Kyra's Law closer to passage

Darwin Yanes

Originally published in Newsday

A Manhasset woman’s journey to reform New York State’s Divorce and Family Courts to protect children and families at risk of domestic violence, in honor of the daughter who was killed in 2016 amid a custody battle, is inching closer to completion.

Kyra’s Law — named after 2-year-old Kyra Franchetti, who authorities said was killed in a murder-suicide by her father, Roy Eugene Rumsey, during a court-sanctioned visit in Fairfax, Virginia — will go to the state Senate floor for consideration after the Judiciary Committee passed the measure 15-0 on March 1.

Jacqueline Franchetti, Kyra’s mother and an advocate for policy reform regarding domestic violence, describes the bill as a "common-sense solution" to protecting children from abusive parents.

"Kyra’s death was entirely preventable if any of [the court officials] would have put Kyra’s safety first," Franchetti said. "We have judges who are making life-and-death decisions without the proper skills and training. Our judicial training in this area is extremely weak, and we need to revamp that. Kyra’s Law will do that."

The legislation would mandate domestic and child abuse training for state judges and court officials; require courts to make findings regarding child or domestic abuse before addressing custody and visitation; and make the health and safety of the child the top priority when determining custody in divorces and separations.

State Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), a sponsor of the bill, praised Franchetti as "a force of nature, whose unstoppable advocacy on this issue will undoubtedly save lives."

"As a mother, I was heartbroken to hear Kyra’s story, and the stories of so many children who have been left behind by a broken system that doesn’t prioritize their safety and well-being," Kaplan said. "We have to do more to protect our kids, and ensure no parent has to suffer a tragedy like this again."

Kaplan said she and other sponsors of the bill will review comments and draft a revision, which they hope will pass both houses of the legislature and become law.

The bill’s advancement comes a month shy of what would have been Kyra’s 8th birthday, on April 4. In honor of her daughter, Franchetti has set up an annual "Pinwheels for Kyra" event that this year asks supporters to put eight blue pinwheels on their front lawn in remembrance of Kyra and to raise awareness about child abuse.

Kyra’s Champions, a nonprofit created by Franchetti, hosts "Pinwheels for Prevention in the Parks" at two of Kyra’s favorite ones — Blumenfeld Park in Port Washington and Mary Jane Davies Green Park in Manhasset. A total of 745 pinwheels will be planted in memory of children killed by a parent during a child custody case or deaths related to children in Child Protective Services, Franchetti said.

"Last year you couldn’t drive around Manhasset and Port Washington without seeing pinwheels," Franchetti said. "It was such a beautiful display of hope."