LANSING, Mich. – For seven and a half years, Erica Hammel has been trying to get a law passed to give parents and guardians the information she didn’t have back in 2013.
That’s when her son Wyatt suffered permanent brain damage at the hands of his father’s girlfriend, who’d been convicted of child abuse before.
Now Wyatt’s law is law.
“He has no idea the impact that he’s made in this world,” said Hammel, referring to her son Wyatt.
Wyatt is now a third-grader with permanent brain damage, but one thing he knows for certain about Wyatt’s Law is that it’s his law. He also remembers the date it was passed.
Hammel has visited the state capital more than 100 times to make it happen. Wyatt was right by her side the entire time.
“The bills would die, would be reintroduced; I think they finally were like, ‘This woman is not going away,’” said Hammel.
Wyatt’s Law was born out of her frustration. She believes knowing her ex-husband’s girlfriend had a history of child abuse would have changed everything.
Hammel said, “I actually went to MDHHS and asked them about Rachel Edwards, who was Wyatt’s abuser, and they told me ‘We cannot give you any information. We’re not allowed to give it out.’”
Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has a database of people who abused or neglected a child that could be a future risk. It’s called the Central Registry. Only certain employers and state officials would be able to access the registry, but after Thursday that information is open to the public.
“She (Edwards) only went to prison for five years for almost killing Wyatt, who has permanent brain damage,” Hemmel said. “If we can’t keep these people behind bars and we as parents and grandparents, guardians should be able to find this information and keep them away from them (children).”
The Central Registry is under review and when open to the public will include people convicted of child abuse crimes. In the meantime, Hammel said if people need to use the resource they can contact MDHHS.
Read more: New Michigan law expands access to child abuse registry