Like most teens, my parents helped me open my first bank account. They taught me how to make deposits & withdrawals, and how to read a bank statement. My parents were the people I turned to when I had a question about where “missing” money had gone (usually spent on a forgotten treat), and they recorded my pin number in case I forgot it. It never crossed my mind to worry about my parents taking my money.
Most Susan’s House teens have a different story. Tikva* opened a bank account when she started working at Susan’s House. A counselor sat down with her to explain the basics of banking; how to make deposits & withdrawals, how to read a bank statement, and not to share her pin number with anyone. With an income, Tikva was now a target to her alcoholic mother. Tikva helped pay her family’s rent. She worked out with their landlord that she would bring cash the first week of each month. One day Tikva came into the office very upset that she had not gotten paid that month. The director checked her paycheck status and showed her that the money went to her account the same as every month. “So why isn’t it there!” Tikva wanted to know. Together they went to the bank and printed a statement. The statement showed that she had been paid, but the money was withdrawn later that day. Suddenly Tikva was filled with sadness, “I know what happened”, she said, “last month I was not feeling well, and I gave my mother my bank card and number so she could take out they money to pay rent. She must’ve remembered the number and taken my card out of my wallet and withdrawn the money in the account.” Tikva went into the bank to have her pin number changed.
Skills that most of us take for granted that we will learn from our parents need to be taught to those who do not have parents they can trust. At Susan’s House we do much more then give these teens a place they can work; we give them a place they can trust.