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Former Foster Youths Say Greater Access to a Driver’s License Changed their Lives for the Better

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New Data Presented to Congressional Leaders Provides Proof that Florida’s Pioneering “Keys to Independence” Program Helps Teens in Foster Care Succeed

ORLANDO, Fla. – Child welfare advocates, including three young adults who grew up in foster care, recently met with U.S. Congressional leaders to present new data on Florida’s “Keys to Independence” program, an initiative developed in Orlando by Embrace Families to help youth in foster care earn driver’s licenses.

Since its initial pilot in 2013, the Keys to Independence project has helped thousands of teens and young adults in foster care earn driver’s licenses by reimbursing costs associated with education, permits, insurance, and obtaining a license.

The goal of the program is twofold: to give teens in foster care the same experiences and opportunities as their peers and to provide resources that support their long-term success. Data from the Keys to Independence Impact Report indicates that when compared to their counterparts, youth in foster care who have access to a driver’s license are more than 70% likely to earn a high school diploma or GED and are more than 45% likely to be employed full- or part-time.

Among those who benefited from the Keys program is Marty Lowery, a young adult who entered foster care at the age of three. The financial support provided by the program allowed him to earn his driver’s license at 17 and save money to buy his own car.

“[To get a driver’s license], you have to go with someone to the DMV, and you have to have someone put you on their insurance,” Lowery explained to U.S. lawmakers at the July 18 meeting. “A lot of caregivers were wary of that because they couldn’t afford to put an extra $600 onto their insurance policy or didn’t want to assume the additional liability.”

Lowery, now 25 is working in Seminole County, Florida, as an insurance adjuster for a nationally recognized firm.

Leaders at Embrace Families have worked to launch similar pilot programs in Delaware, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Maine. This year, Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced the Foster Youth and Driving Act (H.R. 7932), which would create grants to help foster youth across the United States overcome the financial and practical obstacles that often prevent them from obtaining their permits and driver’s licenses.

About Embrace Families

Embrace Families, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, helps Central Florida families overcome the root causes of abuse and neglect through programs that offer case management and other prevention services. When a child can’t remain safely in their home, we support them through foster care, adoption, mentoring and beyond. For more information, visit www.embracefamilies.org, “like” Embrace Families on Facebook at www.facebook.com/embracefamilies or follow it on Twitter at www.twitter.com/embracefam, and Instagram at www.instagram.com/embracefamiliesfl.

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About the author

Meaghan Branham

Meaghan Branham is the managing editor for i4 Business, where she oversees the company’s digital media strategy, handles client relationship marketing for the print and digital magazines, and serves as one of the publication’s lead writers. A native of Brevard County, she splits her time between Central Florida and Nashville, Tennessee.

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