Excerpted from a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story by David Templeton

Using online services to hire a baby sitter, with options to pay for criminal background checks and child-abuse clearances, sounds like an ideal situation.

But online caregiver services are drawing scrutiny with the arrest of a baby sitter hired online through sittercity.com on charges he repeatedly raped a 5-year-old Ross boy in his care.

And police are looking for other parents who hired Dylan M. McKinney, 26, of Shaler, who faces charges of rape, unlawful contact with a minor, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors and indecent assault.

“First and foremost, we want to emphasize how incredibly upsetting this situation is,” said Christine Reimert, a Sittercity spokeswoman. “We are a company of moms, dads and caregivers, and our hearts are broken for this family.”

The quality of criminal background checks and clearances that such online services provide remains in question, with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office taking action Feb. 27 against Care.com Inc., which agreed to a $480,000 settlement for misleading families about the comprehensiveness of criminal background checks for caregivers that customers paid for, the Better Business Bureau reports.

Care.com did not respond to an interview request.

In Ms. Reimert’s email response to questions from the Post-Gazette, Sittercity.com said it does criminal background checks on baby-sitting candidates only if parents request them and pay a fee. Those who have undergone checks are marked with badges on the company’s website, with descriptions of the level of checks conducted on each individual.

Cases of abuse generally are rare, given that “millions of families and caregivers connect annually,” she said. “We are not an employment service, nor do we employ any caregivers.”

Crimes against children represent worst-case scenarios for parents and guardians, with various cases described on the Internet, including the arrest of a Charleston, S.C., woman, hired through Sittercity, after doctors noticed numerous bone fractures on a 6-month-old child in her care.

Another baby sitter, claiming to be 18 and hired through Sittercity, was arrested in August on Long Island after police said the girl, who was 14, and her boyfriend left a 9-month-old child at a casino. In April, a 25-year student, hired through Care.com, was charged with molesting a 9-year-old boy in Seattle, again with concern he may have molested other children.

Police in that case warned against parents assuming that baby sitters hired online have been vetted, a recommendation seconded by Pittsburgh parenting groups.

After Mr. McKinney’s arrest, Sittercity said his profile was removed from the site and the company contacted police to assist with the investigation. The company also notified other families who had been in contact with Mr. McKinney.

Carnegie Mellon University police charged Mr. McKinney in 2013 with two counts of aggravated assault, possessing drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct, and Shaler police two years later charged him again for having drug paraphernalia and disorderly conduct, according to Allegheny County arrest records.

All those charges were withdrawn or dismissed, except for two summary counts of disorderly conduct, to which he pleaded guilty.

But because the more serious charges were dropped, they wouldn’t have shown up on criminal background checks through the Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History website, administered through state police, or with nationwide background checks available through the FBI, said Adam Reed, a state police corporal and director of communications in Harrisburg.

Ms. Reimert said caregivers, when they register with Sittercity, “are subject to a rigorous, multi-step screening, and any caregivers who do not pass are barred from joining the platform.”

Initial screening includes identity verification and a check of that identity against Family Watchdog, which Sittercity described as the nation’s leading sex offender registry screening service.

You can read the full story here.

 

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