Tag Archive: drivers license

  1. Mid-Session Budget Update: Foster Care

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    In December, the Governor proposed several investments into the child welfare system. On Sunday, the House and Senate money committees submitted their changes to the proposed budget. Over the next week, each chamber will select budget conferees to work out items that were included in one chamber but not the other.

    Foster Care Workforce

    Turnover rates for entry-level family services worker specialists are 61 percent, with retention efforts being an even greater issue in small, rural agencies. The Governor proposed a 12 percent salary increase but the House and Senate reduced this to 6 percent.

    Separately, the Senate included $1 million to start a training academy for local department of social services to address retention and recruitment issues of caseworkers. The House did not include this funding.

    Kinship Care

    Currently families that care for children outside of the foster care system, in arrangements known as kinship diversion, do not receive the same financial supports, or access to mental health and social supports as foster families. The Governor proposed $16 million to provide relative support payments for children diverted from foster care to kin. The proposed amount remained the same in the House and Senate budget!

    As a significant improvement over the introduced budget, both the House and the Senate increased TANF payments with the Senate proposals being slightly stronger. The Senate proposed increasing cash assistance and eligibility levels by 20 percent. This would give kinship care families an increase in monthly child-only TANF payment amounts by approximately $75 per month for two children.

    In addition, the House funded $150,000 for the Department of Social Services to fund a study for creating policies for emergency kinship placements. They also funded HB933 to expand the kinGAP program to fictive kin.

    The Senate funded SB570 to create a state funded kinship guardianship assistance program, but it was not included in the House.

    The Senate included $400,000 to support Virginia expanding their kinship navigator programs, the House did not.

    Family First Prevention Services Act

    The federal Family First Prevention Services Act reforms Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, the federal child welfare financing streams that provide services to families at risk of entering the child welfare system. With Virginia intending to start implementation in July, the Governor proposed $66 million to create local prevention divisions. The House and Senate reduced this amount to approximately $40 million. The House and Senate also took into account federal dollars that Virginia will receive as part of the passage of the federal Family First Transition Act that was signed into law earlier this year.

    Drivers License for Youth in Foster Care

    Teens in foster care often face significant barriers to obtaining a driver’s license, such as difficulty securing the typical parental or guardian permission needed to enroll in driver’s education or secure an insurance policy, as well as an inability to pay for the various fees associated with becoming a driver. The Senate included $500,000 over two years to create a program within the Department of Social Services to help youth in care obtain drivers license, the House did not include this funding.

    Establishing an Office of Children’s Ombudsman

    The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman would be an independent agency to independently investigate any complaints relating to the Department of Social Services, local departments of social services, child-placing agencies and child-caring institutions and ensure improvement of care to children in foster care and adoptive homes. The House included $950,000 to fund this office, but it was not included in the Senate.

     

  2. Less than 5 Percent of Foster Youth Obtain a Driver’s Licenses While in Care: How Virginia Lawmakers Can Change That

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    The Problem

    Learning to drive in the teen years is a rite of passage to young adulthood for millions of youth. It brings new levels of independence and opportunities, enabling young people to take themselves to schools, work, and activities.  However, teens in foster care often face significant barriers to obtaining a driver’s license, such as difficulty securing the typical parental or guardian permission needed to enroll in driver’s education or secure an insurance policy, as well as an inability to pay for the various fees associated with becoming a driver. Without a driver’s license, young people in foster care often miss out on age-appropriate adolescent experiences and opportunities that contribute to success in adulthood.

    The Impact

    Voices has hosted focus groups with youth in care for several years and no matter what region of Virginia we are in  –  obtaining drivers licenses is a reoccurring theme. The emotions attached to not having a drivers license ranged from disappointment of not being able to accept a job offer to frustration from not feeling supported by the adults in their lives. Youth in care, more than anything, want to have the same opportunities they would have had if they were not in foster care.

