Miley’s Bill seeks to raise awareness of child abuse
MANTI— A local case of shaken-baby child abuse has helped bring a proposal to Utah lawmakers to set up a registry for convicted felony child abusers.
Miley White, now 3, was severely injured after being violently shaken by her father, Gary Hansen when she was only 7-months. Miley sustained injuries to her head and body, leaving her with 25 percent loss of brain function, blindness and other physical and cognitive disabilities.
“We’re calling this ‘Miley’s Bill’ to honor her,” Representative Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green, said at a balloon release held at the Manti City Park on Oct. 22 to commemorate Miley’s survival and to honor other child victims of abuse. “Much like the sex offender registry, this registry will require that those who are convicted of felony child abuse would then have to sign up on the child abuse registry.”
JoAnn Otten, Miley’s grandmother and chair of the Children’s Justice Center board, said after Miley was injured, she and her family became outspoken and looked for ways to spread awareness.
Otten said she met with a John Cox, a former member of the Utah House of Representatives after the incident occurred to inquire about what she could do to help raise awareness and stop violence against children. His response was simple: Education.
Otten said she contacted the Utah State Board of Education for ideas on how she could educate the public and they asked her to come up with a presentation. She says she immediately began working on a presentation showcasing Miley’s story. She has traveled to local schools, nursing schools and educated the Snow College Business Club over the course of three years to help spread awareness.
After a year, Otten said she had done all she could do and wanted to move forward with a broader campaign. She said she had met Owens to discuss options and he agreed to sponsor a bill that would change Utah law to include convicted child abusers on a registry.
While the bill is still in the drafting stage, Owens says there is still a lot of work to do before presenting it to the House and Senate.
Currently, Owens says he and the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel are making decisions about which crimes and at which level to include in the bill.
The current drafted proposal says that anyone convicted of felony child abuse, child trafficking, shaken baby and sexual abuse must register with the child abuse registry.
Data released by the Child Welfare League of America, the longest standing welfare organization in the United States, shows Utah had 37,648 referrals for child abuse in 2015 and authorities investigated 19,493 of them.
According to the report, seven Utah children died as a result of abuse and neglect last year.
Owens and Otten, along with their supporters and other child-abuse victim advocates, say if one child and family are protected and spared from the suffering endured by Miley, then every effort made to get the bill passed into law will be worth it.
“We are set to go with this and are serious about it,” Otten says. “This will provide the opportunity for people who want to check out a daycare provider, who they are sending their children to and even for people who want to know who they are dating.”
Owens says they are pressing forward to have the bill ready for the 2017 Legislative session, which will begin the final week of January, and hope to gain support from lawmakers, criminal justice and law enforcement.