When you leave your child with a sitter, you never imagine that your child will be harmed or abused, especially when the sitters has great references and reviews. Sadly, many children are victims of abuse by sitters. Our California personal injury attorney discusses several topics in this article including:

  • California Cases Involving Child Abuse by Babysitters
  • What are Online Babysitting Services?
  • Do Online Babysitting Referral Services Conduct Thorough Background Checks?
  • Problems with Online Babysitting Services
  • What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Children?
  • Seeking Advice from an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer

California Cases Involving Child Abuse by Babysitters

In a June 2018 article by the Bay City News, the public learned of the arrest of a former high school teacher by Walnut Creek police officers on charges related to acts while he was working as a babysitter. According to the news article, Brandon Genest who was 27 years old at that time was arrested on three counts of indecent exposure and two counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child. The court set bail at $1.2 million.

Genest was babysitting the victims at the time of the alleged assaults. The allegations state that Genest instructed the children to touch him inappropriately. Genest had advertised babysitting services on several websites, including Facebook groups, Sittercity, Care, and Urban Sitter. At the time of this report, Genest was on administrative leave from Bentley School in Lafayette, where he worked as a high school teacher.

More Victims are Discovered

The East Bay Times reported later in June that two additional victims had been identified in the Brandon Genest case. With the addition of the two new felony charges, Genest was then facing seven felony charges involving four alleged victims. Three of the victims are boys and one of the victims is a girl. Some of the events date back to October 2017.

Police officers will not comment on how many victims may be involved; however, Genest has used numerous internet websites to promote himself as a babysitter for many years. As law enforcement officers continue to investigate the numerous websites and services he used to obtain babysitting jobs, additional victims may be identified, and additional charges may be filed. In addition to advertising babysitting services, Genest also added that he specialized in caring for children with special needs. California police have contacted law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island and Virginia as part of their investigation.

Earlier in June, the victims involved in the previous charges were 6 and 7 years of age. The allegations state that Genest showed the children his penis and asked them to touch it while babysitting the children. Genest agreed to talk to police officers when he was arrested. He initially claimed that his penis “accidentally” fell out of his pants, but that neither child touched him. He later recanted and said maybe it might have occurred accidentally.

Genest was working as a teacher at Bentley High School in Lafayette. He was fired from his teaching job. The school planned to hold special age-appropriate discussions with students to enforce the importance of discussing when someone’s behavior makes them feel uncomfortable with a trusted adult.

Attorney Bobby Thompson of the Thompson Law Office is currently handling at least one case involving this matter. We encourage you to contact our office if you believe your child is a victim in the Genest case.

What are Online Babysitting Services?

Babysitting websites act as a referral service to connect babysitters with parents. Some websites also have apps parents can use, like ordering an Uber or Lyft. In addition, some areas of websites and apps that only serve that specific area while other companies have a nationwide presence.

Some of the most common online babysitting websites include:

The above list contains just a few of the hundreds of online resources for parents to locate babysitters in their area. Many of the larger websites have babysitters create profiles so that parents can read about the individual, including his or her qualifications, rates, education, background, special services, and interests. In addition to the various companies that offer to pair qualified sitters with parents, some babysitters use other online platforms to advertise their services such as Facebook, online newspapers, YouTube, online ads, Craigslist, and individually created websites

On its face, it appears these websites are a great way for busy parents to locate the perfect babysitter for their children. However, how safe are your children when you hire a babysitter online?

Do Online Babysitting Referral Services Conduct Thorough Background Checks?

If you read the information on many of the websites for online babysitting services, the companies advertise thorough background checks to ensure babysitters who appear on the website are trusted individuals. Some companies advertise using other methods to verify the identities of babysitters and check for potential problems or issues with a babysitter before allowing the person to create a profile on the website.

However, recent news stories and investigative stories reveal problems with some of the online babysitting services.

Problems with Online Babysitting Services

Care.com is just one of the companies, but the problems with the company highlight the dangers and risks associated with many online babysitting service companies.

Care.com recently settled a claim by the Massachusetts Attorney General by paying more than $480,000 in restitution and fines. The company also agreed to change its practices regarding the allegations made by the AG. The AG’s Office alleged that Care.com violated consumer protection laws by misleading customers regarding the company’s background checks.

The allegations stemmed from the company’s description of its background checks and what those background checks covered. The AG claimed that the company was not checking all criminal records that it should as part of the background check that consumers pay for when they use the service.

