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Find Low Cost Legal Help
Texas Foster Youth Justice Project—Free confidential calls: 1-877-313-3688 (toll-free number). Provides information, advice, and possible representation to current and former foster youth on legal questions or problems, including the rights of foster youth.
www.texaslawhelp.org—Free legal help and online information, including name changes and protective order applications.
National Center for Youth Law—Fights in court on behalf of low-income children and promotes programs, laws, and public policies that serve their best interests.
LawHelp.org—helps low and moderate income people find free legal aid programs in their communities, and answers to questions about their legal rights.
Find a Relative
Talk to Someone First
If you are interested in re-connecting with biological relatives, talk with your support system about the best way to do so. If you are in foster care, your caseworker, C.A.S.A, attorney ad-litem, etc. can help you figure out if now or later is the most appropriate time for you to re-connect with biological family. If you were adopted, discuss this with your support system or use the state adoption registry. The main thing to remember is it’s important to discuss with your support system your desire to re-connect with biological family so you can have the support you need.
You can always reach out to a counselor if you want additional support. AuntBertha.com has local resources for counseling under “Health”.
How to Get Started
There are two main adoption registries where you can find a birth parent or sibling. Each of these are voluntary, “mutual-consent” registries. This means that if you register, and your birth parent or sibling also registered, the registry will connect you with each other.
The DFPS Voluntary Adoption Registry
This registry is specifically for finding your biological relatives if you were adopted from DFPS. Everyone must be 18 or older to register and be listed.
The Texas Department of State Health Services Central Adoption Registry
Child-Placing Agencies are often involved with adoptions in Texas. Once you’re 18, you can register with the central adoption registry to find out which agency was involved in your case and contact the child-placing agency to obtain your records.
If you know the name of the child-placing agency that placed you for adoption, the Department of State Health Services site has a list of “Child Placing Agencies with Voluntary Registries”. There is contact information so you can contact the child-placing agency directly and request your adoption records.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Current and former foster youth are frequent victims of identity theft. Check out the article “Another challenge for foster children— identity theft”.
Although nothing can guarantee that you won't become a victim, there are things you can do to prevent identity theft, including:
- Guarding your Social Security number.
Don’t carry it around with you all the time. Know where it is; preferably in a locked drawer or file cabinet, where roommates and visitors can’t get to it.
- Shredding documents with personal information before disposing of them.
You can buy a new personal shredder for about $35.00. Or, some stores like Staples, Office Depot, UPS, and FedEx will shred documents you bring in for a small fee. You can also search for “shredding services” in your area.
Be paranoid about handing over your documents! Preferably, you hand them your trash bag or whatever with your mail and other personal documents and watch them shred it all in front of you. That way, they don’t take it from you, wait until you’re gone, then go through it looking for any personal information they can use.
- Using difficult passwords and changing them frequently
Don’t use “1-2-3-4” and “password”. Don’t use real words that can be found in a dictionary. The best passwords are long, contain lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And, you shouldn’t use the same password for all your accounts. So how do you remember them for yourself? Consider a Password Manager app.
- Verifying a source before sharing any personal information, and being on the lookout for online scammers and thieves.
Read up on some common scams.
- Keeping your purse, wallet, and personal information secure.
- Monitor your bank accounts and balances at least once a week.
Use your bank or credit unions app or website and make a habit of checking it to make sure there is nothing suspicious.
- Check your credit report regularly.
- Learn more about the signs of identity theft.
If you are the victim of identity theft, report it and get a recovery plan.