LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State Legislators are working hard to bring changes to the state's system that tracks child abuse.
In December, the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation that would help clean up the state's central registry and make sure the right people are on that list.
Michigan's Central Registry has been up and running since the early 1970s. The system is maintained by Child Protective Services and contains a list of over 300,000 people who have been identified as perpetrators of child abuse or neglect.
"What this does is that it will affect the person's employment, affect whether or not they can even be foster care parents or adoptive parents. It even affects whether or not they can run for political office or work in a school system," said state Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Pontiac.
Legislators say a lot of people on the registry might have not done anything serious.
"Maybe a neighbor had reported concerns of neglect. And there was an investigation, but the investigation found nothing. Well, that person could still remain currently under current law on that registry," said state Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St Clair. "There are so many individuals on there who might have been investigated for something but it never amounted to an actual charge for a case of child abuse or neglect."
They are aiming to revamp the system with a bipartisan package of bills.
"Right now, I believe we have five Democrats who have sponsored bills including myself, and then for Republicans, for a total of nine individuals bipartisan, this beautiful package that is addressing this issue," Carter said.
Hertel says he's been working on this issue with a constituent for a while. He says the bills do a lot of things.
"It cleans up that registry itself, we would never be able to make that public-facing if we didn't clean it up and make sure that people who really need to be on that list are there, we wouldn't want to provide information to the public if it's not a fair process," Hertel said.
He also says will create a due process to make sure that those who feel they do not belong on the registry can apply to be removed.
"My bill in particular repeals or erases all the former verbiage and language mandates structure and allows the other representatives to come in and tweak the system to make it where we want it to be in each one of these categories have been identified," Carter said.
Dr. Grenae Dudley serves as the chair of the Michigan County Social Services Association. The non-profit advises the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
"This was one packet that came that we were really concerned about and support it. We support the legislature because it updates the central registry, the way in which people are on the registry, and the way in which people can get off of the registry," Dudley said. "We definitely have a concern that you may have some folks that may be on that registry, not knowing they're on the registry, so it updates the process for notifying you that you may have been placed on the registry."
The bills now move to the Senate.
"We're hopeful we'll get a hearing in the senate relatively soon with passage sometime this year," State Representative Hertel said. "This is not going to solve every child abuse case across our state, but it's going to put us in a direction where i think we can better protect our children. And I've always said that if this saves one life, it'll be well worth it."
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton said in a statement that the agency "has not taken a formal position on the legislation at this time, but we are always happy to have discussions with our legislative partners on ways to protect the safety and well-being of children and have been working with the sponsors of the legislation. We really can’t speak to the intent of the legislation."
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