Signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, “Wyatt’s Law” will establish an electronic database for parents and guardians to track confirmed cases of those who have abused or neglected children.
Need to Know
- Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed “Wyatt’s Law,” establishing a statewide child abuse registry to track confirmed cases of those convicted of abusing or neglecting children.
- The package of legislation was approved with a bipartisan vote.
- The bill is named for Wyatt Rewoldt, a child abused by his father’s girlfriend who had a previous history of child abuse. Wyatt’s mother, Erica Hammel, has been working to get this law passed since 2014.
LANSING— Almost eight years ago, a Michigan toddler was abused by his father’s girlfriend. Today, that incident has become significant for all Michiganders, with the establishment of a statewide child abuse registry.
In 2014, Wyatt Rewoldt was shaken so violently by Rachel Edwards that he almost died. He had a fractured skull, a major brain bleed, suffered permanent brain damage, went blind in one eye, had broken ribs, and continues to have severe cognitive and developmental delays.
But that wasn’t the first time Edwards had abused a child. In fact, she had two prior child abuse convictions, according to Macomb County Court records. And despite Wyatt’s mom checking into Edwards’ background, neither she nor his father were aware of the woman’s crimes.
“Had there been a searchable registry for convicted child abusers, I know this would have never happened to Wyatt,” his mother, Erica Hammel, said. “If we cannot keep or put these people who are convicted of child abuse behind bars, then we as parents and guardians have a right to know who they are so we can keep our children away from them.”
It took over seven years for her campaign, aimed at creating legislation to protect children and give parents peace of mind, to be approved with bipartisan support and signed into effect as “Wyatt’s Law.”
The legislation will create an electronic database that the public can use to search for people convicted of child abuse or neglect.
“As governor of the great state of Michigan and a mom, there is no greater responsibility than keeping our kids safe,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “I was proud to work across the aisle to get this done for our kids, parents, and families. This law will help keep kids safe at home, in school, and everywhere in between.”
The law will also modify the procedure to amend or expunge inaccurate reports of child abuse or neglect, ensuring the list accurately tracks offenders.
“What happened to Wyatt could have been prevented had pertinent information been easily accessible,” Hammel said in a statement. “Starting today, countless children’s lives in Michigan will be saved because that information is now easily accessible. I’m so thankful to every legislator who has helped make this happen. There is and never will be any excuse for child abuse.”
Representing Hammel and Rewoldt, two of his constituents from St. Clair Shores, state Rep. Kevin Hertel celebrated the passage of Wyatt’s Law last week.
“Nearly a decade after Erica Hammel started seeking accountability for those convicted of child abuse in Michigan, Wyatt’s Law was signed into effect today,” Hertel said in a statement. “While Erica and Wyatt will always feel the impacts of child abuse, this law will bring justice for countless other families by helping prevent abuse before it can happen.”