Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. You can also contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or www.loveisrespect.org
What to expect
To find the closest family violence program in your area in Texas, please search the Service Directory.
What to expect if you call a program
- A caring listening ear. All programs have people who can listen and help you sort out options.
- Advocacy services. Most programs have specially trained advocates who can help with welfare, CPS, disability services, immigration, housing, employment protections, and more.
- Emergency shelter. Many programs offer shelter or safe homes.
- Transitional housing. Some programs have longer term housing for survivors.
- Support groups. Some programs run groups for children, youth and adults.
- Legal advocacy. Most programs offer information about protection orders and other civil matters. Most do not provide legal counsel, but can refer you to free or low cost attorneys.
- Crisis services. Many programs offer 24-hour crisis services.
What to expect if you go to a shelter
Every shelter is different, but usually you can expect that:
- Shelters are free — no fees are charged to stay.
- Most shelters have shared kitchens, common areas, and bathrooms.
- If you have children, you will probably all share one bedroom.
- If you are alone, you may have to share a room.
- You are responsible for taking care of your own children.
- All shelters must welcome service animals.
- However, most shelters cannot accommodate pets. They will work with you to make arrangements to have your pets cared for elsewhere.
- Shelters have laundry facilities and supply linens (sheets, towels and blankets).
- They usually have emergency food, clothing and toiletries available for the first few days of a stay.
- Shelters can be stressful — this is group living with others who are experiencing tough times.
- You will be asked to honor the privacy of other residents by not discussing their names or situations with anyone else.
- Shelters are concerned about everybody’s safety, so you may be asked to keep the location a secret.
- Visitors are generally not allowed.
- Allow you to bring your pets.
- Have computers you can use to check your email and access online resources.
- Offer free cell phones for 911 calls only.
Before you call a shelter think about the things that are of biggest concern to you. Ask for all the details you need so you’ll feel as comfortable as possible making your important decisions.
There is no right or wrong way to do a safety plan. Check off and fill in the things that work for you. Make it your plan. Review it often. Make changes as you need to.
There is help for you to develop a safety plan. You can ask your social worker, family violence worker or some other person in the community to work with you on this.
Safety Plans can help you be as safe as you can be from future abuse.
They are used by people who:
- Want to leave, but it is not safe
- Are not sure about leaving, but need help in case the abuser gets violent
- Have left and the threat of violence is still there
Safety Plans Can Help You:
- Get help in an emergency
- Get away safely
- Keep children safe
- Safely get your clothes, pets or other personal items
Legal Advocate Services
Family violence programs in Texas have legal advocates. They are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. However they do offer the following:
- They can walk you through legal options available to survivors of domestic violence.
- They can accompany you to court and offer referrals to free or low-cost lawyers knowledgeable about domestic violence.
When you talk to a legal advocate, you can expect that:
- Services are offered free of charge
- Legal advocates are not attorneys and will be unable to give legal advice
- Advocates can offer a range of services that might include:
- Accompanying you to court
- Helping you fill out paperwork
- Helping you understand the civil or criminal process
- Outlining or prioritizing the legal options that are available
- Informing you about what actually goes on in court
- Preparing you for a hearing or trial, and giving support before, during and after
- Referring you to low or no-cost lawyers
This information is adapted from: www.wscadv.org
Find a Legal Advocate
To speak to a legal advocate search the service directory for the family violence program closest to you. Keep in mind that some family violence programs may require you to register as a client before getting an appointment with a legal advocate.
Texas has three legal aids that may be able to help you for free or low cost. The legal aids are divided into geographic regions in Texas. View the Legal Aid map.
The Texas Advocacy Project offers a broad spectrum of legal services through the following programs: Free Legal Hotlines, Protective Order Packets, Emergency Protective Order Program, Assisted Pro Se Program, Teen Justice Initiative, Texas Justice Initiative, Legal Access Initiative, LGBT Initiative, and Technical Advocacy. The free family violence statewide number is 1-800 374- HOPE (4673)
WomensLaw Email Hotline provides basic legal information, referrals, and emotional support by email or by secure web login.
TexasLawHelp is an online resource that can connect you to legal resources in your community by searching via zip code, city or county.
Protective orders are one legal resource that you can obtain if you are experiencing family violence. Protective orders are free and order someone who you’ve had a close relationship with not to hurt you. A protective order is a civil court order issued to prevent continuing acts of family violence.
