Child abuse registry advocates make case to Lansing lawmakers

- Emotional testimony in Lansing as lawmakers work on a potential child abuse registry.

Two moms told similar stories about the same convicted child abuser, Rachel Edwards who abused both their children.

They are talking to lawmakers to make sure it ends, giving testimony to a state House committee with the power to do something about child abuse.

"Wyatt had suffered a major brain bleed and a fractured skull that they think was due to non-accidental injuries," said mother Erica Hammel. "According to his doctors he will never be able to live on his own."

"He wasn't able to stay awake and I knew something was not right with my son," said mother Christyne Kadlitz. "I had to rush my son to the ER."

Two years ago these moms met and started talking about child abuse prevention - what came out of that was "Wyatt's Law" named after Erica's now 4-year-old son.

It was an idea FOX 2 first talked to her about two years ago. Now they are closer than they could have ever imagined to seeing it happen.

"(This is) such a leap forward," Hammel said. "I have often been told that this is one of the hardest steps, to get a committee hearing."

If passed, the law would create a public registry for convicted child abusers. Wyatt's abuser, Edwards, was guilty of misdemeanor and making records of her conviction difficult to find.

"Had there been a searchable registry for convicted child abusers, I know this would have never happened to Wyatt," said

Those opposed to such a registry, like the ACLU,  are worried it won't prevent abuse just make it harder for offenders to rehabilitate with a scarlet letter of being on a public registry and may prevent people from reporting abuse for fear of lasting consequences.

"It's kind of a knee jerk reaction that's a safety net," said Shelli Weisberg, with the ACLU. "It sounds good but what it doesn't do is address the problems of child abuse."

But for the moms who face the realities of abuse daily, any chance to save a child is worth taking. The moms hope Michigan lawmakers will follow the lead of Indiana. Gov. Mike Pence just signed a bill into law creating a child abuse registry - a bill modeled after Wyatt's Law.

Erica Hammel knows the realities - it is hard to get a bill passed during a lame duck session at the end of the year.  But that doesn't mean she is about to give up.

"The worst case scenario, these bills die at the end of the year," she said. "(I'll) start back over again. I'm not going away, they know that."

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