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  1. Guest Blog: Keys to Destination for Youth in Foster Care

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    This is a guest blog post written for Voices for Virginia’s Children by Susan Hoover (pictured below).

    Recall the day you obtained your driver’s license. Perhaps one of your parents took you to the DMV, helped you fill out the necessary forms, provided the requisite identification, and off you went to pass or fail the final test. Assuming you passed, all you wanted to do then was hop in the family car and drive somewhere. It didn’t matter where, right?

    Now imagine having your new-found freedom abruptly curtailed as the cost of insurance to cover your driving is too high for the family budget. Although many parents bite the bullet and add their new driver to the family auto insurance plan, it is at a hefty cost, especially when the driver is less than 25 years old.

    Nationwide, Americans spend about 2.44% of their household income on car insurance every year. In Virginia, the average cost of car insurance is $1,304 per year for full coverage.  Of course, the actual rate depends on many factors, such as the area where one lives, the age of the driver, driving history (if any), the specific insurance company, and even the type of vehicle to be driven.

    As expected, having a young driver means paying a premium for auto insurance, particularly for those drivers between 16-18 years old. In addition to the factors listed above, insurance companies also take into account the high average number of accidents and traffic-related fatalities for that age range when determining rates. It costs a lot to insure these new drivers – often more than those living in the low to middle income range can afford.

    Now consider whether the new driver is currently a part of the state foster care system. In this case, more often than not, financial means are already stretched. So how can the youth or the foster family possibly add the additional cost of more car insurance to their budget?

    Enter proposed Budget Amendment SB30.

    This amendment, coming before the 2022 Session, enables the Department of Social Services to develop and implement a statewide driver’s licensing program to support foster care youth. In effect, funding – in the proposed amount of $200,000 each year – will be made available to local departments of social services to reimburse:

    • Foster care providers for the increase to their existing motor vehicle insurance premium that occurs when adding foster care youth to their insurance policy;
    • Foster care providers when they apply for and obtain additional coverage, such as an umbrella policy, to provide liability protection should the foster care youth get into, or cause, a catastrophic accident; and
    • Foster care youth who are part of Virginia’s Fostering Futures Program to assist them in covering the cost of obtaining their own motor vehicle insurance.

    The Amendment further allows for:

    Each department of social services to develop educational or training materials that “educate foster parents, private providers, and foster youth about: (i) liability issues, insurance laws, and common insurance practices (to include laws about renewal and cancellation, how long an accident can affect premiums, how to establish that a foster youth is no longer living in the residence, and other applicable topics); (ii) DMV requirements to obtain a learner’s permit and driver’s license; (iii) what funding and resources are available to assist in this process, to include paying school lab fees for “Behind the Wheel” or paying a private driving education company; and (iv) why getting a driver’s license on time is important for normalcy and a successful transition to adulthood.”

    The benefits of this Amendment would be immediate for foster families and for the youth they care for. The financial burden of increased car insurance would be lifted, and the new driver would have the ability to drive to a job, school, or to assist with errands. It would help encourage a sense of responsibility, independence, and maturity for these youth.

    For those youth in the Fostering Futures Program, passing this Amendment could significantly lessen the transportation burden many of them face. The possibility of owning or driving a car, rather than be dependent upon public transportation – its time tables and the specific geographic area it serves – broadens the job market and the ability to attend higher education institutions – two requirements of involvement in the Fostering Futures program.

    About Susan Hoover: Sue Hoover joined Piedmont CASA in April 2019. Previously, she worked for CFA Institute as the editor of Connexions, and as the digital editor of the Enterprising Investor blog. She holds a BA degree from Lehigh University and a JD degree from the Washington College of Law, American University.

    Contact Susan at: shoover@pcasa.org

     

     

  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