A Michigan mother and thousands of supporters were pushing this week for the state to put together a public, online child abuse registry, which if created would be one of the first databases of its kind in the United States. Erica Hammel's Change.org petition on Monday morning was 450 signatures away from the 10,000 it needed. What she wants is an easily searchable website similar to sex offender databases, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Michigan's Department of Human Services -- similar to other states -- keeps an internal list of people who police have investigated for child abuse or neglect, but the public can't access it. "It just seems like there's a real gap in our system. Parents can't find the information to protect their child from someone convicted of child abuse," Democratic state Rep. Sarah Roberts told the Detroit Free Press.
Hammel, a 26-year-old who lives in St. Clair Shores near Detroit, started circulating the petition after her now-2-year-old son, Wyatt, was assaulted in 2013. His father's girlfriend at the time allegedly shook Wyatt, causing brain damage and temporary blindness. Only after the incident did Hammel find out the girlfriend had been previously convicted of child abuse -- twice. “I went on OTIS, which is the Offender Tracking Information System -- couldn’t find her,” CBS Detroit reported Hammel said. “I even searched the sex offender registry -- couldn’t find her.” If Hammel's petition reaches 10,000 signatures, she'll take it and an accompanying bill to Michigan's House of Representatives, Senate and governor's office.
Most states have laws allowing certain people to access child abuse and neglect records, including welfare services, doctors, police officers, judges, attorneys and parents, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway in Washington, D.C. But many states are forbidden from giving this information to the public. "I feel like this law is justice for Wyatt," Hammel said. "This law could save hundreds of kids' lives."