TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced he has signed House Bill 977 that will enable foster children who are at least 16 years of age to obtain automobile insurance and a driver’s license through state support.
This legislation is an extension of the “Normalcy Bill” Governor Scott signed in 2013, which reduced rules and regulations that limited the activities of children in foster care and allowed foster parents to give foster children permission to do daily, age appropriate, activities.
Governor Scott said, “Learning to drive is an important rite of passage for young adults and I am proud to have signed this legislation that helps Florida’s teens who are in foster care be able to get a driver’s license. Being in foster care should not restrict the abilities and experiences of our next generation. This legislation extends our efforts from last year and will help foster children thrive.”
House Bill 977 creates a three-year pilot program at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to pay the cost of driver education, licensure, and motor vehicle insurance for young adults in foster care so they can have the same opportunity as children who are not in foster care.
Both current statute and administrative code support the efforts of teens in foster care to engage in age-appropriate activities. DCF rules specifically require community-based lead agency service providers to support foster care teens that have demonstrated the appropriate level of maturity in their efforts to learn to drive, to obtain a learner’s permit or driver’s license, and to assist in obtaining automobile insurance for those children that are allowed to drive.
Senator Nancy Detert, Senate bill sponsor, said, “I thank Governor Scott for signing the bill that will help foster care kids obtain drivers licenses. We found that only 2 percent of the kids leaving our care had a driver’s license due to the fact that they do not have a parent to put them on their insurance. I first filed this bill 15 years ago in the House but it didn't get done. But now, with the Governor’s signature, foster care kids will have the tools they need to craft a better life for themselves. We cannot underestimate the importance of this legislation in the lives of foster care kids.”
Representative Ben Albritton, House bill sponsor, said, “It was an honor to sponsor our Keys to Independence bill this year. We want our foster kids to know that we care about them and are fighting for them. I look forward to Governor Scott signing this great bill and watching the number of foster kids that are driving skyrocket. In signing this bill our Governor is saying to our foster kids and reinforcing the fact that…WE CARE DEEPLY ABOUT YOU!”
Representative Matt Hudson said, “Governor Scott increased the opportunity for youth in the foster care system to obtain driver’s education courses and vehicle insurance through signing this bill. These changes will lead to a brighter future for foster children in the state of Florida.”
Representative Matt Gaetz said, “It is imperative that our youth in the foster care system develop the skills and have the resources to become independent. I commend Governor Scott for signing this legislation today because it helps them do just that.”
Representative Jose Feliz Diaz said, “This legislation creates an important pilot program and provides resources to the Department of Children and Families to help young adults in foster care obtain a driver’s license. I applaud Governor Scott for continuing to make the needs of Florida’s children a priority.”
Representative Pat Rooney said, “Governor Scott often talks about investing in the next generation, and by signing this bill he yet again demonstrates that he means it. This is a small investment from the state that means a lot to our teens in the foster care system.”
Representative Bill Hager said, “Today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders and I stand with Governor Scott as he supports children who are in foster care. The Governor’s commitment to bettering the lives of Florida’s children is commendable.”
Representative Sharon Pritchett said, “This legislation is a critical step in ensuring every child in the foster care system has the opportunity to become independent and successful. Signage of this legislation assures Florida’s children remain a top priority.”
Representative Ray Rodrigues said, “I am proud to join Governor Scott in supporting this legislation. By providing resources to youth in the foster care system, Governor Scott is reaffirming his commitment to Florida’s children who are in the care of the state.”
Representative Daphne Campbell said, “This legislation includes important provisions for addressing the needs of our youth in the foster care system. I commend Governor Scott for his strong commitment to Florida’s youth.”
Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the GAL Program, said, “Representative Ben Albritton and Senator Nancy Detert continue to champion the rights and responsibilities of young adults in foster care. Driving is a big responsibility, and right now, youth in foster care are not prepared. With Governor Scott signing the Keys to Independence Act will allow them to gain the skills they need to be safe drivers.”
Geori Berman, Florida Youth Shine Coordinator: “Florida Youth SHINE members are so excited about the passage of the ‘Keys to Independence’ Bill. They came from across Florida to testify at committee meetings and met with legislators, because they know first-hand how difficult life is when you can't drive. They are so happy that kids will be able to get driver's ed, a learner's permit, driver's license and car insurance. This addresses an obstacle that our kids in foster care faced, and helps them in their journey to be independent and productive.”
Chelsea Bramblett, Florida Youth SHINE Secretary of the Pensacola Chapter, and a youth formerly in foster care said, “The Keys to Independence Act is a great opportunity for youth in foster care to pursue normal lives, have independence and be employed. I had to wait until I was 18 to get my driver’s license and couldn’t practice driving until then!”
Kierra Perkins, Florida Youth SHINE Legislative Co-Chair of the Jacksonville Chapter, and a youth formerly in foster care, said “The Keys to Independence Act is a great thing. I wish it was around when I was in foster care. This gives kids in foster care the opportunity to find employment, go to school, better their lives and become productive citizens of society.”
Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said, “We are excited to have the resources to implement this important initiative that allows foster teens to have the same opportunity as their peers. Learning to drive is not only an exciting and important developmental step in a young person’s life; it is one of the first steps to independence.”