Bipartisan bills hold child abusers accountable

‘Wyatt’s Law’ would give parents access to critical information

LANSING, Mich. — Sens. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Curtis Hertel, Jr., D-East Lansing; alongside state Reps. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores; Vanessa Guerra, D-Saginaw; and Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, have introduced a package of bills known as “Wyatt’s Law,” which would create and maintain a registry for those convicted of child abuse.

The House and Senate bills are identical pieces of legislation and match bills introduced in the House last session.

Inspiration for the bills came when the mother of Wyatt, the bill’s namesake, approached the Legislature following the abuse of her 1-year-old son at the hands of his father’s girlfriend. The mother had petitioned for sole custody due to unease about the father’s new girlfriend, but there was no way for her to check if the woman was a danger to her son. Wyatt suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of this woman. The mother didn’t learn until it was too late that the woman had two prior convictions for child abuse.

“Parents deserve to know who they are leaving their child with,” said Rep. Hertel, who represents the community where this incident occurred. “With a searchable database, we can give other parents access to important information they should have. I believe that this would never have happened had Wyatt’s mother been able to access the conviction information for free.”

“I sponsored a bill in this package last session and am pleased to sponsor it again this term because this story strikes you to your core,” said Guerra. “I’m looking forward to seeing these bills pass so that we have another layer of protection for our children who depend on us to take care of them.”

Schuitmaker echoed the importance of this legislation.

“If someone has stood trial and been convicted of child abuse, there need to be consequences,” Schuitmaker said. “We have to hold people accountable. No parent should ever be left feeling like they ‘should have done more.’”

Lucido agreed, stating, “After spending nearly 30 years in a courtroom, I have seen all too often how many preventable injuries and deaths occurred because of sheer lack of information. I am proud to step up and take part in this effort.”

Sen. Hertel, a father of four, is confident in the support for the legislation.

“I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass Wyatt’s Law,” Hertel said. “We have a genuine opportunity to help protect kids and there is nothing more important.”

Jones concurred on the importance of working across the aisle.

“I think seeing the bipartisan sponsorship of this package helps people see how crucial it is,” Jones said. “Any parent or grandparent will tell you they use their intuition in making childcare decisions, and this registry helps give them peace of mind if something doesn’t seem right.”