Important Reminder: Nanny Update

An important email PSP sent to members on January 19, 2014 about recent trouble we've experienced with nannies in Park Slope.

 

Dear PSP Community,

Let us start by saying--- the overwhelming majority of nannies and house cleaners are honest, trustworthy, and reliable. We start with that fact since listing situations where people are less than honest may make these situations seem more common than they are. We felt, however, that it was important to share these recent situations with you as a reminder to do your due diligence when it comes hiring someone to work in your home. Here are some situations that occurred within the PSP community over the past year:

--Nannies fired for stealing. There are two cases that we were alerted to. In one case an employer was suspicious that the nanny was stealing things such as jewelry, socks, and underwear. The employer confronted the nanny (after contacting the 78th precinct, who said they receive quite a few inquiries about this). The nanny confessed and returned many of the family’s items (via a pawn broker). Needless to say, the family was left shaken. In the end the employer did not file charges against the nanny.

In the second case the nanny was suspected of stealing, it was confirmed, the nanny has been arrested and a court date has been set. (NOTE: Neither nanny was hired off the PSP Classifieds and in the second case the employer felt that since the website they used did a background check they didn’t need to do further investigation. Upon some Googling it was clear that there were red flags they should have spotted.)

--Nanny and disappearing liquor. An employer suspected a nanny of stealing cognac out of the liquor cabinet. Her hunch was correct and the nanny was fired.

--Nanny not stealing, but nanny’s friend was. There was an employer who suspected her nanny of stealing but it turned out it was another nanny who was at the house for a play date who was stealing.

--Snooping software installed on a nanny’s phone. Someone on one of our baby groups posted that they helped a nanny remove snooping software that tracks texts, phone calls, etc. that was installed by the nanny’s employer.

--False posts and illegitimate references. A caregiver signed up as multiple references and posted recommendations about her ‘great nanny’-- herself. Upon confrontation by Park Slope Parents & intervention with the DA, she claimed she had their permission to post on their behalf. None of the recommenders ever came forward or contacted us to corroborate. The caregiver and the other identities/aliases are banned from PSP and all her recommendations purged.

--Nanny hired based on a false references. A nanny (previously banned from PSP) contacted someone who posted an “ISO Nanny post.” The nanny offered references that didn’t quite check out but somehow seemed “reasonable enough”. It turns out the employer hired the nanny through false references. Upon discovery, the employer fired the nanny “with cause.” The nanny is now seeking unemployment and the employer is dealing with the Department of Labor to fight the case.

What can be done?

Park Slope Parents continually does its best to screen posts and catch fake references. We vet our posts for authenticity, matching our records with information submitted, cross-checking with other posts made by the employer, searching Craigslist, Facebook and even LinkedIn to validate identities. If questionable, we contact the reference/employer for verification. Moreover, false nanny posts are considered “false advertising” under Section 190.20 of the New York State Penal Law, which is a Class A misdemeanor and punishable to up to a year in jail. We work closely with the 78th Precinct, the District Attorney’s office, and Brad Lander’s office to make sure that we are doing what we can to protect the community from false advertising - especially as it involves our children’s safety.

We do not have a “Black List” of nannies-- it’s legally and morally problematic (even the blog “I Saw Your Nanny” is no longer active). We do not condone snooping software and nanny cams (we feel you should inform them), although we understand there may be incidents where this is necessary. We DO reach out to employers if there is illegal behavior (like stealing) to see if we can help. However it is ultimately up to the employer to press charges (or not).

You need to do your part. While it can be uncomfortable checking up on someone who seems perfectly nice, has worked for a friend, or is a friend of a friend, it’s a discomfort you should overcome to keep your children (as well as your belongings and home) safe. If something does happen and you just “want the situation over with”, charging someone with a crime is a great way to help keep a searchable paper trail on people who are behaving illegally while protecting other families from falling victim to the same crime in the future.

Here is a checklist of things YOU CAN DO to avoid hiring nannies/caregivers who may be problematic

-Check multiple references, meeting them in person if possible. Ask detailed questions and request examples of their "glowing" abilities. If they can't come up with specific examples you may have a ringer. Do not rely on written recommendations.

-Search Google, Craigslist, Facebook, and LinkedIn for references to the nanny’s identity

-Search Google, Craigslist, Facebook, and LinkedIn for references to the reference’s identity. Knowing more about who has employed the nanny in the past can give you insight into the type of situation in which the nanny worked and the people the nanny worked for.

-Do your own investigation, even if you are using a service or website who conducts “background checks.” Background checks may only reveal convictions and not arrests, and for someone who will work in your home you probably want to know about both. Knowing as much as you can helps you make informed decisions.

-Rely on employers to contact you rather than nannies themselves on Park Slope Parents. Recommenders are NOT supposed to be forwarding your information to their nanny but contacting potential employers directly.

-Request an ID and documentation of potential employees to confirm identity and address. If they indicate they use multiple names (married, nickname, etc.) ask for documentation and keep a record of it.

-Consider asking for a reference beyond the employer. If they have past work experience outside of being a nanny, ask for a reference from a former boss. If they have been in school, ask to speak with a former teacher.

-Alter details when you talk to the references and see if the reference corrects you. Consider changing the age or sex of the children or where the people live ("You are the family in Cobble Hill, right?”). If they don't correct or catch the error this is a big red flag.

-Ask the references about where they had put up advertisements and recommendations for the nanny.

-Do a background check. Although this has limitations it can be illuminating and money well spent.

-Double check facts given by the nanny and the reference about the working situation (e.g., names/ages of children, dates worked, employers' job, etc.).

-Ask tough questions, even if it’s uncomfortable.

 

It’s also important to be smart and safe in your home. While you may trust your nanny, you may not always know who comes to drop off or pick up your kids from a play date. Here are some reminders:

Hide valuables. Keep valuables out of sight and keep things in places that don’t invite temptation.

Mark your valuables (use a police engraver when possible). The NYPD has an Operation ID program where they will lend you their engraver.

Conceal prescriptions. If you have medications that are re-sellable, consider buying a small box with a lock to store prescription medications. At the very least keep them out of sight.

Limit key access. Keep access to your apartment limited and inventory your keys. (Some nannies actually don’t want to keep a key to their employer’s apartment so they won’t be suspect if something happens.)

Have emergency contact numbers. Ask for an emergency number for your nanny. It could save their life or could help you track down a problem person.

Do random spot checks. Come home (or to a class, or the park) at times the nanny is not expecting it.

Talk to your local NYPD Precinct Community Affairs Officer. They can help guide you through your options if you run into issues related to criminal activity.

FINALLY--- Don’t shrug off that uneasy feeling. Do trust your instincts if you feel something isn’t quite right. Investigate until you feel that you are satisfied. Even people we trust can turn out to be deceiving us.

 

We hope that you all have fabulous relationships with your nannies or house cleaners free of incident. These incidents are few and far between, but taking the right precautions will help alleviate much of the worry. Finally, trusting your gut when things seem amiss will help keep everyone safe!

 

Susan Fox
Founder, Park Slope Parents

&

Melissa De Witte
Nanny Moderator