Like many families, the Matneys have worked hard to provide for their daughter. In fact, they even employed a nanny to look after their baby while they were at work. However, after secretly installing a camera to monitor the caregiver, the parents realized that they had made a terrible mistake.
In 2011 Whitney Matney and her husband Chris welcomed their first child, a daughter named Raylee. The young family lived in Springdale, Arkansas, where Whitney attended law school. So, being such a busy family, the Matneys knew they would need help raising their young child.
Therefore, the couple began searching for a nanny shortly before Raylee’s first birthday in October 2012. Initially, Matney posted about the opportunity on her Facebook page. And that’s when her former classmate Melissa Medema got in touch to say that she’d be interested in looking after the child.
Although relieved that someone she knew had responded to the post, Matney – a first-time mother – remained cautious. After all, if she was going to leave her precious baby with someone, she needed to know they were trustworthy. So, the family ran all the relevant checks on Medema before getting back to her.
Fortunately, Medema had one good reference and also passed a background check. So Matney arranged a trial meeting between her daughter and her potential nanny. To begin with, it seemed like Medema was the right choice.
“She would talk to Raylee, play with her. Raylee seemed to really take to her. So I ended up hiring her,” Matney explained to ABC News in 2014. But while their first meeting seemed to go well, the relationship between the little girl and her nanny soon changed.
In fact, Matney noticed that her baby had begun acting strangely. “Raylee would run to either my husband Chris or I and cling to us and scream [whenever Medema would arrive],” Matney told ABC News. The mom therefore decided to consult a doctor, but they simply put the odd behavior down to separation anxiety.
However, Matney’s concern was exacerbated when Raylee began taking naps that would last as long as four hours. “She would sleep an hour, hour-and-a-half, never four hours,” Matney told ABC News.
“The idea popped into my head, I wonder if she’s giving her, like, Benadryl to make her sleep during the day,” Matney added. It was then that the family decided to install a “nanny cam” in their home. The device resembled an alarm clock and would surreptitiously monitor Medema’s behavior.
And it didn’t take long for Matney to learn that her suspicion was justified. On the very first day that Matney installed the camera, the trainee lawyer returned home to find the device strangely turned toward the wall. “My heart just leapt in my throat,” the mom later revealed to ABC News.
Matney sat down to watch what footage the cam had managed to capture, and it wasn’t good. Medema had left Raylee in her bouncer for hours on end. Furthermore, the device had recorded the nanny spanking and, worse, shaking the baby aggressively.
Alarmed by what she had witnessed, Matney rushed her daughter to the hospital. There, medical staff gave Raylee a thorough check-up and MRI scan, but fortunately she had no significant injuries. Nevertheless, the Matneys contacted the police to have their nanny investigated.
So, when Medema turned up for her next shift, the cops were waiting. Later, Medema admitted to endangering the welfare of a minor and received a 90-day jail sentence and three years’ probation. However, that wasn’t enough for the Matney family; they claimed she’d gotten off too easily.
But what worried Matney the most was that Medema could have her record expunged after the probation period. This meant that after three years the disgraced nanny would have no record of her crime. If she ever worked for another family in the future, then, they might not know her history.
Therefore, an obviously upset Matney is working to have this changed. “The fact that this monster – there’s no other way to describe her, you know – if this monster can walk around, watch other children and have no ramifications at the end of four years, it’s just beyond insane,” she told ABC News.
The nanny, meanwhile, has since served her prison time. However, she declined to comment on her conviction when ABC News confronted her outside of her home. “This is Melissa Medema, and you came to my residence this morning,” she reportedly said. “First of all, I do not appreciate that. Do not come back to my residence, do not contact me.”
Matney is now on a mission to prevent other families from experiencing the same ordeal as her. In fact, she is using her lawyer status to campaign for the building of an online registry of child abusers in the U.S. Such registries already exist in most states, including Arkansas, but are not readily accessible to the general public.
“I’m trying to keep other people from being subjected to, well, Melissa, and other people who have done this type of thing and had their record expunged,” Matney explained to ABC News. “I think that their faces need to be out there, at least for parents.”
Raylee is now a healthy and happy five-year-old. Meanwhile, Matney is working alongside Representative Greg Leding and Senator Jon Woods on a bill that would introduce child abuse registry in the United States. “I want all of the states to adopt it,” the mother said to ABC News.
“What I want is for anybody who has been criminally convicted of child abuse, or any crime against a child, that they be listed on that registry so that parents can check before they leave their children with a babysitter, a nanny, a neighbor,” Matney added. So perhaps in the future no child will have to experience abuse at the hands of their trusted nanny.