Not one more child …. the Nanny Time Bomb

Lucia Krim 6, Leo Krim 2

By Nanny X, 2012

Today a dark and heavy cloud hung over Manhattan. In the streets nannies walked, with lowered heads, against a tide of negative headlines. Inside children played unaware of parental eyes feverishly watching them. And I suspect a lot of moms came home early and bathed their own children.  
Something unholy had been unleashed. It reached with oily fingers into the nooks and crannies of a thousand NYC apartments. It lodged in hearts and stomaches like an unspeakable betrayal. It was the stuff of nightmares. 
The day before we heard some terrible news. A NYC nanny had murdered two small children at bath time. 
As any parent knows bathing children is a precious experience. The long City day gets washed away amongst the soap suds and children’s babble. It’s a time to be nurtured and made clean. A time to be scooped up and wrapped in loving arms. What then – could make Yoselyn Ortega, 50, a nanny, unleash such unimaginable terror?

As the story unfolds, two contrasting images emerge. The first is of a happy, kind hearted Nanny. One who had been vetted. One who was clearly a member of the family judging from photographs. The deceased childrens’ mother Marina Krim kept an active blog about her children. In it she referred fondly to her nanny. 

Even at nap time — Josie, our nanny, took them off and he screamed bloody murder, so she put them back on and he went right to sleep,” Krim wrote.

Ortega a naturalized U.S citizen from the Dominican Republic, had been with the Krims for two years. Pediatrician Marina Krim had returned to work a year previously. Ortega was a ‘live out’ nanny and had been referred to by a friend. The Krims went further than most people when vetting their future nanny. They journeyed to the Dominican Republic and met Ortega’s relatives: 

‘Marina Krim raved about the trip on her blog, posting
photos of her kids with Ortega’s family and locals chopping down coconuts in
their nanny’s sister’s backyard.”We spent half the time at our  nanny, Josie’s  sisters home in Santiago . . . We met Josie’s
amazing familia!!! And the Dominican Republic is a wonderful country!!”‘

Nanny Yoselyn Ortega lived in Hamilton Heights, in Harlem, Manhattan so her commute to the Krims residence on the Upper West Side (70’s) would have been easy. Neighbors describe Ortega as a warm person who appeared to enjoy taking care of children. One neighbor Kenia Gelao, 25, said, 

“She just seems like a calm, normal person. She’s always very good with my kids. She’s never had no problems. I guess you never know what can happen. Sometimes, people just break.”

Fernando Mercado, the superintendent where Ortego and her niece lived, told the Wall Street Journal that Ortego was: 

 “a very nice woman” and “very religious.” – “To me, she has always been very, very stable,” 

But there are other, more recent impressions of Ortego: 

“It’s horrifying,” said one resident (from the Krim’s building), who met the nanny for the first time Wednesday. “She was very quiet — she just stared ahead.”

Another neighbor, Charlotte Friedman, from the Krim’s UWS building stated that: 
“… she saw the nanny and the two children in the elevator around 5 p.m. on Thursday. Everything looked normal, she said: the girl was friendly, as she usually was, and the nanny said nothing.“I never saw her as a warm nanny,” Ms. Friedman said.”
Ortego’s niece, Katherine Garcia, 28, also said that her aunt had seemed: 

…  a little off and was “acting kind of nervous lately.”

Perhaps the most telling piece of information to come out about Ortega is this, via the New York Times:
‘Friends said Ms. Ortega had apparently had an up-and-down year, getting and losing an apartment in the Bronx and being forced to move back with her sister on Riverside Drive in Harlem. They said she had changed for the worse, looking harried, gaunt and older in recent months. Some said the once-gregarious woman who greeted people warmly, with “Hola, vecina!” — “Hello, neighbor!” — now spoke little and seemed to avoid eye contact. One friend said she had also run into financial problems, even though the Krims paid her well.’

Ortego who had no known history of mental illness may have recently visited a psychologist, this remains unconfirmed. What is known however is that Yoselyn Ortego had begun acting differently. Ortego even attempted to take her own life after attacking the two Krim children. In other words, something had changed. It is too early in the investigation to know definitively what caused this alteration. 

What can we learn from this tragic case? 

Over the course of a Police investigation, I predict a more detailed profile of Yoselyn Ortego’s life will yield pivotal clues. But some huge questions remain: what led to Ortego suddenly suffering an emotional or psychological breakdown? Did something happen to her that week that tipped her over the edge? Did someone else know how depressed she was, a priest, a relative, a therapist, a close nanny friend? Did Ortego have on-going, untreated depression? Even though she was ‘paid well’ by her employers why was Ortego experiencing major financial problems? Was she sending money back home? Did she have another baby-sitting job? Did Yoselyn Ortego simply burn out? (see my blog’s archives for an analysis of ‘burn out’)
Hindsight is 20/20. It appears that Marina and Kevin Krim were loving attentive and aware parents. They were also conscientiousness and generous employers. But in the hustle and bustle of City life, and in the rearing of energetic children sometimes the subtext is lost. Their nanny Yoselyn Ortego had changed. She had morphed from being a happy, loving and cheerful nanny into a tired, gaunt and anxious person. Something on that fateful evening snapped in Ortego but it was probably a long time coming.
Another neighbor, Ruben Rivas, 49, described her as “kind of devastated,” and others said she had seemed nervous lately, and tired. Kenia Galo, 25, said she had mentioned it when she saw Ms. Ortega in the elevator of the Riverside Drive building.“ ‘I am tired,’ she would say. ‘Work,’ ” Ms. Galo recalled.

If you employ a nanny, take the time out each week to check in with her. If your nanny has changed from being a happy, motivated caregiver into someone who seems extra quiet, or withdrawn, or sad, or resentful, find out why. If the job of caring for your children is challenging at times, acknowledge this and find ways to give her a break. Above all else, look out for signs of financial stress or depression. If your Nanny is without health insurance try to find a way of putting her on your plan. 

Today, tomorrow and for ever more, Kevin and Marina Krim will ask themselves “What could I have done differently?” This is a torturous place to be, a purgatory of self-doubt and blame. When tragedies like this strike they go to the very heart of the nation. They invade every home like a rapist. We all feel violated as a result. 
The bigger picture.
The blogs, newspapers and networks will no doubt run shocking details for weeks and months to come.  There will be opinions and sound bites and professionals spouting statistics. Parents will feel an extra weight of guilt and anxiety over childcare choices. Therapists and talk show hosts will offer advice. Ultimately however we can take the Krim family’s tragedy as a sign that the unlicensed industry of childcare is in crisis. As a country we can either choose to feel worse or we can choose to get better. No amount of advice can bring Lucia and Leo back. Here is what can be done by the Federal government to prevent another unnecessary loss:
  • All childcare workers to be logged on a central register
  • The Immigration Reform Bill passed (to bring in undocumented domestic workers from the shadows)
  • A universal tax reform bill introduced (so that nannies do not suffer a ‘double-taxed’ wage packet)
  • Home surveillance of all minors cared for by a nanny implemented nation wide
  • A Federal program that provides all childcare workers with access to affordable health care, mental health support and basic childcare certification established
Furthermore Childcare Reform would create more jobs in all levels of the industry. More importantly it would go some way to preventing the unrelenting devastation that the Krim family is currently suffering. 
Isn’t that worth it?

SOURCES: The NY Daily News 2012; Fox News 2012; The New York Times