I injected what I think was a note of sarcastic humor into yesterdays post. At the time I was reeling, and trying to make it at least a little funny was my own way of coping with what was happening around me.
I also didn't want to post too many details, because at the time I thought the reason the sitter was jailed was because of something far more innocent than the real reason she was in jail. Today I learned why she had been arrested, and let me tell you, when I learned why, my blood ran cold.
Let's start at the beginning. My sitter was last employed by a family in my town as a full time nanny for their two children, the older of which has autism and needed a caregiver experienced in special needs. According to testimony and news stories, not too long after she started working for this family, the mother confessed to her that she wanted to kill her husband and run away to Mexico. Some weeks after this confession, the sitter realized that the woman was actually serious and informed the husband, who then involved the police. The police involved the sitter in a sting operation whereby the wife thought the sitter was helping her to obtain drugs to help her in her endeavor, but which were not really drugs and the whole pass-off was videotaped and wiretapped.
The wife was arrested and charged.
Six weeks after this, the husband fired the sitter and obtained a restraining order against her, claiming that he thought she was trying to take the children and was giving them drugs. The sitter responded with a restraining order in return, things got all weird and sordid. The wife eventually took a plea deal to lesser charges and was released from prison with credit for time served. A month ago, the sitter filed a lawsuit against the couple in civil court for damages related to defamation of character, etc.
The police have never charged the sitter with any crime, though they thoroughly investigated her.
Because the sitter was never charged with anything, my background check which included a search of all felony arrests or warrants, turned up NOTHING. A misdemeanor from when her daughter was a teen and stole her car, where the sitter claimed that she had let the child drive in order to keep her out of trouble, but she had told me about that in the interview. In fact, it was comforting to me to see that she was so truthful she had owned up to the ONLY thing that came up on the background check when I ran it after the interview.
Had I run a simple search engine lookup on her name, I would have learned the details of the family she had worked for before. In all likelihood, I would not have hired her. Not because I thought she had done something wrong, but because there were active restraining orders and ongoing court cases and I don't need my children in any way involved with someone who is a tad notorious, even superficially.
Instead, I trusted her, gave her a key to my home. Allowed her to pick up my children from school. Take them to the library and the park and to her house for macaroni and cheese.
What I did not know:
This woman was in an ongoing battle with some long term acquaintances. Over the weekend she told police the women had attacked her. An investigation ensued, and no evidence could be found that such an attack had taken place. What the police were able to find, though, was damning evidence that my sitter was engaging in a threat campaign against these women via text, email and voicemail, leaving them threats. Serious threats, including a threat to "beat one victim to a bloody pulp with a bat" until she was dead.
Yesterday, after learning she was jailed, I went home early and had my locks changed. I assumed, offhand, that she had been arrested for mistakenly violating a restraining order. I thought I might be overreacting, but I wanted to make sure I took steps to keep my family safe. After learning of the details of her arrest, I am glad I took those steps.
I am horrified, reeling, unsettled, shocked. At any point my children could have been harmed by this apparently unstable woman. I don't know the details of the feud with the other women involved, but heaven forbid one of them was retaliatory toward my sitter AND MY CHILDREN WERE WITH HER. Or if she had been arrested this week any day but the day I work from home, and my children had been present. My mind keeps going over and over all of the details, fragments of conversations, thoughts, observations. In no way did this woman seem to be the kind of person that would leave someone violent threats. If anything, she just seemed a little too nice and possibly even naive. I was completely mistaken about her character and the reality of what was going on in her private life.
Background checks are NOT enough. An interview is not sufficient. There are many good unlicensed people out there providing childcare. I was unlucky enough to find one of the few who was a high risk. There was nothing in her manner or words or ANYTHING to indicate she was a potential danger.
I'm not even upset about needing to find yet another caregiver for my children. I'm grateful instead, grateful that my children were not harmed. Perhaps they were never really in danger, but in my opinion we dodged a bullet on this one. Things that could have gone wrong didn't.
Ultimately, I count myself at fault. It is my job to protect my kids. To be thorough in researching the people who are providing their care. I didn't do that. If my kids were in danger, they were in danger because I didn't do my job. I'm incredibly thankful that the cost of learning this lesson wasn't as high as it could have been.