When President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech Tuesday night before a joint session of Congress, Avonte Oquendo’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, will be watching from the gallery of the House of Representatives as a guest of Sen. Charles Schumer.
Fontaine has been invited as part of Schumer’s effort to pass his bill, called “Avonte’s Law,” which would fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices for kids and expand support services for families with autistic children, like Avonte.
Avonte was a 14-year-old who bolted from the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4, 2013. He was last seen on surveillance video inside the school for children with learning disabilities before he ran out the door.
After a frantic search that lasted for months, his body was discovered along the water in College Point in January 2014.
Schumer first proposed his legislation a month after Avonte went missing.
“I’m very pleased to announce that Ms. Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte Oquendo’s mother, will be my guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address, which will draw much-needed national attention to an issue near and dear to our hearts: passage of ‘Avonte’s Law,’” Schumer said in a statement.
“Ms. Fontaine’s trip to Washington is just one example of her great strength and courage in the face of the tragic loss of her son Avonte, and I hope that together we can rally further support for this legislation, which is essential to the families of loved ones with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and other special needs,” Schumer said.
The voluntary program called for in Schumer’s bill would only be for families who choose to use the tracking devices. Schumer’s decision to introduce legislation will ensure that the Department of Justice has the authority and funding to provide grants to local law enforcement entities and other organizations with an interest in assisting these children.
Schumer’s bill would authorize $10 million federal dollars in order to help fund the purchase of voluntary tracking devices for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, education and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement, as well as other innovative methods that will assist families of children who “wander” with ASD.
New York’s senior senator, a Democrat, is hopeful that he can gain bipartisan support for his measure now that Republicans control both houses of Congress.
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