On January 23 the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs met to discuss Senate Bill 60. They heard testimony from advocates and former foster youth from Youth SHINE. The bill makes the “Keys to Independence” pilot project permanent – paving the way for foster children to get their learner permits and drivers license. The bill was unanimously passed out of committee.
Keys to Independence helps youth by:
- guiding them through the application procedure,
- helping them get driver’s education and find insurance, and
- providing financial assistance to pay for the costs of licensure and insurance.
The Keys Program is important because:
- it gives teens in foster care a more normal childhood experience
- it helps teens be more independent and productive because having a driver license makes it easier to get jobs, and participate in school and community activities, and
- teens are better equipped to live on their own.
SB 60 makes some important improvements to the Keys to Independence project such as:
- Expanding eligibility to include not only foster care youth, but youth in other out-of-home placements.
- Allowing youth who start the program 6 months to complete it if they lose eligibility because they leave foster care or turn 18.
- Adding GALs to the list of people who can sign a youth’s learner permit application without assuming liability (if the GAL has been specifically authorized by the caregiver).
- Requiring the issue of the youth obtaining a driver license be addressed in the transition plan and that a judge ask about it in judicial review hearings.