There are 3 types of Protective Orders in Texas:
- Temporary Ex Parte Protective Order
- Final Protective Order
- Magistrates Order of Emergency Protection
A protective order prohibits the respondent from doing the following:
- Committing family violence
- Communicating in a threatening or harassing manner with a family or household member
- Going near your partner’s residence and place of employment
- Going near childcare and school facilities
- Possessing a firearm
Violation of these provisions is subject to immediate arrest.
A protective order may also do the following:
- Award child custody and visitation
- Award exclusive use of the residence
- Require the payment of support for the petitioner or parties’ children
- Award the use and possession of property
- Order the respondent to attend a Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program
Parents and the Child Protection System
The best tool that a survivor in the CPS system can have is to be well informed on their rights and responsibilities.
Administrative Review of an Investigative Finding (ARIF): At the end of any CPS investigation, CPS must give parents a letter explaining their decision and whether you, as a parent, have been given a finding as a perpetrator of child abuse and neglect. If you don’t receive this letter, you can request a copy from CPS. If you do not agree with CPS’ decision, you can ask for an ARIF within 45 days of getting the finding letter.
Though having an attorney is not required to file an ARIF, you may benefit from consulting an attorney with CPS and domestic violence experience. Visit www.texaslawhelp.org or call the Texas Advocacy Project (800-374-HOPE) for a referral to legal services.
Parents in CPS: CPS has an online guide designed for parents in the CPS system that highlights common questions parents have when they have a CPS case.
What Happens to my Child?: HHSC and CPS have created information for survivors of family violence who are in shelter and are involved in CPS.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Advocates are available 24/7 and speak 180 languages. It is confidential and anonymous. They can safety plan with you and connect you to local resources, and help you access safety planning information for when children are Involved.
Texas Law Help has resources for Parents with CPS Court Cases and information about parents’ rights when there is a possible termination of parental rights (including information about access to court appointed attorneys).
DFPS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-252-5400 or report online.
CPS Parent Collaboration Groups: CPS’ Parent Collaboration Group (PCG) provides a mechanism to include biological parents in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the CPS program. This initiative encourages collaboration with clients who are affected by the CPS service delivery system and provides a unique perspective on how to improve services to families and children.
Help and Hope provides a resource page to help parents manage stressful parenting situations.
Utility Deposit Waiver forms in downloadable/printable formats. (You may get Acrobat Reader here.) Call your local domestic violence program, and an advocate can help you fill out and certify the form.
- Cover Letter to Certifying Agencies for Waivers of Deposit
- Waiver of Electric and Telephone Service Deposit Letter for Victim of Family Violence (English)
- Waiver of Electric and Telephone Service Deposit Letter for Victim of Family Violence (Spanish)
- Waiver of Gas Service Deposit (English)
- Waiver of Gas Service Deposit (Spanish)
For more information about these and other forms visit the Texas Public Utility Commission.
Accessing Family Violence Programs
Fluctuating immigration law has increased fear in immigrant communities. If you have concerns about accessing family violence services due to your immigration status, know that you have the right to be safe and seek help at an HHSC funded domestic violence program regardless of your immigration status.
- ALL survivors are welcome to access services and ALL survivors have strong federal confidentially protections when seeking services at these programs.
- To identify a local HHSC funded family violence organization near you click HERE or call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.
- TCFV’s Immigration Q&A page for survivors is also available to help you know and assert your rights in encounters with immigration and government officials.
Immigration Legal Services & Know Your Rights Resources
- TCFV created the following Immigration Legal Services Directory found HERE.
- You can use the directory to identify contact information and services provided by organizations across Texas that specialize in immigration law.
- The Texas Immigrant Rights Website & Hotline are sources for accurate information about immigration laws, Know Your Rights Resources, and referrals to attorneys.
- When you call the hotline at 1-888-507-2970 you will be connected to volunteer attorneys, law students, and BIA accredited representatives.
- If your call is routed to a voice mail please be sure to leave a message.
Family and Financial Obligation Plans
- Creating a safety plan that addresses your immigration concerns is critical.
- Consider consulting with your immigration attorney, domestic violence legal advocate, or another trusted person in the community to work with you on this.
- Review it often, include considerations for your children and financial obligations and make changes as necessary.
- Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Apple Seed have developed guides to help you develop these plans.