Important research has been done and is continuing to be conducted on the issue of Shaken Baby Syndrome. The Washington Post, in a year-long study, in partnership with journalists from Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project, used court records and news media accounts to track the dispositions of about 1,800 cases nationwide since 2001 that reportedly involved shaking. Information was also obtained from the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School and from bloggers Sue Luttner and Susan Anthony. Researchers have now made the current research public in a multi-part article--one that should be a candidate for a Pulitzer Prize. In the series, the issue of Shaken Baby Syndrome is examined from every possible angle.
Today's guest author is Judge David A. Hoort, Family Court Judge in the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Ionia County, Michigan. Judge Hoort writes about his concerns with a new statute affecting termination of parental rights that became effective a few days ago.
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Along with murder, voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault that results in serious bodily injury of another child, MCL 712A.19a(2)(d), as amended, effective May 1, 2012, now provides that if a parent is required to register under the sex offenders registration act, the department of human services is not required to make reasonable efforts to reunify the child with the parent.
Critics argue that this will allow the family court to terminate a parent's parental rights to a child for no other reason than a parent being required to register under the Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA). (Past law required that there be some showing of ‘unfitness’ before parental rights can be terminated.) Advocates counter that judges retain discretion to order DHS to make reasonable efforts to reunify the child with the parent, and the legislation was needed to receive federal funding.
The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals decision in In Re Beck on December 22, 2010, rejecting a father's argument that his obligation to pay child support ended as a matter of law when his parental rights were terminated and that his constitutional right to due process of law was violated by an order that continued his child support obligation.