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Because home is where your heart is.



Why Nannies Make Our Family Stronger

In the US, 55% of moms are working. With the busy schedules and the absence of public day care centers in the country, looking for affordable and gentle options for your kiddos while you’re at work is something that is easier said than done. Before you post to Craigslist and then head down to the beach with the kids in the beach stroller, it’s important to understand that looking for good nannies could take time, but once you have found the right one, your kids, and your whole family can feel the magic.

nannies_01Being a nanny isn’t just about baby-sitting—there’s a big, big difference. Babysitters are just paid to ensure that the house won’t end up getting burned down and the kids are fed and happy while the parents spend just a few hours away. Nannies, on the other hand, raise kids like they’re their own while parents are working. Altogether, they also do the carpool task, lifeguarding, cooking, teaching, and other household and parental responsibilities. The only difference is that at the end of the day, the nanny doesn’t get to keep the kids. However, they’re the one who get all the throw ups and spit ups and poop. Yes, all the gory stuff.

Most importantly, a nanny takes care of the whole family. A good nanny stays at your home, like she’s actually a part of it. She takes pleasure in doing the household tasks on your behalf, so by the time you reach home, you will no longer have to face the pile of dishes to wash, the load of laundry to do, and the whole house of mess to clean up. Instead, you’ll just get home and face your little angels whom you haven’t seen all day. Nannies help you get the kind of balance you need to raise good children. The time you have left after work can be spent happily with hugs, and kisses, and cuddles from your spouse and kids. All this while the nanny stares from afar with a satisfied smile.nannies_02

Your nanny will also fill the constant care and affection the kids need while you’re away. Nannies are passionate in taking care of your kids, even if they’re not hers. They will genuinely love your little humans and enjoy the whole time serving and being a part of your happy family.

Fugitive nanny faces third strike

By Kristi Belcamino

WALNUT CREEK With a record that reads like a con artist’s handbook, Mariana Monticalvo has spent a good part of her life scamming Bay Area residents.

Authorities, who had chased the 45-year-old convicted felon for four years, caught up with her on Wednesday night in Walnut Creek after receiving a tip from her new landlord.

Monticalvo was arraigned Thursday on charges involving two cases, one in Orinda in which authorities say she stole thousands of dollars while posing as a nanny and the other in Danville involving alleged check fraud.

Two days earlier, she had taunted San Francisco investigators, saying police were too dumb to catch her, authorities said.

She appeared in court Thursday with her long dark hair shorn and bleached strawberry blond to face nine felony charges that included burglary, theft and check fraud.

An Orinda resident who hired Monticalvo described her as a smooth-talking, convincing swindler who threw out jargon and catchphrases to convince him she was a child care expert. Police say that when she was supposed to be watching his children, she absconded with his money.

“She is a very, very smooth operator,” said Alex Chan of Orinda. “She can be very, very convincing.”

Chan said he hired Monticalvo in September 2000 to care for his children, ages 1, 3 and 4.

He said he later learned that instead of baby-sitting, she was rifling through his papers and, according to the charges, stealing and cashing thousands of dollars in traveler’s checks.

At the time, Chan said he only knew she was a “bad baby sitter.” He fired her after one month, when friends told him they had heard her yelling at the children, and a house painter said she would talk on the phone all the time and leave the children by themselves, Chan said.

“That’s the scariest part about this, is that we entrusted our kids to a criminal, and we feel lucky nothing happened,” Chan said. “We have never had a nanny, or even a baby sitter, since.”

After she was fired, according to the charges, she broke into the house — authorities think she copied the key — and stole more checks.

San Francisco police Lt. Kenwade Lee said his department is looking at her in connection with five cases.

In one, a couple came home early and found their children, ages 3 and 1, locked in a fenced front yard. Monticalvo was inside the house working at the computer, the parents told police.

“Obviously, she was fired on the spot,” Lee said.

Her crimes are especially egregious because they involve children, he said.

“People are entrusting her with their most precious things, our children, someone who is not qualified to do so. To me that is the most appalling thing that somebody can do,” he said.

Her schemes were not limited to child care, authorities say.


In the Danville case, she allegedly purchased $500 worth of merchandise at Games Unlimited on a checking account that had been closed.

Police also are investigating allegations she has defrauded the advertising department at the Times by placing ads over the last 20 years using dozens of fake names and phone numbers to avoid payment.

Police say she has numerous aliases.

In the San Francisco cases, beginning in November 2002, she would use Internet classified ads, pretending to be looking for a nanny in order to get legitimate names and references. She then assumed one of those identities to get a job, giving prospective employers another nanny’s references and work history. Once hired, and after receiving an advance of between $2,500 and $4,000, she disappeared along with the money, Lee said.

