The Children’s Commission partnered with the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Texas Foster Youth Justice Project to develop the following guidance regarding identification documents for youth in foster care. For additional details on this process and the required documents, please visit the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid Texas Foster Youth Justice Project website.
Possessing original, accurate, and certified identification documents is critical for youth experiencing the child welfare system. These documents are needed for housing, employment, public benefits, education, financial aid, health care, transportation, voting, banking, and utilities. The process to secure identification documents should occur with sufficient time to address any issues or inconsistencies or to overcome any delays, ideally beginning early in the case but no later than the youth’s 16th birthday.
Critical documents include the original or certified copy of their birth certificate, Social Security card, and Texas driver license or ID card. In addition, if the birth certificate does not indicate the youth was born in a U.S. state, they also need a legal document that shows their immigration status, such as an unexpired Lawful Permanent Resident card (“green card”) or proof of U.S. citizenship (i.e., Certificate of Citizenship, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or an unexpired U.S. passport). If a youth is discharged from foster care and is 18 or older or emancipated, they also need immunization records and a complete Health Passport along with Medicaid proof of enrollment.
Below are some suggestions for judges to help ensure youth receive their identification documents:
- Ask youth at every hearing about their identification documents and discuss safe handling
- Require caseworkers to bring identification documents to court, review documents to determine if they are original, certified copies, and verify that the documents move with the youth when they change placements
- Review all the youth’s identification documents and verify the names listed are consistent and in the youth’s legal name
- If the youth is a non-citizen, order DFPS to refer the youth to the Regional Immigration Specialist
- If all identification documents have not been obtained, set follow up hearings for 30-60 days later to keep the process moving and require DFPS to provide updates at each hearing about the steps taken to obtain the documents
Order DFPS to complete a Form 2042 - Youth or Young Adult In Foster Care Residency Verification for a Driver License or State Identification Card Fee Waiver and provide it to the youth so they can receive a fee waiver at DPS for the issuance of a driver license or ID card and establish their Texas residency, and obtain their Texas birth certificate on their own in appropriate circumstances
- If a request for a birth certificate to foster care eligibility specialists is delayed more than 30 days, order DFPS to take Texas-born youth to the local birth certificate office with a completed Form 2042 and necessary identification documents
Below are some suggestions for attorneys to help ensure youth receive their identification documents:
- Support youth obtaining an e-mail address where they can receive encrypted copies of their identification documents and records before a youth turns 14
- Support youth communication with the designated PAL staff to assist youth who have not received their identification documents by age 16
- Ensure youth who are 16 or older have their birth certificate, Social Security card, and Texas driver license or ID card
- Support youth with developing a plan for the safe keeping of identification documents and inform the youth of what documents DFPS is required to provide them
- Enlist the support of a CASA to assist the caseworker and the youth with obtaining identification documents
- Ensure that the caseworker provides youth in foster care with a completed DFPS Form 2042
- Identify another caring adult ready and able to assist when caseworkers have completed a DFPS Form 2042
- In coordination with the caseworker, support youth by accompanying the youth, and helping advocate for any issues that might arise, at the DPS office when a Texas ID card or driver license is needed
- In coordination with the caseworker, support youth by ensuring that documents move with the youth when they change placements