The government plans to examine ways to regulate online babysitting sites following the death this week of a 2-year-old boy while in the care of a freelance babysitter.
The boy, Riku Yamada, and his 8-month-old brother, had been left in the care of Yuji Motte, a 26-year-old uncertified male babysitter. The children’s 22-year-old single mother, who works nights, had contacted a babysitting website and handed over her children to a man representing the babysitting service, at Shinsugita Station in Yokohama last Friday night. The man in turn entrusted the children to Motte who took the kids to his apartment in Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture.
When the babysitter didn’t show up with the children at the arranged time on Sunday night, the woman contacted police. Riku was found dead in Motte’s apartment on Monday morning, while his younger brother was unharmed.
Motte, who has been arrested, was quoted by police as saying he fell asleep after taking medicine on Sunday, and that when he awoke, Riku was dead. An autopsy revealed he died of suffocation, Fuji TV reported Wednesday.
The incident has thrown the spotlight on the plight of working mothers who often are forced to use such online services because they are flexible and because there is a shortage of daycare centers.
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura told a news conference that his ministry plans to investigate the current situation concerning babysitter matching websites.
He said the ministry will examine if the broker sites are properly managing babysitters’ names and addresses, how experienced the babysitters are, and if they are covered by insurance in case of an accident. He said there needs to be a screening process for anyone wishing to work as a babysitter.
In the Saitama case, Motte has a website on which he advertises his services as a babysitter. He also said that his apartment was a child care facility, but it was not registered as such with the prefectural government, Fuji reported.