With the Killer Nanny trial underway, NYC parents are reassessing how they hire nannies and keeping an eye out for warning signs that their caretakers could become unhinged.
Limor Weinstein, who has a nanny consulting business in Manhattan, says she’s had more clients sending their nannies in for psych evaluations ever since Yoselyn Ortega’s trial commenced March 1 for the 2012 murders of Lucia, 6, and Leo Krim, 2.
“They want to have a professional reviewing their nanny and their mental history to make sure they don’t have any demons in their closet,” said Weinstein.
For $450, Weinstein will conduct a general screening and check references, as well as a candidate’s social media presence. A mental health assessment interview by a licensed professional is an additional $450, plus an extra $200 for a personality test.
“There are so many mentally unstable nannies it scares me,” said Weinstein, a psychotherapist who served as a commander in the Israeli military. On Friday morning, Weinstein said she received a text from an interviewee canceling her assessment because she was having a panic attack stemming from sexual abuse she endured as a teenager.
“I almost called 911 on her,” said Weinstein, who says the week prior another nanny, who had attended a nanny-training class of Weinstein’s months earlier, called her at 10:30 p.m. to tell Weinstein that she was feeling depressed.
“I was thinking about the nanny on the Upper West Side and I was like, ‘Oh my God, what if I hang up and she kills someone?’ I ended up calling her the next day to make sure the family is safe and she’s safe.”
For Corinne Jarvis, a speech language pathologist and mother of three, the trial was a reminder of how important it was to go the extra step when vetting potential hires.
“It seems like a no-brainer,” said Jarvis, who moved back to the Upper East Side last year from Oregon, and has been searching for a nanny since early March.
She decided to hire Weinstein to help with her search, particularly because of the mental health evaluation.
“It makes me feel more secure,” she said. “I think a lot of parents are really desperate to find a nanny. It’s a constant pressure, like finding the right school. It’s something, as a parent, that is the top priority and they panic, because when you need that person, you don’t always take the time to go in-depth enough into someone’s history and health.”
While it’s technically illegal to ask job candidates about their medications and whether they take anything for depression or anxiety, one woman, who owns a nanny agency in NYC, still does so.
“I want to get down to the nitty gritty to how mentally stable they are. If they are on a dose, what dose are they on? If they are taking something, are they taking care of themselves?” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.
Weinstein says she even advises suspicious parents to go through their nannies’ bags.
“It’s okay if you have medication, but look to see if it’s from different doctors or it’s not the nanny’s name on the containers,” she warned.
Deb Crisford, who owns a nanny placement service Crisford & Co. in Manhattan, said she’s seen more people requesting credit checks since the trial began. “It really comes down to seeing how somebody handles themselves financially and how they keep themselves together in the city,” said
Crisford, who says she’s seeing more people seeking nannies with legal immigration status than ever before.
“How else are you going to run a criminal background check on a candidate?” she asked.
But as Jarvis points, out, all the due diligence in the world can’t provide full-proof protection.
“At the end of the day, a lot of people who have mental health issues are hiding them,” she said.
I certainly did, but fortunately, it was Pal Nancy who volunteered to stay home with kids.