Glossary

By: Texas Appleseed, Weatherford International, and Baker & McKenzie LLP


Abandoned: To be abandoned, the owner must no longer be asserting his or her rights to a building. If there are no running utilities, the land is not fenced or enclosed in any manner, and the building is open to the public, it is likely the building is abandoned.

Abuse: To treat a person with cruelty or violence on a regular or repeated basis. Abuse can be physical, emotionally or psychological, among others, and can take many forms.

Acting as an employee of an agent of the State:

Actual care, control, and possession: A person must demonstrate (i) more than temporary or occasional possession, though it need not be exclusive, and (ii) more than the control implicit in having care and possession of the child.

Ad litem: A person appointed to act in a lawsuit on behalf of a child or other person who is not considered capable of representing themselves.

Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee (ARD) meetings: In Texas, ARD Committee is the name for the group made up of a student’s parents and school staff that meets at least annually to decide whether or not the student has an eligible disability and what special education and related services will be provided. Its major responsibility is the development of the Individual Education Program (IEP) for students receiving special education. In Texas, the meetings of these committees are called “ARD meetings.”

Adverse Possession: To become the legal owner of a property by staying in it for a period of time.

Affidavit: a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.

Aged Out: Describes anytime a youth leaves a formal system of care designed to provide services below a certain age level.

Allied support services:

Americans with Disabilities Act: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities. Under the ADA, if you have a disability, your employer must provide you with a reasonable accommodation unless it would cause an undue burden on the employer.

Annual Gross Income: Annual Gross Income represents the amount of money a person earns in one year from all sources before taxes.

Anti-harassment order: An Anti-harassment Order is a special type of restraining order which is available only to victims of harassment. It is a civil order of the Court telling the person who harassed you not to bother you again.

At-Risk Student: A student is identified as at risk of dropping out of school under Texas law and entitled to additional educational services if the student is younger than 21 years old and meets any of the following 13 statutory criteria:
  • was not promoted to the next grade level for one or more school years; 
  • failed or is failing two or more subjects in the foundation curriculum during a semester in the current or last school year; 
  • failed a state assessment; 
  • is enrolled in prekindergarten, kindergarten, or grades 1–3 and failed a readiness test or assessment instrument administered during the current school year; 
  • is pregnant or is a parent; 
  • has been placed in an alternative education program during the preceding or current school year; 
  • has been expelled during the preceding or current school year; 
  • is currently on parole, probation, deferred prosecution, or other conditional release; 
  • was previously reported as a dropout; 
  • is a student of limited English proficiency; 
  • is in the custody or care of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services or has, during the current school year, been referred to the department by a school official, officer of the juvenile court, or law enforcement official; 
  • is homeless; or 
  • resides or resided during the preceding school year in a residential placement facility in the district, including a detention facility, substance abuse treatment facility, emergency shelter, psychiatric hospital, halfway house, or foster group home.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP): A Behavior Intervention Plan, which is part of the IEP, identifies supports and services that will be provided to prevent inappropriate behaviors from occurring and to support desired behaviors.

Bill: A document describing charges for a service, such as for utilities or a restaurant.

Birth certificate: An official document issued to record a person’s birth, including vital identifying information such as name, gender, date of birth, place of birth, and parentage.

Bond: A deposit of money, or a written promise to pay money, if a specific act happens. A bond is sometimes filed in court when asking the court for a certain relief or right to take action that may or may not be the ultimate result or decision of the court proceedings.

Building: Building means any enclosed structure intended for use or occupation as a habitation or for some purpose of trade, manufacture, ornament or use.

Building Codes: A building code (also building control or building regulations) is a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects such as buildings and nonbuilding structures.

Bullying: Engaging in written or verbal expression, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or in a vehicle operated by the district and that (1) has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; or (2) is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.

Campus Behavior Coordinator (CBC): Each campus must designate a CBC (can be the principal or any other administrator), who is primarily responsible for maintaining student discipline and the implementation of the “Safe Schools” subchapter of the Texas Education Code.

Case Management: A support counselling service offered aimed to achieve personal goals using a strengths-oriented approaches.

Certified Mail, return receipt requested: A Certified Mail Receipt is available at the time of mailing and provides the sender with a mailing receipt and, upon request electronic verification that an article was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made.

Checking Account: An account at a bank or credit union that pays for checks you write.

