On Thursday, November 2, 2017, Congress reintroduced Kevin and Avonte's Law (S.2070/H.R. 4221), proposed legislation that would help safeguard children with autism or other developmental disabilities who may wander away from caregivers. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a markup of Kevin and Avonte's Law (S.2070) on Thursday, November 16 at 10:00am ET.
Kevin and Avonte’s Law is named in honor of two boys with autism who perished after wandering. Nine-year-old Kevin Curtis Wills wandered from home, slipped into Iowa’s Raccoon River and drowned in 2008. Fourteen year-old Avonte Oquendo wandered away from his school and drowned in New York City’s East River in 2014. This legislation stands to benefit and protect the 49% of children with autism who wander away from safety.
If enacted, Kevin and Avonte's Law would "amend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcment Act of 1994, reauthorize the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program and promote initiatives that will reduce the risk of injury or death relating to the wandering characteristics of some children with autism." Specifically, Kevin and Avonte's Law would allow Justice Department grants to be used by law enforcement agencies and nonprofits for educational and other programs. The grants would facilitate training and emergency protocols for school personnel, supply first responders with additional information and resources, and make locating technology programs available for individuals who may wander from safety.
Kevin and Avonte's Law was introduced in the 114th Congress with bipartisan support. Through the leadership of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, the Senate and the House are now reconsidering this important legislation. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have demonstrated bipartisan support of Kevin and Avonte's Law as the bill's original Senate co-sponsors. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), co-chair of the Congressional Autism Caucus, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) have also signed on as the bill's original House co-sponsors. As of November 13, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Christopher A. Coons (D-DE) also co-sponsored the Senate bill.