Foster care youth can gain access to bank accounts through L.A. County program

Phillip Palmer Image
Saturday, May 25, 2024
L.A. County program gives foster youth access to own bank accounts
A partnership between SCE Credit Union and Los Angeles County gives youth in foster care access to their own bank accounts without an adult co-signer.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Many children first learn about managing their own money through keeping a piggy bank or having their first savings account at a bank.

Early exposure to financial literacy is critical for a lifetime of financial success, but for kids in foster care or living in a group home, the simple act of opening a bank account can be out of reach.

The Youth Access Banking program, a collaboration between SCE Credit Union and Los Angeles County, allows foster care youth as young as 13 to open their own checking and savings accounts without an adult co-owner.

"Kids my age, either 16 or 15, they might want to have a job and either way they're gonna have to have a paycheck and what are they gonna do with it?" said high school senior Candelaria Juarez.

Juarez, now 18, spent years in the foster care system. She opened her first account at SCE Credit Union thanks to the Youth Access Banking program when she was 17.

"This is very important for people. And I feel like kids my age should definitely open up a bank account."

Knowing how to use an ATM or using a bank account is something most people take for granted. The beauty of this program is that SCE also provides free financial education.

"We have three tenets: knowledge, access and care," said Jennifer Oliver, CEO/President of SCE Credit Union.

"The knowledge piece (is) we're going to provide financial tools, literacy, options, etc. We have access, which is actually giving them the bank account. But then the care is nurturing them along so they can have higher levels of success."

"Many youth end up aging out of the foster care system and have very few supports and so, the sooner we can get them that financial literacy, the ability to practice those skills, the better-equipped they'll be to try to work through some of the barriers they face when they're aging out of care." said Michelle Lucarelli-Beltran, L.A. County ombudsperson.

The program allows for limited forms of identification and waives account fees. And SCE even provides a $5 deposit to establish an account.

"It makes you feel valued. Makes you feel like when I had this opportunity, I actually felt like something. It felt like I mattered. And I don't get that a lot," said Juarez.

"For some people, banking can really change, create levels of independence, create security foundation. There's just so many opportunities and I think this is a wonderful way to get started on that." said Oliver.

An investment in young people that cannot be quantified, but its value can be seen - and felt.