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Avonte Oquendo is one of many children lost to Wandering. Wandering occurances in the US has increased and safeguards need to be in place to protect all children.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would immediately allow existing grant funds to be used to fund voluntary tracking devices through local law enforcement agencies for children who have Autism 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 has pushed for this program in light of the Avonte Oquendo tragedy. Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism, bolted from a school in Queens in October and his remains were just found. The federal government already provides grant funding for similar devices to track seniors with Alzheimer’s, and Schumer today said that DOJ would allow for grant funds to include children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Schumer stressed that the program would be totally voluntary for parents, would be run by police departments or other local law enforcement entities, and would also provide funding for training of individuals on how to use and maintain these devices. Parents, schools, and law enforcement would all have to choose to participate. Massachusetts already has a successful program to help locate children with Autism that wander from their safe place.
Mandatory Elopement plans should be in place at every learning institution, and should be implemented by the letter in every instance. Wandering training should also be mandated for schools and caregivers as there are things that lead to wandering, and the act itself is much more complex. Proper training can lessen the instances of wandering.
We are grateful to Senator Charles E. Schumer and we applaud is efforts!
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