Parenting today is very difficult. Parents worry about the influence of social media, hazards in the home and environment and the potential for accidents. This makes finding babysitters and nannies fraught with worry. For one family, the consequences of finding a babysitter were not what they were expecting at all.
Chris and Whitney Matney of Springdale Arizona found themselves in a common situation. When they needed to find a nanny for their daughter Raylee, they researched and interviewed and obtained references and did background checks. Although it made them nervous to let someone take care of their child, they had valid reasons for doing so.
14. Law School
Whitney Matney dreamed of becoming a lawyer. With her husband’s support, she enrolled in law school. Chris worked full-time during the day too, so they agreed to get a nanny to watch Raylee during the day. Initially, the plan worked.
There was a problem, however: they were nervous about hiring a babysitter. Whitney refused to even apply to law school until they were satisfied that they had found someone they could trust. It took time. Some candidates were interviewed but were not the right fit. Others just didn’t seem trustworthy enough to care for a young child.
12. A Message
Whitney was starting to believe that law school could wait until Raylee was older, but then they got a message from an old high school classmate. Melissa Medema saw that they were searching for a nanny on Facebook and she contacted them about the job. Whitney still did her due diligence, checking references, doing a background check and interviewing her. They only heard great things about her.
The next step was to introduce their little girl to Melissa. The girl got along with her instantly. They played and had a good rapport. Their bond put the Matneys at ease. They decided to hire Melissa. They gave her the good news and Whitney prepared to start law school. Little did they know, it would almost come crumbling down.
It didn’t take long for Chris and Whitney to notice that something was off. It had only been weeks, but Raylee’s behavior had changed a lot. She was anxious all the time and seemed to be almost afraid around her parents. There is obviously an adjustment period when a child gets a new babysitter, but her problems seemed to go beyond that.
Then there was Melissa’s behavior. During the first two weeks, she told the parents that their daughter always took four-hour naps during the day. That made no sense to them, since she had never done that before. When Whitney took her to the doctor, he said she was probably behind because her molars were behind.
Then one day Whitney arrived home in time to see her daughter screaming alone in her bedroom. Melissa was in the other room, staring into space as if in a trance. When Whitney discussed this with Chris, they decided they needed to find out more. They installed a video camera.
The decision was made easier when they reviewed Raylee’s behavior: she seemed to be scared and angry whenever Melissa approached her. When Melissa arrived at the house each day, the child ran from her and would scream and hide around their legs. This isn’t normal toddler behavior.
The video camera was set up in the living room. However, the very first night, they came home to find that it had been tampered with by Melissa. This was a huge red flag. The camera had been moved so that it was facing a wall. Then it hit Whitney – maybe the camera had captured video before Melissa discovered it and faced it toward the wall.
Sure enough, there was footage. And it was disturbing.
The first several hours showed Raylee sitting in her bouncer alone for hours, with Melissa gone. Then the camera recorded Melissa shaking the bouncer violently and even daring to spank the child. Most stunningly, the moment Melissa discovered she had been caught was captured on video. It shows her shaking the child and then staring right into the lens, realizing that it is and turning it toward the wall.
This was the worst possible thing. “You see these horror stories on TV and it’s a surreal feeling when it happens to you,” Whitney said later. In just two hours of footage, Melissa repeatedly dropped Raylee, hit her repeatedly, and shook her violently. It broke the Matneys hearts to think about how much abuse she doled out to Raylee during the four weeks she was the nanny.
The Matneys turned Melissa in to police immediately. When she showed up to work the next day she was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. But the Matneys were in for another shock: Arizona law only allowed her to serve 90 days in county jail for her crime. Although Melissa also got three years of probation, her criminal record would not reveal the conviction, which meant other parents could hire her without knowing her history.
Even if Melissa had taken the case to trial rather than pleading guilty to a class D felony, she would only be made to serve one year of a six-year sentence. And her crime could be expunged as a first-time offender. Whitney had to do something.
1. Speaking Out
Whiney used her legal training and her knowledge of the consequences for parents to start speaking out about what happened and how to notice signs of abuse. She also compiled a child-abuse registry, which will be similar to a *** offender registry. This ensures people like Melissa are known to the community. As for Raylee, she is now 3-years-old and a fun loving child, according to mom.