Indiana one step closer to starting child abuse registry

Senate Bill 357 is inspired by Kirk Coleman who died at a daycare.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Senate Bill 357 passed unanimously in the Senate Wednesday, and is now on its way to the House of Representatives.

The database would be similar to the sex offender registry that many states, including Indiana, already have. If the bill passes, anyone convicted of a crime involving child abuse or neglect would show up on the list. Bob Morris who represents District 84 in northeast Indiana is one of the bill’s sponsors. It still needs approval from the House and Governor Pence, but Morris said it’s already garnering great support.

“It’s good for the state of Indiana, and it’s good for the children in Indiana,” Morris said.

The bill is inspired by 19-month-old Kirk Coleman. He died in October 2014 after spending the day at his daycare near South Bend.  The babysitter was a family friend, but had previous charges of battery and neglect. The toddler’s family didn’t know about her criminal history until after Kirk died. Now, the Coleman family and state lawmakers are turning the tragedy into transformational change, using Kirk’s story to save lives.

“Kids that have been harmed at a young age, it affects them for the rest of their life. So, if we can stop just one more incident from happening and parents being made aware of a specific incident that the specific babysitter had 10, 15, 20 years ago, we could save the well-being of the children of our state,” Morris said.

If the bill passes, Indiana State Police will run the database. Morris said thousands of Hoosiers would have to register based on their past crimes.

“The public can log on and type in your name and look and see exactly what comes up. You’re checking out the babysitter next door that’s going to watch your children while you’re away at work or running errands and to know exactly what their background is and who they are,” Morris said.

It’s a simple step Morris said protects both kids and parents.

“It is kind of a revolutionary bill,” Morris said.

Indiana could make history if the bill passes. Morris said he isn’t aware of any other states with registries right now. He said several lawmakers from across the country have already reached out about setting up similar bills in their states.

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