Chemical Dependency: (i) the abuse of alcohol or a controlled substance; (ii) psychological or physical dependence on alcohol or a controlled substance; or (iii) addiction to alcohol or a controlled substance.

Child Protective Services (CPS): Child Protective Services responsibilities include: (i) investigating reports of abuse and neglect of children, (ii) providing services to children and families in their own homes, (iii) placing children in foster care, (iv) providing services to help youth in foster care successfully transition to adulthood, and (v) helping children get adopted.

Citation: A legal notice requiring someone to appear in court or describing a legal violation.

Citizenship: A person has citizenship to a country where he is either born (native) or is legally recognized as a citizen (naturalized citizen).

Communicable disease: an infectious disease transmissible (as from person to person) by direct contact with an affected individual or the individual’s discharges or by indirect means.

Complaint: A statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable. This includes applications or other formal document that is presented to authorities.

Concealing: Keeping your occupancy secret or preventing your occupancy from being known or noticed.

Confidential: Intended to be kept secret.

Consent: To give permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

Contagious Disease: A subset category of transmissible diseases, which are transmitted to other persons, either by physical contact with the person suffering the disease, or by casual contact with their secretions or objects touched by them or airborne route among other routes.

Continuously: Occupying the property continuously means living there without interruption, for the time period in question.

Contract: An agreement, either in writing or otherwise.

Control: To have authority over something or to supervise the running of something.

Controlled Substance: any substance, including a drug, an adulterant, and a dilutant, as listed in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Title 6 Chapter 481 and includes illegal and prescription narcotics and alcohol.

Credit Bureau: A company that collects credit information and sells credit reports and credit scores. There are three main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

Credit Limit: The maximum amount of money that you can borrow with a credit card.

Criminal Activity: Any unlawful behavior.

Criminal Trespass: A person who knowingly enters a building without permission or remains unlawfully in a building commits criminal trespass.

Deferred Adjudication: A form of please deal available in some jurisdictions in which a defendant please guilty or “No Contest” to criminal charges in exchange for meeting certain requirements laid out by the court within an allotted period of time also ordered by the court.

Department of Labor: The Department of Labor (DOL) is the federal agency that oversees enforcement of federal laws and regulations relating to the workforce - from employee pay to health and safety in the workplace to federal contract compliance and beyond.

Disability: A physical or mental condition or handicap that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.

Disability under Social Security: Disability under Social Security is based on a person’s inability to work. Social Security considers a person disabled if: the person cannot do work that he/she did before; Social Security decides the person cannot adjust to other work because of their medical condition(s); and the person’s disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.

Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP): A DAEP is a disciplinary alternative education program that is provided in a setting other than a student’s regular classroom (can be on or off campus); separates the assigned student from students who are not assigned to the program; and continues to provide for a student’s educational and behavioral needs.

Disclose: To make secret or new information known.

Discrimination: Discrimination is when someone takes an unfavorable employment action against you based on a protected status. An unfavorable employment action could include: not hiring you, firing you, demoting you, passing you over for a promotion, or refusing to provide you with a reasonable accommodation. Protected statuses include national origin, religion, sex/gender, age, disability and many others. You can be discriminated against even if you do not have a protected status but your employer believes that you do.

Discriminatory: An action that results in discrimination.

Domestic violence: Under Texas law, any act by one member of a family or household against another that ends in some harm to the victim is domestic violence. Harm can be physical or bodily harm, sexual assault, or any threat that places a victim in fear of imminent harm.

Domicile: A person’s fixed, permanent, and principal home for legal purposes.

Education Portfolio (also known as “Green Binder”): A green binder that has many of a student’s educational documents. It has copies of the student’s report cards, school pictures, and important tests. It also has copies of the student’s birth certificate, Social Security card, some medical history and transcripts showing all the classes the student completed in high school. The Education Portfolio belongs to the student. When the student leaves foster care, he/she takes the Education Portfolio with him/her.

Eligible immigration status: Eligible Immigration status as required under the Texas includes permanent residents, refugees, amnesty and others. This definition may change from time to time and you should check the most recent definitions of the eligibility criteria to ensure you qualify.

Emancipated: Emancipation of minors is a legal mechanism by which a minor is freed from control by his or her parents or guardians, and the parents or guardians are freed from any and all responsibility toward the child.

Emancipation: The process where a teenager of 16 or 17 can get legal independence from his or her parents or guardians. This is also called “removal of disabilities or minority,” in Texas.

