NEW YORK – Following the death of an autistic teenager who walked away from his New York City school last year, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday it will fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other conditions that put them at risk for fleeing their caregivers.
The family of Avonte Oquendo and New York Sen. Charles Schumer had called last weekend for legislation to provide GPS tracking devices for autistic children and others with a tendency to bolt from parents or caregivers. On Wednesday, Schumer and the Justice Department said existing grant funds would be used.
Avonte's disappearance from his Queens school on Oct. 4 triggered a massive search. The 14-year-old's remains were found in the East River earlier this month, miles away from where he was last seen.
The cause of Avonte's death remains under investigation.
Schumer said the federal government already provides grant funding for devices to track seniors with Alzheimer's and the Department of Justice will now allow for grant funds to include children with autism spectrum disorder.
Schumer said the program would be voluntary for parents and would be run by police departments or other local law enforcement entities.
Schumer's legislation was to have been called Avonte's Law. He said he would continue to push for the legislation in order to provide a stable funding stream. Schumer had put the cost of each monitor at about $85, plus a few dollars in monthly fees.