Financial security of foster youth

An Associated Press article from August 16 discusses Rep. James Langevin’s work on legislation that would help protect youth in foster care from identity theft and credit fraud by requiring states to run credit checks on foster children and assist those who become victims of identity theft as well as prohibiting states from putting Social Security numbers in foster care records as a means of child identification.

The article first discusses how foster youth in care and aging out of care are already financially disadvantaged compared to their non-foster youth peers.  Complicating this reality for foster youth is the fact that, unknown to them, many are victims of identity theft or other financial crimes.  One study from California estimates that up to 50 percent of the children in the state’s system have been victims of identity theft.  Of great concern to many child welfare experts is how unknown and widespread this problem is across the country.

The financial security of current and former foster youth is a growing issue of concern among those in the field.  Earlier this year, the Children’s Advocacy Institute and First Star hosted a Congressional briefing to mark the release of the report, The Fleecing of Foster Children: How We Confiscate Their Assets and Undermine Their Financial Security.  The report addresses various aspects of youth’s financial well-being in care, including topics such as protection from social security fraud and promoting Individual Development Accounts.

One of CCAI’s 2010 Foster Youth Interns, Jeremy Long, was featured in a news clip about Colorado state legislation also targeted toward protecting foster youth from identity theft.  Shortly after seeing this story, one child welfare practitioner from Florida contacted CCAI and commented, “Families that adopt our foster children and foster children themselves encounter a serious problem.  More times than not parents whose parental rights have been terminated continue to use their child’s social security number to commit fraud such as for welfare funds, food stamps or income tax deductions.