Voices’ Blog

Identity Theft: Protections for Children in Foster Care

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

Though we still have a lot of work to do, over the past five years, Virginia has done a better job of reducing the number of children who come in to the foster care system. As part of this effort, we’ve also been doing better with reducing the number of youth who “age out” of care at the age of 18 — that is, youth who turn 18 before they are connected with a permanent family, whether their family of origin or an adoptive family.

As these young people transition to adulthood, they must necessarily begin all the practical tasks of joining a community: leasing an apartment, applying for college loans, or perhaps even purchasing a car or opening up a credit card. Some of these youth, however, are met with a shocking revelation when they begin to take control of their financial lives: at some point during their stay in foster care, their personal information was used fraudulently to open up various accounts, make purchases or secure loans. Before these young people even begin their adult lives, their credit has been ruined through no fault of their own.

In order to combat this illegal activity, Congress passed the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011, which–in part–provides for all youth in foster care age 16 or older to receive a copy of their credit report annually, and requires that Departments of Social Services help these youth to interpret and resolve any inaccuracies in their report. During the 2012 General Assembly session, Del. Rosalyn Dance (D-63) sponsored HB500, which codified the federal law at the state level. Now, between the federal and state laws, older children in care should have a greater level of oversight and protection for the sensitive personal information that can fall into the wrong hands.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation also recently issued a new guide on “Protecting the Credit of Youth in Foster Care” for young people, social service agencies, foster families, and anyone else serving or mentoring foster youth as they transition to adulthood. These children are vulnerable in so many ways as it is–as they move into adulthood, into what is sometimes their first opportunity to make a fresh start, it’s important that we as a Commonwealth ensure they are protected from this sort of insidious victimization.

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