Are our children going to be safe and being cared for?"