DENVER (AP) _ A woman who claims her 12-year-old daughter was kidnapped as an infant and a baby sitter who says the mother gave the child to her because she couldn't care for her are locked in a legal battle over the seventh-grader.

Juvenile Court Judge Orrelle Weeks ruled Tuesday that temporary custody of the girl be given to Maxine McCaslin, 43, who has raised the child since she was 6 months old. A hearing on permanent custody was not immediately scheduled.

Until Friday, the girl was unaware that McCaslin was not her biological mother. That day, Cynthia Anderson, 31, was in a supermarket when she heard the voice of McCaslin, who used to work for her as a baby sitter. Anderson had not seen McCaslin since 1977, when she said the sitter and Anderson's daughter vanished.

Anderson got McCaslin's license number and notified police. Detective Mona Jaramillo said the women had lived just 17 blocks apart for the last two years.

''It's a very sticky situation,'' said police Sgt. Gordon Reed. ''There's always two sides to every story.''

Anderson, has charged that police mishandled the case and failed to investigate abduction charges she filed at the time of the disappearance.

''I will fight this. I will,'' Anderson said. ''They can believe it. And if they think they're going to wear me out, they can think again.''

Police said Tuesday that Anderson did not report her child missing until six weeks after McCaslin allegedly disappeared with her daughter. The report she filed was for a violation of custody, not kidnapping, officials said.

McCaslin told police that Anderson asked her to care for the child because Anderson could not.

''It was hell keeping the secret,'' police quoted McCaslin as saying. She had an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment.

All supplemental reports and investigative reports, if there was an investigation, have been destroyed, police said. They are forced to rely on officers' memories.

The Rocky Mountain News quoted sources close to the investigation who said that at the time her child disappeared, Anderson was working as a dancer at a strip joint or as an employee in a nearby adult arcade.

When she said her baby sitter had taken her child, ''the officer thought I was overreacting,'' Anderson said Tuesday. ''He said I couldn't just accuse someone of a felony.

''He said I had to wait a legal amount of time and file a missing person report. I went back and signed a piece of paper that said she was kidnapped. They said they put out an arrest warrant.''

Denver police never put out a warrant. They filed the case as a custody dispute.

McCaslin told the girl of her history after both were taken to police headquarters Friday night, police said. No charges were filed.

''We are not sure whether we will file criminal charges against McCaslin at this point,'' said Capt. Jim Fitzpatrick. ''The main person we and the courts are concerned about at this point is the victim.''

Police said the girl had been well treated and was raised in an excellent environment. Neighbors and school officials said the girl is a well-adjusted seventh-grader, a B-plus student and a volleyball player at a private school.

Jaramillo said police were unable to comment on McCaslin's whereabouts until two years ago because it is part of the investigation. There also was no information immediately available about the girl's father.

Anderson's lawyer, Dennis Blewitt, said his client was an unwed mother who ''was kicked out of her home'' as a teen-ager. Although she is unemployed and not married, she received an insurance settlement after an accident and is financially capable of caring for her daughter, he said.

Blewitt said the city Department of Social Services, which took custody of the child over the weekend, refused to let his client see her daughter Tuesday.