PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Social Security numbers and other personal data of about 1,000 children in foster care may have been compromised, Eyewitness News has learned.
The R.I. Dept. of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) said an employee accidentally threw away a flash drive containing the names, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers of 982 children, ages 14 and up. DCYF sends the information to credit reporting agencies annually, as required by federal law.
According to a spokesperson for DCYF, the flash drive is password protected and encrypted, and the agency is not aware of any misuse of this personal information.
DCYF Director Trista Piccola said in an emailed statement, “Our top priority is the safety and well-being of children and youth in Rhode Island. It is our responsibility to protect the youth in our care from harm, and that includes protecting our youth’s personal information so that they have the ability to establish good credit as they leave our care and work towards self-sufficiency.”
“We deeply regret this incident, and are reviewing our protocols to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Piccola added.
In the wake of the missing USB drive, DCYF said it reassigned the credit check process to another staff member and sent letters to the children whose information was on the USB drive.
DCYF said it notified the R.I. Attorney General’s office, the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS), the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), the Department of Administration (DOA), the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Social Security Administration, and the Rhode Island Family Court.
The agency said it will continue to track the credit reports of these youth until their 18th birthdays, as required by law.