HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police are continuing to investigate the murder of 5-year-old Ryan Peralto. The boy, whose father is from Maui, died in Las Vegas after police say he was beaten by his baby sitter, 22-year-old Lauren Courtney.
According to police, security cameras inside the Peralto home captured Courtney dragging Ryan and kicking him in the head.
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Local child advocates say there are some key steps parents need to take to make sure their kids are safe when it comes to baby sitters. Child and Family Service said it all starts with a good interview.
“You want to make sure whatever case you’re interviewing, to make sure that your child will be safe with them at all times,” said Joey Keahiolalo, Child and Family Service chief program officer.
Keahiolalo said, some basic things parents should look for include baby sitters providing evidence that they have gone through child development classes and are certified. Another tip is to make sure the baby sitter holds a license to provide childcare in Hawaii.
Keahiolalo recommends parents do their own checking if a family member or friend recommends a baby sitter, just in case.
“Make sure reference checks include verifying that they have actually been licensed in the state of Hawaii, and, if they said they worked in a childcare facility, call the child care facility and make sure you’re getting those reference checks,” said Keahiolalo.
Keahiolalo said, there are also red flags parents should look out for like if a potential baby sitter does not ask questions about the children they will be caring for and if they can’t answer a question about what activities they would do with the child.
“If they can’t answer that question very quickly and easy with specific activities and knowledge of the child development needs. Then they likely aren’t very experienced with working with children that age. So that would be a red flag for me,” said Keahiolalo
Robert Raasch Barajas, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, recommends using Starting-Point’s interview checklist when interviewing a baby sitter. Barajas said, the work is not done once a baby sitter is hired because parents also need to communicate with them throughout the job.
“You know parents they jump into this and they find a person, okay my child is taken care of, go to work – but they haven’t really communicated with that individual or that group and that’s when things fall apart,” said Barajas.
Open communication between parents and kids is also important.
“Let your children know that it’s okay to come to me and talk about these things,” said Barajas. “How was your day? You know what happened, what did you – you know ask those questions. Did you color, did you play with the games, you know what happened?”
Keahiolalo said, parents should not ignore their children if they say something concerning.
“If a child is saying something is happening that they have not experienced in the past, take it seriously. Even if you find out later that, oh, it’s just you know their imagination,” said Keahiolalo. “Ask questions and do things to protect their children.”
Keahiolalo said, The Parent Line can help answer any questions parents have on how to pick the best childcare provider or baby sitter for them, among other topics.