On Tuesday, a Long Island nanny accused of leaving a 3-year-old girl in a hot car was arrested after allegedly leaving the child alone so she could go shoplifting at Target.
Christine Nunes, who worked for a family in Plainview, NY, allegedly left the girl unattended in the vehicle for 30 minutes in the parking lot of the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. The child was spotted by a passerby and taken to a hospital to be treated for dehydration. Police determined that Nunes had stolen merchandise from the store, and she is currently being charged with petty larceny and reckless endangerment.
This isn’t the first time Nunes has been faced with larceny charges—she has a previous record of theft, and also has a history of mental health issues. In addition, Nunes was facing deportation.
With Nunes’ history, we’re left wondering: how does a family hire a nanny with a criminal record?
“I think some families aren’t aware that they should be doing background checks—and sometimes, unfortunately, some nannies slip through the cracks,” said Lisa DeRienzo, founder and CEO of asmartnanny.com. DeRienzo’s agency provides college-educated nannies for families in the Westchester area, and DeRienzo herself uses extensive background checks for her potential nannies.
Sometimes, DeRienzo explained, families rely on online agencies that do not take all of the necessary steps to ensure a nanny is reputable. She recommends using websites and companies that ensure extensive background checks, such as beenverified.com and uspeoplesearch.com.
While DeRienzo only hires nannies with a formal education background, such as teachers and nurses, she notes that Westchester families can take their own precautions when hiring a caregiver. In addition to obtaining a resume, checking all references, obtaining a criminal background check, and checking driving records, DeRienzo suggests giving the nanny a chance to meet the children.
“I would see how the nanny interacts with their kids before they even think about hiring them,” she explained. “The best situations and the worst situations that I’ve heard of involve nannies that the kids are not warming up to. The kids are usually right.”
For DeRienzo, the Nunes case exemplifies the need to have references for a nanny, and to make sure that she is local. Westchester parents should be wary of hiring outside of New York State, she noted, especially if there are any concerns of the nanny having false identification.
In terms of the interview process, DeRienzo offered this tip: the more questions asked, the better. “When I interview the nannies, I give them potential situations,” she said. “For example, with the Long Island nanny—if parents bring that up to a potential nanny, I think they could get a good feel of how the nanny would respond to such a situation. ‘Would you leave a kid in a car when you’re going to a store?’ That sounds silly, but clearly some people actually do that.” She offered several other questions that a parent may ask a potential nanny—asking about a person’s health problems, smoking habits, CPR certification, and how they would respond to a child who is crying or ill, can make all the difference.
For more tips on hiring professional caregivers, check out these rules from 2013’s Nanny of the Year Joanne Barrow.