By Harry Keaney
New York Gov. George Pataki has said he will sign legislation which will enable parents to carry out criminal background checks on those they consider employing to look after their children.
The new law has been named “Kieran’s Law,” after Kieran Dunne, an infant from Rye, N.Y., who died on his 10-month birthday, March 3, 1993, as a result of injuries sustained the previous month, Feb. 25, while in the care of his nanny, Ann Franklin.
Subsequently, Franklin pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 8 1/2-to-25 years in prison.
Had he lived, Kieran Dunne would have been 6 on May 3 last. “He would be going into first grade in Resurrection in Rye in September,” his grandmother, Peggy Leahy, told the Echo.
The case of Kieran Dunne captured attention across the country, and particularly in the Irish-American community, as the families of both the infant and his carer were of Irish background. The Dunnes recruited Ann Franklin after Franklin replied to their ad for a babysitter in the Irish Echo. Peggy Dunne, Kieran’s mother, was managing director of the human resources department of the New York Times and her husband, Dave, worked for Bear Stearns, an investment bank.
“Had Mrs. Dunne been in possession of the nanny’s criminal history information, she never would have hired the nanny and Kieran would be alive today,” according to a statement from Pataki’s press office.
“Kieran Dunne was tragically taken away by a nanny with a criminal history,” the governor said. “Kieran’s family didn’t know about the criminal history because the law barred them from finding out. The legislation I will sign – Kieran’s Law – will protect families by allowing parents to have a criminal background search conducted on their child’s potential caregiver.
“Children are our most sacred and loved treasures. When a parent entrusts the health and well-being of their child to a potential caregiver, they deserve to know if that individual has a criminal background.”
After Baby Kieran
Since the death of Kieran Dunne, Peggy Dunne and her husband, Dave, have had three other children, Mairead, 4; Iain, 2 1/2 and ‘dan, 1 year. They are at present living in London, but will be back in the U.S. in mid-July for the bill-signing ceremony during which Pataki will sign “Kieran’s Law.”
The bill was passed unanimously about two weeks ago in the state senate and assembly.
In a telephone interview from London on Monday evening, Peggy Dunne explained that when she inquired about obtaining a background check for a nanny for Kieran, she wasn’t thinking specifically of Ann Franklin.
“I was pregnant at the time and we went to the local police station, which was beside the train station,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking criminal, I was thinking background.”
She said that the local police suggested she try the state police, but they couldn’t help her, even if she had the consent of the person on whom she was seeking the background check. Eventually, she contacted the FBI but found there was no provision under the law to enable her obtain a background check on a prospective nanny.
As for her reaction to the fact that Kieran’s Law will now be signed into law by the governor, Dunne said she and her husband were the ones who wrote the proposal for the legislation and presented it to the legislature.
“We have been working on it intensely for four years,” she said. “We are very happy, a lot of effort has gone into it, and, frankly, we can rest a little easier knowing that another child is not going to die.”
Peggy Dunne added that since Kieran “was murdered,” 187 families had contacted her and her husband to say that their children had been severely abused by a nanny.
Said Peggy Dunne’s mother, Peggy Leahy: “I never want a parent to look into the eyes of their daughter and see the sorrow. Peggy said to me, ‘Mom, you have given me everything in life, just give me Kieran back.”
How it works
“Kieran’s Law” applies to caregivers who provide child care in the child’s home for 15 hours or more per week. The bill authorizes parents, upon the consent of the prospective nanny, to forward the nanny’s fingerprints to the Division of Criminal Justice Services. DCJS will then send a copy of the fingerprints to the FBI so that a criminal background search can be conducted.
Once the FBI background check is completed, parents will be notified of any criminal convictions so that they can make an informed decision regarding the fitness and competency of their child’s caretaker.
A $50 fee will be charged for each DCJS check and a federally mandated fee of $24 for each FBI check. The legislation includes a provision for a reduced fee for parents who are financially unable to pay the standard fee.
The bill also directs the Office of Children and Family Services to develop informational literature for the public, advising them of the rights and procedures to obtain this information, as well as ways of obtaining driving and educational credit records.
In addition, Kieran’s Law directs the OCFS, in conjunction with other state agencies, to study the feasibility of establishing a voluntary information registry for caregivers. The registry could include criminal and employment history, credit report, driving and educational records.