Senator Charles Schumer recently announced that the recently unveiled United States spending bill includes “Kevin & Avonte’s Law”, named after Avonte Oquendo and Kevin Curtis Wills, two young boys with autism, who tragically died after wandering off.
This law, if passed, will provide reauthorization for and allow for the expansion of an existing program put in place to assist in locating of dementia patients and people with Alzheimer's disease who wander off. The law would add children with developmental disabilities, like autism, to the program, and rename it from the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program to the Missing Americans Alert Program.
Funds allocated for this program could be used by local non-profit entities and law enforcement to provide wandering prevention training, and would implement technologies that can be used to help find people who have wandered off.
As part of this voluntary program, caregivers would receive tracking devices that they, as well as law enforcement, can use to quickly locate their charge and safely bring them home. The bill also includes privacy protections in order to make sure that the data collected by the tracking technology is kept secure and used safely.
“Making voluntary tracking devices available to vulnerable children with autism or adults with Alzheimer’s who are at risk of wandering will help put countless families at ease,” said Senator Schumer. "After Avonte Oquendo ran away from his school and went missing, I learned just how prevalent wandering is among children with autism and other development disorders. Since Avonte’s tragic death, I’ve pushed Congress to pass “Kevin & Avonte’s Law,” a bill that will create and fund a program to provide voluntary GPS tracking devices to children or adults with developmental disorders, like Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
While the law’s name only references two of these tragic cases, it also honors Hamza Elmi, a six-year-old boy with autism from Minnesota who also died after wandering off. This is a major issue parents and guardians of autistic children worry about every day. According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012, nearly half of all children with autism wandered off at least once, and the National Autism Foundation published a report in 2017 that showed almost one in every three missing persons cases involving people with autism between 2011 and 2016 required medical attention or resulted in a death.
The Perecman Firm has been deeply invested in Avonte and his family’s life for years, both in the courtroom and in ensuring his legacy continues on. We encourage you to visit the section of our website dedicated to the memory of this wonderful young man, and learn about his impact on those in his life as well as the impact this law will have in protecting the lives of children across the United States.