Have you heard of Michigan’s Wyatt’s Law?
No one in their right mind thinks child abuse should continue. The sad reality is that child abuse does remain in this country, and laws exist to help the state get children out of horrific situations.
At least, that’s what the law is supposed to do. However, it doesn’t always reach the children who need it most. It often oversteps into families where it has no business.
How far should the law extend to help children? In addition, which laws will actually help children?
These are questions we need to be asking as we consider laws like Wyatt’s Law, a proposed law is making its way through Michigan’s government.
What Is Wyatt’s Law?
Wyatt’s Law is named for a child who was severely abused by his father’s girlfriend at the time – Rachel Edwards. The child suffered a permanent brain injury as a result of Shaken Baby Syndrome.
His mother, Erica Hammel, knew he was being abused by Edwards. However, she couldn’t prove it to the judge during her custody hearings because she didn’t have access to Edwards’ criminal history.
Hammel wasn’t able to prove that Edwards posed a danger to her son. Therefore, the judge would not disallow contact with Edwards. He is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for child abuse. It was her third conviction of child abuse in Michigan.
Wyatt’s Law seeks to make the information about child abusers publicly available and published, much like the sex offender registry.
Michigan’s Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry
Did you know there is already a central registry for child abusers?
The central registry, sometimes called the Child Abuse Registry, is a database containing the names of convicted and suspected child abusers in Michigan. It is similar in form to the state’s sex offender registry.
According to CPS, here’s what gets you put on the registry:
“a preponderance of evidence that the individual has abused or neglected their child and the future risk to the child is high or intensive.”
How does CPS determine the preponderance of evidence?
It takes all the data gathered by the agent, plus the opinion of the assigned caseworker and their manager. It uses a “structured decision making risk assessment tool” to decide who goes on the registry.
In some instances, state law requires certain people’s names to go on the Central Registry no matter what their assessed risk was.
If you would like to see which cases fall into this territory, take a look at Michigan’s Child Protection Law.
Differences Between Sex Offender Registry and Child Abuser Registry
Right now, the only people who can see the Central Registry are CPS workers, police, and other law enforcement agents.
It is not available to the general public. Wyatt’s Law would change that for good, in much the same way the Jacob Wetterling Act changed the landscape for sex offenders.
In this country, it is now challenging to have any kind of life once you have been placed on the sex offender registry.
Imagine how it would be for convicted child abusers if Wyatt’s Law is passed.
Imagine if you got placed on that database for being falsely reported, or for something like allowing your children to play in the park by themselves, and CPS disagreed.
These are things that have happened to families.
That’s not all.
There is one more important distinction between the state sex offender registry and the child abuse registry, and it’s already in place. It is required if you are placed on the sex offender registry, that you have been convicted of a sex crime.
There is no such requirement for parents and other people to be placed on the state child abuse registry.
Just as you do not have to be convicted of child abuse or neglect to have your children taken from you in this state, you do not have to be convicted of child abuse or neglect to have your name put on the central registry.
Child abuse registries may make it easier in some cases for parents and law enforcement to protect some children. However, these registries have severe ramifications for many families
How Do You Know if You are on the Child Abuse Registry?
Child Protective Services is required to notify those they put on the Central Child Abuse and Neglect Registry by state law.
Within 30 days, you will receive written notification via certified mail that can only be delivered to you, or the letter will be handed to you by a CPS worker.
In legal terms, this is called due process. Furthermore, if your name gets put on that list and you are not notified, it is a violation of your rights.
The letter will contain the information that your name is on the central registry, and why. You will be given a list of who can see your name on the list and access the information.
In addition, the letter will tell you that you can review your case record and that you have the right to appeal the decision to have your name put on the Central Registry. It also should contain instructions about how to file an appeal.
However, this does not mean you have been given everything you need to protect your rights and those of your family, or that you should attempt to follow these instructions on your own.
You will need legal assistance to fight for your rights.
If you have received notice from Child Protective Services that they have placed your name on the Child Abuse Registry, call an experienced defense attorney right away.
Removal From Michigan’s Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry
For many of you, your next question will be, “Can I have my name removed from the Child Abuse Registry?” and “How do I remove my name?”
If your name has been placed on the central registry, the law allows you to request that your name be removed.
This is called expungement.
You must submit a written request to the Department of Human Services Director in the county from which your charges or allegations have stemmed.
The director may deny your request, in which case you are entitled to a hearing. A hearing will be scheduled for you, and you will be notified in writing of the time and date.
Next, you have 240 days to make your request after receiving a notification. If you don’t make the request within 240 days, it unlikely that your application will be considered.
What good will a hearing do if your request is denied?
You will be able to prove or try to prove, that your name was added to the registry inaccurately or wrongly.
You have the chance to show that the state did not meet its burden of proof to prove child abuse or neglect.
Additionally, you may have your name removed from the registry if the hearing determines it was placed there wrongly.
Get the Help You Need: Michigan CPS Attorney
If you don’t have experience dealing with CPS, take my word for it that the state may invade your life, spread lies about you, and try to bully you into submission.
You may quickly find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have no control and no more freedom. Don’t let this happen to you and your family!
Let me help you stand up to CPS, protect you from false allegations the state may try to make against you, and get your name taken off of the central registry.
Let’s get started.