Kyra’s Champions call for passage of child protection law on what would have been her 10th birthday

Kyra’s Champions call for passage of child protection law on what would have been her 10th birthday
Pinwheels cover the lawn at Mary Jane Davies Green Park in Manhasset to raise awareness for child abuse and neglect by family court systems, while also advocating for the passage of a law that would protect children during custody disputes. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Franchetti)

Nearly 800 pinwheels were scattered across the lawn of Mary Jane Davis Green Park gave a beautiful appearance but carried a tragic meaning.

Every pinwheel planted symbolized a child in New York who had died while in the family court system.

“One of those children is two-year-old Kyra Franchetti, a toddler I never had the opportunity to meet but a little girl I think about every single day,” Kyra’s Champions student advocate Shayna Blumenfeld said.

Kyra’s Champions is a child safety advocacy group formed by Jacqueline Franchetti in response to the murder of her daughter Kyra by Kyra’s father in the summer of 2016.

The organization has promoted a bill to protect children in the court system

On a windy Wednesday morning, Kyra’s Champions and supporting local officials gathered in the park surrounded by the sound of spinning pinwheels.

State Assemblymember Gina Sillitti, who recently gave birth to a boy, said the wind spinning them and the subtle noise they produced was as if the children they represented were joining them.

The day also coincided with what would have been Kyra’s 10th birthday.

“Today should be a celebration of my daughter Kyra’s 10th birthday,” Franchetti said. “Double-digits. And instead of blowing out candles, I’m going to be putting flowers by her grave.”

Joining Franchetti and Kyra’s Champions were Robbie Harvey, a social media influencer for child abuse prevention, Sillitti, state Sen. Jack Martins, Lorraine DiFiglia of the Safe Center LI and various other local officials.

This was the fourth year the pinwheels were planted at the park, done by the organization Kyra’s Champions, and every year more and more pinwheels are added as more and more children die.

Franchetti said this includes ten children who were killed in the last year alone by a parent while going through a divorce, custody case or separation. She attributed these deaths to the failings of the court and protective systems to safeguard these children.

“How many more pinwheels do we need to add?” Franchetti asked.

She said the way to prevent child deaths like her daughter’s is by strictening the laws that protect children, such as through their proposed “Kyra’s Law.” She and the group advocated for its passage by the state Legislature.

“We know, together, the devastating consequences of doing nothing,” Franchetti said, surrounded by other children and adults enthralled in family court issues.

Kyra’s Law encompasses three aspects: making child safety the top priority in custody cases, mandating judge training and stopping common practices that permit abusive parents to gain custody of a child.

Franchetti said the bill has already received 91 co-sponsors in the state Assembly, amounting to two-thirds of the body. The very first co-sponsor of that law was Sillitti.

The world is watching the State of New York, and I will make sure they know whether this law passes or not,” Harvey said. “And I will make sure they know who does not support it because those who don’t support it support dead children. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated.”

Joining the organization in their calls to implement Kyra’s Law were two kids, Logan Haase, 12, and Evan DiFranco, 14, who shared their “horror stories” going through the family court system.

Prior to her daughter’s death, Franchetti said she sought help from the Nassau County Family Court office after leaving Kyra’s father due to abuse. She said he was stalking, harassing and threatening her and Kyra, and she feared for the safety of their lives.

“The judge’s response to me was that I should grow up,” Franchetti said.

Because of that judge’s response to Franchetti’s calls for help, she said, Kyra will now never get the chance to grow up.

This was just one example Franchetti cited of the neglect she said she experienced at the hands of the systems intended to protect her.

“Kyra’s murder was entirely preventable,” Franchetti said. “The murder of 759 other children was entirely preventable. We need to do more.”

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