Kevin and Avonte’s Law Empowers Community Agencies to Protect Children Who WanderOctober 18, 2017
After years of bipartisan legislation, Kevin and Avonte’s Law has finally passed. This law was named in honor of two young boys with autism that wandered from their homes and drowned in nearby bodies of water. For the growing population of children diagnosed with autism, this law is an incredible step forward in improving quality of life and level of safety. It offers peace of mind to parents nervous about their child’s tendency to wander, and assurance that the community is doing what they can to prevent further tragedies.
Why is this law needed?
Nearly half of children diagnosed with autism wander away from areas where they are considered safe, such as home and school, as well as public areas, like the mall or grocery stores. Research has narrowed the cause of wandering to goal-oriented and non-goal-orientated, which means that they are typically running to something of interest or away from something that causes anxiety. Once these children become fixated on something, they often become so distracted that they race off, regardless of whether a caregiver is calling their name. Children with autism also have an impaired sense of what is dangerous and are likely to venture near bodies of water or high traffic areas.
What does this law do?
Kevin and Avonte’s Law prompts the community to help carry the burden of protecting this vulnerable population and enforces a faster safety response for children with autism who have gone missing. This law provides $2 million in funding for law enforcement, schools, and other organizations to receive training to prevent and address the issue of wandering. Health care and other public agencies will receive funding to help plan, design, and establish local programs that will prevent a child with autism from wandering, and assist in locating missing children. This money will also assist in the development of GPS trackers, like those provided by AngelSense, and make them more widely available to families of children with autism.
What can our organization do?
Follow the progress of this bill in your community. When training becomes available, encourage awareness among your staff, family members you support, and partner agencies. Advocate for the children on your caseload by encouraging schools and other local organizations to participate in the valuable training that is being made accessible. It is up to everyone to protect this vulnerable population, and community agencies play a significant role in preventing wandering tragedies.
Kevin and Avonte are only two of many children that have fallen victim to elopement; this funding will make vital resources more widely available to families and the community. Together, we can keep special children in our communities safe.