Michigan, like every other state, has a sex offender registry which allows the public to conduct searches on individuals regarding any prior sex-related convictions. But there is a significant chance that we may also be the first state in the US to also get a child abuse registry, facilitating searches for any history of child abuse convictions against any individual in Michigan.
Erica Hamil, the woman behind the child abuse registry proposal, says she is doing it all for her son, Wyatt. The little boy still suffers as a result of abuse he sustained at the hands of his father’s girlfriend. The woman had two prior child abuse convictions, but because there was no way for Hamil to find that out and produce the evidence in court, the judge wouldn’t listen to her concerns.
Had there been a central child abuse registry, Hamil says, the tragedy that almost took her son’s life could have been prevented. Wyatt, who still attends occupational, physical and speech therapy, has undergone a number of brain surgeries and is scheduled for another before the year ends.
Rachel Edwards, the woman convicted of causing Wyatt’s brain injuries, is currently serving a 33 month to 10 year sentence in prison. This conviction was her third for child abuse in Michigan.The first in 2011 and the second in 2013. She pleaded no contest to the second charge just days after Wyatt was shaken severely enough to cause permanent brain injuries.
Wyatt’s law, as the bill package has been termed, contains three bills that would ultimately 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, both of which are misdemeanors, would land a person on the child abuse registry for five years.
Hamil collected thousands of signatures on a petition, hoping to bring attention to the issue. She wanted a central registry for convicted child abusers that would allow parents and caregivers to search for information that could protect their children from neighbors, babysitters, and people in relationships with the other parent who have been convicted of child abuse.
The House bill package, which has already been introduced, is supported by State Representatives, Sarah Roberts (D- St. Clair Shores), Derek Miller (D-Warren), and Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw). But it has a long way to go before it’s passed into law. If it even makes it that far. We intend to keep a close eye on the progress of this bill package, as it may significantly affect the lives of some of our clients.