Jacqueline Franchetti is still fighting.
Franchetti, a lifelong Manhasset resident, 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, Virginia, 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, being introduced to the New York State Assembly. The bills make child safety the top priority in Family Court, increase judicial training on family violence and eliminate the use of forensic evaluators, among other things.
Franchetti said that the bills have garnered interest and led to over 15,000 emails sent to legislators in support of the five bills.
“I am extremely thankful for the support not only from the New York State legislators but also from so many neighbors and New Yorkers who want to see changes made to protect innocent and vulnerable children,” she said.
A more recent part of Franchetti’s initiative is her student advocacy group, which involves North Shore students in the policy-making process and gives them a voice.
“I have always envisioned Kyra’s Champions as one that is for kids and by kids. I have looked for ways to involve students from our area and around the nation in Kyra’s Champions,” Franchetti said. “In our program are students who want to learn to become global citizens and students who have been horribly impacted by the failings of family court both in New York State and around the nation.”
Téa Cotroins, a ninth-grader at Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington, said the group encourages her to use her own voice.
“The Student Advocate program has encouraged me to use my own voice to help pass bills that will prevent child abuse,” Cotroins said in a statement. “I have already scheduled my first meeting with a New York State Senator this week. We will discuss Kyra’s Law and other bills inspired by Kyra’s story to prevent child abuse and child murders. I have already learned to email legislators, as well as how to discuss critically important issues like advocating for the safety of children in custody cases. I have been amazed and inspired by Kyra’s Champions and by Jacqueline’s story. I am very excited to become more involved in this movement. I know I will carry on all the skills I am learning at Kyra’s Champions throughout my life and future careers.”
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 aimed at 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 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 said examples include 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 murdered her to have joint custody.
“It was a true honor to be asked and be part of this,” Franchetti said.
She said she wants to make sure the legislation so important to her gets over the finish line.
“It is up to the Legislature to look at these recommendations and take them forward,” Franchetti said.
More information about Kyra’s Champions can be found at www.kyraschampions.org.