Monday, January 27, 2014
 

 

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Senator proposes “Avonte’s Law”, a program to provide tracking devices for challenged persons at risk of fleeing

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer will introduce legislation – called “Avonte’s Law” – that will create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices and expand support services for families with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other developmental disorders in which “bolting” from parents or caregivers is common.

The voluntary program would only be for parents who choose to use the devices. Schumer’s decision to author and introduce legislation will ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has the authority and funding to provide grants to local law enforcement entities and other organizations with an interest in assisting these children. This program would be modeled off an innovative, voluntary federal program that is already in place to track seniors with Alzheimer’s. Schumer said “Avonte’s Law” would extend this program to include children with autism and other disorders. Schumer stressed that the program would be totally voluntary for parents, would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement, and would also provide funding for training of individuals on how to use and maintain these devices and outreach to community members to better educate and create awareness around identifying and aiding a child with autism that has wandered. Parents, schools, and law enforcement would all have to choose to participate - nothing would be mandatory.
 
Schumer is taking the step of introducing legislation while continuing to work with the Department of Justice to use its administrative authority to set up such a program.  Schumer said that time was of the essence, so legislation is necessary.

In October 2013, Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, bolted from his school in Queens. Authorities and volunteers searched for Avonte for more than three months, until his remains were eventually discovered on January 16th in College Point, Queens. In November 2013, Schumer called for the DOJ to extend one of their current grant programs to provide voluntary tracking devices for children who have autism or other developmental disorders in which “bolting” from parents or caregivers is common.  Schumer is taking this additional step to push for permanent and certain funding. A new grant program would also provide additional resources to local entities that find other innovative ways to assist families.
 
“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrates that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s. By expanding the innovative program we currently have in place for at-risk Alzheimer’s patients, we will help thousands of families avoid what Avonte’s family just experienced.”