Local Treasures with Pia: Treehouse helps foster youth get a driver's license

Deer Park, Washington - The day you get your driver's license is a big day in most young people’s lives. With a license comes a sense of freedom and independence that’s an important part of growing up. But a recent survey showed that only 11 percent of youth experiencing foster care obtain their driver’s license by the time they turn 18.

“For youth in foster care it can be very difficult to get a license,” said Katie Adams, Content and PR Manager for Treehouse, a nonprofit organization that helps youth in in foster care. “It’s such an important thing for a young person, it gives you some faculty over your own life.”

Treehouse, which recently received a grant from the Avista Foundation, provides foster youth support in many areas such as clothing, school supplies, school fees and uniforms, but one of its most important programs is the one that will reimburse eligible foster youth the expenses associated with getting a Washington State ID, and instructional or learner’s permit, and driving lessons.

The Driver's Assistance program is funded through the Washington Transportation budget.

Adams said Treehouse is working with similar programs in other states to help them gain state funding.

Foster youth face many obstacles to a driver’s license: they may start drivers’ education at one school, but then be moved to another school before they complete it. Insurance can also be tricky because the foster youth must be added to a foster family’s car insurance, but they will be added as a non-family member. That can be cost prohibitive.

“We believe having a driver’s license is the first step toward long-term success,” Adams said. “We are very proud of the work we do in this area.”

Treehouse was founded in 1988 by a group of social workers who wanted to solve some of the problems unique to youth who experience foster care. Today, Treehouse is Washington’s leading foster youth support organization, and it serves just over 6,000 youth in foster care.

On its website, Treehouse shares stories written by foster youth like David who graduated from Deer Park High School in June.

David moved in with his grandfather when he was 7, and he has been in foster care together with his brother Danny since he was 12. He learned woodworking from his grandfather and he’s an accomplished woodworker today, making beautifully designed wooden tables. His goal is to get a job with an HVAC company.

“I am excited to graduate from high school and be able to work full-time,” David writes treehouseforkids.org. “What I want people to know is that no matter where you come from or where you start, you always make your future successful. The worst upbringing can bring out the best future.”

At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.

Read and watch David’s story and learn more about Treehouse For Kids.

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