On August 10, 20-year-old Ohio babysitter Tiffani Calise called 911 and said that the 23-month-old in her care had fallen in the bathtub. Two days later, little Aaliyah Ali died due to bleeding in the skull (and other head injuries that were not consistent with a fall in a bathtub). Now, Calise -- who is eight months pregnant -- has been charged with her murder.
Stories like this one are shocking -- but they are living proof of how leaving your child in the wrong hands can result in tragedy. Here are some particularly disturbing cases from the past:
- Louise Woodward, a 19-year-old British au pair working in Massachusetts, was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. The autopsy revealed that Woodward had shaken Matthew -- fracturing his skull -- and then dropped him on the floor before tossing him onto the bed. In an appeal, Woodward's conviction was reduced to involuntary manslaughter, and her charge was reduced to time served. She then returned to Great Britain.
- Claudia Muro, 29, a babysitter from South Florida, was caught on a nanny cam shaking an infant and slamming her to the floor three or four times, then kissing her on the forehead. The parents were shocked: They had performed background checks on Muro and had only installed the nanny cam after their baby became unsettled around the sitter.
- Yalines Torres, 25, tied a toddler in a bag and slung him over her shoulder while jogging around the apartment, banging the baby's head against the bedroom doorframe and killing him. After she blamed the infant's injuries on her own 2-year-old son, Connecticut police charged her with murder.
- Annette Martinez, 25, a babysitter from Las Cruces, New Mexico, was charged with sexual penetration of a minor after having sex 40 times with the 14-year-old boy she was babysitting.
- Zachary R. Harding, 18, was arrested for allegedly molesting a 5-year-old. Nevada police charged him with indecent exposure and lewdness with a minor.
Cases like these make you never want to leave your child with a sitter ... ever. Yet most working parents have no choice. How do you know if a potential caregiver is going to treat your kids right?
"Certain factors put kids at risk for abuse more than others," says Lindsay Heller, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who's also known as "The Nanny Doctor." "Special-needs children who are unable to communicate well are often targets. Also, additional stress -- like caring for too many children or having little experience with your child's age group -- may make a nanny more prone to abusing or [using] inappropriate discipline. Instead of choosing a nanny because she's qualified, consider [whether] she's qualified for your particular family."
To do this, think about your lifestyle, hobbies, diet and children's personalities, then choose a candidate that fits your family's profile. Here are six additional precautionary steps Heller recommends:
1) Scrutinize resumes.
Look for breaks in employment -- and ask about them. Also, make sure the nanny has experience caring with children the same age as your own.
2) Always call references.
"Don't just verify the nanny worked there," Heller says. "Ask if the family would hire her again, how she handled emergencies and how prompt she was. Then implement a trial day, so she can get a feel for the neighborhood -- and you can watch her."
3) Pay for a background check.
It will cost you, but it's worth it. Also, ask the nanny to get a driving record from the past 10 years from the DMV.
4) Check out the "How's My Nanny?" service.
It offers license plates to fasten to strollers and encourages onlookers to report bad nanny behavior.
5) Go with your gut.
"The bottom line is, when trusting a stranger in your home with your children, you have to go with your gut," Heller says. "Watch how your kids respond to your nanny. Do they fear her? Cry when you leave? You could always have a neighbor casually drop by to check up on things."
6) When in doubt, install a nanny cam.
"You should never feel guilty for using a camera in your home," Heller says. "However, you must tell your sitter up front that this will happen -- a good nanny will have no problem with this. Nanny-cam laws vary from state to state, so make sure you check your state's law."
"These steps may seem extreme, but they're crucial," Heller says. "There's evidence that infants remember abuse later in life, and that it can impair a child's ability to attach to caregivers and develop trust in the future. It's always better to be overly cautious than sorry."
Have you ever caught your nanny or babysitter displaying bad or reckless behavior? Comment below.