A pilot program helping youth in the child welfare system get driver’s licenses was expanded and became permanent with the passage of SB 60 and HB 217.
Known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” the program assists youth with getting a learner’s permit or driver’s license, helps find driver education courses and insurance, and offers financial assistance.
The program has served more than 1,200 youth, and quadrupled the number of children with licenses, prompting Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina, and Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Eustis, to file legislation to make it permanent and enhance it.
Logyn Robinson, a Bradenton high school senior who lives in a foster care boy’s group home said: “It’s a relief to know there is help for youth in state care to get their permit or license. Being able to drive, and learning how to do so safely for that matter, is a life-changing experience in itself.”
Sen. Bean said the bill was necessary to empower youth to succeed as adults: “We heard so much great testimony from foster youth working on their education, trying to find jobs, starting a life for themselves, often while leaving abusive or neglectful circumstances behind them. As the people responsible for constructing the child welfare system, we should give these youth the tools to lead successful, independent lives as young adults.”
In addition to making the pilot permanent, SB 60 expands eligibility for the program and enables youth whose placements change a grace period to complete the program. Alan Abramowitz, executive director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program, was especially pleased that the program could be expanded within its existing resources.
“As GALs, we represent the child’s best interest. I thought to myself: What could be better than giving kids in the system some of the things we all want for our own kids — the ability to learn, a bit of a cushion as they get started, and ultimately to be independent,” Abramowitz said. “The Keys program does that, and it should be available to as many teens as possible.”
To learn more about Keys to Independence, a program administered by Community Based Care of Central Florida, visit www.keystoindependencefl.org.