Tracking Device Proposal Gains Momentum
A federal effort to provide free tracking devices to children with autism and other disabilities who are at risk of wandering is getting a boost.
Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced a bill known as Avonte’s Law which would allocate $10 million per year in federal funding to provide electronic tracking devices to families wanting help monitoring their children.
On Friday, Schumer said that a companion bill with bipartisan support is set to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y.
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“Our children are too precious for us to wait another day when life-saving precautions are right at our fingertips,” Schumer said at a New York City event he held in conjunction with Autism Speaks to raise awareness about wandering. “Even if we do everything in our power, we may not be able to stop kids from wandering, but we can do much, much more to safely locate them and bring them home.”
Under the proposal, funding would be allocated to the U.S. Department of Justice to award grants to local law enforcement agencies so that they could provide tracking devices to families.
Research indicates that roughly half of those with autism are prone to wandering. Accordingly, many parents already use tracking devices to monitor their children with disabilities, but the technology can be costly and often requires a monthly fee.
Tracking devices can be attached to clothing, shoes, belt loops or elsewhere. They typically rely on GPS technology and, if an individual goes missing, their caregiver can contact the device’s monitoring company to pinpoint a wearer’s location.
Schumer said that use of the devices would be voluntary and they would only be provided to families who want them.
The legislation is named for Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old with autism whose remains were discovered earlier this year, months after he went missing from his New York school.
Though the senator’s bill has yet to move forward, Attorney General Eric Holder said in January that the Justice Department would offer existing grant funds to local police departments that wish to distribute tracking devices to children with autism who are at risk for wandering.
Nonetheless, Schumer said he would continue his push for legislation to ensure that there is a permanent funding source for the initiative.