Emergency (Emergencies): A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Federal law reauthorizing the McKinney-Vento Act, which took effect on October 1, 2016. ESSA protects homeless children and youth by making sure they have the same access to education as other children.

Eviction action: A landlord can file an eviction action (otherwise known as a forcible detainer action or special detainer action) against a tenant if the landlord has grounds to remove the tenant and terminate the lease.

Eviction lawsuit: A landlord may pursue an eviction lawsuit if a tenant does not move.

Eviction process: This is the process by which a landlord evicts a tenant. There are seven steps to the eviction action: notice to vacate, negotiations with landlord , landlord files written complaint, court-issued eviction papers, answer in eviction case, trial and judgment.

Family and Medical Leave Act: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. To qualify, typically your employer must have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile area, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer during the previous 12 months before you take leave. There are (more generous) exceptions to this, including for military caregivers who take leave.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) provide comprehensive health care services to underserved communities. Services are provided to Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Insured, and Uninsured individuals. Patients may be eligible for services based on their family income and on a sliding fee schedule.

Felony: A crime, typically one involving violence, regarded as more serious than a misdemeanor, and usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death.

Fiduciary: A trusted advisor with very strict requirements of loyalty and care.

Fixed term leases: A lease that has a specific end date. Fixed term leases are usually for 6 or 12 months. Fixed term leases must be in writing and signed by both parties. Your landlord must provide you with a copy of your lease. A fixed term lease requires both you and your landlord to comply with the lease for the entire term.

Food coupons: Food coupons are provided by food voucher programs and can be exchanged in designated grocery stores, supermarkets, and/or farmers markets for food products.

Formal hearing: A formal hearing is a meeting where a housing authority hearing officer or a panel of people listens to both sides and makes a decision about what the housing authority should do.

Foster care: A system that places youth in living arrangements other than with their parents. This occurs when the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), also often called CPS, and the court system determine that you are not safe or cannot be protected in your family home.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): The FAFSA is the federal application form that students must complete in order to apply for virtually all types of financial aid: Pell Grants, State Grants, Institutional Grants, Tuition Waivers, Work Study and Loans.

Free appropriate public education (FAPE): Special education and related services that: 
  • Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge; 
  • Meet the standards of the SEA, including the requirements of this part; 
  • Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and 
  • Are provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the requirements of Texas Education Code §§ 300.320 through 300.324.

Freeze: A status that prevents your credit file from being shared with potential creditors, insurers, employers, or residential landlords without your permission.

Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA): Functional behavioral assessment is a problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior. It relies on a variety of assessments, techniques and strategies to identify the purposes of specific behavior and to help ARD committees select interventions to directly address the problem behavior. FBAs can be used, as appropriate, throughout the process of developing, reviewing and, if necessary, revising a student’s IEP.

Good faith: Good faith is an abstract and comprehensive term that encompasses a sincere belief or motive without any malice or the desire to defraud others.

Green card: A permit issued by US Citizenship and Immigration Services allowing a foreign national to live and work permanently in the United States.

Grievance: A grievance is an official way to resolve disputes with the public housing authority.

Grievance process: A grievance process is the procedure by which grievances are dealt with by the housing authority.

Guardian / Guardianship: A guardian is a person appointed by a court to care for an incapacitated person and/or his or her property. Guardianship is a court-supervised appointment of an adult to care for a minor or incapacitated person. Another way to put it would be a legal process designed to protect vulnerable individuals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Harassment: Means threatening to cause harm or bodily injury to another student, engaging in sexually intimidating conduct, causing physical damage to the property of another student, subjecting another student to physical confinement or restraint, or maliciously taking any action that substantially harms another student’s physical or emotional health or safety.

Health Insurance Marketplace: Health Insurance Marketplaces are intended to provide places where consumers can compare and purchase standardized health coverage that includes a mandatory set of covered health-care items and services known as essential health benefits.

Hearing: A hearing is a meeting where a housing authority hearing officer or a panel of people listens to both sides and makes a decision about the outcome.

Homeless: Texas does not define homelessness as its own term. The closest definition can be found in the statutory definition of a Homeless Shelter. A Homeless Shelter is defined as a shelter or other facility to provide temporary living accommodations to individuals who lack a fixed regular and adequate residence. Tex. Alco. Bev. Code Ann. § 109.36 (2015).

Homeless Children and Youth (under McKinney-Vento Act): Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.