Last week, Lafayette police say, Monticalvo tried to run down a police officer with her car after an employee at a Kinko’s store recognized her. She eluded capture and called San Francisco police this week to taunt them.

“She said she had been stopped by other police agencies and that no one has recognized her and everyone has let her go … She said that we were too stupid to catch her … She’s thumbing her nose at us,” Lee said.

Once the Contra Costa County cases are done, San Francisco, San Anselmo and San Leandro are waiting to talk to Monticalvo.

A conviction could count as a third strike. Court records show she has a string of felony convictions and two stints in prison for theft and fraud-related charges.

She is expected to enter a plea on the most recent charges next week, on Thursday.




Costa County court records show that in 1986, when she was 26 years old,
Monticalvo was convicted of grand theft and receiving stolen property, both
felonies, and misdemeanor theft. She was sentenced to 210 days in jail and
three years probation.


1989, she was convicted of three felony counts of check fraud and sentenced
to two years in prison.


1996, she was convicted of nine felonies, including forgery, bankcard theft,
theft, and receiving stolen property. She was sentenced to 28 months in


Trustline Links Nannies & Parents


To nanny or not to nanny is a question facing area parents in the wake of a hit-and-run accident Oct. 26, 2003 in which two young children were killed in Danville, allegedly by a nanny rushing to work who lost control of her car and then fled.

TrustLine, the statewide database and registry for in-home care providers, has been flooded with calls since the accident from parents checking up on their nannies, said Bridget Doughty, a TrustLine phone counselor.

TrustLine, founded in 1987, is a statewide database that screens in-home caregivers based on their fingerprints and other pertinent information. TrustLine scans national FBI records as well as state Department of Justice records for criminal convictions, child abuse reports or other serious violations. The database is constantly updated. Anyone can call TrustLine to see if his or her provider is registered.

At present, there are 97,038 providers on the database and 11,713 who have been disqualified, according to TrustLine’s Web site.

Registering with TrustLine is voluntary, although state law prescribes that all nanny placement agencies must register their providers on TrustLine.

The profession is largely unregulated. Nannies do not have to be licensed nor do they have to register with TrustLine if they are seeking a position on their own, although many of them do.

The hit-and-run suspect, Jimena Barreto, 45, was not registered on the TrustLine database, Doughty said. Had she been, any prospective employer checking the database would have learned of Barreto’s DUI arrests and numerous driver’s license suspensions and probations.

While that might not have prevented the accident, parents must be vigilant in screening any potential in-home care provider, cautioned area child care referral centers and nanny agencies.

“Parents are a lot more savvy these days looking for child care. But someone comes with personal recommendations and parents think they do not need to check further. That is one way people slip through the cracks,” said June Harrison, area manager for Contra Costa Child Care Council, a nonprofit resource agency funded by the state Department of Education.

Barreto had her own Web site stating that “multiples” — twins, triplets and so on — were her specialty and had glowing recommendations from two local TV anchorwomen whose children she had tended a few years ago.

Harrison and others stressed that a family’s child care provider be registered with TrustLine. It can be done for about $120, but it takes several weeks for a clearance due to state cutbacks in personnel, Doughty said. Some nanny agencies use a private investigator to check backgrounds and get answers in a few days, while they wait for the TrustLine check, said Janet Pacheco of Be In Our Care nanny agency in Walnut Creek.

Agencies also require a tuberculosis test, CPR and first aid certification, proof of residency and other data. Applicants’ references, job histories and personal information are screened carefully, according to both Pacheco and Robin LeGrand of A Nanny Connection in Danville.

“(Nannies with problems) who know you do a background check will not come to an agency,” LeGrand said.

Families pay agencies $800 to $2,800 as fees for their service.

“You get what you pay for,” said longtime nanny Deirdre Bellows, who works in the East Bay through an agency. “Anybody can get a Web site and promote themselves as anything. Children are not an area where you cut corners. I feel really bad for the family that employed this woman.”



TrustLine: 1-800-822-8490 or

Contra Costa Child Care Council: 925-676-KIDS, 925-778-KIDS, 510-758-2099

Child Care Links, Pleasanton: 925-417-8733

Bananas, Oakland: 510-658-0381

National Association of Nannies,


 Be sure provider is registered and cleared by TrustLine or other reputable background checker, such as a private investigator

 Ask for a DMV printout of driving history

 Check work experience and history and check references

 Take time choosing your provider

 Should be certified in child/infant CPR and first aid

 Do a brief tryout before hiring the nanny


¢ Published in The Contra Costa Times on Monday, November 3, 2003 

Nanny Companies Getting More Professional


DANVILLE – Marissa Murley, an 18-year-old from Pleasant Hill, is working as a nanny while she studies at Diablo Valley College. Robin LeGrand, owner of the placement agency A Nanny Connection, is interested in both aspects of the young woman’s life.

