Bills prioritize protection of children, make practical updates
A plan from state Rep. Michele Hoitenga making needed reforms to a state registry tracking perpetrators of child abuse and neglect was unanimously advanced by the Michigan Senate on Wednesday.
Hoitenga, of Manton, said improvements are needed to the central registry as the threshold for entry onto it has become increasingly vague. Hundreds of thousands of Michigan parents have been placed on the registry without being convicted of any crime, making it difficult for them to find employment and housing or volunteer in their communities.
Hoitenga’s legislation – House Bill 5277, offers clarity for definitions of certain child abuse or child neglect claims that require listing in the central registry. The updates protect children while guarding against unintended consequences with the registry.
“Current law uses the terms substantiated and unsubstantiated with the state review and registry process. We should have clearer terminology for these situations, especially given the massive impacts they can have on someone’s life when these allegations are classified by the state,” Hoitenga said. “Moving forward with confirmed and not confirmed on allegations will provide more clarity and show an allegation was thoroughly examined.
“This list has become increasingly easy to get onto and more difficult to be removed from. That impacts someone’s ability to find work and provide for their families, volunteer in their communities, and more. This plan balances the protection of children, as well as someone being innocent until they are proven guilty.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has previously acknowledged there are too many individuals placed on the central registry – roughly 300,000 state residents in all. By contrast, the state’s sex offender registry has 40,000 names.
The bipartisan plan will refine the central registry to track perpetrators of serious abuse and neglect who represent an ongoing risk to children in their care. It also establishes an administrative review process to remove names of people who do not meet the new criteria for placement and consider requests from individuals seeking expungement from the registry. This way, the new registry will include only individuals who likely pose a danger to children based on confirmed previous acts of serious abuse or neglect, including sexual abuse and severe physical abuse.
The legislation contained in the package include House Bills 5274-80, 5534 and 5594.
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