Florida Helps Foster Care Youth Nationwide Through New Driver’s License Provision

Photo: Embrace Families.

( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) New Federal Law Provides Funding For Driver’s License Programs in Florida

ENSPIRE Contributor: Re’Dreyona Walker

Embrace Families announced that the recently enacted COVID Relief Package will include a provision that will bring newfound independence for thousands of youth in foster care by making it easier for them to obtain a driver’s license. The provision was based on Keys to Independence, a Florida program developed by Embrace Families and the lead nonprofit organization overseeing child welfare services in Central Florida, in partnership with the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF).

The new provision will aid foster youth in preparing for their driving permit and license and give them more opportunities to participate in activities like work, sports or other extracurriculars outside of school. Glen Casel, president and CEO of Embrace Families believes this new provision will greatly change their lives.

Photo: Keys to Independence.

“A driver’s license is more than a rite of passage – the ability to drive to work and school teaches teens responsibility and self-sufficiency,” said Glen Casel, president and CEO of Embrace Families. “It also allows them to participate in activities they might miss out on because of a lack of transportation. It can change their life.”

Florida lawmakers approved designating state funds in 2014 to help foster parents, group homes, and teens navigate the process of vehicle insurance coverage and pay for costs, driver’s education classes, testing and license fees, as well as practice lessons. At the time, fewer than 20 foster youth had a Florida driver’s license or learner’s permit. Since then, as a result of Keys to Independence, more than 800 teens in foster care have become licensed drivers and 1,600 learner’s permits have been issued.

Photo: Infographic from Keys to Independence.

The new policy will allow federal funds to support assisting youth in foster care to obtain a driver’s license and reserves funds to provide technical support for other states to develop programs similar to Keys to Independence. Last May, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced comprehensive legislation, “The Foster Youth and Driving Act”, that aimed to establish a federal program to support foster youth in obtaining a driver’s license.

“It is critical that we provide resources to ensure that foster youth can fully engage in age-appropriate activities, such as driving,” Davis said. “I am proud that working across the aisle, we were able to secure a provision in the COVID relief legislation that will help foster youth obtain their licenses and cover key driving-related expenses during the pandemic. The bipartisan bill we lead establishes comprehensive programs to facilitate foster youth obtaining driver’s licenses. Foster youth deserve to experience the joy of passing their driving tests, as well as the personal and professional opportunities that driving affords.”  

Photo: Embrace Families.

The new provision is the start of a new beginning for many foster youths who were not able to participate in extracurricular activities like their peers. Rep. Bacon expressed that he is pleased Congress included a bipartisan provision that supports foster youth in obtaining a driver’s license, so they are now able to secure employment, participate in after-school activities like sports or clubs, as well as engage with their peers.

“Getting a driver’s license is a key milestone for youth making the transition into adulthood,” says Rep. Bacon. “It helps young people secure and maintains employment, participate in after-school activities and engage with friends. I am pleased that Congress included a bipartisan provision to support foster youth obtain a driver’s license. This critical provision will go a long way, and I plan to continue my efforts to improve foster youth’s access to driver licenses in this new session of Congress.”

For more information about Embrace Families and its programs, please visit www.EmbraceFamilies.org.