Michigan tribes now have access to child protective records

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Michigan State Sens. Judy Emmons and Wayne Schmidt welcomed representatives from Michigan’s Native American tribes to Lansing on Tuesday March 20, as Senate Bill 616 was signed into law.

The bill, now Public Act 56 of 2018, amends the Child Protection Law to update the list of individuals who have access to Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) records — specifically those related to child abuse.

Previous law stated that any report, document, or photograph filed with DHHS is a confidential record available only to certain individuals and entities, such as a law enforcement agency investigating a report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect. PA 56 would update that list to include social service representatives from one of the federally recognized tribes within the state of Michigan if the alleged abuse involved a Native American child.

“Documents related to a Native American child should be available to a tribal entity or tribal representative, especially when there is suspected abuse or neglect,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Tribes are sovereign governments with their own laws and the state should not limit their ability to investigate.”

Emmons agreed.

“By allowing tribal representatives access to certain records regarding child abuse within their tribe, we are creating a coordinated effort between the state of Michigan and each individual tribe with the goal of further curbing child abuse and neglect,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan.

Photo caption: State Sens. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, stand for a photo with representatives from Michigan’s Native American tribes as Gov. Rick Snyder signs Senate Bill 616 into law. The bill is now Public Act 56 of 2018.