A Driver’s License Should be a Right, not a Privilege

By Sarah Mazur, Program Manager of Financial Resources

“I want to get my license so I can get a job and make my own money.”

That is something I have heard countless times in the 10+ years that I have worked with 15–21-year-olds in foster care. A driver’s license is viewed as a rite of passage, after all, but rarely afforded to youth in care for one reason or another.

A driver’s license increases access to opportunities, especially for those in rural areas where public transportation is inaccessible or unreliable. It opens you up to a world of possibility, from increased school choices to better jobs and social events. It also helps develop a sense of responsibility and maturity.

Sometimes the barrier to this important milestone is funding, which Treehouse helps with by paying for driver’s education, licensing fees and basic auto insurance, but we are also fierce advocates for our youth. We make sure they have a car available at the driving school and that they’re in the right driving school for their needs. We are honest with caregivers about what it will take for the youth in their care to get their license and try to ease as many of their concerns as we can.

“Driver’s Assistance has created a positive impact in my life. I don’t have to worry about the cost of my insurance. I work 2 jobs and go to school, I drive a lot and having this program allows me to get where I need and allows me to save my money for my future.​”


There’s always going to be a barrier of not having a car. We view our program as the first step, and then as youth feel more independent and self-confident, they can start saving their money. Maybe go to find a job that they can walk to, or take the bus, and eventually they get their car, but at least they have their license to ensure they are doing it legally.

These young people are in the foster care system through no fault of their own and one of our roles as the adults in their lives is to provide them equal opportunities as their peers. It doesn’t matter what their living circumstances are, most youth want to get their driver’s license. We need to be encouraging them to pursue this goal and be ok with it, knowing that it is a normal steppingstone for our young people to transition to independence.

“I am so grateful that I can travel without worrying about having insurance. Thanks to this program, I can relax.​”


As we enter our 5th year operating our Driver’s Assistance program, it’s become increasingly clear that we could be doing more to help youth feel safer on the road and reduce liability on caregivers. Since the program is funded through the Washington State Legislature and that dictates what funding requests we can and can’t approve, we’re currently unable to reimburse for expenses like car tabs, car repairs and maintenance, AAA memberships or insurance deductibles, which help ensure youth are driving safely and legally.

Liability is the biggest concern for caregivers, and these types of resources would add another layer of protection for our young people, reduce worry for caregivers and allow more young people to enter the program.

During the 2023 legislative session, Treehouse is asking the Washington State Legislature to pass a budget proviso that will enable the program to increase the depth of resources we can offer. You can support this effort by joining our Advocacy Action Center and contacting your elected officials.

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About the Author

Sarah Mazur has worked for Treehouse for six and a half years. She manages the Just-in-Time Funding and Driver’s Assistance programs. Her goal is to ensure children and youth experiencing foster care have equitable access to financial resources in order to remove barriers to their educational success, enhance their self-esteem and guide them to self-sufficiency. 

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