Proposal in Congress aims to help foster care youth access driver’s licenses

NATION — Martavius Lowery was three years old when he entered the foster care system in Central Florida.

When he came became a teenager, he was looking forward to a rite of passage like so many other kids: the chance to get behind the wheel and legally drive.

But as a foster care youth, he had to navigate unique barriers, including figuring out how to get on an insurance policy.

“My foster parents didn’t really want me to get behind the wheel of their car because it was still like a liability and adding a lot of money, adding me on to their policy,” said Lowery. “A lot of foster youth have difficulty obtaining a license and that kind of hinders their success.”

According to the nonprofit group Embrace Families, teens or young adults in foster care with a learner’s permit or driver’s license are more likely to graduate from high school and hold a job compared to foster care youth without the permit or license.

That’s why Lowery and other foster care youth advocates traveled to Washington D.C. this week to urge Congress to pass the Foster Youth and Driving Act, which would help state foster care and adoption programs give foster youth the resources to get a driver’s license and access to a car.

It’s based off the Florida’s Keys to Independence program, which has helped more than 1,000 foster care teens and young adults since it started in 2013.

“The state becomes the parent and so we need to think about what should be state and federal policies that would support a child like a responsible parent would,” said Gerry Glynn, Chief Legal Officer for Embrace Families.

For Lowery, now age 25, the independence from getting his driver’s license has been lifechanging.

“It really opens up a lot of doors,” said Lowery. “I was able to get a better job. I was able to go to different events. You know driving to school and college like that. It opens up so much.”

The bill is bipartisan with both Republicans and Democrats listed as co-sponsors.

“It’s not about politics,” said Lowery. “It’s about getting youth to be successful.”