Foster youth's stolen IDs getting more attention

April 30, 2011/ Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Dominic McGee was born to a mother addicted to drugs and taken away from her to live in a series of five foster homes where authorities assumed he'd be safe. Instead, he says he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse and even threatened with castration as a form of discipline.

He's finally on his own at 21 but recently learned that he's got an atrocious credit history. While he was still in foster care in 2005, someone used his identity to try to open a mortgage. He also ended up saddled with medical and utility bills he says he's not responsible for.

The fact that foster children are sometimes shuffled from home to home, with their personal information passing through different hands, makes it a recipe for identity theft, child advocates say. Once they turn 18 and are ready to live on their own, many foster youth discover that they have car loans, unpaid bills or mortgages in their names. Debts and bad credit can prevent them from renting an apartment, getting college financial aid, or opening a bank account. Finding culprits can be nearly impossible.

A Colorado law taking effect this summer seeks to prevent that. It directs local courts that deal with foster youth to make sure children between 16 and 18 obtain a free credit report. If there's a problem, cases would be referred to government agencies or nonprofits that can help clean up credit records.

Only a couple of other states have such laws, but it's an issue gaining national attention. U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., is sponsoring legislation to require foster-care agencies to do annual credit reviews of children in their care and attempt to clean up any credit problems before youth leave the system.

"We have a situation here where we have a lot of nice kids who can't get out and live their lives. They have major black marks," said Jay Foley, executive director of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, based in San Diego.

California enacted a law like Colorado's five years ago and Connecticut did so last year. A similar proposal failed in Illinois last year.

Democratic Sen. Linda Newell, who sponsored the Colorado legislation signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, said the idea for the bill came from foster children who told her identity theft was a big roadblock in their lives.

"When I learned about it I thought, 'Really? Are you kidding me?'" Newell said. "Because these are kids who got in (the foster care system) because they've been abused and neglected and for someone to take advantage of somebody so fragile who has already been victimized, they're victimized all over again."

McGee acknowledges that he made some bad choices as a teen, like opening up credit card accounts that he's been unable to pay. Combined with the other bills opened in his name without his knowledge, it could take years for him to clear up his credit record.

"I honestly think that it should be to the point where kids who were in foster care, and even if they did screw up their own credit, it should be erased," he said at a United Way office that's trying to help with that process.

For now, he lives in an apartment through a Colorado program that helps homeless youth. But getting him other housing, even with a state subsidy, will be a challenge, said Kippi Clausen, director of population based strategies at the Mile High United Way.

"Even though the state is guaranteeing paying rent, because his credit report has come up with all these big dings, it will be almost impossible for him to get into housing," Clausen said.

Figures on how prevalent identity theft is among foster children are difficult to find. A March report titled, "The Fleecing of Foster Children," written by First Star, a national nonprofit which advocates for abused children, and the University of San Diego School of Law's Children's Advocacy Institute, cited identity theft as a problem but did not include statistics.

"And the reason for that is it's a problem that's just recently coming to light," said Melanie Delgado, a staff attorney at the Children's Advocacy Institute. Delgado said that while conducting research for the report, she came across figures listing the prevalence of identity theft among foster children as high as 50 percent.

More than 460,000 U.S. children are in foster care at any given time, according to federal figures.

Victoria Lynch will be watching the new Colorado law closely. A former foster child now in college, the 21-year-old discovered recently that someone used her Social Security Number to get a job at a construction company. Lynch said she fears her future could be dogged by what happened.

"I'm just like, dang, whenever I do decide and go purchase my first car, or purchase my first house, they're going to be like, 'Nuh-uh. It ain't gonna happen,'" Lynch said.

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Checks, Balances, and the failing care-system

Finally, more people are beginning to see the way in which gross oversight within the care-system is giving aged-out foster kids a bad reputation.  I've come to the belief that far too many people are quick to assume the worst in teen foster kids, and believe on some level the foster teen not adopted is eventually going to become yet another state statistic, via the prison system.  (After all, where else can a person see just how America's foster care system is an ongoing gross failure, than our ever-growing prison population?)  Rarely do people take the time to study state social services and see in some cases, the "delinquent" foster kid (found in more trouble) is,(or can be), a targeted innocent victim.  This is not to say all kids in-care are poor little innocent waifs, always wronged by others but it does serve as a simple reminder:  kids put in-care make easy after-thoughts, and easy marks for those who want to prey upon the unprotected.

While this new law proposal for aging-out foster kids is good, I fear this "new finding" is going to fuel the fire of pro-adoption advocates, and spark yet another argument that supports/promotes adoption (domestic or foreign) as the best preventative measure still available for children put in-care, (suggesting only through adoption will preventable problems found in foster care be resolved).  As if children put in "forever-families" are not moved from home to home, or abused by new care-givers, in the name of therapy or an aborted disrupted adoption!   [See: Underground network moves children from home to home ]

 The fact that foster children are sometimes shuffled from home to home, with their personal information passing through different hands, makes it a recipe for identity theft, child advocates say. Once they turn 18 and are ready to live on their own, many foster youth discover that they have car loans, unpaid bills or mortgages in their names. Debts and bad credit can prevent them from renting an apartment, getting college financial aid, or opening a bank account. Finding culprits can be nearly impossible.

The fact that far too many foster homes prove to be unstable and unsafe temporary housing alternatives for abused/abandoned children proves one thing:  more attention needs to be given to foster homes and foster licensing requirements.  I think this is especially true as the same theme (abuse in-care) gets repeated over and over again:

[he] was born to a mother addicted to drugs and taken away from her to live in a series of five foster homes where authorities assumed he'd be safe. Instead, he says he was subjected to physical and sexual abuse and even threatened with castration as a form of discipline.

Within our our own Foster care adoption pages, one can see the dangerous trend that is developing, thanks to foster-care adoption programs.  Abusive foster parents, for some reason, are not being removed from the care-pool, and what's more disturbing is, they are being approved to adopt, too!  One must consider all the implications behind this. As ("trusted and respected" )adoptive parents, they are not only more "free" to abuse the child put in their care, they are also eligible for nice perky monthly adoption subsidies and tax breaks and credits.  Good news for the unmonitored, unchecked child abuser, bad news for the child "saved" through adoption.

sadly here it is sometimes the bio parents that do that

Here there have been at least two cases where the actual biological parents were the ones that used the child's info to open accounts and ruin credit...

also had biological parent still claiming children on taxes and stuff years after TPR...

sure wouldn't put it past some foster parents... but biological relatives do this as well..  for that matter I had two different sets of cousins who had parents who did this very thing to them as well and just laughed at them and told them to file bankrupt..

 

 

greedy self-serving parents

My BF, in real-life, has a mother like that.  Her mother now fosters her own grandchildren.  It's a riot because she will take their psych meds, and use them herself.

I LOVE talking about family-crap with my real-life BF.... SHE gets it... she understands the shame, the frustration, and the disgust.

We laugh and joke... and cry... a lot.... because we both know what life is like when you're given a self-serving mother who does not hesitate to use her kids, so she can get all sorts of things for herself.

In terms of taking a child's money... I was 23 and married when I realized income tax papers can entitle me to TWO checks from the government!  [I had no idea how important it is to ask the question, "What am I signing?"  and I had no idea how easy it is for a person to sign my name for me.]

I have no idea how much money my Amother "earned" through me.... but I do know this.... it was definitely in the thousands.

Pound Pup Legacy