Housing: Shelter or lodging.

Housing agency: A government body established to assist and implement housing policies.

Housing assistance: Public housing assistance, or PHA, is a group of federal programs designed to aid in subsidizing rents for low-income individuals and families.

Housing codes: A housing code (also building control or building regulations) is a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects such as buildings and nonbuilding structures.

Imaging study: Imaging studies are tests performed with a variety of techniques that produce pictures of the inside of a patient’s body.

Incapacitated person: A person who, for reasons other than being a minor, is unable to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate technological assistance.

Independent Educational Evaluations (IEEs): A parent who disagrees with an evaluation by the school district may request an IEE at the school district’s expense. IEEs are often used to get a second opinion on a diagnosis or lack thereof. A parent is entitled to one IEE at the schools expense each time the school conducts an evaluation.

Indigent: A person who is lacking food, clothing, and other necessities of life because of poverty.

Individual Education Plan (IEP): A written education plan, individualized to meet a student’s needs. The IEP identifies the appropriate educational goals for the student and explains the services the district will provide and how the school will assess the student’s progress toward achieving the IEP goals. An IEP is intended to help ensure that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Public schools are required by federal law to provide an IEP for each student who has been identified as eligible for special education. Parents and school personnel should work together to write the IEP at the ARD meeting.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The 1997 federal IDEA Act provides legal protections for children with disabilities and requires that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education.

Infectious disease: Infectious diseases are disorders caused by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Some infectious diseases can be passed from person to person.

Informal conference: At the informal conference you will have an opportunity to describe your problem to a representative from the housing authority.

Innocent third party: A party other than the parties to the agreement, who has no influence over the occurrence.

Inpatient: A patient who stays in a hospital while under treatment.

Insurance: A service that pays for things like medical care or accidents.

Interest: Extra money that you owe along with a loan. For example, if you paid 10% interest on a $100 loan, that means you paid back $110 total.

Interest Rate: The speed at which interest grows larger. Higher rates are more expensive.

Involuntary commitment: Involuntary commitment is a legal process through which you are ordered by a court into treatment. In either case, treatment can be on an outpatient basis or through an inpatient facility.

Justice Court: Sometimes called “Small Claims Court”, Justice Court is a part of your local county court that is meant to be a quicker, less expensive way to solve arguments involving $10,000 or less that people are not able to work out on their own. Justice Court is a better way to get money back from someone than trying to take the law in to your own hands.

Justice of the Peace: a magistrate appointed to hear minor cases, perform marriages, grant licenses, etc., in a town, county, or other local district. The lowest court level in Texas is the Justice of the Peace Court (also called Justice Court or JP Court).

Landlord: A person who rents land, a building, or an apartment to a tenant.

Lease: A written or oral agreement between the tenant and a landlord that sets out details of the use and occupancy of the property. A lease has to be in writing if the rental period is more than one year.

Legal conservatorship: A guardian and protector appointed by a judge to protect and manage the financial affairs and/or a person’s daily life due to physical or mental limitations.

Legal guardian: A person, called the guardian, is appointed by a court to care for the person and/or property of the minor or incapacitated person called the ward. In some other states, guardianships are called conservatorships, but in Texas they are called guardianships.

Legal right: Legally guaranteed powers available to a person in defense of its just and lawful claims or interests, such as individual freedom. Legal rights affect every citizen, whether or not the existence such rights is publicly known.

Legitimate reason: These are reasons recognized by law that allow the landlord to evict the tenant. They include nonpayment of rent, lease violation, property damage, illegal activity on the premise or expiration of lease.

Local Education Agency (LEA): The entity which operates local public primary and secondary schools, otherwise known as a school district. This includes all Texas school districts, public schools, charter schools, and education services centers. Each LEA in Texas must designate an appropriate staff member to serve as the local homeless education liaison.

Locked Out: When the landlord denies access to the property by changing the locks or codes to the premises.

Lower income: Housing agencies use income limits developed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live.

Low-income neighborhoods: Neighborhoods in which the majority of the residents are living below the poverty level.

Managing or Possessory Conservator: There are two types of conservatorships in Texas: managing and possessory. Managing conservators essentially enjoy all the rights and responsibilities one would normally associate with a parent. Possessory Conservators, on the other hand, essentially only enjoy the right to “access to” (or “visitation” with) the child under a defined schedule, as well as the right to inherit and bequeath assets through the child.

