Governor Rick Scott has signed the “Keys To Independence” Act into law again. Years ago, he signed the measure into law creating the pilot program. Now, Scott’s approval this week now makes the program permanent to make it easier for Florida’s foster kids obtain driver’s license.
“I’m a Freshman, and I attend Pace School for Girls,” said Monyay Randall with advocacy group Florida Youth Shine. “I live in a group home, and I’ve been in foster care most of my life.”
Randall is currently enrolled in the “Keys To Independence Program,” started in 2014. And, thanks to the pilot program, the 15-year-old just received her permit and is on the path to getting her driver’s license.
That program not only helps cover costs of driver’s education, but also helps provide auto insurance.
“When I turn 18, I will need my driver’s license,” added Randall. “I can’t just ask my mom to pick me up and take me to a doctor’s appointment or to college and things like that, because I don’t have my mother in my life and no one will teach me how to drive.”
And, Randall says she’s grateful she’ll now see the added benefits as the pilot—originally scheduled to end this year—is now permanent.
“I’m really excited to learn how to drive, and it really just makes me feel like a normal kid,” she continued.
That sense of normalcy has been the driving force of the bill making “Keys to Independence” program permanent.
“What’s more important to a kid than his driver’s license,” asked Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), who co-sponsored the measure. “To be able to go out and drive a car, what a liberation! What a rite of passage for every teenager out there! And, kids in foster care are so many times are deprived of those normal, everyday experiences that your kids and my kids look forward to and love. It’s a motivational factor for kids to do well in school so they can do this. It means so very much.”
Having seen the pilot program in action, Rep. Patricia Williams (D-Lauderdale Lakes) also likes the new law.
“I, for one, am a foster parent, and I was able to see this program at work,” said . And, I want to let you know that my first foster child was so excited for me to be able to walk in with her for her to actually receive her driver’s license.”
It’s also a big priority for Alan Abramowitz—the Executive Director of Florida’s Guardian ad Litem program.
“And, over 1,200 children between 15 and 18 now have been part of the ‘Keys To Independence Act’ where they’re learning how to drive,” said Abramowitz. “It helps the youth—according to the youth who talk about it—be able to finish high school, get jobs in vocational training, stay in the same school after changing placement, live independently, and participate extracurricular activities. It’s been a big success. We’ve made some changes to expand it not just to licensed care, but all out-of-home care, including relative care.”
In a statement, Governor Rick Scott says he signed the bill into law because it continues the state’s efforts to help foster care kids “thrive and live their dreams.”
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