Tuesday, June 6, 2023

State Pols and Advocates Urge Passage of Law to Protect Children from Violent Abuse

New York State Senator James Skoufis and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi gathered with advocates today to urge the immediate passage of Kyra’s Law, a family court reform intended to protect vulnerable children from violence and abuse.

Both the Senate and Assembly bills are currently sitting in their respective Judiciary Committees. With just over two weeks remaining in the current legislative session, Skoufis and Hevesi called on both houses to immediately advance the bill.

Kyra’s Law is named after Kyra Franchetti, a two year-old who was murdered on Long Island. The legislation calls for courts to consider a child’s safety when making custody and visitation decisions; directs the court to review certain information as it relates to allegations of abuse; expands the existing, weak judicial training requirements on family violence and child abuse to ensure our judges who make life-and-death decisions have the needed skills to properly assess these dangerous and lethal cases; and addresses critical shortcomings in child custody cases that result in children being abused and murdered. 

In the wake of Kyra’s passing at the hands of her own abusive father, her mother, Jacqueline Franchetti, has tirelessly advocated for this desperately needed family court reform. Joining the lawmakers for a solemn walk around the Capitol on Monday, advocates poignantly pushed Kyra’s stroller – a devastating reminder of both the lasting toll of domestic violence on families, and the life Kyra was robbed of living.

“How many more children, like Kyra, must die during child custody and visitation proceedings in New York’s courts before systems are put in place to protect them during this potentially dangerous time?” asked Kyra’s mother. “Kyra should be nine years old, instead she is frozen in time as the 2-year-old toddler I knew. Every morning the school bus goes by my home, and Kyra is not on it. Right now our courts are an abuser’s paradise, and children are routinely court-ordered into homes with abusive parents. The next child harmed may be one you know and love. We must pass Kyra’s Law before June 7.”

According to the Administration for Children & Families, an estimated 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect nationwide in 2020. The rate of child abuse in New York State is almost twice the national average, according to data provided by the state’s Council on Children and Families.

“Let’s be clear: what happened to Kyra was entirely preventable,” declared Skoufis, who is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate. “As the father of a child around Kyra’s age, I’m horrified and hard-pressed to understand how the court involved in this case ignored the numerous warning signs of abusive behavior and gave Kyra’s father the green light for unsupervised visitation. Instances of domestic violence require enhanced attention and sensitivity on the part of our family courts, and lawmakers must act quickly to prevent further harm to New York’s children. I urge my colleagues to advance Kyra’s Law for a vote before the clock runs out on this meaningful, life-saving reform.”

“Our state failed Kyra at every turn and she should be here today,” said Hevesi, who is sponsoring the legislation in the Assembly and chairs the Children and Families Committee. “I applaud Jacqueline Franchetti for her tenacity and unwavering dedication to ensure that no other parent has to endure the unimaginable pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. We must do everything possible to prioritize the health and safety of children going through family court, believe survivors, and protect those that cannot protect themselves.”

Skoufis and Hevesi have collaborated with the state’s Office of Court Administration and other experts to thoughtfully amend the legislation this year, ensuring the court system has the resources needed to meet the new requirements, including mandated training for justices.

Skoufis and Hevesi are expecting the legislation to garner broad bipartisan support and advance to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk.

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