Manifestation determination review (MDR): MDR is a review of the relationship between a student’s disability and behavior that is the subject of disciplinary action. There is a limit to the number of days a student can be suspended from school for violations of the student code of conduct. Typically in Texas, a student can only be suspended for three days if he/she violates a school rule. If a student has been removed or suspended for 10 days in a row or for 10 days total in a school year for similar incidents, it is considered a change in placement under federal law, and the school cannot suspend the student again until it holds a meeting to determine to what extent your disability relates to the conduct or behavior.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001 (the “McKinney-Vento Act”): The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that ensures students experiencing homelessness have access to a quality and stable education.

Medical Board: A state agency that licenses, regulates, and disciplines physicians, physician assistants, and acupuncturists.

Medical Health Passport: A secure and confidential electronic system for storing medical information of children and youth in the care or custody of DFPS. The information is shared with medical providers who treat children and youth, the caregivers responsible for providing consent to their medical care, and DFPS staff.

Medicare: Medicare is a national health insurance program for people age 65 or older. People younger than age 65 with certain disabilities, or permanent kidney failure, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), can also qualify for Medicare. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it doesn’t cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care.

Mental health facility: A mental health facility is any licensed private or public hospital or institution that provides treatment of persons with mental illness, including clinics, evaluation facilities, and mental health centers that provide mental health treatment.

Mental Illness: an illness, disease, or condition, other than epilepsy, dementia, substance abuse, or intellectual disability, that: (i) substantially impairs a person’s thought, perception of reality, emotional process, or judgment; or (ii) grossly impairs behavior as demonstrated by recent disturbed behavior.

Minimum wage: This is the minimum amount that you must be paid per hour. Under federal and Texas law, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Minor: Texas, as do many other states, recognizes 18 as the “age of majority,” at which point residents are legally considered adults (as opposed to “minors”). But Texas legal ages laws also govern a minor’s eligibility for emancipation, the legal capacity for signing a contract or consenting to medical treatment.

Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor is a less serious criminal offense for which you can be fined $4,000 or less and be sentenced to county jail for up to one year. You do not lose any civil rights for a misdemeanor conviction. Misdemeanors include simple assault, theft and DWI, first or second offense.

Month-to-month Lease: A Lease that does not have a specific end date: either you or your landlord can get out of the lease within the month simply by giving the other person 30 days notice in writing. On the other hand, the lease will continue if both of you are satisfied and do not terminate the lease.

Necessities: There is no clear definition for what “necessities” are but food, medicine, clothing, and shelter are usually included.

Neglect: To pay little or no attention to or to be remiss in the care or treatment of a person.

Noise pollution: A type of nuisance which includes making loud and offensive noises, often times consistently or with some form of reoccurrence. Someone being loud would probably have to offend more people than just you in order to be a public nuisance.

Non-profit hospitals: Non-profit hospitals are required to have a written policy that outlines how they’ll help patients needing financial assistance and how charges to patients are calculated. Under the Affordable Care Act, these hospitals are also required to conduct community needs assessments. Then they’re charged with developing strategies for meeting the needs identified.

Notice: The notification or warning of something to allow preparations to be made.

Notice of termination: A notice, usually required in written form, terminating a contract such as a tenancy agreement. The notice of termination should be given to the landlord at least one month before the termination date, unless your rental agreement says otherwise.

Occupying: Gaining or having physical possession, or in some instances control, of real property.

Order for Protective Custody: a court order directing an authorized person to admit you to a mental health facility for examination pending a probable cause hearing to determine whether you can be safely released.

Other targeted populations:

Outpatient: A patient who receives medical treatment without being admitted to a hospital.

Overtime pay: If you are a “non-exempt” employee and you work more than 40 hours per workweek, you are eligible for overtime pay, which is equivalent to 1.5 times your regular hour pay. You may not waive your right to overtime pay. In other words, you must receive overtime pay even if you sign an agreement saying that you do not want to be paid overtime.

Pediatrics: The branch of medicine dealing with children and their diseases.

Possessing: The ownership, control, or occupancy of a thing, most frequently land or personal property, by a person.

Power of attorney: Allows a person to act on behalf of another person, including a minor child. Powers of attorney can be general or specific (as in for limited purposes, such as medical care or education). A power of attorney granted to someone who is a non-parent requires a parent’s signature and witnesses to the signature to ensure the power is legally granted to the non-parent on the child’s behalf.

