Focus on hiring after death of baby in Irish nanny's care
The tragic death of one-year-old girl Rehma Sabir and the charging of 34-year-old Irish nanny Aisling McCarthy Brady with battery and assault has turned the spotlight on a job traditionally filled by thousands of Irish women working, sometimes illegally, on the US east coast.
Irish nannies were in the past typically recruited by employment agencies specialising in placing childminders with families, and by word-of-mouth. But in recent years websites have multiplied where nannies can post profiles of themselves for families looking for childcare.
McCarthy Brady, who is originally from Co Cavan but has been living illegally in the US for more than 10 years, has pleaded not guilty to the charge over the death of Rehma on January 16th, two days after police found the infant unconscious with injuries, after she called 911 for assistance.
Her defence lawyer Melinda Thompson told the courts that there was “more to this story”.
The Irish woman had posted an advert for her services on a website in which she said: “I had six younger brothers and sisters and four older ones. I’ve been babysitting since I was 13 for neighbours. I’ve been nannying in Boston now for 10 years. I love what I do.”
Brushes with law
McCarthy Brady has had brushes with the law for public order offences. Since 2005, two restraining orders have been issued against her and she faced criminal charges in a third case. None of this detail obviously appeared on her personal ad.
“We have been very nervous about families using these websites without doing proper background checks,” said Irish man Michael Dinneen, who has run the Irish Agency for Nannies in Manhattan since 1987 and placed 1,000 nannies over the past five years.
“They offer a $20 or $30 fee for a check on a person which is insufficient when you are dealing with someone who may not have a social security number. You cannot do a proper background check for that kind of money,” said Dinneen, who uses an external agency to vet nannies.
Nanny websites have become more popular in recent years given the increasing demands for childcare among working couples, while the lure of earning an average of $15 to $20 a hour and between $75,000 and $90,000 a year working for wealthy New York families has led to a flood of inexperienced women seeking work as nannies online.
Nannies earn between $50,000 and $60,000 a year on average working full-time in the Boston area, where McCarthy Brady worked.
“It is certainly one of the more popular sectors of employment not just for the Irish but for a lot of people,” said Orla Kelleher, executive director of the Aisling Community Centre in Yonkers, New York. “Nowadays most people have qualifications in childcare.”