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Michigan Senate passes “Wyatt’s Law” to centralize child abuse registry

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The Michigan Senate passed a bill package Wednesday to tighten the state’s tracking of child abuse cases.

The legislation would create an electronic case management system to track child protective services data.

Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) said this has been an effort seven years in the making — with several rounds of negotiations.

“The only real goal is to make sure that when parents have somebody that’s in close contact with their kids, that they have a right to know if that person has been convicted of child abuse. There are different ways to do that and this version, I think, accomplishes that goal,” Hertel said.

Part of the proposed law is named Wyatt's Law for a 9-year-old named Wyatt who faced severe abuse at the hands of a woman who was then his father’s girlfriend. His mother, Erica Hammel, has spent years pushing for this legislation.

The bills would enter into a central registry the names of people the state health department confirmed through “a preponderance of evidence” committed child abuse or neglect.

Parents could confirm if someone they feel is a threat to their child has been added to that list.

“Every parent deserves critical information that could keep their children safe from harm. If this legislation can prevent one Michigan child from being subjected to abuse, then this legislature will have done one of the most important jobs that we can do here,” Hertel said.

Similar bill packages have been introduced the past three legislative sessions but never became law.

Sen. Mark Huizenga co-sponsored the legislation when he was still a member of the state House.

“It’s another tool to ensure that our children are safe across the state. We know that there have been problems. And this is just another tool to make things better and safer for everybody,” Huizenga said.

The legislation would expand the list of offenses that automatically qualify a case for inclusion in the central registry.

It would also give people on that list more chances to have their name removed.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Colin Jackson | MPRN