Manhasset resident pushes for child safety reform in Congress

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Jacqueline Franchetti with U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). Suozzi was among the Long Island congressmen to support the legislation. (Photo courtesy of the Kyra Franchetti Foundation)

On July 27, 2016, Kyra Franchetti was killed by her father at his home in Virginia. She was shot twice in the back before her father set the house on fire and killed himself. Kyra was 2 years old.

Kyra’s mother, Jacqueline Franchetti, was born and raised in Manhasset and works in Port Washington. Since her daughter’s death, she has dedicated as much time as possible to ensure that this does not happen to another child.

“My daughter’s case is not an isolated incident,” Franchetti said. “This is an issue nationwide.”

Franchetti’s efforts to make this a national effort showed a major sign of success last month when the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 72, which stresses that child safety should take priority in parent custody disputes.

“This is the first time in 30 years that [Congress] has addressed the family court system,” she said.

Franchetti said that Child Protective Services did not take her seriously when she was fighting for custody of her daughter more than two years ago.

“It wasn’t one person who failed, it was the institution,” she said. “So many things were off … the fact that [Kyra’s father] was suicidal, that he had anger issues, I was told to grow up.”

The forensic evaluator, a mental health professional, recommended that Kyra’s parents should have joint custody. Child Protective Services deemed her case as low risk because the father “hadn’t hit [Kyra].” Even when the father refused to follow court orders on medical directives, Franchetti said the attorney assigned to the case “refused to get involved.”

Following Kyra’s death, Franchetti has spent most of her time outside of Franchetti Communications — where she works as the chief marketing officer and leader trainer — to improving child safety in custody cases.

That is what drew her to House Resolution 72, which was introduced almost a year to the day after Kyra was killed. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) was the resolution’s sponsor, and its introduction in the house was spearheaded by Joan Meier, a law professor specializing in domestic abuse at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Other groups and people from around the country took part, like Ana Estevez of South Pasedena, Calif., whose 5-year-old son was murdered by his father.

As soon as she found out about it, Franchetti wanted to help. She met with legislators on Long Island and in Washington to convince them to support the resolution.

Kyra Franchetti. (Photo courtesy of the Kyra Franchetti Foundation)

“I reached out to [Rep. Tom] Suozzi [D-Glen Cove] and he signed right on,” she said. “I met with [Rep. Peter] King [R-Seaford] in his office in D.C. over the summer and he signed on. It was wonderful to go down and have people listen to your side of the story and want to help.”

Reps. Kathleen Rice [D-Garden City] and Lee Zeldin [R-Shirley] also co-sponsored the resolution. In total, 13 New York members of the House of Representatives supported Resolution 72.

According to the text, Resolution 72 says that “child safety is the first priority of custody and parenting adjudications” and that safety should be the first concern in custody decisions. It says that evidence of abuse can only be submitted by an approved fee-paid professional, that states should have clear standards for the professionals and that courts should consider paying these professionals. It also calls for hearings on the practices of family courts.

The resolution will now move to the Senate. In the meantime, Franchetti is working to get similar legislation in New York state. Through the Kyra Franchetti Foundation, she is raising money to help raise awareness of the issue.

“I want to see things change inside and outside of the court system,” she said.

It is an issue she continues to chip away at every day. She said that she thinks about her daughter all the time.

She used to go to the park in Manhasset across from the train station, and she loved to go on the swings near Landmark on Main Street” in Port Washington, Franchetti recalled. “She was very happy, energetic, bubbly toddler … and she deserved so much. If legislation like this came along earlier, my child may be alive, and I don’t want this to happen to somebody else’s child.”

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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