“They could give you more hours if you do more errands,” LeGrand told Murley last week as they chatted about potential employers at LeGrand’s home office. “But with school I don’t want you to get too busy.”

Murley said the long hours on weekdays suit her fine.

“I do most of my studying on Sundays,” she said. “It’s like my whole day.”

The nanny placement business is a deeply personal one, as agency operators form relationships and attachments to both families and nannies while acting as brokers between the parties. For owners of nanny referral agencies in the East Bay, most of whom are independent small-business people, the work can be all-consuming.

“I’m up at 5:30 checking e-mail and getting organized for the day,” LeGrand said. “I work on vacations; I never get a break.”

Nanny placement agencies began opening in large numbers in the United States in the early 1980s in response to more women entering the work force and other social and economic factors, said Pat Cascio, president of the International Nanny Association.

The agencies are businesses that tend to rise and fall along with the economy as a whole because they reflect how families respond to employment trends. However, the industry has shown some patterns of its own in recent years, Cascio said.

“The level of professionalism is increasing,” she said.

LeGrand agrees, saying that the nannies she works with are now more likely to have advanced degrees or certificates in child care and education than the nannies she worked with when she started her business a decade ago.

Susan Stimmel, owner of The Nanny Network, a Walnut Creek-based referral agency, said the higher standards reflect a more demanding consumer base.

“I think we’re busier now because parents are being more cautious,” saidStimmel, who started her agency in 1996.

Stimmel cited a pair of recent high-profile criminal cases in Contra Costa County. Police arrested Mariana Monticalvo in Walnut Creek in March, accusing her of passing herself off as a home child care provider in order to scam families out of money. Former nanny Jimena Barreto is awaiting trial in connection with an incident in late 2003 in which she allegedly ran over and killed two Danville children while driving under the influence.

“These stories have put a lot of fear in parents, so I think they’re turning more to a professional nanny agency to find child care because we do all the due diligence,” Stimmel said.

Stimmel’s Nanny Network and LeGrand’s Nanny Connection both have elaborate screening procedures for their nannies. They start by interviewing potential nannies over the phone, then in person. Those who make the cut are subjected to background checks, finger printing and disease testing. Their references and driving records are checked, and they enroll in CPR training.

“It makes my job a lot easier,” said Marci Byrne, a mother of four from Orinda and a client of A Nanny Connection.

Byrne, who works full time as a real estate portfolio manager, has a nanny take care of her children for much of the day. With nannies moving on to pursue their studies or other work after a year or two with the family, Byrne has been through a couple of care-givers from A Nanny Connection. She has paid the agency fees of $1,000 to $2,000, she said.

LeGrand charges families a fee that works out to five weeks of a nanny’s gross salary. The agency fee comes on top of what the nanny is paid, which LeGrand estimates at anywhere from $12 to $18 an hour in the Bay Area.

Stimmel of The Nanny Network charges a flat placement fee of $2,500 for a full-time nanny and $1,500 for part-time (with a different fee schedule for temporary nannies).

Both women say their businesses have been consistently profitable, while they decline to provide precise revenue figures. Both say they place an average of 15 nannies a month, and that their primary business costs are advertising and background check fees.

“It’s a lot of work,” Stimmel said. “You need a huge heart, and you need to love what you’re doing.”





International Nanny Association

• PHONE:   888-878-1477

• WEB:

• COMPANY:  A Nanny Connection

• PHONE:  925-743-0587

• WEB:

• COMPANY:  The Nanny Network

• PHONE:  925-256-8575 or
888-626-6963 (1-888-NANNYNET)

• WEB:


¢ Published in The Contra Costa Times on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 

Parent By Proxy

¢ For Americans who bring nannies into the home, issues arise about control, rules and cultural differences.


It seemed simple enough. Chitti Keswani and his wife did not want their baby watching TV.

Their nanny, however, thought TV was fine and said so as she continued to cuddle up with Rahul to watch children’s programs.

“She said she knew how to handle kids, so she would handle them her way,” Keswani says.

The Los Gatos parents, fed up with the nanny bossing them around, fired her.

