Originally appeared on Role/Reboot. Republished here with permission.
Last week, two young children, Leo and Lulu Krim, were allegedly stabbed to death by their nanny in their home in Manhattan. The children’s mother discovered the bodies as Yoselyn Ortega, the nanny, began to hack at her own throat. Although the nanny survived, she is hospitalized and unable to speak.
The reports to date are that the Krim family was kind to the nanny — there were no bad feelings on either side of the relationship. A friend of the Krim family recommended Ms. Ortega, and she’d been their employee for approximately two years.
Parents are searching for an explanation that makes the incident understandable believing that if they can understand why it occurred, they can take precautions to avoid a similar catastrophe. These deaths happened at the hands of a nanny, but children may be harmed in daycare, in school, at Boy Scouts or … the list is long. Too long.
By loving a child, we unwillingly, but inevitably, give a hostage to fortune. The fates may snatch the child from us at any time through disease or injury. But no parent anticipates that his or her children will be killed by one to whom their welfare has been entrusted.
The relationship between a nanny and a parent is ideally one of trust and affection. When my son was born, my search for a nanny led me to speak to several placement agencies. As I explained what I was looking for, I sometimes mentioned that my infant son was adopted. That proved to be the key to finding Brigitte, the trained English nanny who took care of him for his first six years.
The woman who ran one of the agencies had an adopted child, too. We bonded over this, and she gave me honest feedback about the candidates I was considering. Because her child had been in a playgroup with one of Brigitte’s charges, she’d seen Brigitte in action and couldn’t have recommended her more highly.
She was right. Brigitte was honest, bright, reliable, thoughtful, loving, and cheerful. I grew to trust Brigitte implicitly. Although she didn’t live in our home, she became part of the family. I credit many of my son’s good qualities as an adult to the years they spent together.
Bridget left when my son was six to take care of her own baby and start a daycare in her home. Unfortunately, I can’t offer such extravagant praise for her replacement. Mariela loved my son and was a careful driver. I trusted her to keep him safe, and she did.
After learning about the Krim children’s death, many parents are feeling anxious about their choice of a childcare provider. Using an agency to find a caregiver as I did isn’t a total or even partial answer. While much remains to be learned about the motivation of Ms. Ortega, I suspect she suffered a dramatic psychological break with reality. What she did could not have been predicted by any agency screening.
The Internet has many sites with advice on selecting a childcare provider. Parents should certainly be thorough in this process, but no measure of diligence can guarantee our children will be safe. Airplane engines drop out of the sky, the cord of a hoodie becomes a garrote, a tree topples. When we choose to love, we risk the profound sorrow of loss.
Sir Francis Bacon recognized this when he wrote, “He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune.”
Kate McGuinness is a lawyer who spent 17 years at Biglaw before becoming the general counsel of a Fortune 500 corporation. After leaving that position, she studied creative writing and is the author of a legal suspense novel Terminal Ambition, which is available on Amazon.com. She is an advocate for women and tweets as @K8McGuinness.