You may have heard and read in the news lately of a kidnapping incident involving a nine-month-old baby boy and his yaya. A closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera showed the nanny with the baby getting inside a car that was waiting outside the house of her employer in Las Pinas. Thankfully, the police managed to track her down, all the way to Concepcion, Tarlac where she was caught and the baby was rescued. According to a news report, the 20-year-old yaya had two accomplices, a 22-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man, whom the nanny implicated as the person who convinced her to take the baby. They communicated online, and it was he who allegedly sent the car to pick them up.
It's a story that is every parent's worst nightmare. As parents, we ARE picky and meticulous about details when it comes to the process of hiring reliable and trustworthy household help. When incidents like the above happen, you cannot help but analyze--and question--how you could have prevented it from happening.
There is no clear-cut answer. Experience and tales from parents tell us, however, that we need to be aware of yaya's life oustide of work. Yes, we respect her privacy, but when she's caring for your child, that responsbility comes with obligations that you both need to be clear about. (Read here how you can talk to yaya about your concerns.)
With children, we simply need to be hyperaware of possible dangers, which can lurk everywhere. Mikee Tanael, research manager at Soliman Security Services, provides us with useful tips on the best way to be alert. 1 Pay attention to your kids even when they're with yaya Even if yaya is with you when your family is in a public place, keep an eye on your child. Don’t be overconfident just because yaya is looking after your little one. Remind yaya (and your kids) not to entertain questions from strangers, even from seemingly harmless individuals. And, most importantly, when your child wants to tell you something about yaya, listen carefully.
2 Get to know your kids’ friends and their guardians. Find time to meet your kids’ classmates, their parents, and guardians. Create a directory of their addresses and telephone numbers. During field trips, get the address and the telephone number of the places they will visit.
3 Tell yaya never to give out information to strangers. If someone calls the house while you are away, instruct yaya not to let the caller know of your whereabouts. Instead of saying, “Wala po siya dito,” tell her to say, “Busy po siya ngayon at ‘di kayo makakausap.” Remind her not to entertain any more questions afterwards. Likewise, “Ask the school not to give out any information about your child to anyone. Insist that strict guidelines be followed regarding persons authorized to fetch your kids,” says Tanael.
4 Teach yaya about the different scams. Make sure to brief yaya of common modi operandi especially those that happen in text messaging. Discuss a plan of action with her. Cristina Dijan, an agent for manpower agency Maid Provider, advises their employees to always prioritize the child’s safety. “[We always say,] ‘Protect your alaga as you would your own child.’” Also be firm with her about implementing your house rules such as when and where she is allowed to take your child outside the house, having conversations via her cell phone or online during work hours, or if she’s allowed to entertain guests at home.
5 Check her employment history--and check again. “Make sure she provides her employment history and personal references. Contact those references,” says Tanael. Ask the applicant to submit barangay and police clearances. “If she is unable to obtain a clearance, there are private groups that can do this for you. Remember, gang members can utilize your yaya to infiltrate your residence and acquire vital information on your valuables, routines, house layout, and lifestyle patterns,” stresses Tanael. After six months, revisit her background to check if her personal references still hold up, and you can still reach them.
6. Always know yaya’s whereabouts. Ask yaya to always inform you of her whereabouts even on her day-off. This is for her protection and yours. “Get the address of where she stays and verify it. If she has some relatives residing in the city, ask for their phone numbers and verify them, too,” advises Tanael.
7. Make sure yaya is aware that her primary responsibility is caring for your child. “Technical training is not much of a factor here. It’s their mental and emotional preparedness which can only be achieved through effective counseling, focusing on the great burden entrusted to them, knowing the repercussions of failing to fulfill their responsibilities, and orienting them about these dangers. We do not let our yayas have responsibilities other than caring for their alaga because we want their focus to be on their alaga all the time, whether at home or out,” says Maid Provider’s Cristina Dijan.
8. Invest in a surveillance camera. “Some crimes are easily solved, thanks to CCTV cameras and other surveillance gadgets. Having these at home allows working parents to monitor their kids, since these are readily accessible through their office computer or even through their phones,” says Tanael.
9. Treat yayas well “Be fair to yaya. Treat her like any normal employee who should have reasonable working hours, complete meals, and a decent sleeping space. Keep the relationship on a professional level and always communicate [with respect],” suggests Tanael.
With additional text by Rachel Perez. A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Smart Parenting magazine. Minor edits were made by Smartparenting.com.ph editors.