2019 Legislation: Supports for Young People in Foster Care or Who are Homeless

Young adults with a history of foster care placement are at particular risk of justice system involvement. Nearly 70% of young males involved in the foster care system are arrested after leaving foster care, a rate that is 23 times higher than the general population. The trauma associated with past abuse or neglect – combined with developmental factors and the challenges of providing for oneself as a young adult – ultimately collide, driving vulnerable people into the justice system. Similarly, young adults without stable housing face challenges related to schooling and employment. The bills below will help kids and young adults in foster care achieve stability as they transition to independent living and/or college, as well as implement strategies to reduce foster care system involvement. Schools will also consider students’ foster care or homeless status when making disciplinary decisions. Furthermore, the state’s low-income housing plan will consider homeless youth and young adults.

HB 53 (Authors: Minjarez, Miller, Klick, Clardy | Sponsor: Powell), Relating to the transitional living services program for certain youth in foster care. Prior to passage of this bill, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) required foster care providers to help kids (aged 14 or older) obtain experiential life-skills training to improve their transition to independent living. This bill expands the training to include assistance with filing federal taxes, protecting personally identifying information online, understanding forms of identity and credit theft, using insurance to protect against financial loss, and preparing a monthly budget, including with rent, utilities, phone and internet service, and other reasonable expenses. For kids aged 17 or older, the training must include lessons related to applying for car and renter’s insurance, and voting. DFPS must also require transitional living services providers to help kids obtain mental health services, financial literacy education, and civic engagement lessons. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

HB 123 (Authors: White, Klick, Miller, Minjarez, Rose | Sponsor: Watson), Relating to personal identification documents for foster children or youth or homeless children or youth. When a child or young adult who is homeless or in foster care requests their birth record, the state or local registrar, or a county clerk, must issue a certified copy without fee or parental consent.

When a child or young adult who is homeless or in foster care applies for a personal identification certificate, they can: (1) provide a copy of their birth certificate as proof of identity and U.S. citizenship, and (2) if they do not have a residence, provide a letter certifying that they are homeless or use the address of the regional office where their Texas Department of Family and Protective Services caseworker is based. The personal identification certificate can be issued without the signature or presence of – or permission from – the person’s parent or guardian, and the fee is waived.

Similarly, a homeless child or youth is exempt from paying fees for the issuance of a driver’s license (with foster care children or youth already exempt under law).

Anyone applying for the issuance or renewal of a license or personal identification card can contribute $1 or more to the Identification Fee Exemption Account. The Texas Department of Public Safety cannot grant the above-mentioned fee exemptions if money is not available in the Account. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

HB 475 (Authors: Howard, Wu | Sponsor: Watson), Relating to information for foster children who are pregnant or minor parents. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services must ensure, at developmentally appropriate stages, that foster children who are pregnant or minor parents receive information on and support in providing safe environments for children, including regarding safe sleeping arrangements, childproofing, child development and coping with challenging behaviors, appropriate babysitters, early brain development (including the importance of providing positive experiences and avoiding adverse experiences), paternal involvement and methods for co-parenting, reading and talking to young children, prenatal and postpartum care for the mother and infant, infant nutrition and breastfeeding, and healthy relationships (including the prevention of intimate partner violence). Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

HB 692 (Authors: White, Wu | Sponsor: Watson), Relating to the suspension of a student who is homeless from public school. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, homeless students attending public or charter schools cannot be placed in out-of-school suspension, unless they engage in certain weapons-related offenses, assaultive offenses, or drug- or alcohol-related offenses while on school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity. The Campus Behavior Coordinator can coordinate with the school district’s Homeless Education Liaison to identify appropriate alternatives. Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/7/2019

HB 811 (Authors: White, Wu | Sponsor: West), Relating to determining appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against a public school student who is in foster care or who is homeless. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, each school district’s Student Code of Conduct must specify that any decisions to suspend, expel, or send a student to a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program or Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program must consider a student’s status as homeless or in foster care. Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 5/24/2019

HB 1702 (Authors: Howard, Stucky, Frank, Minjarez | Sponsor: Hancock), Relating to services provided for students at public institutions of higher education who are or were in foster care. Prior to passage of this bill, each institution of higher learning was required to designate at least one employee to act as a liaison officer for current and incoming students who were formerly in foster care. This bill expands the requirement to address students who are currently in foster care. The liaison officer will provide students with information on relevant support services and other resources available to assist them. Liaison officers can coordinate with liaison officers at other schools to help them carry out their duties. By January 2020, each institution must publicize the name and contact information for its liaison officer, as well as information regarding support services and resources available to students who are or were formerly in foster care. Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 5/29/2019

HB 2229 (Author: Jarvis Johnson | Sponsor: Whitmire), Relating to a report of information concerning juvenile offenders committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department who have been in foster care. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) must biennially and publicly report summarized statistical information on kids who were previously in foster care. Per this bill, that information must have data disaggregated by: age, sex, race or ethnicity, the conduct for which kids were committed to TJJD, and kids entering the juvenile justice system for the first time. Signed by the Governor; effective immediately, 6/10/2019

HB 2564 (Authors: White, Button | Sponsor: Lucio), Relating to addressing the needs of homeless youth. Prior to passage of this bill, the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs (DHCA) was required to annually develop a state low-income housing plan for the coming year, to include an estimate and analysis of the size and housing needs of various populations in each uniform state service region. This bill now adds homeless youth (aged 18 and younger) and other homeless individuals older than 18 and younger than 25 as one such population. Separately, this bill states that, to accomplish its work to provide assistance to the homeless, the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless (which advises DHCA) can seek program and policy assistance from any Texas organization that has a network of providers with expertise in helping homeless youth. Signed by the Governor; effective on 9/1/2019

SB 355 (Author: West | Sponsor: Klick), Relating to developing a strategic plan regarding implementation of prevention and early intervention services and community-based care and conducting a study regarding the resources provided to foster parents. By September 2020, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) must submit a strategic plan to state leadership related to foster care prevention services that meet federal requirements. Among other things, the strategic plan must:

  • Identify a network of service providers to provide mental health, substance use, and in-home parenting support services for kids at risk of entering foster care, their parents, and pregnant or parenting youth in foster care; this identification must be done in consultation with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and community stakeholders.
  • Identify methods for the statewide implementation of foster care prevention services.
  • Identify opportunities to coordinate with researchers to help community programs evaluate and develop trauma-informed services and other health care-related services and strategies under federal law.
Filed without the Governor’s signature; effective immediately, 6/14/2019