I was explaining the concept of a Problem Novel to someone, when I suddenly had vivid memories of another one that I read when I was a child. The basic plot of it was that a young woman, probably somewhere in the teenage range, gets caught stealing, probably shoplifting. Due to her age, she doesn't face prison time, but is of course under a lot of distrust from people around her. Somewhere later in the book, she gets a job as a babysitter for at least one young boy - I remember a scene where she's giving him a bath, and he comments about having a penis, and how "whales don't have penises", something which stuck in my head, because, in talking with my parents about the book, I found out I've been mispronouncing that word wrong - and seems to be on the way to getting her life back, when something in the house comes up missing, I think maybe a set of earrings owned by the mother of the kids that she is babysitting, and she is of course suspected due to her history. Eventually, she is vindicated.
I remember the cover having a fairly realistic image of the girl in question, possibly a photograph showing her in the middle of shoplifting, and the title was something about her being a thief, like "I Was a Teenage Thief" . I remember that, at the time, I was excited about the prospect of reading it, because my experiences with Dungeons and Dragons had left me with a favorable impression of thieves. Looking back on it, I wonder if my parents steered me towards the book to get me to understand that stealing was not a good thing, let alone a viable career prospect.
I probably read it somewhere in the early 90s, as a library book checked out in Ashland, KY. In my memories, it was a full-sized hardback book, and I was reading that like the book at the time, but I don't entirely trust my memories, as what I remember of the plot feels a lot shorter than that.