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Homeless Youth Handbook: Legal Issues and Options

Protection from Violence or Abuse

This article provides information on laws affecting runaway youth in Texas.

Excerpted from the Homeless Youth Handbook, a joint project of Texas Appleseed and Baker McKenzie.

If I am staying with a friend or relative, do they have to tell the police or any other authorities where I am?

Only under certain circumstances. Under Texas law, an adult can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for “harboring a child” (a person who is younger than 18) if the child has escaped the custody of a peace officer, a probation officer, the Texas Youth Council, a detention facility, or the child’s home without a parent’s or guardian’s consent (when the child has been absent for a “substantial length of time” or the child has no intent to return home). See Texas Penal Code Section 25.06.

So, if you are not in one of these categories, then, no, your friend or relative would not have an obligation to report your location to the police or other authorities.

What if the person I am staying with is a close relative? Do they have to tell the police or other authorities where I am?

No. It is a defense to the misdemeanor charge for failure to report a runaway child (referenced above) if the person “harboring” the child is related to the child by the “second degree of consanguinity”, meaning, the child’s brother, sister, or grandparent. See Texas Government Code 573.023.

It is also a defense to such a charge, if the person harboring the child is not a relative to the second degree of consanguinity, if the person harboring the child notifies the parent, agency, or officer from which the child “escaped” within 24 hours after discovering the child is absent from home without parental consent (or otherwise escaped custody of a state agency or peace officer).

Who can I call for help if I am living on the street?

The Texas Youth Hotline is available 24 hours a day with free, confidential advice. Call 800-989-6884; text 512-872-5777; or chat online.
Are there any other reasons a person would have to report me missing? Texas has mandatory reporting for anyone who thinks that a minor has been harmed by abuse or neglect, including statutory rape (which is any sexual contact with a minor who is under age 17). So, if any adult believes that you have been abused or neglected, he must make a report to Child Protective Services (CPS) or the police. This includes people who might normally have an obligation to keep what you tell them confidential, such as doctors, lawyers, and counselors.

What if the person is trying to keep me safe from an abusive situation?

There are resources available to people trying to keep you safe from abuse. An organization called Justice for Children provides information, guidance, and assistance, including free legal help, to adults who are trying to keep a child safe from an abusive situation. But, the mandatory reporting obligations still apply.

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