As I have been reading the articles about the latest addition to our 10 Most Wanted List—Eric Toth—I am riveted. How do we protect children against predators? And, in our specific case, how do we weed out bad childcare providers? It is an awesome responsibility.
When someone like Eric Toth presents himself, the natural inclination is to think how great he is. Smart, educated, personable, and committed to young people. A perfect role model. How many of us parents of boys were thrilled to see a male teacher in our children’s lower school? Fortunately, for our son, he had the real deal. Smart, Yale educated, dedicated, and capable of getting a reluctant reader to love books. He made a life long impact. Thank you, Brian Parry.
Ronald Hosko, a special agent with the FBI, said that because Toth hadn’t been arrested in the past, it wasn’t easy for schools to vet him.
Someone at the elementary school in Indiana, where parents expressed concerns that he was too close to children, would have had to have flagged Toth as a problem. Or someone at the all-boys camp might have gotten wind of something unusual and let Beauvoir know. Such messages, however, can be difficult to communicate, especially in light of slander laws.”
The things that protect our liberty sometimes cut against our kids being safe, Hosko said. It’s a difficult line to walk.
The sad truth was that there were people—parents– that knew something was off or not quite right about Toth. They knew he was too close to some young boys. That he didn’t pay as much attention to the girls. Hindsight—brilliant. I wonder about the camp where he worked. What didn’t they say about him? Were they even called? Did parents voice their concerns to the camp owners or did they just talk among themselves? Maybe there is a lesson learned here.
How is it that the reference checking didn’t turn up what a bad apple this guy Toth really is. I can tell you based on the work we do everyday at White House Nannies, people are reluctant to say anything bad about anyone. Even when they know they probably should. Fear of being sued. Fear of stopping someone from getting a job. Wanting to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We try very hard to get references to talk to us. We want to hear about their doubts. We engage them in every way to encourage them to spill the beans. While we have a set list of questions to ask, we know how important it is to go off script. It has been rewarding over the years to figure out how to get people talking even when they weren’t planning to. But, sadly we’ve also found parents who were less candid than they could or should have been.
When it comes to our kids, we all need to do our due diligence. As parents, always follow up on references. Even though you may pay an agency to do the calls, sometimes references are willing to divulge things to parents that they either “forgot” to mention or chose not to tell the agency. Make the calls.
Background checks come in all shapes and sizes. Beware. What’s being checked? Forget about national FBI files—neither you nor I can access them. Often state records aren’t updated with current local infractions. County searches are needed. How about social security verifications? When someone has moved around a lot, you need to ask why and check relevant references. Finally, if you interview someone and having some nagging doubts, move on. When asked to give a reference, please spill the beans.