Florida's Children First

Measure Allowing Foster Children to Get Driver’s License Sent to Scott

Codi Crowley, a 17-year-old in foster care, may soon be able to drive herself to high school medical courses at Traviss Career Center in Lakeland.

The Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill Friday that allows foster children 16 to 18 years old to obtain a driver license and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed into law. It previously passed the Florida House.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Ben Albritton, R- Wauchula, whose district includes a large section of South Polk County, and by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, in the Senate.

Both Albritton and Detert successfully sponsored a large foster care “normalcy” package last year that they said would help these children who are often prevented from normal adolescence activities. Such “normal” activities as going to a sleep-over or group dates had been difficult because of liabilities and rules imposed by the state.

But foster children who are eligible by age still can’t get a driver license. In a case like Crowley’s, who lives with nine girls who choose to stay at the Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in Bartow in a special cottage set aside for older girls in the system, the lack of a license is a problem.

“We get taken by bus to where we have to be. Ten girls trying to get ready on time is difficult. If one person is five minutes late, it throws everyone off from where they have to be, especially for classes,” Crowley had

Crowley has a Saturday job and college plans for her future, but she can’t drive to that job and can’t get a license.

Because she is still in the foster care system, she has no way to pay for the license and insurance, much less a car. And there is the state liability.

Detert took up Albritton’s bill, House Bill 977, which passed and now goes to Scott. She told senators there will be $800,000 for what will be a three-year statewide pilot program to cover license fees and insurance.

[ Ledger Political Editor Bill Rufty can be reached at bill.rufty@theledger.com or 863-802-7523. ]

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Florida's Children First

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