The state Senate unanimously passed Monday a bill championed by lifelong Manhasset resident Jacqueline Franchetti after her 2-year-old daughter was murdered by her father on a court-approved visit.
The bill is one of the first of eight laws that Franchetti has pushed for to reach this point. It prohibits certain forensic child custody evaluators from appearing as expert witnesses in family court.
Senate Bill S8578B now must pass the state Assembly before it can become law.
Franchetti has led a fight to reform the New York justice system that let her daughter slip through the cracks.
On July 27, 2016, 2-year-old Kyra’s father shot her twice in the back while she was sleeping at his Fairfax, Va., home on an unsupervised, court-sanctioned visit. He then set the house on fire and shot himself to death.
After Kyra was killed, Franchetti founded Kyra’s Champions and the Kyra Franchetti Foundation, whose mission is to protect children in custody cases from being ordered by a court into the home of an abusive parent.
Franchetti’s advocacy has led to multiple bills, including Kyra’s Law, which makes child safety the top priority in Family Court, increases judicial training on family violence and eliminates the use of forensic evaluators, among other things.
Franchetti previously said that the bills have garnered interest and led to over 15,000 emails sent to legislators in support of the five bills.
In December, Gov. Kathy Hochul released a report from the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Forensic Custody Evaluations, created by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, of which Franchetti was one of 20 members.
The group was focused on providing recommendations to the governor about updates to the evaluations for New York courts after negative experiences were reported by parents, attorneys and court officials.
Forensic evaluators are required to have a background in mental health and conduct evaluations on parent/child relationships before providing a report to the court. Franchetti described a lack of necessary training, bias and lack of standards as reasons the commission was created.
Franchetti previously cited several disturbing examples that included a forensic evaluator in Schenectady requiring a child who disclosed sexual abuse to sit on her father’s lap during her interview.
She said on Long Island an evaluator interviewed a young boy on the bed where he was raped and in her daughter Kyra’s case, the evaluator dismissed documented evidence and eyewitness accounts of abuse and advocated for the father who ultimately murdered her to have joint custody.
More information about Kyra’s Champions can be found at www.kyraschampions.org.