New Law Enables Children in Foster Care to Obtain Drivers’ Licenses & Permits

April 21, 2017 - On April 5, 2017, Governor Henry McMaster signed Senate Bill 198 which amended South Carolina Code Section 56-1-100 and expanded the list of responsible adults who can legally sign the application for a minor to obtain a beginner’s permit or driver’s license. The language of the old law specified that only a parent or guardian of a child could authorize the child to get his or her beginners permit. This requirement was a barrier to children in foster care and others in non- traditional family settings from obtaining permits and licenses.

The SC Department of Motor Vehicles and the SC Department of Social Services worked collaboratively with the General Assembly to develop a law that would remove this barrier from normalcy for children in care. Rep. Anne Thayer and Sen. Katrina Shealy, working with staff from both DSS and the DMV, prefiled bills for this legislative session to address the issue. The bill received overwhelming support from both the Senate and the House and was signed by the Governor on April 5, 2017.

South Carolina Department of Services Director Susan Alford said, “As of this month, there are 916 children between the ages of 15-18 in foster care. The passage of S.198 ensures that children in foster care can experience the normal rites of passage that mark their development to adulthood, as well as develop skills critical to independent living. We appreciate the support of Governor McMaster, Sen. Shealy, Rep. Thayer, and the General Assembly to provide normalcy for children in care.”

“I want to thank the Legislature for broadening the scope of customers we will be able to easily support when applying for driver’s licenses,” said Kevin Shwedo, Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). “Few things at the DMV are more difficult than turning down a young adult because the law failed to acknowledge the guardian status of someone with custodial care. We’re excited to serve these young adults at the DMV once they’re prepared and ready!”

“This new law provides a great opportunity to give children in foster care, those living in group homes, and many un-emancipated minors the same opportunities as others,” said Sen. Katrina Shealy. “S.198 eliminated what was yet another way these children were singled out. Now, they can more easily get licenses and beginner’s permits like other young adults in this state.”

Children in the foster care system already face so many obstacles,” said Rep. Anne Thayer. “I applaud the DMV and DSS for working together on a solution that makes life easier for these children.”

All 67 DMV branches will begin accepting the signatures from the expanded list of authorized adults on Monday, April 24, 2017. If you’re signing on behalf of a minor, you must present a picture ID, select your relationship to the child (on the appropriate DMV form), bring your DSS approval letter (if applicable), and complete the Consent for Minor section of the Application for a Beginner’s Permit (SCDMV Form 447-NC).