Infant reportedly found with bloodied face raises questions about alternative child care

Training for child care workers outside day care setting now under scrutiny

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - If you have children, you've probably needed a babysitter or someone to watch your little ones at least for a few hours.

With both parents working in today's modern family, the child care industry is a booming business.

Consumer expert Amy Davis discovered as the choices for child care have increased, the safeguards to make sure our kids are protected have not.

"I really thought she had been beaten," said Emma Robinson, talking about her then-9-month-old daughter Catherine.
 
Scratches, scrapes and blood covered the infant's face. It's how Robinson found the baby upon returning home from work. Catherine was sleeping when her father relieved the nanny who had been watching the Robinsons' two children.

"It was just horrifying," Robinson said.

It was not at all what the nanny had described in a text message to Robinson hours earlier. She wrote that when she woke Catherine up from her nap, she saw blood on her face. "She may have scratched herself in her sleep," the caregiver texted.

"Obviously, this wasn't her scratching herself," Robinson said about the injuries she saw later that day.

Robinson's 4-year-old, Margaret, who was also home with the nanny, filled in the holes.

"The nanny had put Catherine into her high chair outside," Robinson said.

Margaret told her mom that the baby fell out of the high chair face first onto the pavement. After the accident, the big sister said, the nanny put Catherine down for a nap.
  
She left an "incident report" written with a marker on a scrap of paper that read, "When checking on Catherine during her second nap, I noticed blood on her nose. It looks like more scratches."

Robinson took Catherine to the emergency room and called Child Protective Services.

"They called me and said, 'Actually, there is nothing we can do for you. There is nothing we can do for you because she is not a day care worker. There is no day care involved, so there is nothing we can do,'" Robinson said.

The Texas Department of Family & Protective Services licenses day cares, ensuring every employee is background checked and properly trained. But the nanny who was watching Robinson's children last March was referred by Robinson's employer, with back-up child care provided as a benefit.
 
"They say they have this training they have been through and they've had a background check," Robinson said. "That to me, said this is a safe person." 
 
More than 900 businesses nationwide contract with the company called Bright Horizons to provide last-minute child care to their employees when their children are sick or their regular day care is closed. But there are no rules or laws to make sure agencies such as Bright Horizons are properly investigating employees and complaints from parents.
 
"Bright Horizons cleared her to go back to work," Robinson said. "I called Bright Horizons and they couldn't give me an answer at first."
 
When Channel 2 contacted Bright Horizons, a spokesperson told us the nanny in Robinson's home was subcontracted by another agency, College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors.

College Nannies and Tutors confirmed that effective in May, two months after the incident, the nanny was "no longer employed with the agency."
 
"A parent really is stuck in these situations with very little remedy," Houston attorney Randy Sorrels said.
 
Even a criminal background check such as the one most agencies promise wouldn't catch instances of alleged negligence like this one, leaving parents none the wiser. 
 
"They don't have to tell you what they did," Sorrels said. "And they can send the same person onto the next house and to the next house and to the next house."
 
Only one state that Channel 2 found has a registry for babysitters and nannies. California's TrustLine conducts background checks and fingerprinting. Parents can call TrustLine to find out if a potential caregiver has been cleared to work with children.
 
"I want to have an investigation," Robinson told Davis. "This is just wrong."
 
Robinson reported her baby's injuries and the nanny to the Houston Police Department. An officer referred charges to the district attorney's office, but we confirmed the district attorney refused to accept them.
 
"They dropped the case," Robinson said. "They just said because nothing serious happened, there is nothing they can do."
 
Davis did speak with the nanny by phone. She maintains the baby never fell and she said she never put her in the high chair outside. She declined to do an on-camera interview, but she is still listed as a sitter or nanny on other caregiver sites.
   
READ: 5 things to do before letting someone watch your children

Bright Horizons purchased College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors shortly after the incident. The companies sent us the following statement by email:
 
"We have taken the concerns of the family very seriously and the well-being of the child is what is most important. The caregiver in this situation completed a thorough background and reference check as well as comprehensive training.
 
"We have clear processes in place to help ensure that our caregivers meet the highest safety standards, and we are confident that our requirements are among the most stringent in the industry. All of our caregivers undergo a comprehensive third-party background check, including a review of state and national criminal databases, above and beyond what is required in many states, including the state of Texas. The caregiver is no longer employed by College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors and has been permanently removed from the Bright Horizons network."
 -- Joe Keely
General manager, College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors

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