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Lawmakers considering drivers ed grant program for foster teens

Posted: 6:07 PM, Jan 27, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-27 20:37:05-05
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COLORADO — Getting a driver's license is a rite of passage for many Colorado teens. Having a way to get to and from school, work, and after school activities without their parents help- is a privilege many teens enjoy.

For Colorado's teens in the foster care system, getting that license, can be a challenge in itself.

"You know, kids these days they want their own transportation they want to be able to come and go," Tiffany Gonzalez, Dir. of Operations with Kids Crossing, a local organization that works with foster families, said.

"I think that kids in foster care really crave a sense of normalcy," Jacquelyn Thurman, Deputy Dir. at Hope & Home- another foster organization in Colorado Springs said, "it's harder for them to get permission to get out of county, to go to concerts to do sleepovers with their friends."

In 2019, state lawmakers passed a bill, which removed some of the barriers for foster teens to get a license.

This legislative session, lawmakers are tackling another aspect foster teens have challenges with- getting drivers education classes. The proposed plan is to create a grant program for counties to get reimbursed for paying for a foster teen's drivers ed courses. The county would also have immunity from liability for the teens.

Under current law, driver's ed isn't required to get a driver's license in Colorado. However, if a foster teen wanted to get a learner's permit, they would need driver's ed.

"If a child in foster care is allowed to go to Drivers Ed, it gives them one more avenue to be around kids their age and do things kids their age are doing," Thurman said.

Foster care advocates say there are still other challenges for teens in foster care when it comes to this issue, such as insurance, finances, and getting a physical car for the teen.

Still without drivers ed, it can have an impact on the teen if they're looking for jobs during high school.

"Some of our teens are really ambitious and they want to graduate high school early, they want to go to college, and at times they've taken steps and they've looked into getting into drivers ed and they've been told because they're in foster care, they can't," said Thurman.