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Burlington, Vermont - June 21, 2009

Twenty-three year-old Donald Shepherd was hired to take care of three kids in Grand Isle County. But police say, instead, the nanny abused one of them -- a 10 year-old boy.

Shepherd was paid $350-dollars a week. The victim's mother found him through the online nanny service -- enannysource.com -- run out of California.

"It's definitely scary," said Nicole LaBelle, who runs Vermont Nanny Connection. That's an agency with about 300 local nannies. She says parents need to take precautions before letting child care providers into their homes, whether they're full time nannies or part time baby-sitters. "Anyone can have a profile. Anyone can say they're educated," she said.

That's why parents need to do their homework to be certain. LaBelle recommends criminal background checks, including driving records. She also says it's important to verify a person's education and past experience working with kids. "You want to be checking references to make sure. Not just their friends and family," said LaBelle. "Even if you are having someone in your home for a day, you should do a background check. It only takes that one day."

The sexual abuse in Grand Isle County allegedly went on for several months. Shepherd passed a criminal background check. But experts say that could be because he has numerous aliases or because he abused kids before he turned 18 himself. Therefor, if convicted as a juvenile, it wouldn't show up on his record.

Again, reference checks may have gone a long way to look for gaps in work experience. Searching the internet can also help. In the Shepherd case, it may have helped a lot. There are blogs across the country, where Shepherd reportedly worked with other kids, warning parents about his alleged deviant behavior.

Forensic Psychologist Tom Powell says, "You should have checked records and references and gone back to see if he is licensed. What distinguishes him from what I see so far, is this con man ability that goes with his pedophilic tendencies. He is not who he says he is."

LaBelle says that's why face-to-face interviews are a must when hiring a nanny. She hands out a lengthy questionnaire before anyone is placed with a family. "All our families are local. All our nannies are local," she said. And she tells parents that the most important safeguard is to go with your gut. "If something doesn't feel right, it's probably not right."

ennannysource.com has not returned repeated phone calls and emails regarding this case to find out what kind of safeguards or screening the company does to make sure the company's nannies are not a threat to children.

Donald Shepherd remains in jail charged with several sex crimes, including aggravated sexual assault on a child. Investigators expect to add child porn charges to the long list of charges he faces.

Darren Perron - WCAX News

Related Stories:

Expert: Accused Nanny Likely Victimized Others

Accused Nanny: Pedophile Activist?

Police: Nanny Sexually Assaulted Child

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