Passing your driving test and receiving your first driver's license is a right of passage for most teenagers in the United States. Learning to navigate streets and drive safely is a normal step toward independence, opening doors for additional employment and educational opportunities.
However, for teenagers in foster care, a driver's license can be difficult to come by, and the cost of driver education and insurance may be prohibitive.
In 2013, only about 3 percent of 16 and 17-year old foster children had driver's licenses. Beginning in 2014, Florida approved a pilot program aimed at increasing the number of teens in foster care obtaining a driver's license. This program, which was run by Community Based Care of Central Florida (CBCFF), pays for the cost of driver education, licensure, and motor vehicle insurance for children in licensed out-of-home foster care. The pilot program, which is called Keys to Independence, has been extremely successful and by November, 2016 over 55 percent of eligible foster teens were enrolled in the program.
Legislation introduced this session (CS/SB 60) makes the pilot program permanent, expands the eligibility to include children placed in non-licensed foster care, extends the program benefits by 6 months for youth aging out of the system, and funds the program with an annual appropriation of $800,000. The legislation also mandates that services related to obtaining a driver's license be specifically addressed in a foster child’s plan that outlines the services needed to aid the transition to adulthood. The bill has been approved by the House and Senate and was presented to Governor Scott on April 26, 2017.
Florida TaxWatch applauds the efforts of the House and Senate in passing this important legislation. Making it easier for Florida’s foster children to obtain a driver's license helps create normalcy for children that have experienced adversity, and expands their ability to access additional employment and educational opportunities on their road to independence.