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.

How do I get my learner’s permit?

You must have documents showing you are a US citizen or have a recognized US immigration status, are a Virginia resident, and are attending school regularly or 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.  This permission must be on a form from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Learn more here: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers/#learners.asp/expand]

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. Read the driver’s manual and take quizzes to practice for the written test for getting a learner’s permit here: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/dmv-manuals/#/sections/manual/1

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 you are regularly attending school and are in good academic standing.

▪  Your foster parent or social worker must 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, under the rules for driving with a learner’s permit. (Some local departments of social services will pay for private driving lessons if driver’s education classes are not available through local schools.)

▪  DMV will send your license to the local juvenile court, and you and your foster parent or DSS worker will attend a licensing ceremony together to receive your license. If you are 18 on the date of the ceremony, you can go by yourself.

» Some foster parents don’t have the time to supervise the 45 hours of driving, or are unwilling to let their car be used. If this is the case with your foster family, talk to your social worker. Ask if there is another car you can use to practice, or another licensed adult who can supervise your driving hours. You have the right to learn to drive!

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. Additionally, owning a car can be expensive.  Even after you pay for the car, there are other costs: registration fees, personal property taxes, inspection fees, maintenance costs and the cost of car insurance.  You must also pay for gas, which can be expensive.  See http://www.learnyourrightsva.org/learn-your-rights/consumer/ to learn more about buying a used car.

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 of $500 or more.  Also, if you cause an accident without insurance, you could be required to pay thousands of dollars for damage or injury.

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. Ask your social worker.

What documents do I need to 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 forms of identification: First, a document that proves legal presence in the United States (this may be your birth certificate, unexpired government-issued ID card, Medicaid card, or documents from immigration); second, proof of Virginia residence, showing a current Virginia address. This may include 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 other official document showing your social security number. Ask your social worker for help; they must maintain all your documents.