The mother of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism found dead after running out of his Queens school in October 2013, will help advocate for a voluntary tracking program as a guest of Sen. Charles Schumer for the State of the Union address.
As Schumer’s guest for President Barack Obama’s address Tuesday night, Vanessa Fontaine will help push a bill named in honor of Avonte that would pay for GPS trackers and training to families of children with autism, modeled after a federal program to help find missing seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease.
“Avonte’s running away was not just an isolated incident,” Schumer said. “Running away among children and teens with autism is more common than you might think if you don’t have a child with autism.”
Under Schumer’s bill, called Avonte’s Law, a $10 million grant fund would boquendoe set up with the U.S. Department of Justice so local law enforcement agencies can apply for GPS trackers to give to willing families, caregivers, schools and nonprofits. The money would also expand training in case a child wanders off or “bolts” out of a building.
Fontaine said she would have taken advantage of this program had it been offered and that she is sure other families and guardians of children with autism would do the same.
“I’m very excited to go down to D.C. with Schumer and to get this law passed so no one else will have to suffer like me and my family has, as my son is not here with us anymore,” Fontaine said. “If we had this device in place, I would still have him here.”