Nannies Under Suspicion

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After an Upper West Side nanny allegedly murdered two young children last year, parents and nannies navigate the lingering fears and tensions By Amy Eley Kyrie Vickers, 25, spends weekday afternoons playing with the 1-year-old boy she cares for in an Upper West Side apartment. Vickers and the boy play only blocks away from the apartment where a nanny allegedly killed two children last year. "I think it's affected me more than my employers, to be honest," Vickers said. "To know that I'm in the same position that woman was in. I cannot imagine having that state of mind." Since nanny Yoselyn Ortega allegedly stabbed her two young charges to death on the Upper West Side last fall, parents throughout the city have been more anxious about childcare. "The world is watching," said Valerie Gerstein, a mother of two who runs a blog for families on the Upper West Side. "If something's going to happen, it should be in this community." Ortega worked for Kevin and Marina Krim for two and a half years as a nanny, watching their three children, Lucia, Nessie and Leo. On Oct, 25, Marina came home to the family's apartment at 57 W. 75th St. with Nessie to find her other two children dead and Ortega allegedly trying to commit suicide. Ortega survived and has since been charged with murdering the two children. She is awaiting her court hearing, scheduled for May 6. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) is putting together a series of nanny support programs to help nannies with stresses related to the murders, their jobs and personal lives. "As a community center, we realized we needed to create support programs for the caregivers," Erica Werber said, the senior director of public relations at the JCC. "And make sure they know that they have access to resources if they ever needed help." The first class is a "Caregiver Chat" with Jean Schreiber, an early childhood educational consultant. The class is open for any nanny and is meant to serve as a support group where caregivers can discuss various aspects of the job, including ways to communicate with employers, positive discipline for children and more. Schreiber oversees several programs at the JCC for parents, but after the Krim murders she recognized the need for nanny support. "Caregivers are a huge part of the community here," she said. "We are focused on them as people." For nannies like Kyrie Vickers, these programs come as a welcome relief. In the months since the murders, Vickers feels like parents have been scrutinizing nannies. Jenna Crandall, a mother of three, agrees that nannies have been watched more closely. Crandall encourages other mothers to use hidden nanny cameras in the home and has asked friends to watch how her nanny interacts with Crandall's kids at the park. "She didn't know they were my friends but they would look out and watch," Crandall said. "It makes you second guess your own nanny and what could happen." One Upper East Side mother, who asked her name be withheld, decided to put her child in daycare rather and leave her alone at home with a nanny. "I interviewed nannies but never felt comfortable," she said. Nanny agencies throughout the city have been helping soothe parents' anxieties since the Krim murders. Joan Friedman, co-owner of A Choice Nanny, remembers one mother in particular who expressed nervousness over the decision to hire a nanny. "She said, "I know this is a silly question, but in light of the tragedy, I just want to hear again what you do,"" said Friedman. Vanessa Wauchope, founder and president of nanny agency Sensible Sitters, oversees one family that makes home visits to their nanny routinely to maintain a pulse on her personal life. "They really want to know what's going on," said Wauchope. "In a situation where someone is being brought into your home, parents want to go that extra mile." For Blake Levine, this meant running her own background checks on nanny applicants for her two-year-old daughter. "Some people do hire background investigators," she said. "There's no way to prevent what happened to the Krim family other than trying to find the best people. You hope that will suffice."

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