CRISP and the National Foster Youth Institute will host a congressional briefing tomorrow, Wednesday, June 14, 2023, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Room 2075 in the Rayburn House Office Building on H.R. 1446 – Foster Youth and Drivers Act, and S.699, its companion bill in the Senate, in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Congressmen Danny K. Davis (D-IL-7) and Don Bacon (R-NE-2) reintroduced the bill in the House, and Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN) reintroduced the bill in the Senate.
The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Finance Committee in the Senate. If enacted, the bill would expand state foster care and adoption assistance programs to provide driving preparation assistance to foster youth and related training for foster parents. The bill further directs assistance to states and tribal organizations for age-appropriate foster youth to, among other things, obtain automobile insurance, complete driver’s education, obtain a driver’s license, and purchase a vehicle.
The panelists are Dr. Sabrena M. Jackson, an associate professor and Associate Dean of Educational Programs and Student Services at the University of Alabama, whose research focuses on youth in foster care; Kristen Torres, a legislative assistant for Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA-28) who worked on the legislation; and Gerry Glynn, Chief Legal Officer for Embrace Families, a state-designated lead agency for child welfare services in several counties in Florida. We will also hear from Duane Price, a young man with experience in foster care whose life was enhanced by getting a car. CRISP Legislative Director Dr. Angelique Day, who authored the bill in her capacity as a Society for Research in Child Development Congressional Fellow in the office of Congressman Danny Davis, will not be able to attend.
As youth transition to adulthood, having access to an automobile is something many take for granted, whether using the family vehicle or purchasing a car for themselves. However, many obstacles exist for youth in foster care. The cost of driver’s education, car insurance, and vehicle purchase may be out of reach as many foster youth come from low-income backgrounds. Usually, a supportive adult assists in this process, but not for many young people in foster care, particularly if the foster youth has transitioned through several placements. According to Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative’s independent study, participants with a license were 1.6 times as likely to be employed as those without a license, and among participants aged 19 years or older, those with a license were 2.9 times as likely to report having graduated with a high school diploma or obtained a GED certificate.
“Transportation presents one of the largest barriers for foster youth to access medical services, education, housing, employment, and more, especially in rural areas where long distances could present geographic challenges,” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee, chair of the Social Work Caucus. “This important bill would play a critical role in advancing equity and expanding foster youth’s economic and social independence by mitigating barriers to obtaining a driver’s license.”
In a press release announcing the bill, Congressman Davis stated: “Getting a driver’s license is a key milestone of growing up and developing into an independent adult. I am proud to work across the aisle with Rep. Bacon to help foster youth in each state and within tribes and territories to obtain their licenses by removing financial and regulatory barriers. Elements of this bill were temporarily enacted during the pandemic to address the needs of foster youth, and I look forward to creating a permanent grant to help these youth gain their independence. Foster youth deserve to experience the joy of passing their driving tests and the personal and professional opportunities that driving affords.”
CRISP is one of several state and national organizations supporting the legislation, including the Alliance for Children’s Rights, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Child Welfare League of America, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, Children’s Rights, Embrace Families, First Focus Campaign for Children, FosterClub, the John Burton Advocates for Youth, the National Association of Counsel for Children, the National Foster Youth Institute, Partners for Our Children, Think of Us, Treehouse, the Youth Law Center, and Youth Villages.