A bill in the House of Representatives would make it easier for current and former foster youth to obtain a driver’s license and other driving essentials.
Legislation introduced this month by Illinois Rep. Danny Davis (D) would update the Social Security Act’s current language to expand foster parent training and require a plan for driving preparation in a foster child’s case plan.
The Foster Youth and Driving Act — a $36 million investment — would funnel money to states to support driving and transportation assistance, including the cost of insurance, driver’s education classes, testing fees, “and any other costs related to obtaining a driver’s license and driving legally in the state.” The benefits would be capped at $4,000 per year per individual, excluding the cost of purchasing a vehicle through the program.The assistance will also not be included in the child’s gross income or count against them in applying for other federal benefit programs.
States throughout the country have passed laws that help foster youth achieve this milestone, which can help open up their employment opportunities. Through its Keys to Independence program, Florida has helped more than 1,000 current or former foster youth get their driver’s licenses. Texas has also recently passed legislation to provide free driver’s education and other transportation benefits to current or former foster youth up to age 26, and youth experiencing homelessness.
The federal program would make youth who were in foster care at age 14 or older eligible. States can determine whether to allow young adults who are participating in the program on their 21st birthday to continue receiving assistance up to age 26, provided they are working or enrolled in a college or employment training program.
States would be required to report annual data on foster youth and former foster youth ages 15 to 26 and their capacity to drive, including how many are eligible for a license, have a license and own or have access to a vehicle. States would also be responsible for public awareness campaigns about program eligibility.