Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Identity Theft and Foster kids...

Well, that was just ridiculous. It has taken me a FULL year to get K7's various government paperwork appropriately handled.  We finalized his adoption on Jan. 14, 2011.  It took 3 months for his new birth certificate to be mailed to us.  We were supposed to get a new birth certificate as part of the court fees, but after a month, our county called us and told us that since he had another birth certificate in a different state, THAT state had to issue the new birth certificate.  I said "ok" and wondered why they were telling me this.  I then asked what I needed to do and they told me "nothing."  They said that they would forward the file to the previous state for processing.  I thought all was handled and didn't worry about it.  After 2 more months, I was getting a little tired of waiting and called to find out where the birth certificate was.  I needed it in order to legally change his name on his social security card.  Turns out, the other state never received payment from my county...so they just didn't process the request.  Gee THANKS TEXAS!  After banging my head against a wall and talking with my county (who has NO idea where the money went by the way) I decided that I could afford to pay the $20 on my own and did so - it was easier than insisting that my county find the money I had already paid with the court fees that they had lost.  It took another 4-6 weeks, but I finally got the birth certificate.

Now, as an adoptive parent, I have learned the HARD way the importance of confidentiality with a child's social security number.  That said, if a child has been in foster care, there is NO confidentiality of a social security number.  Think about it, the biological family has the number - and probably the card, the many social workers that have worked on the case have the number - and possibly a "replacement" or photo copy of the card.  For tax purposes EVERY foster family/RTC/group home has a copy of the card. And, unfortunately, by the time the child is graduating from high school, their number has been used and their credit is trashed.  Here is an article on the topic.  It is a very real problem and one that I faced with K4 when she turned 18.  When she attempted to open her own cell phone account, a credit report was run by the cellular company...and she was denied based on her credit rating.  We immediately pulled copies of her credit history and were shocked to discover that at age 16, 2 years after we had adopted her, she had supposedly purchased a HOUSE in another state.  She also had a car AND unpaid bills.  Needless to say this was more than a LITTLE difficult to get straightened out.  But I learned my lesson...CHANGE THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER of every child I adopt.  

Now, that sounds easy enough right?  Not so much.  Take for example K7, after the hassle of getting his birth certificate after we adopted him, I immediately headed to social security to have a new number and card issued.  Now, social security was willing to change his name on the card...but fought me on changing the number.  They claimed his number was safe if we changed the name.  However, I knew better.  K4's name had been changed and it most DEFINITELY was not safe.  Anyway, rather than argue with the moron at the desk that day, I told him not to change ANYTHING, gathered my papers and left.  Now, this is important, because once you change the name on the old number you CANNOT change the number later.  What needs to happen is for all ties to the old number to be SEVERED so nothing that exists from the old number will be transferred to the new number.  A couple of weeks later I headed to social security again in the hopes of getting a more knowledgeable employee.  Plus I was armed with documentation showing that in the case of abuse and identity theft, the number CAN be changed.  This was taken from social security's website.  And here is more documentation that social security CAN change the number.  The website has changed since I printed my version, however, those links should still be sufficient to get you through the process.  But, you MUST have all your ducks in a row for it to work.  For example, for K7, I had to have:  My ID (I used my passport), K7's birth certificate, adoption decree, Social Security application, a letter from the social worker stating that for the safety of the child, the number should be changed...AND because K7 was born in a foreign country, his INS certificate of citizenship.  I walked into social security and presented my case and was told "no problem."  HAHA famous last words.  As the gal tried to process the paperwork, her computer kept rejecting the request for a new number.  Not because I didn't have the right evidence, and not even because their system didn't know HOW to assign a new number.  No, it was because their system didn't know how to accept the INS certificate which showed K7's old name.  The adoption decree proving the name change was not enough evidence for the stupid computer.  So off I went...again, with no social security card.  I went home and spent HOURS trying to track down somebody at INS that could help me.  In the end, I had to pay almost $500 to INS and mail in the original INS certificate and original adoption decree so that they could take 8, yes 8...EIGHT...months to print a new certificate with K7's new name.  Really?  $500 and EIGHT months?  And I can't even tell you how many phones calls...

So...I will get back to the story...but for anybody that actually works for INS, I just want you to know that I am a very loving and peaceful person...but you have pushed my buttons.  I HATE YOU!

Now, back to the story, last Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, I got in the mail the NEW INS certificate.  Finally.  One year to the DAY after I had adopted this kiddo, I finally had the INS paperwork and I was going to get a social security number for him...and none too soon since it is almost time to process taxes!  

So this morning, I went to social security, handed my stack of papers...again, and then crossed my fingers.  As I watched the guy type on his computer, I had thoughts of how I would keep myself from going ballistic if I didn't get my damn number THIS time.  But, less than 4 minutes from when my number was called, his magical fingers had done the trick and I was on my way out the door...FINALLY with a new social security number for my youngest munchkin.

For anybody struggling with government paperwork after the adoption, I sincerely hope this blog has proven helpful to you.  I wish you the very best, and remember, YOU are your child's advocate.

1 comment:

  1. I am do proud of you and all that you do for your children.