Bay Area Legal Services assists more than 1,000 veterans in the Tampa Bay area each year through our veteran support programs and collaborations. Click here for more information about our veterans' legal services.
The L. David Shear Children's Law Center (CLC) of Bay Area Legal Services (BALS) provides high quality, holistic, client-directed legal representation to vulnerable and victimized children who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned, in the overburdened Hillsborough County child welfare system.
In Hillsborough County, nearly 50% of the children removed from their homes are ages five and under. The CLC represents this vulnerable population and their older siblings. CLC attorneys also represent children with special needs of all ages. The CLC follows the American Bar Association's recommended model of representing children — an attorney and social worker zealously advocate for our child clients in and out of court to ensure our clients receive necessary services and achieve permanency in a safe and loving home promptly. The CLC is appointed to cases by the court, sua sponte, or upon request by the CLC or another party.
The CLC has integrated its legal representation of foster children into Hillsborough County’s social services system by collaborating with the courts, local children’s agencies, and other groups serving abused, abandoned and neglected children. Our attorneys participate in various system reform efforts to improve outcomes for all children in the child welfare system.
The Center was named for BALS’ first executive director, Don Castor, who later became a Hillsborough County judge. Judge Castor provided funding to BALS to establish a resource center for nonprofit organizations and community groups. The Center:
- Provides legal and technical assistance to eligible nonprofits and groups that serve low-income communities and their residents throughout our five- county service area;
- Matches eligible nonprofits and groups with volunteer attorneys who have expertise in business-related legal issues through the Community Counsel Program; and
- Coordinates training events for nonprofits and groups.
To apply, please complete the online Client Application Form for incorporated and unincorporated organizations
BALS’ Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) receives funding from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide services when Hillsborough or Pasco County residents have a dispute with the IRS. Disputes handled by the LITC include:
- Representation in court
- Requests to produce documents
- Tax-related identity theft
- Innocent/injured spouse matters
- Levies on income
- Noncustodial parent matters
- Responding to IRS notices
We also provide outreach, education, and representation to taxpayers with limited English- language skills, including Spanish and Creole-language populations in our service area. Although we receive funding from the IRS for our clinic, our staff are completely independent of the federal government.
If you are a taxpayer who cannot afford representation in a tax-related matter and need help understanding your taxpayer rights and responsibilities, you may qualify for free help.
Links to More Information
- IRS - Internal Revenue Service: www.irs.gov or www.irs.gov/spanish
- Taxpayer Advocate Service: www.youtube.com/TASNTA
BALS' Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) protects you against housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or handicap. The FHIP was established to enforce fair housing laws throughout Hillsborough County. There are no income requirements for FHIP clients. FHIP services include:
- Education: Educating clients to recognize and report housing discrimination. We also give fair housing presentations to homeowners’ or tenants’ associations.
- Investigation: Investigating reports of discrimination and performing testing in some cases to identify unlawful housing discrimination.
- Enforcement: Using a variety of legal remedies to help fair housing clients, including negotiating settlements, litigation in state or federal court, and filing cases with government agencies.
Links to More Information
- HUD - Homes and Communities U.S. Department of Housing: www.hud.gov
- Florida Housing Finance Corporation: www.floridahousing.org
- Tampa Housing Authority or City/County Section 8 housing: www.thafl.com
If you think you have a fair housing problem or to schedule a fair housing presentation, call 813.634.6044 (1.800.955.8771 /TTY).