Foster children face incredible challenges as they transition into adulthood. According to the Huffington Post, almost 40 percent endure homelessness at some point after they leave care, and fewer than half enjoy full-time work by the age of 24.
Unfortunately, the troubles do not end there. According to Fox News, foster children also face higher rates of identity theft than adults or children not in foster care. This added hardship should be unnecessary, and legislators and advocacy groups are doing what they can to address the problem.
Foster Children at Greater Risk for Identity Theft
Making a Tough Road Even Tougher
FoxNews.com detailed numerous stories of former foster care kids who became victims of identity theft:
- A girl leaves foster care in Rhode Island to start her life. When she tries to get cable and Internet, the cable company tells her she owes $3,000 in unpaid bills. These bills began accruing when she was only 8 years old.
- A young woman, previously in foster care, is forced to sleep in her car because she cannot get an apartment. No one will rent to her, because of her poor credit history. Her car is then repossessed, because she cannot afford the exorbitant interest due to her bad credit—bad credit she is not responsible for.
- At 18, another young woman discovers that the abusive mother responsible for her entry into foster care still haunts her. The mother used her daughter’s social security number to rack up $6,000 in debt and unpaid bills.
- Another child, part of a California survey of credit reports of 100 children in foster care, was found to have a home loan of $217,000.
If there is one thing foster children should come into adulthood with, it is clean credit. Like all young people, the law does not consider them responsible or eligible for credit until they turn 18. Unscrupulous adults, some related to the children and some who are simply opportunists, rob them of this clean start.
How It Happens
The Huffington Post discusses how easily foster children’s information can be obtained, making them easy targets for identity thieves. Multiple ID cards go out every year with the child’s social security number, name and birthday. This makes the children easy pickings for would-be thieves.
These children are so numerous, and so easily lost in the system, that thieves often have years to use their information before anyone checks on it. For the most part, foster kids only discover their identities have been stolen after they are released and attempt to get things like credit cards and apartments.
How to Stop It
Legislators have started to address the problem, but many argue that efforts so far are not sufficient. At the end of last year, President Obama signed a piece of legislation that contained a provision to tackle identity theft. It requires foster care providers to check children’s credit before they are released, and clear up those issues before they release the child from care.
Having personal information out in the world is a problem for everyone, according to Lifelock.com. However, it is an even bigger problem for foster children. These children are regularly identified with their social security numbers, and addressing their identity theft risk will have to involve a change to the system.
According to FraudAvengers.org, groups are pushing to alter how foster children are identified in system communications. This will make it more difficult for thieves to steal their information. A Rhode Island representative is also putting forward a bill that would remove social security numbers from foster children’s ID cards.