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Reforms Address Some, But Not All, of Critics' Complaints about Child Abuse Registry

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law earlier this month that requires notification before an individual is placed on the state's Central Registry of Abuse and Neglect.

Reforms signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Rick Snyder will implement some of the changes critics have been seeking for years to the state's central child abuse registry, which some have said violates due-process rights.

The Central Registry of Abuse and Neglect  includes about 275,000 Michigan residents who have been accused of child abuse or neglect by Children’s Protective Services. Some of the problems critics have pointed out, the Detroit Free Press reports, are that the reputations of those included on the registry can be permanently tarnished because they aren’t allowed to challenge the findings before their names are added, and in some cases their names may have been added without their ever having been notified.

“It is the biggest civil rights violation in Michigan. It’s appalling. You could be on and not know,” said Elizabeth Warner, a Jackson-based attorney who represents several plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the registry in federal court. Snyder and other state officials are named as defendants.

The plaintiffs include a Jackson Head Start employee who was fired in 2012 because she was listed on the registry, but had never been convicted of child abuse or neglect.

The law Snyder signed chips away at those problems, requiring notification by registered or certified mail when a person has been named to the list; an easier process to remove names added to the database with insufficient evidence; and a 10-year sunset automatically removing names except in cases of serious offenders.

State Rep. Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, said the changes are a “very small first step to providing minimal due process,” but said more reforms are necessary.

Children’s Protective Services Director Colin Parks told the newspaper he thinks the claims the registry violates due-process rights are exaggerated, but he welcomes the changes, which could be implemented this fall.

“My opinion is it’s a pretty fast process, so we are required to respond within 30 days to someone requesting to have their name taken off,” Parks said. “I think this change (is) really another example of how this department in the past few years has really, really tried to address our families in a different way. ... Being on the registry should not be a life sentence for folks.”

>>> Read the full Detroit Free Press report.

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