Make a Difference: Kevin and Avonte’s Law

February 06, 2018

SafeMinds has been ardently advocating for Kevin and Avonte’s Law for two years now. This bill provides much-needed training for law enforcement and other community groups, including schools, on preventing and addressing wandering in people with developmental disabilities. It also provides funding for the voluntary use of non-permanent, non-invasive tracking devices for children with developmental disabilities who are repeat wanderers.

To ensure privacy concerns are met, the bill specifies that there are no microchips to be used, and that collection, use, and retention of the tracking data is solely for the purpose of preventing injury or death to the individual wearing the tracking device. The bill even provides for training law enforcement personnel to recognize signs of abuse so that they are not returning the person who wandered to an abusive and/or otherwise dangerous setting.

If passed, Kevin and Avonte’s Law will:

Why is it important?

A 2012 Pediatrics study found that almost half of children with autism wander from safe settings. Since 2015, the number of reported wandering-related deaths in the autism community has doubled over previous years.

Where is it now?

Kevin and Avonte’s Law passed the full Senate thanks to the hard work of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Now, the bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. Before the House votes for the bill, it must pass the House Judiciary Committee, which is led by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

What you can do to Make A Difference

We need you to ask your congressional representatives to co-sponsor the bill in the House. The more co-sponsors, the more attention the bill will receive, which increases the chances the bill will pass. Here’s how to do this:

1) Go to house.gov to locate your House member

2) In the upper right-hand corner of the site, enter your zip code next to “Find Your Representative”

3) Enter your address

4) The system will locate your representative. Click on their website.

5) On their website, you will be able to find an email form and his/her Washington, DC phone number. You can send them an email directly online, or call them.

6) Here’s what you want to write in an email—and personalizing it is always great.

“I am a constituent who lives in (name your city/town). I am contacting you to ask you to please co-sponsor H.R. 4211, Kevin and Avonte’s Law. This bill will increase the safety of people with autism who wander in our district. A 2012 study in the journal Pediatrics has found that almost half of people with autism wander. This is a big public safety issue. Please help to support the autism community by co-sponsoring the bill. Thank you.”

7)  Here’s what you might want to say if you call (and offices appreciate calls, too, and you can personalize this how you would like also.)

“Hi, my name is ________________ and I’m a constituent calling from (name your city/town) to ask that Congressman/woman ___________ please co-sponsor H.R. 4221. This is important because it will prevent and address wandering in people with autism, which is a significant public safety issue. Up to half of people with autism wander, and imagine if the person who wandered is also one of the many people with autism who is nonverbal, or who has a seizure disorder. Please relay my request to the Congressman/woman. Thank you.”

This is all it takes. Really. We just need enough calls, and enough emails to Make A Difference!