News

Identity Theft Among Foster Children


Most of you know that identity theft is a real problem complicated by today’s technology. But it’s not all about the cyber space. Identity theft has been going on for years in the real world. What many of you may not know is that children are attractive targets for these thieves. They are even more vulnerable than adults because a child’s social security number hasn’t been tainted by bad credit and the crime is often not discovered for many years.
One group that appears to be particularly at risk is foster children. These children, and their private information, pass through many hands. And when they are emancipated they often have to face this predicament without any family to help them. So, on top of many years of dealing with more losses than any child should ever have to suffer, they often have to deal with the loss of their identity as well, creating problems with school loans, car loans, and other credit issues. One foster child was tagged with his own father’s child support bill because his father used his son’s social security number when applying for a job. He got the job, his wages were garnished, and then he lost the job. The debt continued until the son ultimately had a $50,000 child support judgment against his credit. Any one who has ever had to deal with this problem knows what a horrendous task it is to get something removed from your credit report.
We don’t know exactly how many of these children end up with bad credit due to identity theft because many of them are never reported. The state of California finally recognized the problem and in 2006 a law was enacted intending to clear foster children’s credit records before they left the system. However, due primarily to limited funding, implementation of the law was delayed–and still is. In 2010 a pilot program was put into place in Los Angeles with some success. You can read the complete report here but one of the key findings included the clearing of 247 separate accounts from the credit reports of 104 foster children. The largest was a home loan of $200,000.
So what needs to be done? Federal legislation was reintroduced last month, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act of 2011, requiring annual credit checks on foster children. Perhaps this will help. These children have enough to deal with. They certainly don’t need to start their adult life with bad credit.

A Weekend in Torrance at Barnes & Noble

I had yet another incredible weekend in the Barnes & Noble store in Torrance. The staff there is so wonderful and the readers have become my friends. I get hugs from some of the regulars and lots of smiles from readers. There is one special lady (we’ll call her Marilyn) who comes in every time I’m there. She always takes the time to stop and say hello and chat for a bit. Marilyn is very sweet and although there isn’t that much difference in our ages, there’s something about her that reminds me of my mother which makes the visit even more special.

I’m always flattered when people are excited to see me just because I’m an “author.” I understand why that is because as a reader I’m always excited to meet an author whose writing I admire. It’s just that I’m still surprised when it’s me. Sometimes parents will come in with their children and say, “Look, little Hayden, this woman is an author. She wrote this book.” Often the kid isn’t too impressed and the parent is apologetic because she expected a different reaction. I find it humorous since I’ve worked with enough kids to know the “Legos” display will get a lot more attention than me. But one experience last weekend is worth noting. A little boy about 7 or 8 years old stopped about ten feet in front of me. He looked at me, then at my 8 foot sign, and then at the stack of books on my table. He didn’t say anything. He started to walk away from me glancing back occasionally. Then he disappeared into the store.

About five minutes later he returned with a big smile on his face and said, “Are you the Arthur?”

I so wanted to respond, “No, I’m the George.” But of course I didn’t because he was too young to get the joke and besides he was so excited about meeting me. I signed a bookmark and gave it to him. His smile beamed across his face.

As he walked away, he nodded his head and said proudly, “I’m taking this to my teacher.”

The children, the booksellers, and readers like Marilyn are the things that make the book tours so much fun for me. There’s always some very interesting characters…even some fodder for my books. I should carry a warning sign: “Be careful, you may end up in my novel.”

Teresa

www.teresaburrell.com

A Weekend in Ventura Barnes & Noble

I just spent another great weekend in Barnes & Noble signing my novel, The Advocate’s Betrayal. This time I was in Ventura. That’s a long drive…but well worth it. I sold out and met another group of interesting people. I also had the added bonus of spending some time with my nephew and niece who live in Ventura. 

While at the store, I do what they call a “Meet & Greet” which basically means I greet people when they come in the door and let them know who I am. I offer them a bookmark and try to determine if they read mysteries. No hard selling. I know if they don’t read mysteries chances are they won’t like my book. Oh, I’m sure a few would buy it because of my charming personality, but then they probably wouldn’t read it anyway, and I want them to read my books! But I often get some very interesting answers to some simple questions. For example, I asked the question, “Do you read mysteries?” Here’s some of the answers I received this weekend.

“Not since I got cable.”
“No, we’re here to buy a book.”
“I’m a fan of mysteries, but I don’t read them.”
And my favorite: “Not now, I’m about to pee my pants.”

It’s always an experience having a “Meet & Greet” and I truly meet a lot of wonderful people. Thank you, readers of Ventura.

Teresa
www.teresaburrell.com

Third Writers’ Platform-Building Campaign

Rachel Harrie has this incredible platform-building campaign going on. This is her third one and it seems it’s a great way to work together with other writers. If you are a writer/blogger it would behoove you to check it out. I’m excited to be a part of it. The campaign timing is perfect for me with the release of my latest novel, The Advocate’s Conviction, just around the corner.

