LANSING — The House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors heard testimony today on a package of bills creating a child abuse registry sponsored by state Representatives Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores), Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) and former Rep. Derek Miller (D-Warren). The bills were introduced after Erica Hammel of Saint Clair Shores brought forward her story of the abuse her son Wyatt suffered at the hands of his father’s then-girlfriend, who had two previous convictions for child abuse. Wyatt suffered severe brain injuries and continues to face challenges as a result.

“We give parents the ability to search a database for sex offenders, yet they have no way to find out if someone who is close to their child has a child abuse conviction and could be a danger to their child,” said Roberts. “Parents need this information so they can take steps to protect their child. We need to do what we can to prevent the terrible tragedy that happened to Wyatt and his mother from ever happening again. I thank the committee Chairman for giving this legislation a hearing and now we hope for a vote.”

“Children are our most vulnerable population and it is our responsibility to do all that we can to protect them,” Guerra said. “This package of bills provides children an extra layer of protection by requiring convicted child abusers to register, and penalizing them if they don’t. If an individual has been found guilty of abusing a child, they should be held accountable and prevented from hurting other children in the future.”   

The three-bill package would:

  • Create a child abuse offender registry administered by the Michigan State Police: House Bill 4973 – Rep. Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores)
  • 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: HB 4974 – former Rep. Derek Miller (D-Warren)
  • Create penalties for those who fail to register, or fail to update their registration on the child abuse offender registry: HB 4975 – Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw)      

“This registry would provide an invaluable resource to help parents and guardians secure the safety of their children,” said Miller. “As a former assistant prosecutor, I personally prosecuted the individual who abused Wyatt. I believe that it’s our duty to do whatever we can to keep kids out of harm’s way, and these bills will help us achieve that.”

“I was suspicious of what was happening when Wyatt would visit his dad, but I couldn’t look into to this woman’s background to see if she posed a danger to my son,” said Hammel. “Wyatt is a fighter, and he faces his challenges and works very hard. A child abuse registry would be justice for Wyatt and could also prevent other families from going through what we are.”

“Ms. Hammel didn’t learn until it was too late that the woman had two prior convictions for child abuse,” said Roberts. “Wyatt’s Law is important because it will give parents the information they need to keep their children safe.”