Let’s start at the beginning. I feel like I need to share my story before I can talk to you the details.
“She hit me.” is what my son said to me one day I was getting ready for work. The statement stopped me in my tracks because he hadn’t been one to lie or make up stories. I began asking questions for the details so I could gain clarity. I went to work with that on my mind and couldn’t stop thinking about it. They had been those words that no parent ever wants to hear.
I’d watched enough videos to know that sitters, in fact, assault children at alarming rates. I also knew that it wasn’t limited to infants and that it was my job to be paying attention. How could I, in good conscious, hear this from my son and proceed as if nothing had been said? I needed him to know that I was listening. That particular day it was a different sitter but I knew there’d be video monitoring before the other one came back into my home.
I remember calling my husband immediately and telling him the conversation. He thought there had to be some misunderstanding. After discussion, and my son telling him the exact same story, we knew we’d have to be more cognizant and careful with our sitter use. Now let me back track here a little. We, because of seeing other’s scenarios long before children, had already been very choosey with who we allowed to watch our child. That actually hasn’t changed through today. We’d been careful and used Care.com to find our sitters since we were living in a new city and knew no one at the time.
Disclaimer: the sitter we were using from Care.com was legit. It was her sister, who was younger than her, that we also started using per her recommendation. We did not find her on their site. If she’s there now, I wouldn’t know.
The next day my husband purchased a video monitoring system. He was headed out of town and we knew I’d be using sitters while he was away. We set it up and waited. We’d been watching it with a different sitter and hadn’t seen anything alarming other than the fact that she sat on our couch with her shoes in it. Gross!
The day came that the sitter my son spoke of arrived at our home for babysitting. She’d always been quiet so that wasn’t different. I left for my appointment but watching the video monitoring system the entire time. For a while nothing happened, other than the fact that I’d hear him ask for food and her deny him, I saw nothing.
After some time, I did see what my son had described to me. She was watching her show on television and he was jumping around on the opposite chair. She wanted him to be quiet but he was playing in his fort, you know the ones kids make out of pillows. She aggressively pulled him off the couch by his arm and hit him in the face while she scolded him for not listening.
I became overrun with emotion. My husband was out of town for work so I was alone to deal with this situation by myself. I immediately left my appointment and drove home to him. Now that’s where I’ll stop the story. Of course, naturally we called the police and such but anything after that is minuscule in the big picture. She wasn’t prosecuted or have a record to memorize what she’d done.
Now let’s talk break this down. If I can prevent my scenario from happening to one family, I’ve done my due diligence.
Choose the Right Sitter
I can’t stress this enough. As if we weren’t already strict with sitters, we’ve now become insanely particular with who watches our children. That includes family. We don’t regularly use sitters to this day if we can help it but sometimes we just need the help.
When we initially started using sitters, we met with them and interviewed them. We wanted to make sure that, not only were they watching our child, but that they were engaging meaning played games or did crafts. It was important that our sitter had references that could be verified. Prior to leaving our child(ren) alone for extended periods of time, we did a trial run to see if they were a good match.
Keep a Watchful Eye
I know that every parent can’t have childcare within the home. But if you can, I highly recommend video monitoring that allows you to see what’s happening. Investing in our Canary systems was money well spent. We have one in our playroom that allows us to keep an eye on the kiddos even if we’re just downstairs.
Please consult your family lawyer regarding whether it’s illegal to record someone without their knowing. If someone has a problem with you watching, RUN!
Go Over Your Expectations
During their initial introduction to your child(ren), and prior to them ever watching them alone, be sure that you go over your expectations. This gives them a run-down of the ins and outs and prevents them from saying they didn’t know your preferences. That’s what our sitter had said. She didn’t feel that we minded her “discipling” our child. Boy was she wrong.
If you currently don’t have any expectations beyond simply having someone watch your child, that’s ok too. We currently have so few sitters that when we need them, I simply want them to observe the children, keep them safe, and make sure they’re fed.
Talk to the Children
Be sure that you talk to your children. After a sitter leaves, I frequently make sure that all children were comfortable, felt safe, and had fun. If a sitter made them mind respectfully, that doesn’t count in my books. The kids don’t get to control the situation in that way. They are aware that, regardless of the sitter, that they’re expected to behave and be respectful. But I absolutely expect that the sitter does the same. The cameras allow me to see what my children are doing too and contact the sitter if I need to.
When I say talk to the children, I’m referring to being aware. Had I not listened to my son I feel his abuse would’ve escalated. Our jobs as parents are to protect our children. If you don’t listen, you can’t be in the know.
Leave a Way to Contact Your Child if They’re Old Enough
Currently, my oldest two have access to their Ipads when either my husband or myself is working. We like to check in from time to time to ensure that all is well. More often than not, my husband and I receive multiple calls throughout a work day, so we know everything’s ok. We ask all the questions we need to in that time when they’re calling us that we’re comfortable.
If You Should Find That a Sitter Assaulted Your Child
If ever, which I hope isn’t the case, you find that your child has been assaulted be sure to contact the police. Because our sitter was a minor, we didn’t follow through with court proceedings. We hoped that the experience was all she needed to not make the same mistake twice. But I have to be honest in saying that I won’t ever do that again. I can’t let anyone violate my children in that way and not have a consequence. I recommend prosecuting the first time to prevent them doing it to anyone else’s child.
If you feel that you need to find a therapist to help your child through the time after an assault, don’t hesitate. Roman was a little older when we talked to someone. When questioned about the incident, he couldn’t offer any details and said that he didn’t remember.
The event had happened when he was 3 so it was quite possible that he didn’t remember considering it was 3 or so years later. He doesn’t mention it and I assume it’s not just a block but have no way of knowing what happened to him outside of what I saw the one time.
I don’t share my story to scare you but only to make you aware that, as parents, we have to be sure that we’re always protecting our children. It’s easy to think that we’ve done everything we can, and sometimes we have, but just when we think we did make sure to go a little further. Our little ones depend on it and will always depend on us.