When the nanny-parent relationship works, family life runs smoothly, with parents able to focus on work — knowing their children are well cared for. Their nannies feel valued, financially and professionally. But negotiating the relationship can be a delicate process, fraught with potential misunderstandings, tensions and power struggles.

In addition to the issue of control, there is the intimate nature of nanny work.

Nannies are parents by proxy, who often spend more time than parents with children during the crucial early years. The parent-nanny relationship can blur from employer-employee to the nanny as friend and quasi-family member. The relationship can be further complicated by many Americans’ mixed feelings about domestic help and the fact that nannies frequently possess vastly different backgrounds — culturally, ethnically or socially — than their employers.

Nannies (the name has roots in 18th-century England) are employed in a sizable number of households, especially in the Bay Area. According to the Urban Institute, 4 percent of respondents nationally choose to have child care in their home rather than taking their child to another home or a day-care center; the figure rises to 7 percent in California. Santa Clara County ranks fifth in the nation in the amount its households spend on babysitting and nannies (see sidebar).

Feeling pressure to provide the best environment for their child, parents, particularly mothers, are often anxious about how much control they have in their child’s early, formative years, says Cameron Macdonald, whose book, “Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs and the Social Construction of Mothering,” is due out next year from University of California Press.

“People get incredibly fearful,” says Macdonald, who interviewed 50 nannies and 30 working mothers in the Boston area. “None of the employers were unreasonable. But they would do things like impose rules on nannies such as, `You can’t leave the house.’ ”

For many parents, hiring a nanny makes them employers for the first time, and they are often naive about what is involved, says Susan Stimmel, president of the Nanny Network, Inc., a nanny matching firm in Walnut Creek. For example, some employers add extra duties such as cleaning but without extra pay, or decide not to pay the nanny if the employer takes the day off. Complicating the situation, nannies might be reluctant to complain because many often do not have financial security or job options ready.

Child-care experts also point to confusion on both ends about where work ends and personal relationships begin.

Growing up in India with servants, Kiren Khanna of Los Altos, a marketing professional at Cisco Systems, is comfortable with having household help. But she has found managing a relationship with her son’s nanny, Simona, who lives with the family, more complicated. Khanna and Simona, both in their early 30s, see their relationship as a partnership. They talk about their clothes, weight and, of course, child rearing. “I almost accept her as my friend,” Khanna says. There have been misunderstandings, which have been cleared up quickly. Recently, Khanna talked to Simona, who is from the Czech Republic, about boundaries, after the nanny jumped into a conversation Khanna was having with friends.

But there was no top-down reprimand. “I said what I wanted to say,” Khanna says, “and then I listened to her.” Simona, who declined to give her last name, said she is happy at the Khannas’ home. “They accept me at the same level,” she says.

Nannies from different regions and countries bring other issues to the table. Often the nannies have left desperately poor situations and are taking care of children here to support their families overseas. “It brings the whole globe into our living room,” said Arlie Russell Hochschild, a University of California-Berkeley professor and co-author with Barbara Ehrenreich of “Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy” (to be published in December by Henry Holt & Co., $15, paperback).

In this setting, ethnicity can become a commodity, Macdonald says. Parents might rely on stereotypes to reassure themselves about the person watching their children: “Women from Latin America are so buoyant.” “She’s from Nebraska, and girls from the Midwest are so wholesome.” “She’s British like we’re British.”

“It makes people feel comfortable about their hiring decision,” Macdonald says. “But it often stops people from getting to know the person and testing their assumptions.”

After they fired the nanny who watched TV with their son, Keswani, a director at Sun Microsystems, and his wife Sanjivini, a pediatrician, chose Hua Lu, who worked with them for four years. She helped Rahul go from baby to toddler to kindergartner.

Last month, Lu suddenly moved away. With a new baby on the way, the Keswanis had to again look for a new nanny.

This time, the couple chose Charlie Perrecone, 36, from Los Altos Hills, who has more than 10 years’ experience as a nanny. One selling point: She gets close to the families she works for and still sees some of the children she used to take care of.

Different parenting styles can be a sore spot, Stimmel and other experts say. Nannies often have a lot of practical experience, whereas the parents have read a lot of parenting books.

Stimmel advises nannies to do what the parents want. But she understands their frustrations, such as when a nanny has set limits and withstood a child’s temper tantrum, only to have the parent give in. “It can negate what the nanny has created,” Stimmel says.

Mary Ohanessian Sumner of San Jose knew the family she had joined was going to be difficult. They asked to interview her not in their home, but at a nearby park. Bells on doors alerted the mother, who worked at home, to Sumner’s movements. Several rooms were set up with video cameras, known as “nannycams,” to monitor Sumner’s care of the family’s son.

