LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a series of bills Thursday that will create a child abuse registry in the state of Michigan.
Dubbed Wyatt’s Law, the bills will institute an electronic case management system that will keep a record of confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect that will be made available to parents and legal guardians in Michigan.
Erica Hammel and her son Wyatt are all smiles. Hammel was working on this legislation for years after her son was abused. She hopes this registry can help keep other Michigan children safe.
"Wyatt, you know, has a life sentence," Hammel told FOX 17.
Wyatt is a 9 year-old with many challenges ahead.
"He'll never, unfortunately, live a normal life. Um, you know, he'll always need my help," she said.
That's after he suffered brain damage at the hands of Rachel Edwards in 2013. At just 1 year old, he was shaken so badly after the abuse, he was left blind in both eyes and couldn't walk, talk or eat.
He eventually underwent multiple brain and eye surgeries.
"People like Wyatt's abuser, Rachel Edwards, who's already out of prison living free," she said.
Hammel had been suspicious of Edwards, who was dating her ex-husband after the two had an affair, and attempted to look into her past.
She says she couldn't find anything even though Edwards was already convicted of third-degree child abuse twice before but only got probation, which Hammel says didn't show up when she ran a background check on her.
It's something she set out to change after Wyatt was hurt almost a decade ago.
"I think the fact that all this ... all these years of hard work and all these years of nos and yeses, and not knowing where this was going, and we got it done," she said.
Hammel has worked tirelessly on a bill to establish a child abuse registry for several years.
"It focuses on the bad people, the people that physically and sexually hurt children in the most severe way possible," she said.
People can now go through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to see previous convicted child abusers' basic information like name, city and age.
"Right now, you could call putting in a web request. And like I said, email top," Hammel said. "The goal is to get this into a really, like, user-friendly database."
Hammel hopes this database that child protective services has can save a life, so no parent will lose out on a special moment like this one.
"He always tells me he loves me. He tells me I'm his best friend. So it doesn't get much better than that," Hammel said. "Hopefully, like I said, this law, you know, as abuse will not be in vain, and it'll save the lives of so many. He doesn't understand that, but, you know, it's okay."
We’re told it will also allow for the expungement of inaccurate reports.
“As governor of the great state of Michigan and a mom, there is no greater responsibility than keeping our kids safe,” says Governor Whitmer. “This law will help keep kids safe at home, in school, and everywhere in between. Additionally, I am focused on making investments in our young Michiganders from preschool to postsecondary so they can get a high-quality public education and continue learning and growing right here in Michigan.”
"Let’s keep putting our kids [first] and getting things done that make a real difference in their lives,” Whitmer adds.