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Hidden cameras help parents keep eye on nannies

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This nanny was caught on tape slapping Scott Katz  
April 5, 1998
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EDT (0237 GMT)

From Correspondent Pat Etheridge

(CNN) -- Tami and Jeffrey Katz hired a nanny to care for their son Scott. But they also installed a video camera concealed in a VCR to watch over the nanny secretly.

What they saw less than an hour into the first taping resulted in a change.

"She slapped him, she was very rough with him," Tami Katz said. "She was dropping some toys on his head and watching them fall off. She shook him up and down very vigorously. I was hysterical. I mean, there is no way to explain how I was. I just wanted it to stop."

CNN's Pat Etheridge examines the trend of secretly monitoring child-care providers
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Since the highly publicized trial of British au pair Louise Woodward, parents are looking to video cameras as a way of minding the nanny as the nanny minds the children.

The tiny cameras, which can be hidden in places such as household paintings, are having a tremendous effect on the turnover rate of in-home caregivers. It is estimated that as many as 70 percent of caregivers lose their jobs because of what parents see on videotape.

Stores like the Detective Store and Kid-View, both in the New York area, have seen sales jump by 30 percent in the last six months. Owners often hear back from parents who buy the cameras.

"We see more horror stories, definitely," said Damon Sleicher of Kid-View Inc. "It's just parents who can go to work and actually have the peace of mind that the nanny is doing the job."

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Surveillance cameras can be concealed in many ways  

More often, the problems with nannies involve neglect rather than abuse. Judith Lederman has been through more than 15 nannies and wrote a book about her experiences titled, "Searching For Mary Poppins."

"For the most part, I found neglect," she said. "I found nannies that like to read their books while my children are in the pool, which is unacceptable."

Lederman finally left her six-figure-income career to stay at home with her three children and devote time to educating other parents about child-care pitfalls. She advocates the use of "nanny cams" for those who care for other people's children.

"More people should be using these "nanny cams" as a tool, as a device to monitor and maintain good child care," she said. "And you know something? For the 30 percent that see what they like and like what they see, they should be giving that girl a bonus, give her a raise."

But advocacy groups for nannies say secret videotaping is an invasion of privacy that breaks the trust between parents and child-care providers.

"I really hate to see this turn into a spy-versus-spy arena," said Judith Abranovich, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Nannies.

Abranovich, a nanny with 18 years of experience, said open communication is a better method than a hidden camera.

"One of the things the National Association of Nannies strongly suggests is that parents begin to take the time to work with the nanny in the home before they set her up to work there alone with their children," she said.

For Tami and Jeffrey Katz, the quandary is growing. They are expecting a second baby, and if they hire another nanny, the camera will be watching.

"I don't want some stranger coming into my house," Tami Katz said. "I don't know what's going to let me trust somebody else again."


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