In advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, local nonprofit Fostering Youth Independence is giving thanks for several community grants that are enabling local foster youth to prepare, train and obtain their driver’s license through its brand-new Ready Set Drive! program.
Grants received for the vital program include $5,000 from L.A. County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, $1,477 from the city of Santa Clarita Community Services and Arts Grant, and $1,500 from Zonta.
FYI’s Ready Set Drive! program was introduced to equip foster youth to successfully obtain their driver’s licenses and acquire automobile insurance. The program includes study sessions where youth can prepare for the written exam and take practice tests, volunteers to accompany youth to the DMV to take the written and driving tests, payment of DMV license fees, behind-the-wheel training classes, workshops on the basics of auto insurance and assistance with obtaining policies when they acquire a car, including paying the deposit on a six-month policy.
“The ability to drive is critical for independent adulthood,” said Carolyn Olsen, FYI’s executive director and co-founder. “Young people with access to a car do better in school, get better jobs, and have more housing options. It’s challenging, if not impossible, for most foster youth to learn to drive and earn a driver’s license while in foster care.”
She said that barriers include difficulty securing the parental or guardian permission needed to enroll in driver’s education or obtain a permit, as well as an inability to pay for the various fees associated with becoming a driver. After youth age out of the foster care system, the process of obtaining a driver’s license is even more challenging. Without access to a car, driving instruction, supervision while practicing, and a vehicle to use for the DMV behind-the-wheel test, obtaining a driver’s license is out of reach for many.
As a result, many foster youths, desperate for transportation to school and work, drive without a license and insurance.
“At FYI we’ve seen the catastrophic results of this, as youth have been cited by the police for driving without a license and have been the cause of traffic accidents for which they are not insured. This project will benefit both the youth and the Santa Clarita community by helping FYI youth to be safe and responsible drivers,” Olsen added.
“We’re so appreciative of the support we’ve recently received from L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the city of Santa Clarita and Zonta,” she said. “They generously stepped up to help our valley’s foster youth and, as a result, we’re experiencing some exciting successes, with 15 youth having attended a test prep study session, six youth having received an instructional permit, six youth having received behind-the-wheel training and four youth earning their driver’s licenses.”
To learn more about FYI, visit www.fyifosteryouth.org.