Tag Archive: normalcy

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


    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

  2. Big Year for Foster Care Reform: 2019 Legislative Wrap Up

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    The 2019 legislative session began with a revealing and devastating report on Virginia’s foster care system by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. While the report was shocking to some, these are long-standing issues to advocates. In the legislature, there was renewed energy to respond to the concerns, eventually leading to the creation of the Foster Care Caucus. We are proud to share that in 2019, the legislature made several sweeping reforms to the foster care system.

    Major steps forward to improve outcomes for children in the foster care system. The Foster Care Omnibus bill was filed as a direct response to the JLARC report and other local concerns legislators had been made aware of. The bill does several things, but some of the highlights are: it allows the Commissioner to implement a corrective action plan or assume temporary control of local departments when necessary, requires the Department to establish and update annually a caseload standard which limits the number of foster care cases that may be assigned to each caseworker, and requires the Commissioner to create within the State Department of Social Services a foster care health and safety director position. This bill had a fiscal impact and we are excited to share that $2.8 million was included in the budget to fund these changes. 

    Support for children in foster care to achieve “normalcy”. Occasionally youth aging out of foster care realize their identity and information has been falsely used by foster parents or family members to establish credit. A bill passed requiring local departments to freeze the credit of children who have been in care for more than 90 days. In addition, foster parents are now a protected class for car insurance companies so that they do not have to worry about being penalized if they add their foster youth to their contracts.

    Created structure and increased supports to the kinship diversion program, an effort designed to avoid foster care by facilitating placements with relatives. Increase utilization of relative foster care placements. With only 5% of children going to live with relatives, a bill was passed that will hopefully encourage more relative placements. This bill requires local departments to notify relatives when a relative child is about to enter foster care and list out all of the resources that may be available to them, if they took the child, such as becoming a licensed kinship foster home, Medicaid for the child, and applying for child only TANF. The General Assembly also increased the payment amount for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by 5%, a $3.2 million investment. For the majority of kinship families, child-only TANF is the only program from which they receive financial assistance.

    Steps to ensure timely implementation of FFPSA that incentivizes the prevention of foster care entry and the wider use of evidence-based and trauma-informed services.The Family First Prevention Services Act is the first transformation of the child welfare system in nearly 40 years and provides an opportunity to invest in prevention through evidence-based and trauma-informed services. To support implementation, the General Assembly funded six additional leadership positions at the Department of Social Services, invested $851,000 to scale up evidence-based services, and included language that requires the state to study residential treatment centers to implement a higher standard of care.

    Support for children who have been in foster care to attend 4-year colleges. While the bill does not provide an automatic process for providing tuition waivers to former foster youth, it does say that the State Council of Higher Education Council may provide a grant for the payment of tuition and fees for any Virginia student who turned 18 while in foster care. The Council and the Department of Social Services will create guidelines for students who will be eligible.

    In all, the General Assembly invested nearly $8 million to improve outcomes for children in foster care or at-risk of entering foster care!

    This tremendous work would not have been possible without our wonderful partners who signed onto the Unified Foster Care Agenda this year, our champions in the legislature, and our directly impacted advocates who spent their time talking with legislators this year. We are very grateful for all of your support!

    Kinship Care Advocate, Ray Richardson, shares his story to Delegate Aird followed by, MSW student, Sophia Booker, explaining why we need to improve outcomes for older youth in foster care.


    Voices Outreach Coordinator, Chloe Edwards, and Unified Agenda partners Cassie Cunningham of Children’s Home Society and Abigail Schreiner of Hope Tree Services pose with local CASA volunteers and Delegate Ingram.

    Nadine Marsh-Carter, Executive Director of Children’s Home Society and Cate Hawks of NewFound Families, bring a kinship family to meet with the Foster Care Caucus Co-Chair, Senator Mason, to discuss the foster care policy agenda.