By Nanny X, writer and advocate for childcare change who blogs at TheNannyTimebomb
Monday October 29th, 2012, 5pm.
The skies of Manhattan are a brooding charcoal. Black clouds hang over the skyline like an apocalyptic doom. Hurricane Sandy is on her way but New Yorkers are already in the eye of a storm. A few days ago an unspeakable double murder perpetrated by a Nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, upon two small children (Leo, 2, ‘Lulu’ Lucia, 6) occurred. Ortega remains in a medically induced coma, as Police wait for her to heal before charging. Days on, the threads of the accused woman’s life are coming together. The consensus is that Nanny Ortega suffered a psychotic breakdown after a long bout of depression and financial troubles.
A full analysis of the case and the sequence of events can be found at http://thenannytimebomb.blogspot.com. But just to recap here are the facts: Marina Krim a pediatrician by training, was a stay at home mother of 3 small children, Lucia aged 6, Nessie aged 3, and Leo aged 2. The family lived in a luxury apartment on the Upper West Side, Manhattan. Kevin Krim, her husband, is a senior VP at CNBC Digital. The Krims hired Yoselyn Ortega after the birth of their third child Leo. Ortega originally from the Dominican Republic, is a U.S naturalized citizen. Ortega was introduced to the Krims via a friend. The Krims traveled to the Dominican Republic and met Ortega’s relatives. Ortega lived with her sister (a temporary situation) and niece in Harlem, Manhattan. Ortega has a 17-year-old son and is separated from his father. Although the Krims paid her ‘well’ Ortega recently complained of being ‘broke’ and ‘tired’ to neighbors and friends. The Krims concerned about Ortega’s financial problems had helped her look for a 2nd baby-sitting job. Ortega had recently paid a visit or visits to a psychologist. She had begun to lose weight, looked haggard and was increasingly withdrawn and anxious.
The Krim’s apartment building on the Upper West Side, NYC.
NYC moms are expressing their shock in a number of ways: physical upsets like vomiting and diarrhea, alternating between bouts of anxiety and tears, complete disbelief and shock. A few have put the entire situation down to the Krim case being a ‘one-off’, a rare psychotic breakdown that could not have been anticipated. The message boards and blogs reveal a wave of panic and hysteria, as working parents now second-guess the most intimate strangers in their homes: their nannies.
Curiously, the responses of Nannies have been a little different. While all nannies have expressed horror and sympathy for the Krims, a percentage have suggested that, “… there is more to the story than meets the eye”. There have also been hushed remarks between caregivers. The gist of these comments being that only now do privileged people grasp the impact of low wages, immigrant work and unfair demands routinely made upon nannies. A couple of nannies have also expressed fears over a racist backlash against foreign workers.
Leo Krim, 2, Lucia Krim, 6
Yoselyn Ortega by all accounts appears to have been – at least initially – a good nanny. Photographs shared on Marina Krim’s blog ‘Life with the Krim Children’ reveal happy images of Ortega with the Krims. Observations of Ortega by neighbors, relatives and friends have been mostly positive. But they have also revealed that Ortega had suffered financial setbacks, the full details of which are yet to be learned. The point is, that in a short matter of time Yoselyn Ortega had changed. In recent months she had begged others to help her sell jewelry, and had complained of working too hard. Relatives had taken her to a psychologist.
So what if anything can be gleaned from this seismic crime?
Nanny Yoselyn Ortega with two of the Krim children
First of all Yoselyn Ortega has yet to give her version of events. She lies in a catatonic state in hospital. It remains unknown whether Ortega had been prescribed any medication such as anti-depressants. SSRI drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox and Paxil are anti-depressant drugs that have been linked to psychotic behavior in the past. 1 If Ortega had been prescribed an SSRI drug it might begin to explain both her withdrawn and glassy-eyed appearance and the sudden psychotic episode that led to two murders.
Even if Ortega had not been medicated it is now clear that she was in fact seriously depressed and anxious about money. Hindsight is 20/20 and it appears that the Krims tried everything they could to help Ortega, such as offering her extra hours and sourcing other baby-sitting jobs. Unfortunately simply working longer hours and ‘hustling’ for cash by selling make-up and jewelry may have exacerbated Ortega’s condition. It could have led to a ‘burn out’ where a nanny simply has no more emotional or physical resources left to offer. Add ‘burn out’ to extreme financial stress coupled with a prolonged depression, perhaps also an SSRI medication and the makings of a time bomb are self-evident.
Things must change in the childcare industry and slowly they are. Nanny agencies are now offering parents profile and personality testing of candidates. Screening references of prospective Nannies is becoming the norm. Running police and financial background checks are helping to weed out obvious offenders. But change must go further than that. In the Krim case the family had vetted Yoselyn Ortega even traveling to the Dominican Republic to visit her relatives. Marina Krim was a stay at home mother. Yoselyn Ortega had been a good employer. This is not some Craigslist horror story.
If there is one positive legacy to take from the Krim case, it’s this: finally Americans get how important being a nanny really is. It behooves everyone to make sure that all childcare workers are fully covered by health insurance. Even basic health insurance covers mental health care. Employers shouldn’t just check in with their nanny at the first signs of job fatigue: tiredness, lack of motivation, passive aggressive behaviors, withdrawn appearance, anger and despondency. They should check in with their nanny on a weekly basis. Especially in this precarious economy where many Nannies are feeling the strain.
Caring for children requires teamwork. It cannot be a them versus us between parents and nannies. Nanny violence against children is an extremely rare event. Hundreds of thousands of nannies faithfully and diligently rise each morning and head to work. Everyday families are supported by the pivotal and consistent care of a good nanny.
Let us not forget that.