MOUNT CLEMENS — State Representatives Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), Derek Miller (D-Warren) and Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) held a press conference today announcing a package of bills to create a child-abuse registry. They were joined by Erica Hammel, mother of 3-year-old Wyatt, who suffered severe brain injuries by his father’s then-girlfriend, who had two previous convictions for child abuse.
“Erica Hammel reached out to me and shared her heart wrenching story. She then asked for a solution. She wanted a child abuse registry so other parents and caregivers in the future have a way to make sure their child is never in harm’s way of a convicted child abuser,” said Roberts. “Parents have the ability to search a database for sex offenders. They should also be able to find convicted child abusers so that they can take steps to protect their children. Wyatt’s Law will let them do that.”
Hammel was concerned about Wyatt’s father’s girlfriend, but there was no way for her to check to see if the woman was a danger to Wyatt. Hammel didn’t learn until it was too late that the woman had two prior convictions for child abuse.
“We all want our children to be safe, and this registry provides an invaluable resource to help parents and guardians secure that safety,” said Miller. “As a former assistant prosecutor who personally prosecuted the individual who abused Wyatt, I think it is our duty to do whatever we can to keep kids out of harm’s way.”
The three-bill package would:
- Create a child abuse offender registry administered by the Michigan State Police (House Bill 4973 – Roberts).
- Require those convicted of first through third-degree child abuse to register for 10 years, and fourth-degree child abuse to register for five years. They would have to provide their name, addresses, photograph, physical description and a summary of their convictions, among other things. It also requires that those on the list pay an annual $50 fee. (House Bill 4974 – Miller).
- Create penalties for those who fail to register, or fail to update their registration on the child abuse offender registry (House Bill 4975 – Guerra).
The Michigan State Police report that there have been more than 1,200 convictions for child abuse in the last three years.
“We need to give parents access to the information they need to make sure their kids are safe,” said Guerra. “Requiring convicted child abusers to register, and then penalizing them if they fail to register will create another layer of protection for our children who depend on us to take care of them, love them and protect them.”
“I suspected that something wasn’t right when Wyatt would visit his dad, but there was no way for me to look into this woman’s background to see if she could be a danger to my son,” said Hammel. “Wyatt nearly died. He continues to have challenges, but he’s a fighter. A child abuse registry would be justice for Wyatt and could save the lives of other kids.”