H. Transitional Services

DFPS has a duty to address unique challenges facing youth in conservatorship transitioning to independence, including efforts to improve transition planning and providing experiential life skills-training. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121. The life skills-training must include instruction on financial literacy including, but not limited to, understanding the timeline to file taxes, protecting against identity theft, and preparing a budget. Tex. Fam.Code § 264.121(a-2).

DFPS must conduct an independent living skills (ILS) assessment for all youth 16 and older in DFPS Temporary or Permanent Managing Conservatorship and must conduct an ILS assessment for all youth 14 and older in DFPS Permanent Managing Conservatorship. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(a-3) and (a-4). DFPS must annually update the youth's ILS assessment to determine the skills acquired by the youth during the preceding year. Tex. Fam.Code § 264.121(a-5). DFPS also must coordinate with child welfare stakeholders to develop a plan to standardize the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) curriculum used around the state by providers. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(a-6).

DFPS must ensure that the transition plan for each youth 16 years of age or older includes provisions to assist the youth in managing the youth's housing needs after the youth leaves foster care, including provisions that:

•   Identify the cost of housing in relation to the youth's sources of income, including any benefits or rental assistance available to the youth;

•   If the youth's housing goals include residing with family or friends, state that DFPS has addressed the following with the youth:

◦   the length of time the youth expects to stay in the housing arrangement;

◦   expectations for the youth regarding paying rent and meeting other household obligations;

◦   the youth's psychological and emotional needs, as applicable; and

◦   any potential conflicts with other household members, or any difficulties connected to the type of housing the youth is seeking, that may arise based on the youth's psychological and emotional needs;

•   Inform the youth about emergency shelters and housing resources, including supervised independent living and housing at colleges and universities, such as dormitories;

•   Require DFPS to review a common rental application with the youth and ensure that the youth possesses all of the documentation required to obtain rental housing; and

•   Identify any individuals who are able to serve as cosigners or references on the youth's application for housing. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(i).

Provision of Copies of Certain Records

DFPS must ensure that each youth acquires a copy and a certified copy of the youth's birth certificate, a social security card or replacement social security card, as appropriate, and a personal identification certificate under Tex. Transp. Code Chapter 521, on or before the date the on which the youth turns 16. Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(e).

If, at the time a youth is discharged from foster care, the youth is at least 18 years of age or has had the disabilities of a minor removed, DFPS shall provide to the youth, not later than the 30th day before the date the child is discharged from foster care, of the following information and documents unless the youth already has the information or document:

When providing a youth with a document required by Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(e-1), DFPS shall provide the youth with a copy and a certified copy of the document or with the original document, as applicable. Tex. Fam.Code § 264.121(e-2).

When obtaining a copy of a birth certificate to provide to a foster youth or assisting a foster youth in obtaining a copy of a birth certificate, the department shall obtain the birth certificate from the state registrar. If the department is unable to obtain the birth certificate from the state registrar, the department may obtain the birth certificate from a local registrar or county clerk. Tex. Fam.Code § 264.121(e-3).

Attorneys and Guardians Ad Litem, along with other advocates, are responsible for ascertaining whether youth in care have received a copy of the documents referenced in Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(e) and (e-1). Tex. Fam.Code § 107.003(b). Courts are also required to determine whether the Department has provided the youth with documents required by Tex. Fam.Code § 264.121(e), and for youth 18 years or older, or who has had the disabilities of minority removed, whether the Department has provided the youth with the documents and information listed in Tex. Fam. Code § 264.121(e-1). Tex. Fam.Code § 263.306(a-1) and Tex. Fam. Code § 263.5031(3).

For more information about how to support youth who are transitioning from foster care, please see the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Foster Youth Justice Project website, including A Guide for Those "Aging Out" of Foster Care in Texas.[6]