New York State Legislature Passes Law to Criminalize Fake Childcare References

Photo by CQF-Avocat via Pexels. 

Photo by CQF-Avocat via Pexels. 

NANNY NEWS: Nannying is about to get a lot more political.

By Ceci Sturman.

Last Tuesday (June 19, 2018), a bill criminalizing false credentials and misrepresentation of caregivers, “Lulu and Leo’s Law,” passed through both houses of New York State legislature.

Senator Andrew Lanza (Republican), who sponsored the bill, worked with Assemblyman Steve Otis (Democrat) to resolve disputes between the senate and the assembly over the severity of criminal penalties for childcare workers.

Both houses agreed on legislation which would make fake references a Class A misdemeanor, so jail sentences cannot exceed 6 months and only applicable for nannies are seeking 15 hours or more a week. The bill is now waiting for the signature of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Lulu and Leo’s Law” is named after the two children, Lucia Krim, 6, and Leo Krim, 2, who were murdered by their nanny Yoselyn Ortega in 2012. On the day of Ortega’s sentencing in May 2018, parents Marina and Kevin Krim announed that they were pushing this law, intended to criminalize lies and false references in childcare as a “Class E Felony,” sending nannies and babysitters who provide false references to jail. It has since become a Class A misdemeaner.  

Kevin Krim explained that the reason the Krims hired Ortega in the first place was that Yoselyn’s sister, Celia Ortega, strongly recommended Yoselyn to the Krims as an “experienced nanny,” which was a lie. The Krims also reached out to Yoselyn’s niece Yaquelin Serverino for a reference, for which they received a fabricated lie about a fictional son in the form of a reference letter. “These faked references and experiences and statements about her sanity directly lead to our decision to hire her,” Kevin Krim explained. 

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said “finding childcare as a parent is among the most difficult and challenging decisions parents face; this family did everything right, but since October 2012, Marina and Kevin Krim have lived through the worst nightmare any parent could endure.”

On June 19, the Krims expressed gratitude for the bill passing: “Fortunately, New York's legislators have acted with urgency to begin to close a serious gap in the law with today's vote. We are grateful that part of Lulu and Leo's powerful legacy can be protecting other children and families.”

After the murders of the Krim children, the distrust of nannies in New York City was almost palpable. Of course, not all of this was warranted, but altogether it placed incredible pressure on nannies. Experts believe that regulating childcare such as passing “Lulu and Leo’s Law” would solve many issues within it, taking some of the dangers of hiring strangers out of the equation.

Annabelle Corke has been recruiting nannies in New York for over 10 years through her service, Heyday, and has been following this trial since 2012. It was in her words “a wake up call for not only parents but for anyone in the childcare industry.” This trial, she said, has forced her to examine her role as the middleman between nannies and parents, forcing her to think about accountability in a whole new way. She has worked to strengthen the screening process in every way possible, starting with verifying that references are legitimate and sound.

Heyday was founded in 2007 after Annabelle realized how dire the need of a “matchmaker” or a relationship facilitator between nannies and parents is. As a former nanny herself, she understood how fragile the nanny and parent relationship can be.

Another nanny service in New York thrives on intuition. After the “killer nanny” trial, this industry saw a significant spike in business. LW Wellness Network is a self proclaimed “family concierge service,” and services include nanny surveillance. It was founded by Limor Weinstein, trained psychotherapist and commander in the Israeli military.

Her clients include parents who approach her with reason to believe their nannies are not to be trusted; they believe their nannies are stealing from them, not treating their children correctly, or deceiving them in other ways. Weinstein encourages parents to take extra precautions because, as she has been quoted, “there are so many mentally unstable nannies and it scares me.” For a fee, Weinstein will conduct a general screening, check references, and evaluate a candidate’s social media presence. For an additional fee, she'll even facilitate a mental health assessment interview for nanny candidates by a licensed professional  or administer a personality test. “Not everyone needs to be suspicious of their nanny,” Weinsten, “but be aware — and if you have an instinct, follow it.”

Other private investigation Industries in New York City, such as Perimeter Agency, hire NYPD veterans to, among other searches, investigate nannies. The firm was founded in 2012, the same year as the killings, and the services are increasingly popular with Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other New York parents who are suspicious of their nannies. Parents who don’t want to shell out the cash can simply go on to check if anyone has recently reported their nanny “Abandoning Baby with Dog Outside West Village Bodega,” among other listings.

Jacalyn Burke has been championing legislative regulations like “Lulu and Leo’s Law” in childcare for years. Burke wrote The Nanny Time Bomb in 2016, and to her, the lack of regulation around childcare in America is a dangerous flaw. The book posits that the current industry around nannying can harbor serious miscommunications and conflicts between nannies and parents until it becomes regulated.

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