Empowering Florida's Youth
Through Mobility

At Keys to Independence, we are driven by our mission to empower teens experiencing foster care or homelessness by breaking down the barriers that prevent them from obtaining their driver’s license. We provide the guidance, resources, and financial support needed to enable youth and young adults in Florida to gain their independence, secure employment, attend school, engage socially, and contribute to their community.

1,200

Driver's Licenses
earned for life of
the program

1,917

Learner's Permits
earned for life of
the program

7,127

Youth enrolled in
program during life
of the program

Our Vision and Commitment

We envision a future where every teen, regardless of their living situation, has the opportunity to thrive and achieve success through the power of mobility. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive assistance throughout the licensing process for qualifying teens and young adults. Our passionate team is ready to support and uplift our participants every step of the way.

Our Mission and History

Keys to Independence (K2I) is a unique program committed to helping Florida youth experiencing foster care and/or homelessness obtain their driver’s permit and license.

In 2014, Embrace Families was selected by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to manage this statewide project in partnership with foster parents, relative and non-relative caregivers, residential group care providers, Guardians ad Litem, case management agencies, youth in foster care, and its lead agency counterparts throughout Florida. In 2021, the program expanded to include young adults enrolled in Postsecondary Education Support Services (PESS). In 2022, the Florida Legislature and DCF further expanded the program’s mission to support youth experiencing homelessness.

This pioneering program is now managed statewide by FLITE Center (Fort Lauderdale Independence, Training & Education), a non-profit agency created in 2009 through a partnership of the Community Foundation of Broward, the United Way of Broward and the Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale. FLITE offers comprehensive access to services for youth aging out of foster care A top priority is independent living initiatives that lead to successful transitions to adulthood through programs that include: education, employment, housing, health and wellness, human trafficking survivorship, resource navigation, system of care coordination… and driver training through Keys to Independence.

Eligibility

We provide assistance to the following groups:

  • Youth in foster care and extended foster care (15 – 21 years old)
  • Young adults enrolled in PESS (18 – 23 years old)
  • Youth designated as homeless or unaccompanied homeless youth (ages 16 – 24 years old)

K2I Benefits

Enrolled youth and their caregivers receive reimbursement for costs associated with obtaining a driver’s license and auto insurance. Reimbursable expenses may include:

  • 4-hour traffic law and substance abuse course
  • Learner’s license fee
  • Driver’s license fee
  • Testing fees (knowledge or skill re-tests)
  • Comprehensive driver’s education course
  • Auto insurance (includes personal injury protection, bodily injury, and property damage)
  • Deductible (in the case of an accident)
  • Other costs incidental to licensure (determined on an individual basis)

How Much Does It Cost For A Parent To Get Their Teenager A Driver's License?

Our program has awarded over 1,200 driver’s licenses to youth in foster care and continues to create lasting change.

Are you ready to start your journey to driving independence? Apply Now and let Keys to Independence help you achieve your goals.

Join us today and embark on your journey to independence with Keys to Independence.

Meet Our K2I Team Members

Lisa Padua

Lisa Padua

Program Director

Lisa is the Program Director for Keys to Independence and has been with the team for 4 years. She oversees day to day operations for this program to reach as many young people as possible in the child welfare system and those experiencing homelessness in Florida so that they may gain access to independence in driving! In the past year, Lisa has also been consulting with other states across the nation that are creating their own driving programs for youth in foster care. Lisa is a graduate of Bay Path College in Massachusetts and has a BS in Criminal Justice. She has previously worked as a case manager and in behavioral health.

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Elias Quintana

Elias Quintana

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Elias is a Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the Keys to Independence Program. His journey working with youth in foster care started in 2017, as an AmeriCorps Public Ally. He partnered with Embrace Families as a Youth Services Specialist and has been grateful to work with the Youth Services Team ever since. The K2I Program he is involved with serves youth in foster care and helps them to earn their driver’s license. They have now expanded the program to serve youth experiencing homelessness. Elias is proud of what they do.

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Crystal Alicea

Crystal Alicea

Keys Coordinator

Keys to Independence Coordinator, former foster youth who started as a Public Ally. Graduated from UCF with Bachelors In Psychology and minor in Sociology and has a soft spot for the elderly and for youth.

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Sarai Arroyo

Sarai Arroyo

Keys Coordinator

Sarai Arroyo graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. She has worked as a Family Case Manager and Family Services Coordinator for Devereux and she has been a Coordinator for Keys to Independence for the past 3 years. Sarai is passionate to serve our foster youth and see them succeed.

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Jasmine Colon

Jasmine Colon

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

In her most recent role, Jasmine was Director of Marketing and Government Affairs for Brevard Hispanic Center. She focused on increasing awareness of the center through participation in community events and outreach. She was also an adjunct Professor for Seminole State College working in the Adult Education and ELS department. Jasmine was also an elementary school teacher in New York, where she worked very closely with numerous children and families across various inner-city schools. She currently holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Education.

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Michael Cornell

Michael Cornell

Keys Coordinator

Michael has been working with Embrace Families since 2022. He joined the Keys 2 Independence team in January of 2023 and has cherished every moment since. Michael possesses a genuine passion for assisting others and takes pleasure in aiding the youth in attaining some freedom by securing a driver's license. His background is rooted in law enforcement.

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Hollie Farrell

Hollie Farrell

Keys Coordinator

Hollie earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Central Florida. She has worked with children and families in a variety of settings including children’s ministry, crisis management, and adoption services. Hollie joined Embrace Families in July 2022 and is grateful to be a part of the Keys to Independence team.

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