House Passes Langevin Legislation to Address Foster Youth ID Theft

Sep 21, 2011 Issues: Cybersecurity, Education

A proposal by Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) to address high rates of identity theft among foster youth passed the House today by a vote of 395-25 as part of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (H.R. 2883).

Working with Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), a member of the Ways and Means Committee responsible for the overall bill and another lead advocate on foster care issues, Langevin successfully fought for inclusion of a key section of his Foster Youth Financial Security Act. His provision mandates free credit checks for foster youth over 16 years old before they age out of the system, and requires that they receive assistance in clearing inaccuracies from their records. The Senate is expected to take up an identical version of H.R. 2883 in the coming weeks.

Langevin authored his legislation in response to repeated reports of high rates of identity theft among foster youth and findings that current practices impede their path to an economically stable future. A study by The Children’s Advocacy Institute released earlier this year highlighted identity theft as a common problem and stated that many foster youth “do not learn that their identities have been stolen and their credit destroyed until they have exited care and apply for credit.”

Current practices put foster children at a greatly increased risk of having their personal information compromised because their Social Security numbers and other identifying records pass through many hands. Langevin’s broader legislation would end the use of the Social Security Number as an identifier for foster children.

In addition, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act includes measures to ensure youth leave foster care with necessary documents, help them apply for state benefits and financial aid, and set up an individual development account for each youth’s finances that assists them in saving for critical needs, such as job training, housing and transportation.

Last month, Langevin gathered top advocates for Rhode Island’s foster youth for a roundtable discussion about the future of foster care and ways Rhode Island can take a lead role in reforming a system that is not meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands of children it serves. He pointed to research showing 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. To change these statistics, everyone working in the foster care system must understand what policies have been successful and what gaps remain.

Transcript of Langevin Floor Statement:

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act.

This bill includes a provision from the Foster Youth Financial Security Act that I introduced with my colleague, Mr. Stark, to address disturbingly high rates of identity theft among foster youth.

I along with many others was absolutely outraged to find that foster children are disproportionately victims of identity theft since their personal information passes through so many hands.

Mr. Speaker, as I saw firsthand when my parents welcomed foster youth into our home over many years, they already face tremendous obstacles without the increased threat of having their identity taken and their credit ruined, which prevents them from finding a place to live, accessing credit on their own, or obtaining other basic needs.

This bill would ensure that each foster youth over 16 years of age receives free credit checks before leaving the system and assistance clearing any inaccuracies that may have come to light. Reports have shown that if done effectively, the cost is minimal. 

I just want to thank, Mr. Speaker, the committee for their interest in this issue, and the many advocates who have championed this cause. This is only the first step in providing foster youth with the tools that they need and deserve to succeed and I look forward to our continued work together on this issue.

As I pointed out so many times, the kids in foster care already face significant challenges of their own of a personal nature. It is a shame that their identity is stolen and they’re further victimized. This bill would identify problems early on, clear up the inaccuracies so that they can start their adult life with a fresh start with their credit in tact.

I just thank both gentlemen, the chair and the ranking member, for their outstanding support of this provision and I yield back the balance of my time.