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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 23, No. 1
May 2018

Removing Barriers to Driving for Youth in Foster Care

Being able to drive is a necessity for most people in our society. Yet in the past, teens in foster care have faced delays learning to drive or obtaining a driver's license. This was a problem. Not having a license can be a barrier to accessing education, health care, employment, and other important developmental activities. For youth in foster care, driving is not just a privilege, but a route to independence.

North Carolina recognizes this and is taking steps to remove barriers to driving for youth in foster care.

In 2017, North Carolina Session Law 2017-41 directed the NC Division of Social Services to create a two-year pilot project to help youth in foster care obtain learner's permits and driver's licenses. In response, in collaboration with county child welfare agencies, former foster youth, family partners, and other stakeholders, the Division created Transportation Really Is Possible (TRIP), a pilot project that launched on Dec. 1, 2017.

TRIP provides funding, on a first-come, first-served basis, to support young people and their caregivers with expenses associated with youth obtaining a driver's license or learner's permit, including insurance, fees, and other costs.

The program also provides tools to ensure decisions about pursuing a driver's license are appropriate and well considered. For example, county child welfare agencies, youth, and caregivers are required to jointly complete a TRIP Readiness Assessment. This assessment facilitates discussion about safety issues related to medical, mental health, or emotional conditions, substance use, and other areas that may impact a young person's judgment and safety behind the wheel. This tool is used to facilitate a conversation about a young person's readiness to drive and jointly plan to address any barriers.

In addition to this readiness assessment, in December 2017 the Division of Social Services issued the following resources to help county child welfare agencies implement this program:

  • Announcement Letter
  • Program Criteria
  • Reimbursement Request Form
  • Youth-Caregiver-Agency Agreement Template
  • TRIP Eligibility and Reimbursement At-a-Glance

These resources can be found here:

Limited Funds
With TRIP, county child welfare agencies reimburse eligible youth and caregivers for qualified TRIP expenses. Counties may then seek reimbursement from the NC Division of Social Services for these costs. However, reimbursement of counties will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Funding for this two-year pilot program totals $75,000 for each year (i.e., $75,000 for SFY 2017-18 and $75,000 for SFY 2018-19). Given the level of demand among young people, it is anticipated that these funds will be expended quickly each fiscal year. The Division will notify counties regularly of the status of TRIP funding to help them plan accordingly.

TRIP Eligibility Criteria At-a-Glance

Youth / Young Adults

  1. Must either (1) be at least 14 and a half years old but not yet 18 and in foster care as defined in G.S. 131D-10.2(9); OR (2) have been in foster care on their 18th birthday and have a VPA to participate in Foster Care 18 to 21.

  2. Must have approval from the caregiver OR county child welfare agency.

  3. Must have contacted the county child welfare agency, as needed, to obtain any other approval or information needed to attend driver's edcation or get a leaner's permit or driver's license and must have consulted the county and caregiver about their readiness to drive.

  4. Must have at least one goal on their Transitional Living Plan (DSS-5096a) that specifies the TRIP-relevant steps they must take (e.g., enroll in and complete driver's education).

  5. Must have a written agreement with their caregiver and county that describes:
    • Their plan to contribute toward ongoing costs associated with driving that are not or will not be covered by TRIP or LINKS;
    • Any educational criteria needed, such as budgeting and understanding insurance; and,
    • The caregiver's agreement to support the young person in obtaining driving experience.


  1. Must care for a TRIP-eligible youth or young adult.

  2. Must have applied the reasonable and prudent parent standard when deciding whether to grant approval to the young person to attend driver's education or obtain a learner's permit or driver's license.

  3. Must have contacted the county child welfare agency, as needed, to obtain any other approval or information needed for the young person to attend driver's education or get a leaner's permit or driver's license and must have consulted the county about the young person's readiness to drive.

  4. Must have a written agreement with the young person and the county that addresses the points outlined under item 5 at left under the youth/young adult eligibility criteria.

References for this and other articles in this issue