'Nicky's Law' would list those accused of abusing people with disabilities

BOSTON — A local mother says her son -- who has autism -- was abused by a caregiver at his day program.

But that employee was not convicted of a crime. So now he could go out and obtain another job working with other people with disabilities.

So that mom set out to change that.

Now, there’s momentum on Beacon Hill to get “Nicky’s Law” passed before the end of the legislative session.

Massachusetts does not have a registry to track individuals accused of abusing the disabled, but Cheryl Chan wants to change that after her son was allegedly beaten by his caregiver.

“He was badly beaten along the head, he was sat on, he was punched,” Chan explained to Boston 25 News.

It was four years ago that Cheryl Chan and her husband got the letter in the mail. It was from the day program her then 21-year-old son, Nicky, attended.

Nicky is autistic and non-verbal.

It said they were investigating whether Nicky was beaten by one of the day program employees, while another looked on in a van in a local park.

Chan says so many questions swirled through her mind about what happened and then another thought occurred.

“I wanted to know what mechanism was in place to prevent them from simply going to the next agency, getting a job there and doing it again?” said Chan. “And the answer was nothing.”

Chan and her husband took the case to court, but a jury found the employee not guilty.

The Arc of Massachusetts says every year 11,000 cases of people with disabilities being abused are reported in Massachusetts.

But many in cases, accusers are found not guilty because victims can't testify.

Chan started researching and learned a handful of other states have abuse registries that list the names of anyone substantiated by state investigators of abusing someone with a disability.

She teamed up with her Senator Michael Moore (D-Shrewsbury) and The Arc and helped secure passage of "Nicky's Law" through the senate.

Supporters are now optimistic it will pass through the house before the end of the legislative session.

For Chan, it's a way to turn something very dark into something positive and to try to protect other children and adults with disabilities from being abused.

If passed by the house and signed by the governor, the registry would cost the state roughly $1.7 million and could be up and running by 2020.

MORE: Personal experiences inspire Norwood Police Dept. to raise autism awareness