Senator Charles Schumer Calls for Law to Prevent Wandering-Related Tragedies
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced a push for a national “Avonte’s Law” to create a program where parents of children with autism or certain developmental disorders can always know where their children are, CBS New York said.
The initiative is named after Avonte Oquendo, an autistic child who slipped out of his school in Long Island City, Queens in October 2013, leading to an intensive search. His remains were found in the East River a few months later, the report said.
Schumer brought the boy’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, as his guest to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in Washington to boost awareness and support for the legislation, the Queens Chronicle said.
The legislation would jump-start and fund a $10 million grant program that gives tracking devices to children on the autism spectrum or to those who have developmental disorders making them prone to bolting from caregivers. It would also train users of the devices, the Chronicle said.
The bill would also give the Department of Justice authority to give grants to law enforcement who want to help children who are prone to wandering or running away, the report said.
“I hope that together we can rally further support for this legislation, which is essential to the families of loved ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other special needs,” said Schumer in a statement, according to the Chronicle.
“My son is not here with us anymore, and if we had this device in place, I would still have him here,” Fontaine said, according to CBS New York.
In June of last year, Fontaine filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of New York in Queens Supreme Court. It accuses the city, the Department of Education, NYPD and numerous individuals of negligence for allowing the 14-year-old boy to leave the school, the broadcaster said.
A 2012 study published in Pediatrics showed that 49% of children with autism are prone to wandering away from a safe environment, such as school or home. Over the last three years, roughly 15% of wandering incidents reported by the U.S. media have ended in death, according to the National Autism Association.