Prenatal: Relating to pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Preparation for Adult Living (PAL): Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program ensures that older youth in substitute care are prepared for their inevitable departure from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ care and support.

Private housing market: The non-public real estate marketplace in which houses are bought and sold either directly between individuals or indirectly via real estate brokers.

Private property: Land, property or belongings owned by a person or group and kept for their exclusive use.

Property owner: Determining ownership in law involves determining who has certain rights and duties over the property. Property owners are generally the landlord of the premise.

Protective order: A protective order can be put in place when an abuser has committed certain acts of domestic violence against a victim. It is intended to protect a victim from an abusive partner or other person who may try to cause harm. A protective order can, for example, prohibit the abuser from going within a certain distance of a specific address, engaging in harassing or threatening communications, or committing a further act of family violence against the victim. Getting a two-year protective order requires a full hearing which both the victim and the abuser have the right to attend and give testimony and other evidence.

Public assistance: State sponsored programs that can assist struggling families in Texas. Many of the social service type programs are for low income families with children, senior citizens, and the disabled. They focus on meeting basic and critical needs. This can include providing food, groceries, cash assistance job opportunities, and medical bill assistance.

Public health activities: The Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose protected health information, without authorization, to public health authorities who are legally authorized to receive such reports for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability.

Public nuisance: An act, condition, or thing that is illegal because it interferes with the rights of the public generally. In Texas, this includes gang activities.

Public property: Public property is property that is dedicated to public use and is a subset of state property.

Reasonable accommodation: Reasonable accommodation are measures taken by a landlord to accommodate a person’s disability. These may include extra time to avoid an eviction, keeping a service animal even if there is a “no pet” policy or a reserved parking spot close to the door if you have trouble walking.

Reasonable grounds: A set of facts or circumstances which would satisfy an ordinary cautious and prudent person that there is reason to believe and which goes beyond mere suspicion.

References: A source of information in order to ascertain your credibility or reliability.

Referrals: The act of referring someone or something for consultation, review, or further action.

Re-letting fee: A fee charged by a landlord when you break a lease, for having to prepare the dwelling for reletting and having to redo paperwork. This fee must be a fair amount to cover actual expenses, and it cannot be an inflated amount to punish you for breaking the lease.

Rental agreement or Lease: A written or oral agreement between the tenant and a landlord that sets out details of the use and occupancy of the property. A lease has to be in writing if the rental period is more than one year.

Representative: A person chosen or appointed to act or speak for another or others.

Retaliate: To make an attack or assault in return for a similar attack.

Savings Account: An account at a bank or credit union where you can save money.

School of Origin: The schools that the child or youth attended when permanently housed or the school in which the child or youth was last enrolled.

Security deposit: A security deposit is money you give to your landlord at move-in to pay for any damage to the property when you move out.

Secure Correctional Facility: A prison used for the placement of any person convicted of a criminal offense.

Secure Detention Facility: A jail used for the temporary placement of any person accused of committing a criminal offense or status offense.

Self-defense claim: In Texas, you may defend yourself if you encounter force in a place where you have a right to be. Such a claim is called a self-defense claim.

SNAP: A form of public assistance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) helps people buy the food they need for good health.

Social security card: An official document showing a person’s Social Security number, a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration that is an important identification number for taxes and other purposes in the United States.

Statute of limitations: A deadline that sets a limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit. The deadline is set by specific Texas laws and you should pay careful attention to be sure you do not miss the deadline to file your claim.

Substance abuse or treatment facility: A substance abuse or treatment facility is defined in Texas Health and Safety Code, Title 6 Chapter 462 and means a public or private hospital, a detoxification facility, a primary care facility, an intensive care facility, a long-term care facility, an outpatient care facility, a community mental health center, a health maintenance organization, a recovery center, a halfway house, and any other appropriately licensed facility that has been designated by the Texas Department of State Health Services to provide chemical dependency treatment.

Supportive housing programs: Programs that provide subsidized housing and supportive services. These programs have their own eligibility criteria. Some serve persons with a developmental disability or mental illness, or persons who are chronically homeless.

TANF: A form of public assistance through the federal government, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a monetary assistance benefit that may be available to qualifying persons who are in need and satisfy certain criteria.

Temporary ex parte protective order: If there is a clear and present danger of sexual assault, stalking, or other harm to a victim, a court may grant a temporary ex parte protective order without the offender present in court, which lasts until a full court hearing at a later date with the offender present. A temporary ex parte protective order can last from 31 to 91 days.

