Learning to Drive a Car

when you are in foster care

When can I get my learner’s permit?

You are eligible to apply for a learner’s permit once you reach the age of 15 years and six months.

What do I have to do in order to get my learner’s permit?

You must be able to prove that you are a Virginia resident and that you have regularly been attending school or you are “in good academic standing.” If you are not “in good academic standing,” you can still apply for a learner’s permit if your social worker gives you written permission to get a learner’s permit. This permission must be on a form that you get from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Are there any limits on when and where I can drive with a learner’s permit?

Yes. You cannot drive unless there is a licensed driver in the car with you. You cannot drive with more than one passenger in the car who is under the age of 18, unless the passengers are members of your family. You cannot drive between the hours of midnight and four a.m.

Can I get a driver’s license while I am in foster care?

Yes. Any person who is at least 16 years and three months old can be issued a driver’s license under certain conditions. Most local departments of social services encourage and help their foster youth to get driver’s licenses before they leave foster care. In fact, some local agencies pay for private driving lessons if driver’s education classes are not available through the local schools.

What do I need to do to get a driver’s license before I turn 18?

Before you can apply for your driver’s license, you must successfully complete a driver’s education course and have proof that you are regularly attending school and are in good academic standing. If you are not “in good academic standing,” you must have a form signed by your social worker allowing you to obtain a driver’s license. The form is available from the Department of Motor Vehicles. You are also required to pay a small fee. If you are under 18 when you apply for your driver’s license, you must also have your foster parent or social worker certify that you have driven a car for at least 45 hours (at least 15 of which were after sunset) with a learner’s permit and under the rules that apply to driving with a learner’s permit.

Can I own a car while I am in foster care?

Yes, although you will have to use your own money to buy the car. The local department of social services does not have funds to pay for cars for their youth in foster care. Additionally, owning a car can be very expensive. Even after you pay for the car, there are other annual costs. These include registration fees, personal property taxes, inspection fees, maintenance costs and the cost of car insurance. You must also pay for gas, which can be very expensive.

Can I drive if I don’t have automobile insurance?

Yes. However, every driver in Virginia who does not have automobile insurance is charged an annual fee that is $500 or more. Also, it is very risky to drive without having insurance. If you cause an accident and don’t have insurance, you could be required to pay thousands of dollars to anyone else involved in the accident.

If a court found me delinquent, does it affect my right to get a driver’s license?

If you went to court because you were charged with an offense, and the court found you not innocent of the offense or “a child in need of supervision,” you cannot get a driver’s license without the written approval of the judge who heard your case.

What documents do I need to bring with me when I apply for my driver’s license or learner’s permit?

To apply for a driver’s license or leaner’s permit, you must bring two identification documents, one proof of legal presence and one proof of Virginia residence. Your two forms of identification should include your birth certificate and either a certified copy of your school transcript/records, your Medicaid card, or an unexpired social services issued identification card with photograph. Your birth certificate will also provide proof of legal presence in the United States. To prove that you are a resident of Virginia, you must bring something showing your current address, such as a payroll stub no more than two months old; a bank statement no more than two months old; or a certified copy of school records/transcript from the school you are currently attending. You must also bring a copy of your social security card or some other document showing your social security number.