Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, are sponsoring legislation this year to make The Florida Keys to Independence Act for foster children a permanent program.
The Florida Keys to Independence Act was signed into law in 2014. It is targeted at youth in licensed foster care between the ages of 15 to 21.
During the 2014 Session, Florida Legislators approved this three-year pilot program to provide youth in licensed out-of-home care with the opportunity to obtain their driver’s license. Funded by the Department and administered by Community Based Care of Central Florida, the Keys to Independence Program has been in effect since 2015. It provides eligible youth the opportunity to obtain: Learners License, Driver’s License, Testing Fees, 4-hour Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Course, Driver’s Education Course, and Insurance.
The project reimburses youth and caregivers for the costs associated with driver’s education, driver’s licenses and other costs related to getting a driver’s license as well as motor vehicle insurance.
Having a driver’s license is critical to ensuring foster children can live independently and gain employment when they age out of the foster care system. Only nine percent of Florida’s foster children have a learner’s permit and only 3 percent have a driver’s license.
The first committee meeting regarding this important legislation will be in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee and will be heard January 23rd from 4 to 6 PM. The committee members are Chair Rene Garcia, Vice Chair Victor M. Torres, Jr., Frank Artiles, Doug Broxson, Daphne Campbell, and Kelli Stargel.