Tenant: An adult who lives in an apartment and who signed a Lease.

Term: An duration of time.

Termination of Lease notice: A notice, usually required to be in writing, informing the tenant that the landlord wishes to terminate the lease.

Term Lease: A type of rental agreement in which the renter agrees to stay and pay rent for the period of time indicated in the written contract.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS): The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) works with communities to protect children, the elderly, and people with disabilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It also works to protect the health and safety of children in day care, as well as foster care and other types of 24-hour care.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS): The objective of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is to maintain public safety in the State of Texas. It works toward the attainment of this objective within existing regulations and in cooperation with other agencies and persons with mutual or related responsibilities. It seeks to preserve the peace and to protect the persons, property, rights, and privileges of all people in the State of Texas.

Texas Department of State Health Services (TDHS): The objective of the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDHS) is to improve health through prevention and population health strategies, enhance public health response to disasters and disease outbreaks, reduce health problems through public health consumer protection, and expand the effective use of health information.

Texas Education Agency (TEA): The administrative and regulatory unit for the Texas public education system managed by the commissioner of education. Section 7.021 of the Texas Education Code sets out TEA’s powers and duties: “The agency shall administer and monitor compliance with education programs required by federal or state law, including federal funding and state funding for those programs.” TEA is responsible for implementing public education policies as established by the federal government, State Legislature, State Board of Education, and commissioner of education.

Texas foster care: When children can’t live safely at home and no appropriate non-custodial parent, relative, or close family friend is willing and able to care for them, the court can give temporary legal possession to CPS. CPS temporarily places these children in foster care

Texas Health and Human Services Commission: Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) oversees operations of the entire health and human services system in Texas which includes five departments: HHSC; Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS); Department of State Health Services (DSHS); Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS); and Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Texas Workforce Commission: The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is Texas’ equivalent of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The TWC seeks to reduce discrimination in employment (and housing) by enforcing state and federal laws and educating Texas employers and employees on their rights and responsibilities within the workforce. The TWC handles state unemployment insurance for individuals who lose their job and provides job training and other resources for individuals who seek to reenter the workforce.

Texas Youth Commission: Currently referred to as the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, it is the state agency that operates the juvenile corrections facilities in the state.

Transition Services Youth: Youth receiving special education services ages 14 and up (and younger if requested by a parent) who should also receive services specific to the child to assist in making the transition out of secondary education.

Trespassing: If the property is private property or public property in which someone still lives or occupies, any entry without the owner’s permission is trespassing.

Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Resettlement Program: The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Resettlement program ensures that eligible unaccompanied minor populations receive the full range of assistance, care, and services available to all foster children in the state by establishing a legal authority to act in place of the child’s unavailable parent.

Unaccompanied Youth: Youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): The government agency that oversees home ownership, low-income housing assistance, fair housing laws, homelessness, aid for distressed neighborhoods, and housing development.

United States Postal Service: The United States Postal Service, is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States.

Unlawfully: Without any legal right or justification to do something.

Use More Force Than Attacker: This fine line is called excessive force. During the course of defending yourself you cannot use force greater than what it takes to stop the attack.

Utility: A business that supplies a community with a basic need, such as water or electricity.

Vacate: To leave the premises and/or otherwise terminate the lease.

Very Low Income: Housing agencies use income limits developed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD sets the very low income limits at 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live.

Voidable: If a contract is voidable it means the minor can choose to get out of the contract at any time while the contract is still voidable.

Voluntary commitment: Voluntary commitment means you have chosen to be admitted to treatment.

Wage and Hour Division: The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the DOL sets federal laws with regard to minimum wage, overtime, exemption and many other wage and hour-related issues. The WHD also prosecutes employers who violate federal wage and hour laws.

Waived: An interest or right is waived if it is relinquished in law and becomes no more. This may happen if the person with the right decides not to pursue it or consents to its relinquishment.

Ward: The incapacitated person cared for by the Guardian.

Workers’ compensation: Workers’ compensation is a way to provide assistance to employees who become ill or injured on the job. Depending on the severity of your injury or illness, you may qualify for wage repayment, medical treatment and other benefits.
Writ of Re-Entry: This is a court order allowing the tenant to recover possession of the premises if a landlord has locked a residential or commercial tenant out of leased premises in violation of the Texas Property Code.
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