By the way, today is the last day to get on board. So if you’re interested check it out now. I think this will be a lot of fun.

Okay, so I’m trying to put a link on the “shield” but I can’t seem to get it to work. So if you’re interested in joining the campaign, please go to Rachel Harrie’s Blog Post. 

Teresa 

https://www.teresaburrell.com

The Advocate’s Conviction Cover

So here it is, the cover for The Advocate’s Conviction. The cover art was designed by Daniel Pearson. I love his work. He has done all three of my books and I’m really happy with all of them. On top of that he is an extremely pleasant young man. So if you need any artwork done, he’s your go-to guy. I would highly recommend him.

https://www.teresaburrell.com

Release Date for The Advocate’s Conviction!

So here we go, book number 3 in The Advocate Series, The Advocate’s Conviction. It will be released on October 22, 2011. That is only 8 weeks and 2 days from today. In the next few days I will share the cover with you and let you know when and where we will have the launch party. We’re still tying up a few loose ends.

Get ready for Sabre, Bob, & JP to get themselves in and out of another mess!

https://www.teresaburrell.com

Should the Public be Admitted to Court Hearings for Abused and Neglected Minors?

Presently in California, the public is excluded from the dependency courtroom unless the judge gives special permission for a non-party to be there. Dependency court is where child abuse and neglect proceedings take place. For approximately 50 years the courts have been closed to the public primarily to protect the minor’s privacy. However, there is an argument that because of the “secrecy” of these courts children’s rights aren’t always protected.

Assembly Bill, AB 73, addresses this issue and suggests that California try a four-year pilot program in which the courtroom would be presumptively open to the public as opposed to being presumptively closed which means they are closed but can be opened at the discretion of the court. In the twelve years I spent in juvenile dependency court I never saw a case opened to the public. However, there was an occasional exception which allowed individual members of the public in the courtroom. With the courts open to the public, some cases would be closed at the discretion of the presiding judge most likely at the request of the child (or child’s attorney).

According to the bill, “personally identifiable information” would not be disclosed in open court and the court would still have the discretion to have the child testify in chambers.

Nationally, only Pennsylvania and Oregon have open courts in dependency. Fifteen other states have presumptively open courts. Fifteen have presumptively closed dependency courts.
  
The concern for both sides is essentially the same–the potential harm to children. Opponents argue we need to keep the courts closed because the children have a right to privacy. Proponents argue that opening the courts will result in more public awareness and interest in child welfare services resulting in better services for the children.

What are your thoughts? Should California open the dependency courts to the public?

Teresa
https://www.teresaburrell.com

  
 

Barnes & Noble in Henderson, NV

Last weekend I had the pleasure of signing books at the Barnes and Noble in Henderson, NV. The booksellers were great to work with and the customers were fantastic. I spent three days there and signed a lot of books. One woman named Kelly came into the store early on Friday and bought “The Advocate’s Betrayal.” On Saturday morning she returned to tell me she couldn’t put the book down and stayed up most of the night reading it. That’s what keeps me writing!

I had a few other interesting experiences as well. There was the woman who nearly passed me up when I offered her a bookmark. She took it and scurried off. About ten minutes later she returned, apologized for being rude and explained she was embarrassed because she hadn’t had her toes done. Of course, that drew me immediately to look at her feet. They looked fine to me, but apparently she never leaves the house without polish on her toes. She turned out to be a very sweet woman and she even purchased my book.

I really enjoy the face to face contact with readers. It’s one of my favorite parts of this whole “author” experience. One thing I find interesting is some of the unusual names I see every week. Most unusual this past weekend was “Janina”. Have you ever met a Janina?

Teresa
www.teresaburrell.com

Help Prevent Child Abuse

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I’m lagging behind here and I apologize for not posting this last month, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pitch in. Every day is a good day to help prevent child abuse. So, what are some things you can do?

1. You can contact your senator or congressman and encourage them to not cut the programs that help in this endeavor. There have been so many cutbacks in the government programs that are effecting the victims of abuse. As a result, it almost looks like abuse is down because the filings are lower. Most of the statistics come from court filed cases. If there are less social workers and investigators to work the cases there are also going to be less filings. You do the math.

2. Donate money to groups that are dealing with child abuse prevention.  Or donate something from your business to help these groups. Many of them do fundraiser that need gifts for drawings and door prizes. There are plenty of these organizations out there doing great work. Do a little research and find the one that works the best for you.

3. I know these are tough economic times so if money is an issue then donate your time. That’s even better. Again there are many organizations that need your help. One such organization is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). They need volunteers to work with these children. Every abused child needs an advocate. Or if dealing directly with the abuse is too difficult for you, then find an organization that works with children that have not been already targeted as abused. If you work with youth in any fashion it will certainly help to give children something to build their lives on. And you can be sure that if you are working with a youth group you will touch some children who have been or are being abused.

Get involved. Help save a child!

Teresa
https://www.teresaburrell.com