HD20 - Implementing Annual Credit Checks for Children in Foster Care (Chapter 432, 2012)
Identity theft is a national problem and is becoming more common among the foster care population. According to one study, "as many as 30 percent of foster children might be victims of identity theft, based on reviews of the credit reports of foster children." (*1) Children in foster care are at greater risk to suffer from identity theft due to the fact that a wide variety of individuals including parents, extended family members, social workers, foster parents and many others may have access to a foster youth's social security number and other identifying information. In addition, children may not become aware of any problems and how their information has been compromised until they become young adults. Older youth aging out of foster care may learn that they were the victim of identity theft for the first time when they apply for credit on their own.
To address this problem, Virginia enacted legislation to help deal with the problem of identity theft among foster children. Section 63.2-905.2 of the Code of Virginia requires credit checks on foster children to identify cases of identity theft and misuse of personal information and to help resolve cases where identity theft occurred. This law requires each child in foster care, age 16 and over, to have annual credit checks which allows local departments of social services (LDSS) to identify problems earlier and provide assistance in correcting any identity theft or other fraudulent use of children's identity by others. Also, it provides support for the Department to develop and implement policies and procedures so that identity theft and misuse of personal information of foster children can be addressed in a consistent and efficient manner statewide. Virginia law is consistent with the federal CFSIIA of 2011 which mandates annual credit checks for all youth ages 16 and older in foster care. The CFSIIA also requires states to help children resolve credit problems that turn up on their credit report which may include negotiating debt incurred by the identity theft and removing false information.
The Department worked with Virginia's stakeholders to develop procedures and guidance based on the requirements of federal and state laws for annual credit checks for older youth. Stakeholders included the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), National Resource Center on Youth Development, LexisNexis Corporation, three nationwide Credit Reporting Agencies (CRA's), and state, regional and local staff Until the CRA's establish a final process for managing these checks, it is not known if conducting credit reports on youth needs to be done by LDSS or the Department.
The Department and its stakeholder work group also discussed developing unique client identifiers other than the child's social security number (SSN) and the challenges associated with assigning a unique identifying number to a child entering foster care. Implementing credit checks and developing policy and procedures for protecting the identity of youth in foster care is an on-going process.