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A Mother's Advocacy to Protect Children

In 1986, Mary Beth Phillips' daughter Elizabeth was seriously injured by a nanny. Mary Beth became a passionate advocate for protecting children. Her campaign for children's safety launched the state-run child-protection program called TrustLine. Read below for the full story of how TrustLine began.

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“You can never do too much to see that your children are safe. Parents should use all resources at their disposal, including TrustLine, checking references and conducting a thorough interview, to find the right in-home caregiver.”

—Mary Beth Phillips

A Mother and Daughter's Journey

This video shows footage of Mary Beth and Elizabeth from the beginning of their advocacy mission, and 30 years later speaking at a gathering of child care professionals. TrustLine then and now!

The Story of TrustLine

When she was six months old, Elizabeth's regular babysitter was unavailable. Her mother, Mary Beth Phillips, asked the neighbor’s nanny to care for Elizabeth for a few hours. Returning from a graduate school class, Mary Beth discovered Elizabeth had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition, a victim of violent shaking by the nanny. Elizabeth, though blinded for life, survived this abuse to become a gifted student, earning a Ph.D. in Philosophy. Today, she is an incredible poet, songwriter, an eloquent public speaker and an advocate for children’s causes.

Three years after Elizabeth lay near death from her injuries, the nanny was convicted of felony child abuse. The nanny was fined $100, required to perform 2,000 hours of community service and put on five years’ probation. However, despite pleas from the Phillips family and from the Alameda County District Attorney, the judge did not bar the nanny from working with children again. For a time, at least, the convicted child abuser worked again as a nanny for other families.

Championing Child Safety: Mary Beth's Advocacy Journey

When the judge issued this decision, Mary Beth Phillips, then a 30-year-old mother juggling a graduate internship, a doctoral dissertation, a child who had been blinded, and a newborn, began a campaign to spare other parents the pain she had experienced.

“I was clearly driven,” she said. Descending on Sacramento, she urged lawmakers to create a registry of caregivers whose names and fingerprints would be screened for criminal and child abuse histories using records at the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI – the same background check that the staff in licensed child care centers and family child care homes received.

Mary Beth, working with two other moms, was able to get legislation, AB 3961 (1988) Baker, signed into law which created a pilot program at DOJ that checked the backgrounds of babysitters and nannies in 5 California counties from 1989-90. This program was eventually named TrustLine and was housed locally in the state-funded child care resource and referral programs through

TrustLine’s Impact and Subsidized Child Care

At the end of the pilot program, an independent evaluation of the TrustLine program was conducted that showed TrustLine had a positive impact. It was recommended that TrustLine be used for license-exempt child care providers being paid through the Greater Avenues for Independence child care subsidy program. This evaluation coincided with the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) that was signed into law in 1990 under George Bush, Senior, and implemented in the summer of 1992. The CCDBG required parental choice, which in turn required states to pay subsidies to license-exempt caregivers, not just licensed caregivers. It also required background checks in addition to other quality improvement activities.

So, starting in 1992, per AB1379 (1991) Baker, the license-exempt, home-based caregivers being paid by the California Department of Education subsidy funds (CCDBG and the state’s Alternative Payment Programs) had to be registered on TrustLine.

TrustLine Expands to Protect More Children

By 1994, and after two more pieces of legislation, AB 2053 (Oct 1993) and AB 2560 (Sept 1994), both authored by Assemblymember Gotch, had been signed into law, the Title IV-A subsidized license-exempt child care providers as well as nannies and babysitters placed through nanny agencies also had to be registered on TrustLine. Since 1994 there have been 8 additional pieces of legislation passed for a total of 14 bills since Mary Beth Phillips began her child protection advocacy journey in 1986.

Who is Now Required to Use TrustLine in California?

  • Subsidized Child Care Providers: all home-based child care providers that are not required to be licensed in California, and are paid through state or federal child care subsidy dollars, except grandparents, aunts and uncles are required to be registered on TrustLine.
  • Nanny Agencies are required to register on TrustLine all nannies and babysitters that they place with families.
  • Ancillary Child Care Centers that are housed in businesses and used while parents shop or receive services (i.e. gyms, health clubs, grocery stores) must have their child care staff registered with TrustLine.
  • Professional Supervised Visitation Monitors must be registered on TrustLine. 
  • Drivers for Transport Escort Services that transport troubled youth across state lines to boot camps must be registered on TrustLine.
  • California Public Utilities Commission Requirement requires drivers that transport unaccompanied minors (i.e. on demand transportation that picks up a 6-year-old after school and drops them at piano lessons) must be registered on TrustLine.

TrustLine Legislation and CPUC Ruling

Read the legislation in statute that created TrustLine, and specific Health & Safety Codes that apply to various agencies. For On-Demand Transportation Agencies, you can also find the ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission regarding drivers. If you are the owner of an agency, we can provide the statute information, but we cannot interpret the legislation or assess whether it applies specifically to your agency.

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