    In Virginia, less than 5 percent of foster care youth who age out of care and transition to adulthood have obtained their driver’s licenses

    According to the study from the Commission on Youth:

    Foster care youth who fail to learn to drive and obtain their licenses at the same time as their peers are impacted in several ways:

    • Normalcy. Foster youth who do not learn to drive at the same time as their peers miss this important rite of passage of adolescence. They can also miss out on crucial developmental experiences and opportunities that are typically made possible by being able to drive
    • Safety. Foster youth who wait until they are 18 to learn to drive do not benefit from Virginia’s provisional driver’s licensing program for youthful drivers, which has been proven to reduce accidents among teen aged drivers.
    • Transition to adulthood. Foster youth who leave care without a license are less prepared to make the transition to adulthood, both because they have not had the same developmental experiences as their peers, and because they lack transportation.

    The Solution

    Virginia lawmakers have the opportunity to invest $250,000 in the budget to support the development and implementation of a statewide driver’s licensing program to support foster care youth in obtaining a driver’s license. If included in the budget, funds would be made available to local departments of social services to reimburse foster care providers for increases to their existing car insurance premiums that occur because a foster care youth in their care has been added to their insurance policy. Additionally, funding would be made available to foster care youth in Virginia’s Fostering Futures Program to assist in covering the cost of obtaining motor vehicle insurance.

    The Department would coordinate and administer the driver’s licensing program based on best practices from similar programs in other states like Florida’s Keys to Independence program.

    Delegate Keam (Item 354 #6) and Senator Favola (354#9s)are carrying these budget amendments in the House and Senate. Let your legislator know how important responding to our action alert.

    Action Alert

    Tell Legislators to Support Youth in Foster Care Obtaining a Drivers License

  3. Foster Their Destination: Removing Barriers for Youth in Foster Care to Obtain A Driver’s License

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    Learning to drive in the teen years is a rite of passage to young adulthood for millions of youth. It brings new levels of independence and opportunities, enabling young people to drive themselves to school, work, and activities. Without a driver’s license, young people in foster care often miss out on age-appropriate adolescent experiences and opportunities that contribute to success in adulthood.

    That was the case for former foster youth, Brittany Fuller. The day she turned age 18, she left her foster home.  Brittany moved in with her boyfriend’s family.   “I was a grownup, having to be driven to college and having to be driven to work by my boyfriend’s mom because I didn’t have a learner’s or a license,” she said. And though she felt like she was independent, “in a way I wasn’t because I had to depend on someone else to take me to the store.” Her sister then came to live with her, but again, no license or way to get to work because there is no public transportation in southwest Virginia.

    “It put a huge strain on me, you know, dealing with college and work,” said Brittany, “in addition to being a new mom.”

    The difficulty of her sister not having a license impacted her entire family. Brittany said when her sister would get off work at 1am, Brittany would have to drag her sleeping baby out of bed, often in the dead of winter, to go pick up her sister from her job. “No license made it really difficult on her as well,” said Brittany.

    Brittany Fuller, Former Foster Youth

     

    Brittany is not alone, nationally only 3% of youth received their driver’s licenses while in care and it is estimated that only 5% of youth in care in Virginia are getting their’s.

    What the General Assembly Is Doing About It

    In 2018, Virginia’s Commission on Youth conducted a study on barriers youth in foster care experience when trying to obtain a driver’s license.  The Commission identified several barriers including:

    • Getting permission and assistance from their foster families
    • Paying substantial insurance increases and fees
    • Gaining access to a suitable driving teacher and a car to practice
    • Understanding and complying with the licensing process

    In response, House Bill 1883 (Delegate Keam) was filed in the 2019 legislative session to prohibit insurance companies from refusing to insure people because of their status as foster parents.

    In addition, Delegate Peace (R) and Senator Favola (D) submitted a budget amendment to create a funding mechanism for the Virginia Department of Social Services to reimburse foster care providers for increases to their existing motor vehicle insurance premiums that occur because a youth in their care has been added to their insurance policy. The program may also reimburse foster care providers for additional coverage (i.e. an umbrella policy or the equivalent) that provides liability protection should a youth get into or cause a catastrophic accident. Additionally, funding would be made available to foster care youth in Virginia’s Fostering Futures Program to assist in covering the cost of obtaining motor vehicle insurance.

    We hope that these measures, if passed and included in the budget, will make it a easier and also a priority for youth in foster care to obtain a driver’s license so that experiences like Brittany’s no longer happen.