Baby sitter's got a rap sheet

I thought my daughter was safe until I checked with the police

Published May 15, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

This problem has been eating away at my brain and heart for a while. I cannot decide what to do. I know your answer will help me, even if you also don't see a clear answer.

One of my children was recently diagnosed with a rare disease. That is not the problem, but helps to explain how I developed a close, trusting friendship with the mother of a child with the same disease. She has helped us so much and has given good medical advice and emotional support. She also works as a baby sitter. For us, the arrangement was perfect: this kind, well-informed person needs money and we need her special medical skills. For months, my husband and I considered her the only possible baby sitter.

Recently, we were tipped off through the school PTO grapevine that she has a criminal record and is an addict, and that stories about her have appeared in the town paper, and also that she has been banned from volunteering in the school because of this.

I didn't believe it, but asked a librarian if there was a way to find out. The librarian gave me a link to a criminal records database for our state. All I had to do was type in her name. A long list of arrests came up for both the baby sitter and her spouse. Most were driving without a license or marijuana possession. Two were for domestic violence. I called our police station to ask if I could find out more about someone's arrest on a domestic violence charge. I explained I wanted to know if a rumor about our baby sitter is true. The police gave me a copy of one of the domestic violence case documents. The date was just over a year ago.

It's pretty bad: She and her husband were beating each other up in front of their kids, blood was spattering all over the kids' toys, they were swearing at each other. The mug shot was awful. I guess mug shots usually are, but she doesn't look at all like the person I know. I mean, it's definitely her, but she has a weird look in her eyes.

This is as far as I got with what to do: I am not comfortable having her as a baby sitter. Whether that's right or wrong, I am OK with my decision. I know some people might focus on her kindness and think she has moved on from her troubles, especially since there's no record of arrests within the year.

I got halfway to this: I am ethically required to tell the people I recommended her as a baby sitter to about this. (I've told some of them, but only the ones I trust to not gossip.) Do I need to tell everyone?

I am completely stuck on this: Should I tell her what I know? Would she want to know? Or would it just be rude and unnecessarily confrontational of me to bring it up? She still thinks we are friends. And I guess we are. But I have stopped asking her to baby-sit (obviously) and also have stopped asking her for medical advice. I never reach out to her anymore. She is a nice person. She is kind and smart. Her arrests are from over a year ago. Should I, as her friend, let her know that the PTO grapevine is sharing her criminal record info with the rest of the town?

Thank you for reading and considering my question. I value your advice!

Need a New Sitter

Dear Need a New Sitter,

When you ask your daughter where she picked up that new vocabulary and she says, "It's prison lingo, Mom," it makes you feel kinda funny inside.

So I completely understand your decision to stop using this baby sitter.

There's just something about the person who's making sandwiches in the kitchen while your kids are watching TV that doesn't go with "mug shot."

Generally, when I find out somebody has an arrest record, I give them the benefit of the doubt.

But parents are funny. They're really touchy about who tucks their kids in at night. While they're out having dinner, they like to imagine some clean-scrubbed honors student doing her homework on the couch while the kids are watching TV or tucked into nice, clean, warm beds.

So yeah, sad as it is, I think you gotta be the snitch. You got to drop a dime on this character.

You gotta tell. Seriously. You may be depriving this person of work, but hey.

The Buddhists say we ought to seek our right livelihood. Baby sitter isn't the right livelihood for this person.

Nobody loves a snitch. But your reputation would suffer more if it came to light that you knew about this and didn't tell anyone. It's like you're endangering their kids. So tell.

Domestic violence is a definite no-no for baby sitters. Sure, she's innocent until proven guilty. But a baby sitter can't afford to even get arrested for such a thing. It's a well-understood professional liability and a common-sense deal-breaker. She should find a new line of work that's not "domestic" anything.

By Cary Tennis

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