Mother of child killed by suicidal ex-husband continues fight to change child custody laws
The Thomas Valva case is bringing back bad memories for a Long Island woman who is on a crusade to change child custody laws in New York.
Kyra Franchetti was the subject of a bitter custody battle between Jacqueline Franchetti and her ex-husband. Despite warnings from the mother that the father was abusive and suicidal, the father was given permission to visit Kyra.
"I told them that not only was he suicidal, but that he wasn't following court orders, he wasn't following medical directives for Kyra's care, which is physical abuse," says Franchetti. "He was threatening me, harassing me. But she yelled at me to grow up."
While on the court-sanctioned visit, Kyra was killed and the father committed suicide. Ever since then, Jacqueline has been on a mission to get the laws for custody battles changed.
Custody laws have been called into question in the wake of the death of Thomas Valva, who died of hypothermia last month after allegedly being forced to sleep in a freezing garage. His father has been charged with murder. The boy's mother says she warned about him being abusive.
There are a couple of bills being debated in the state Capitol in relation to child custody. One would make child safety the top priority when it comes to awarding custody. Right now the standard is what's called "the best interest of the child." Critics say that's too vague, and that the health and safety of the child should be the No. 1 priority.
Another bill mandates all judges, attorneys and case workers be properly trained in family violence issues.
For now, Franchetti says she tries to focus on the good times with her 2-year-old daughter, but says the pain never goes away.
"When you look at national statistics, 58,000 children each year are court-ordered into the home of a mom or a dad who is physically, sexually or emotionally abusing them," says Franchetti. "That means today in the United States, there's a half-million children afraid to go home. That's unacceptable."