Michigan's statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry, also sometimes known as the Child Abuse Registry, is similar in form to the state's sex offender registry in that it is a database containing the names of convicted and suspected child abusers in Michigan.
According to the Child Protective Services website, people can be placed on the central registry if there is "a preponderance of evidence that the individual has abused or neglected their child and the future risk to the child is high or intensive."
The risk in question is determined based on what the CPS calls a "structured decision making risk assessment tool", which involves assessing all data gathered by the agency, and the opinion of the assigned caseworker and their immediate manager. However, in the case of certain factors, state law requires that certain people's names go on the Central Registry, regardless of the risk assessed in their particular case. This is spelled out in the language of the Michigan Child Protection Law.
While there are a number of similarities between the sex offender registry and the child abuse registry, there are two important distinguishing factors.
First, while a person is required to have been convicted of a sex crime in order to be placed on the sex offender registry, the law does not require that a person be convicted of any form of child abuse or neglect in order for Children’s Protective Services to put their name on the registry.
Secondly, while the sex offender registry is available to the public, the child abuse and neglect registry is not. Only CPS workers, police and other members of law enforcement may access this database. However, that may change in the near future.
What is Wyatt's Law?
Wyatt's Law is a proposed legislation currently making its way through Michigan's government, that would legalize the creation of the United States first ever public access, searchable database for convicted child abusers.
Wyatt’s law contains three bills that, if passed into law, would require people convicted of child abuse in Michigan to register on the central registry. First, second and third degree convictions, which are all felonies under Michigan law, would all require 10 year registrations. Fourth and fifth degree convictions, which are both misdemeanors, would require that an individual remain on the registry for five years.
Wyatt, the child for whom the proposed law is named, was severely abused by Rachel Edwards, who was his father's girlfriend at the time. His mother, Erica Hammel, was certain that Edwards was abusing her son, but couldn't prove it to the judge during custody hearings in the family court, as she had no access to Edwards’ criminal records.
Because she was unable to produce evidence of Edwards' prior child abuse convictions, Hamel was unable to convince the Judge that Edwards was a danger to Wyatt, and so the Judge refused to disallow contact. Edwards later abused Wyatt so severely that he sustained a permanent brain injury, which has left him facing innumerable brain surgeries and years of extensive therapy.
Edwards is currently serving a 33 month to 10 year sentence in prison for child abuse. This conviction was her third child abuse conviction in Michigan, with the first taking place in 2011, and the second in 2013.
Erica Hamel, who spearheaded Wyatt's Law because of her son's abuse at the hands of a convicted child abuser, says that what Wyatt suffered was preventable. If she had been given access to a searchable database that allowed her to see Edwards’ prior convictions, she could have proven to the Judge that her son was in danger. And while this is a completely understandable sentiment from a mother whose child was harmed, the extensive damage that such a registry could do to thousands of innocent people across the state is unquantifiable.
How do I find out if I am on the Central Registry?
State law requires that, if CPS places a person's name on the Central Child Abuse and Neglect Registry, they are also required to notify that person in writing. This is a right called due process, and if someone is placed on the list without being notified, it is a violation of their rights.
The letter, which will either arrive via certified mail or handed over in person by a CPS worker, will inform you of the following information:
- The fact that your name has been placed on the Central Child Abuse and Neglect Registry
- The reason why your name has been added to the list
- A list of exactly who is able to see your name on the list, and access information about it
- Information about your right to review your case record
- Information about your right to appeal the decision that placed your name on the registry
- Instructions on how to file an appeal
If you have been notified that you have been placed on the Central Registry, you are going to need legal assistance and representation to ensure that your rights are protected. At Kronzek & Cronkright, we have decades of combined experience fighting CPS, and defending our clients against false allegations of abuse.
So if you receive notification from Child Protective Services that your name has been placed on the Child Abuse Registry, don't wait and hope the problem will go away on its own. Call us immediately. We can help you.
How do I have my name removed from the Central Registry?
Anyone whose name has been placed on the central registry is allowed, by law, to request that their name be removed (expunged). This request needs to be submitted, in writing, to the DHS Director in the county where the alleged abuse occurred. If the request is denied, a hearing will be scheduled for you, and you will be notified in writing of the time and date of the hearing.
The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the evidence against you, that led to your name being placed on the list, was accurate. If the hearing determines that your name was inaccurately or wrongly placed on the Central Registry, this can be grounds for removal. The law allows, barring certain specific situations, for a person's name to be removed from the Registry if a hearing determines that child abuse was not proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
It is important to note that if your name was placed on the Registry after March 31, 2015, you must make your request within 240 days of receiving notification that your name was placed on the list. Failure to make your request within this time frame means that your request is unlikely to be considered.
If your name is on the Central Registry, contact our experienced CPS defense attorneys immediately. We know exactly how to pursue getting your name removed, and can help you restore peace to your family by protecting you from the consequences of false allegations by the state.
The attorneys at Kronzek & Cronkright have spent many years defending parents and families against the bullying and invasive tactics employed by CPS. In their zealous quest for an abuse-free state, many CPS workers railroad parents and spread lies and misinformation that damage people's futures.
Don't let CPS get between you and your family, destroying your chances at happiness and strong family bonds. Call Kronzek & Cronkright immediately. We are skilled at protecting your rights, and will defend you every step of the way.