One study has highlighted that as many as half of the children in foster care in California have been victims of identity theft. Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin has introduced a bill, The Foster Youth Financial Security Act, to help protect children in foster care from identity theft and other hurdles that impede their financial success.
Foster children already have obstacles in their way including the lack of continuity of care and the stigma of being a foster child. When children transition out of foster care to live on their own, Rep. Langevin says, “They shouldn’t have to struggle to find credit or fix credit just as they are leaving custody to live on their own.”
This latest bill introduced by Rep. Langevin is just one part of a big move to overhaul the foster care system in Rhode Island. Following a study released in March by The Children’s Advocacy Institute entitled: “The Fleecing of Foster Children: How We Confiscate Their Assets and Undermine Their Financial Security,” Rep. Langevin told a roundtable of parties interested in the foster care system that “research shows that current and former foster youth are more likely to forego higher education, be in poor health, become homeless, and rely on public supports as adults. I believe we can – and must – change these statistics.”
Rep. Jim Langevin admits that the number of foster care children in Rhode Island or across the country that have been victims of identity theft is really unknown but the California study is alarming. “It’s a problem that’s just now attracting attention,” he said.
Why are foster children targets of identity theft?
For foster children, their social security numbers and personal information is handled so frequently by officials, family and foster parents and they are too young to realize they are victims. In most cases, identity theft of foster children, like childhood identity theft in general is perpetrated by a relative. Relatives sometimes use the child’s identity to obtain credit cards, utilities or loans.
Lisa Guillette, executive director of the Rhode Island Foster Parents Association foster children won’t know they’ve been victims until they try to open a bank account.
What does the Foster Youth Financial Security Bill call for?
This legislation requires state agencies to review credit reports for all foster children and to take action to resolve any inaccuracies.
Additionally the bill calls for agencies to ensure that youth leave foster care with necessary documents, state benefits and financial aid and an account for the youth’s finances.
“At the very least, we want to make sure they enter adulthood with a clean slate,’’ Rep. Langevin said.
If passed, Rhode Island will become the fourth state behind California, Colorado and Connecticut, to have a law requiring credit checks to be run on children.