This is a question I constantly asked as a teen in foster care in Dallas. I could not get a driver’s license in high school at 16 years old because it was considered a liability issue, was against the rules/guidelines, and required a birth certificate. Getting a certified copy of a birth certificate for a foster child can be difficult, as it was with me. Most of you reading this cannot imagine not getting your driver’s license as a teen. It is a right of passage, a sign of independence and freedom that comes with some teen responsibility challenges as well. I understand why a foster teen requires stricter requirements for all the right reasons, but it doesn’t help with the feeling of “normalcy” that is needed and wanted by the foster teen.
Can you give me a ride? To school, to the football game, to practice, to the after-game gatherings, and to any functions I wanted to participate in. My foster parents gave me a ride, or I walked, rode with a friend, or I rode the bus. I worked at the YMCA, within walking distance of my foster home. I rode the bus to work at a department store in Downtown Dallas, maneuvering the bus transfer system. We didn’t have cell phones back then and if I got lost, I would be really lost because I didn’t have a Driver’s License as an I.D.! Thankfully, that never happened. Somehow, this was safer than letting a teen in foster care drive. I get it, but it didn’t help with trying to be a “normal teen.”
I learned to drive in my friend’s car during my senior year in high school and finally got my license before I went to college. I aced the parallel parking! Unlike many college kids, I walked, rode my bike, rode the bus, and got rides from friends my freshman year to get to class and work. In my sophomore year I had saved enough money to buy my first car, a $250 Volkswagen beetle! I loved that car with the gas fumes and the messed up electrical system (I couldn’t turn the engine off with the lights on!) I became very adept at running and jumping in to “pop the clutch” while a friend pushed me to get it started. I didn’t dare turn the engine off, so I tried not to stop until I reached my destination! If I couldn’t get it started and there wasn’t a friend around, I would hop on my bike. I squeezed as many of my friends into my bug as possible. No seatbelts were required in those days! Lots of laughs and lots of memories! I don’t think I have ever asked for a ride again!
This was the case with me as a teenager in foster care getting my license then and it’s still the case today. Our foster parents in Home #1 at Geary Foster Foundations, are experiencing the challenges of getting driver’s licenses for our teens and the costs of all their activities. They are trying to coordinate jobs for them where they have the same shifts at the same place of employment. There are additional challenges because our ranch is in the country and not accessible to public transportation except for the school bus. One of our teens will be 18 next year and hopefully, by then get a driver’s license and we will reach out for a vehicle to let them be able to have transportation leading to an independent life. These teenagers will probably be with us long term; therefore, we want to help them gain more independence moving forward.
*If you would like to donate to our “Teen Program,” supporting our parents and teens, please go to our website: www.gearyfosterfoundatons.org and specify “teen program.”