In these videos, Texas Network of Youth Services' Young Adult Leadership Council members provide tips for working with a lawyer, discuss youth client rights, and open up about their own experiences working with a lawyer while in foster care.
Your Lawyers' Duties to You
Every child who enters the foster care system is required by Texas law to have a lawyer appointed to represent them. It's important for youth to understand that their lawyer works for them, and if they have a problem with their lawyer, it's ok to ask for help.
Your lawyer must:
- know the law,
- know the facts about your case,
- fight for what you want, not what CPS, your family, or anyone else wants,
- meet with you before each court hearing, and
- respond when you call or message them.
Your lawyer owes you communication and one-on-one time. They must explain things to you in a way that you can understand. It is OK to ask them as many questions as you need to.
Your lawyer must offer you their advice, which means telling you:
- what is legally possible in your case,
- what they think the judge will do, and
- what they think might happen if you make certain choices.
Remind your lawyer of these things if your situation is not ideal so that you can get the help that you need.
Who is your lawyer?
If you are confused and don't know who your attorney is, ask any adult on your case who your lawyer is: your caseworker, CASA, CPA, case manager, therapist, or parent.
Tell everyone that you want to appear in court at the next hearing.
When you know your attorney's name but don't know how to contact them, go to the Texas State Bar website at www.texasbar.com to find your lawyer's phone, number, and email.
What if I want a new attorney?
If you feel like you need a new attorney, the Texas Network of Youth Services' Young Adult Leadership Council videos suggest you first try working things out with the one you have.
Speak up and explain to your current attorney what's wrong. Attorneys are used to requests for new attorneys. So try to fix the problem together.
If talking with your attorney does not fix things, the next step: let the other adults on your case know you still want a new lawyer.
If you still have any other issues with your attorney and need help, here are some other places you can call.
- The Texas Foster Youth Justice Project at 877-313-3688. The Texas Foster Youth Justice Project provides legal advice, assistance, guidance, and representation in enforcing foster youth rights.
- The Texas Family Helpline at 844-888-6565. The Helpline allows you to speak with an experienced child welfare attorney about legal issues in CPS cases, but they can't give advice, only information.
- The Foster Care Ombudsman at 844-286-0769. The ombudsman can answer questions or help you resolve a complaint about your foster care.
- If you have tried all those resources but are still not getting the help you need, you can call the State Bar of Texas Grievance Information Helpline at 800-932-1900. This is a very formal complaint process that should only be used when all other possible steps have been taken. The State Bar is in charge of disciplining lawyers for violating their rules of professional conduct. But they can't remove a lawyer from your case or get you a new lawyer, unless a judge says that is in your best interest.
This article explains the purpose of the Client-Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP).
This article discusses the attorney-client relationship and the protections in place to ensure you are able to work with your attorney.
This article outlines laws affecting runaway youth in Texas.
Disability Rights Texas' guide from 2016 provides information for youth with mental health concerns who are transitioning to adulthood.
This article explains the roles of attorneys ad litem and amicus attorneys in family law cases.
This article explains the rights of pregnant and parenting minors in Texas to make health care decisions.