One of the issues that has been raised since the death of Mackenzie Maison and the trial of her parents, Andrew and Hilery Maison, is the issue of mandatory reporting. Specifically, whether or not relatives should be legally required to report child abuse.
In Michigan, there are a number of people and professions where mandatory reporting is simply part and parcel of the job description. Doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and therapists, to name but a few, are all required by state law to report any suspected instance of child abuse that they encounter. But family members are not included in this list.
In New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky and a substantial number of other states around the U.S., relatives are listed as mandated reporters by the law. But not in Michigan. Which means that a grandmother or uncle or cousin who knows about an ongoing child abuse situation, but chooses not to report it for whatever reason, won’t have to face criminal charges as a result.
Photographs shown during the Maison trial, taken months before Mackenzie’s death, revealed the skeletal thinness of the two little girls who were later found malnourished and dehydrated in their parent’s home. But in court, when their great grandmother, Sharon Maison, took the stand as a witness, she told the court that both girls weren’t big eaters and were both very picky. She also said that she had never seen the Maisons withhold food from the girls.
In some of the photographs, Mackenzie could be seen eating a banana, cake or potato salad. Sharon pointed this out during the trial, and said that both Hilery and Andrew were loving, normal parents. But Senior Assistant Prosecutor Mona Armstrong asked her if she had a phone with her on the family’s camping trip. To this, Sharon answered yes. “When did you use it to get help for Makayla?” Armstrong asked. To which Sharon answered, “We didn’t.”
And it is this right here that has caused the uproar about mandated reporting in Michigan. If this case had taken place in a number of other states where mandatory reporting included family members, Sharon Maison would likely have faced charges for failure to report abuse and neglect. But because Michigan law doesn’t include family members in their mandated reporters list, this isn’t a possibility.
So now, the question that so many people are asking is this: Should Michigan rewrite it’s mandated reporter laws to include friends and neighbors, or not? What do you think?