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We are a private family foundation that aids former foster youth who have aged out of the foster care system by teaching them how to drive, and then providing them with reliable means of transportation (a good, but inexpensive, used car).
Our family (Chuck, Stacy, Cory & Carsten DenHerder) started this foundation after realizing that foster youth rarely have an opportunity to learn to drive, let alone have the means to buy a vehicle. As a family, we love cars and spend time racing cars on weekends, and we wanted to find a way to give to others in a meaningful way. After learning the horrific statistics regarding youth who age out of the foster care system: more than half end up dead, homeless, or in prison, we created Changing Lanes: Drive 2 Success in order to combine our passion for cars with our passion for helping others.
We give these youth an opportunity to experience “freedom” by owning a car, which give them the ability to attend school, get to a job, or in some cases, may be their only form of shelter. We aim to create lasting relationships with each and every youth we interact with, giving them a form of extended “family” they never had.
How It Works
We partner with the non-profit organization Just In Time to find youth who have aged out of the foster system who are in need of reliable transportation in order to support themselves. We then provide these youth with a car and fully support the car for 2 years. After the 2 years are up, the youth then gets to keep the car for future use. Cars are either donated directly to us or we source used cars and buy them using donations.
The statistics on foster kids and their chances in life after 18 are horrific…over 70% of them end up dead, homeless, or in prison. And it is no wonder. When they turn 18 (though now it is 19 in California if they are in school), they are released from the system, given a bus pass and $50, and they are now on their own. Many try to go to school, but in San Diego, they drop out after the first semester due to a lack of transportation. There are programs to provide for tuition, but not for the necessities. Even for an apartment, many states have programs to subsidize housing, but in CA, we only subsidize 30% of the cost of an apartment, and this new “adult” must navigate all of this and find a place to live.
Changing Lanes: Drive 2 Success is a collaborative program designed to empower transitioning youth from the foster care system to learn to drive, become good drivers, learn basic auto maintenance; purchase reliable transportation, and create a foundation for maintaining vehicle ownership responsibly to expand access to jobs, education, personal safety, and develop opportunities to build credit. We partner with many organizations, businesses, and individuals to accomplish this goal. Our main strategic partner is Just in Time for Foster Youth, who will choose the foster youth who will participate in the program, based on their enrollment in the JIT Financial Fitness program.
Access to reliable, convenient transportation options is a major challenge for youth in transition from Foster care. Most youth who were in the foster care system were never taught how to drive. It often limits employment opportunities, makes it nearly impossible to balance education and work in many cases, creates long commutes that waste time and energy, and often leads to car buying decisions based in desperation that end up draining financial resources rather than empowering youth for the future.
The program has three components to promote Independence, Reliability and Responsibility:
1. Become a Driver
D2S helps youth earn a driver’s license.
- Create eligibility requirements for participation.
- Volunteers help youth develop a customized plan for success, from permit to driving test.
- Identify local driving schools to become program partners with JIT to offer pro bono or reduced rate driver training.
- Recruit members of various car clubs (Porsche club, BMW club, Miata club, etc.) to volunteer time to teach youth how to drive behind the wheel as well as basic car maintenance: changing oil, changing tires, etc.
- Help the youth set up the driving test, provide a vehicle (if necessary) and encouragement
- Provide the necessary fees for obtaining the driver’s license
2. Purchase a Car
D2S will help XX youth per year purchase a car.
- Create eligibility requirements for participation
- Volunteers help youth develop a customized financial plan for success, from realistic budgeting for all related expenses to review of options and final purchase.
- Identify local car dealers to purchase low cost vehicles. Car purchase price will vary depending on the youth’s particular means and circumstances.
- Assist youth in purchasing reliable used cars from independent sellers
- Arrange for pre-purchase inspections of the vehicles with our strategic partners
- Identify insurance companies to purchase low cost but essential insurance. Offer multiple options to meet the individual needs of the youth.
3. Maintain Responsible Ownership
D2S will help youth understand the responsibilities of car ownership.
- Help youth understand how to maintain a vehicle
- Work with youth on continued safe driving practices
- Set up a system for help when things go wrong
The end result?
Independence, Reliability and Responsibility. Independence in that the youth now has the freedom to be able to attend school or go to a job. Reliability of a vehicle they can count on to get them from place to place without fear. And Responsibility as they build an effective budget and learn to maintain the vehicle as a long term asset.