September 24, 2010

Stark, Langevin Introduce Bills to Protect Foster Youth

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) yesterday introduced a pair of bills that will help foster youth leave care with the opportunity to become successful adults.

H.R. 6193, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, would prevent identity theft by requiring that all foster children have their credit reports reviewed and cleared prior to leaving care. H.R. 6192, the Foster Children Self Support Act, would help foster children with disabilities and those who have lost one or both of their parents, by requiring states to use the Social Security benefits of those children for their needs, not as a state revenue source.

Rep. Stark, Senior Member of the House Ways and Means Committee: "Foster children are our collective responsibility and we have an obligation to provide them with an opportunity to succeed. These two bills will ensure that foster youth leave care with the support and the skills they need to make the transition to adulthood. We owe them nothing less."

Rep. Langevin: "Children in foster care often face many challenges as they age-out of the system. These two bills are an effort to protect their financial future as they begin their lives independent of the foster system."

Background – H.R. 6193, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act
Foster children are disproportionately victims of identity theft because their personal information passes through many hands, increasing the chances that someone will open an account in their name or use their Social Security number. H.R. 6193 would require that all foster children have their credit reports reviewed and cleared prior to leaving care. It would also end the use of a child’s SSN as an identifier and provide help for older youth in obtaining a driver’s license, opening a bank account, and applying for student loans. In addition, the bill would provide financial literacy classes and seed money to set up Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) for foster youth so they leave care with a nest egg to pay for housing, education, and job training.

Background – H.R. 6192, the Foster Children Self Support Act
Many foster youth with physical and mental disabilities and those that have lost a parent are eligible for Social Security benefits. Congressional Research Service estimates that 30,000 foster children are eligible. However, child welfare agencies routinely become the representative payee for foster children’s benefits. Once they control a child’s benefits, the agencies routinely keep the funds as a revenue source rather than using them in the best interests of the child. According to CRS, over $150 million in federal benefits, including OASDI benefits that children are entitled to because their deceased parent paid into the Social Security system, are kept by child welfare agencies each year.

H.R. 6192 requires states to use these Social Security benefits for the current and future needs of the child, and not as a revenue source. The legislation would ensure that all eligible foster youth are assisted in applying for Social Security benefits, and would create individual accounts for each eligible child. These accounts would serve as a nest egg for foster youth to use when they leave care, to pay for things such as education, health care, and housing.

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