One of the most trying aspects of parenthood can be finding a trustworthy child care provider. Even after checking references and conducting in-depth interviews, working parents are often still anxious about leaving their children with a nanny. But for these families, the situation recently became brighter. Thanks to two LI law firms -- Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein, and Schlissel, P.C. and Schlissel, Ostrow, Karabatos, Poepplein and Taub, PLLC -- a child protective law known as Kieran's Law has become easier for families to use and will go a long way in ensuring that anyone they hire does not have a criminal record.
Kieran's Law came into being in 1998, due to the constant efforts of Peggy and David Dunne, whose 10-month-old son, Kieran, tragically died after he was hurled across a room by his nanny, Ann Franklin, in 1993. The first law of its kind in the United States, it gives parents the right to send the fingerprints of a potential child caretaker to the FBI for a criminal background check. Had there been such a law in 1993, the Dunnes would have discovered that indeed, Ms. Franklin had a criminal record.
At a September 28th press conference held in their Mineola offices, representatives of the two law firms explained that they had realized that a law meant to benefit families and even prevent tragedies was being underutilized; people were confused and found the idea of fingerprinting someone in their own home awkward. With the help of Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta and the Nassau County Police Department, the law firms described how they have made Kieran's Law far more "user-friendly." The process is now easier and faster. A spokeswoman said that now a prospective employer and nanny candidate can obtain the needed document through the Internet or the NY State Office of Children and Family Services. Once the nanny signs the form, she has given her permission for a background check. The next step of the streamlined process is a visit to the local police precinct for the fingerprinting. This initiates a full background review. The results of the background check are sent to the family/prospective employer, and should reach them within seven days. Parents pay a $50 processing fee and an additional $10 fee at the police station.
"This law hits close to home for us, " said attorney Richard Lippe, who is not just a partner in a firm which has practiced matrimonial, family, and business law for more than thirty years; the majority of the attorneys and other employees have families or grandchildren too. Elena Karabatos, an attorney and working mother who employs a nanny, emphasized that the firms "sought to raise public awareness and spread the word," about an important tool. Previously, "you relied a lot on references, or the reputation of the agency" she explained, "but this gives parents something else." Formerly, a spokeswoman explained, there was no provision for going to local precincts for fingerprinting, but now with the help of the NC Police Department, families and nannies can. The fingerprinting also begins the background check process, whereas beforehand, parents might obtain fingerprints but were unsure of whom to contact for the next step. "Now there is a clear working relationship with all the parties," said the spokeswoman.
The streamlined process for using Kieran's Law was also met with approval from professional nannies and the director of a local nanny agency. Carol Solomon, the founder and director of the NY Nanny Center headquartered in Port Washington, said that while her organization has always done extensive background checks through a private detective agency, this is an improvement because now a nationwide search can be conducted. Previously, she pointed out, an older applicant might have been able to hide something in her past because a complete nationwide search was not possible. "This is another step to help parents feel comfortable," she stated. " I have nothing to hide, so I'd participate," added Brett Sundby, a nanny who works in Syosset. "I want to have children of my own, and I'd want to use Kieran's Law, she further explained. Another LI nanny, Darcy Palmer, said enthusiastically, "I think this is a really great law for New York parents." "Leaving your children with someone is scary," admitted parent Sandra Catalanotto. But perhaps now with the assistance of an easier "Kieran's Law," leaving one's children with a caretaker can be less so.