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We Steer Our Future

House Bill 1808 was a massive success for The Mockingbird Society in this year’s advocacy cycle. This bill creates a program that will contract with a private non-profit organization to pay for driver’s education, permits and licenses, fees, and insurance for foster youth between the ages of 15-21, along with help navigating the paperwork process. This is important because there were clearly identified barriers that foster youth face in order to get their license. According to a study in Florida, only 3% of youth in care had their license compared to 54% of their peers from intact families. Some of these obstacles include cost and issues with social security/birth certificate paperwork. This program will significantly help youth navigate those barriers.

Apart from helping us attain normalcy, obtaining a driver’s license is critical to reaching the independence that we need to be successful in our lives. As youth in care, we tend to have an expectation and need of reaching full independence far sooner than our peers from intact families. This is difficult enough with all the resources we need, but when you take into account the challenge of transportation, it’s nearly impossible. Youth in care are extremely passionate and strive to reach our goals through work and education. However, these goals require us to have reasonable means of transportation, and particularly in more rural communities where public transit is unreliable, a car is a necessity.

Sabian Hart and Mockingbird staff at bill signing with Governor Inslee. Sabian Hart and Mockingbird staff at bill signing with Governor Inslee.

This program will not only help youth overcome the barrier to reliable transportation by easing access to a license, but it will also make the roads safer by providing proper education on driving. A report by AAA showed that people who go through formal driver’s education programs are less likely to be involved in accidents.

The idea for this bill was originally brought forward by the Olympia Chapter. We found it by looking at a nearly identical piece of legislation from Florida, which created a pilot program called Keys to Independence. During the three-year pilot project, over 150 young people were assisted in getting their driver’s license and over 250 youth and alumni of care completed some form of driver’s education.

After bringing our topic forward at the Annual Youth Leadership Summit, it was immediately clear we had a lot of backing and support for this issue. Our bill was later championed by State Representative Judy Clibborn, Chair of the House Transportation Committee. Rep. Clibborn shared publicly that she was excited to support this bill because of her own experience as a foster parent of older teens. In addition to Rep. Clibborn’s leadership, State Senator Hans Zeiger sponsored a companion bill in the Senate. The support of Rep. Clibborn, Sen. Zeiger, and many other allies helped make it possible for our idea to become a reality, with the Governor signing HB 1808 into law on May 5, 2017. All of our supporters and allies were phenomenal, and on behalf of The Mockingbird Society, I would like to thank you all for the help because we couldn’t have passed this bill so quickly without all our allies standing by our side.

Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Clibborn and everyone in the Mockingbird Youth Network, HB 1808 is another win that The Mockingbird Society can add to our already impressive repertoire. What new legislation will The Mockingbird Society help pass next? Find out on July 26th at the 2017 Youth Leadership Summit!