As part of an 11-month investigation by college student, Edwin Dorsey, Mr. Dorsey discovered some extremely disturbing stores. One of the stories involves Mr. Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey highlighted the lack of screening and background checks before someone signs up to be a babysitter by creating a profile and applying as Harvey Weinstein for various babysitting jobs.

Some of the tragic stories Mr. Dorsey included in his paper are:

  • A Wisconsin couple hired a babysitter on the Care.com website in 2012. The caregiver, 35-year old Sarah Gumm, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 3-month old child after an autopsy revealed the death was caused by cranial hemorrhage and severe skull fracture. The company had not detected that Gumm had a battery incident, two DUIs, and a felony charge in her background.
  • Sarah Cullen, another Care.com babysitter was convicted of murder for the death of a four-month-old child. She had a prior DUI on her record.
  • Another babysitter was hired from Care.com in March 2015 even though she was a drug addict with numerous criminal charges.
  • In March 2018, a Care.com babysitter was convicted of raping a seven-year-old girl. The company failed to mention that he had been arrested for child pornography five years earlier.

The paper includes other instances of abuse by Care.com babysitters. However, Care.com is not the only company that has negative press about their sitters.

In May 2018, a babysitter was charged with rape, indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, and unlawful contact with a minor. Dylan McKinney, 26, was babysitting the five-year-old victim at the time of the alleged sexual assault. After police arrested McKinney, he admitted to the abusing the young child and sexually assaulting other children for years. McKinney was hired through SitterCity.com.

Unfortunately, the problem with background checks and online babysitting services has been going on for years. NBC Chicago’s Unit 5 Investigative Team reviewed potential babysitters on Care and CitySitter in 2012. Even though the companies cleared the babysitters on “extensive” background checks, the investigators easily found an array of criminal records, including drug charges, prostitution, assault, battery, and felony assault.

From the current story above involving Mr. Genest, it does not appear that the problems with background checks and online babysitter services have been resolved completely.

What Can Parents Do to Protect Their Children?

In many cases, the babysitters you find online through the various babysitting referral services are trained, caring, and trustworthy individuals. However, you cannot rely on a company to perform due diligence for you. Paying for a background check through the online service is only the first step in investigating a potential babysitter.

You should also conduct your own background check. Many criminal records are considered public records. You can access public records online or through a law enforcement officer. Also, call the references provided by the babysitter. Do not rely on written references because you cannot ask follow-up or specific questions for a letter. You want to ask open-ended questions when talking to a reference to encourage the person to provide as much information as possible.

You should also conduct an in-person interview with the potential babysitter. If you feel uneasy, trust your instincts and move on to the next candidate. You do not need to give the person a reason for not hiring him or her as a babysitter. Also, you do not need to understand your feelings either. If you sense anything strange, trust yourself and do not hire the person.

You may want to consider hiring a professional to conduct a thorough background check. An investigator knows where, how, and what to look for to uncover the slightest issues that could indicate a potential physical or sexual abuser.

Consider staying at home the first couple of times you use a babysitter to observe how the babysitter cares for your child. Also, trust your child. If your child is uneasy or exhibits odd or distributing behaviors, the babysitter could be abusing your child.

Get Help from an Experienced Child Injury Lawyer

The child injury lawyers of Thompson Law Office are aggressive and dedicated advocates for children and their parents. We believe that every child deserves to have a voice and deserves justice when they are abused or neglected.

When a child is sexually abused, the child suffers emotional and mental injuries in addition to physical injuries. Your child deserves to be compensated for his or her injuries. Compensation will not erase what has been done to your child. However, compensation can provide ongoing treatment that can help your child overcome the horrific acts committed by sexual predators.

The charges against a sexual predator are criminal charges. A civil action allows you to recover compensation for damages. Even though a defendant may not have a substantial amount of assets, you might also have a claim against the company that cleared and certified the babysitter for you.

Filing a claim for assault or sexual assault by a babysitter is not just about the money your child might receive. You want to file a claim to place all other parents on notice that this person cannot be trusted. Furthermore, pushing to hold this person accountable may result in significant jail time on the criminal charge. You want a child molester off the street so that he or she cannot hurt another child.

Call Now for a Free Consultation with A Child Injury Lawyer

Contact our office to speak with one of our experienced child injury lawyers.

Call (650) 513-6111 or email Attorney Bobby Thompson at bobby@tlopc.com to take the first step in seeking justice for your child and help police put a child sexual predator behind bars.