Sumner wanted the family to feel at ease with her and arrived one day with her 8-year-old son.

The plan backfired badly. The father sent her a long e-mail with a list of rules. His boy was not allowed to play with children the family didn’t know. Strangers were not allowed to enter their home. Sumner quit.

Ritu Saini, a manager of market intelligence at Cisco Systems, said she has learned to let go of what happens at her Saratoga home with her two daughters and her live-in nanny, a 65-year-old woman from the Philippines.

For example, Saini has asked her nanny not to give her 3-year-old daughter milk in the late afternoon. But Saini wonders if the nanny has given in to her daughter’s demands because “she loves my daughter so much.”

“You have to learn to let go of these things,” says Saini, who is expecting her third child in December.

¢ Published in The San Jose Mercury News on Friday, October 10, 2003 

The Cry For Nannies Is Growing

“The Nanny Network’s Susan Stimmel, right, pulls fingerprint

from nanny Natalie Ryan at Ryan’s Berkeley apartment.”

¢ Experts recommend going through an agency and checking references carefully.

By Yvonne Condes

Nannies might not have English accents or sing in harmony, but for some families having one can be practically perfect. “To me it’s an absolute joy,” said Sabine Hathaway, who runs a translation business from her Moraga home. Having a nanny is easier for Hathaway than taking her 19-month old daughter, Claire, and 4-year-old son, Adam, to day care. In Contra Costa County, the number of families calling the county’s Child Care Council inquiring about nannies has grown, said Executive Director Kate Ertz-Berger.

About a million nannies work in the United States, according to the International Nanny Association, a non-profit clearing house for in-home child-care information. They can be 18-year-old college students to career child-care providers in their 50s. Hathaway found several candidates by advertising in the newspaper. The Sunday Times recently had 56 ads seeking nannies or after-school child care. One nanny and a baby-sitter sought jobs.

Susan Gilleran of Orinda didn’t have much luck when she advertised for a nanny. “People were extremely rude,” she said. “When I said how much I was willing to pay, they acted offended.” In Contra Costa County, nannies can make from $8 to $12 an hour, but if they live with a family, they can earn $800 to $1,800 a month, including room and board, depending on experience. Nanny agencies generally take a placement fee from the family.

Think it over

The Child Care Council recommends going through a nanny placement agency and checking references carefully. “We encourage (parents) to think about issues such as who would get along with the children and about safety,” Ertz-Berger said. “Is this someone I’m going to trust my most precious baby with?”

Gilleran went to The Nanny Network in Walnut Creek and said she was impressed by the agency’s thorough background check on the nannies. For each Nanny Network candidate, Susan Stimmel checks references and visits the nanny at her home to see how she lives and interacts with her family. “I do what I call the mom test,” said Stimmel, who started the agency in 1996. “Is my instinct telling me I don’t feel comfortable with this person? Would I hire this person to take care of my children?” Stimmel uses Trustline, a California registry of in-home child-care providers who have passed a background screening. The screening through the State Department of Justice and the FBI checks for offenses such as rape and elder abuse. I take this very personally,” Stimmel said. “It’s scary out there.” She writes a biography of the person, complete with references and a picture, and gives it to the client. The nanny gets a one-day tryout with the family.

Robin LeGrand, owner of A Nanny Connection, said her business is growing. Many of her clients are college students, putting themselves through school, like she did. A college student is exactly who Hathaway is seeking. She doesn’t want Alice from “The Brady Bunch” but a student or “someone who has a life outside of being a nanny,” she said. She also wants someone who speaks English proficiently. She is raising her children to speak German and English. It’s very important that they are exposed to someone who speaks accent-free English, unlike me,” Hathaway said.

Specific Requirements

Parents are specific when it comes to language. In advertisements in the Times, one family seeks a nanny who speaks excellent English; another ad says Spanish speakers are OK. Although parents are specific about what they want, so are nannies. “It’s as hard to find a good family as it is to find a good nanny,” said Casey Patterson. The mother of two adult daughters is a nanny for a 5- and a 7-year-old in Pleasanton. She interviews the families and gives them a questionnaire before she takes a job. Part of the interview is to make sure the duties are clear and Patterson and the family have the same values. “I don’t usually have a problem with the children,” she said. “Children are children.” And she doesn’t just take care of children. She plans meals, does laundry and cleans up. It may sound like hard work, but Patterson doesn’t think so. “I don’t consider it work,” she said. “If I turn out a good kid, it makes a difference in the world.”

¢ Published in The Contra Costa Times on Sunday, August 22, 1999


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Last modified:  February 5, 2009