INDIANAPOLIS—The transition to adulthood and professionalism is a journey everyone will take at some point in their life. For those in the foster care system, however, this transition is made more difficult without the aid of transportation and car insurance to move from place to place.
Signing Bill 246 on Senate Registration could make things easier. The Indiana Department of Children’s Services will cover potential costs for driving instruction and car insurance through the Young Foster Insurance Fund. It will take effect July 1 after it passes unanimously in the House and is finally signed by Governor Eric Holcomb.
Maggie Stevens, CEO and president of Foster Success, an Indianapolis nonprofit that supports foster youth ages 14 to 26, believes the bill is essential because of its benefits. Since 2008, Foster Success has been helping teens and young adults coming out of the foster care system with the goal of securing stable employment, housing, and a support system before their 26th birthday.
“In the state of Indiana, most communities have limited public transportation,” Stevens said. “What we do know is that young people in foster care still struggle to access transportation to get to work, get to school or meet any basic needs they may have.”
SEA 246 was heard at a House Ways and Means Committee in February, where the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Lawrence, argued the bill’s benefits for the self-sufficiency.
“I think we can all agree that we want young adoptees to be independent, productive Hoosiers,” Walker said.
This fund helps manage driver training costs as well as car insurance. Not being able to sign up for a parent or guardian’s auto insurance can drive up personal rates. Foster care can be inconsistent, and young people in foster care will pay an average of 40 to 50 percent more in individual car insurance than their non-foster peers, according to Stevens.
This fund aims to fill the gap in insurance affordability. The youths will be covered by Indiana’s auto insurance program, which specializes in covering “high-risk” individuals or those otherwise denied by other insurers.
To fund these efforts, money from state appropriations and private donations will be used to offset expenses as young people gain access to auto insurance and the practice of driving. Fifty hours of driving practice with a certified adult is required to obtain a driver’s license in addition to passing the Indiana state driving test. Currently, teens in foster care can get six of those hours through traditional driver education, but the rest may be difficult to obtain, so funding and a certified instructor for the remaining driving hours will be provided.
Matt Lehman, R-Bern, backed the guarantee to help insure young fosters in need.
“If you can go into adulthood with your own insurance, have a good record, I think that makes you a much better consumer for a competitive rate,” he said. “Ultimately, this gives foster children who have their own vehicles last-resort coverage so they don’t drive uninsured.”
A specific license plate style in support of Youth Foster Care Insurance is also being petitioned, with $15 per plate going into the Youth Foster Care Insurance Fund. ‘Home. This petition requires 500 signatures and interim committee approval before the plate can be verified and sold to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Terri J. Austin, D-Anderson, applauded the bill’s unanimous passage in an article by Indiana House Democrats, saying it’s a “great example of the kind of legislation we can adopt” in a bipartisan manner.
“The ability to get a driver’s license and get insurance are two barriers to finding stable employment and furthering their education,” Austin said. “This bill will help children coming out of foster care achieve those goals.”
Ariana Lovitt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.