I. Foster Youth Bill of Rights and Ombudsman's Office

Each child in foster care shall be informed of the child's rights provided by state or federal law or policy that relate to:

•   Abuse, neglect, exploitation, discrimination, and harassment;

•   Food, clothing, shelter, and education;

•   Luggage to transport the child's personal belongings;

•   Medical, dental, vision, and mental health services, including the right of the child to consent to treatment;

•   Emergency behavioral intervention, including what methods are permitted, the conditions under which it may be used, and the precautions that must be taken when administering it;

•   Placement with the child's siblings and contact with members of the child's family;

•   Privacy and searches, including the use of storage space, mail, and the telephone;

•   Participation in school-related extracurricular or community activities;

•   Interaction with persons outside the foster care system, including teachers, church members, mentors, and friends;

•   Contact and communication with caseworkers, attorneys ad litem, guardians ad litem, and court-appointed special advocates;

•   Religious services and activities;

•   Confidentiality of the child's records;

•   Job skills, personal finances, and preparation for adulthood;

•   Participation in a court hearing that involves the child;

•   Participation in the development of service and treatment plans;

•   If the child has a disability, the advocacy and protection of the rights of a person with that disability; and

•   Any other matter affecting the child's ability to receive care and treatment in the least restrictive environment that is most like a family setting. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.008(b).

DFPS shall provide a written copy of the foster children's bill of rights to each child placed in foster care in the child's primary language, if possible, and shall inform the child of the rights described by the foster children's bill of rights:

•   Orally in the child's primary language, if possible, and in simple, non-technical terms; or

•   For a child who has a disability, including an impairment of vision or hearing, through any means that can reasonably be expected to result in successful communication with the child. Tex. Fam. Code § 263.008(c).

The Health and Human Services Commission must appoint an ombudsman for children and youth in foster care. Tex. Gov't Code § 531.992(a). The ombudsman serves as a neutral party in assisting children and youth in the conservatorship of DFPS with complaints regarding issues with the authority of DFPS or another health and human services agency. Tex. Gov't Code § 531.993.

Youth may contact the Foster Care Ombudsman through the following methods:

•   Toll-free phone: 1-844-286-0769 (8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday)

•   Toll-free fax: 1-888-780-8099

•   Mail: Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Foster Care Ombudsman, MC H-700

P O Box 13247

Austin, Texas 78711-3247

•   Online: HHS Ombudsman Foster Care Help[9]

Special Issue: Judges, Parents, Attorneys, CASA and other individuals with inquiries and complaints about a child or youth's case may continue to contact the DFPS Office of Consumer Relations by phone at 1-800-720-7777 or by email at OCR@dfps.texas.gov.