Rachel was a client with Legal Aid of WV (LAWV) who came into our office with a unique request: she needed help obtaining her identity. She was able to apply for assistance and food stamps, but to become independent required documents she didn’t have.
Born in another state, Rachel was adopted as a young child but eventually ended up in the foster care system. She lived in several foster care homes and, eventually, a group home before moving out on her own, where she experienced domestic violence in a relationship. Because of her tumultuous circumstances—having moved numerous times as a child and as an adult to escape abuse—Rachel had lost all forms of identification.
Rachel didn’t know a lot of information most of us take for granted: she didn’t know where she was born or the details of her adoption, and she couldn’t remember the name of the school she attended. She had never been able to apply for a license when she was younger, so Rachel now had no proof of her identity, meaning she couldn’t cash a check, open a bank account, or apply for a job.
One of LAWV’s legal assistants, in conjunction with a staff attorney, began diligently searching for Rachel’s documents. She wrote a letter to a judge where Rachel had lived, which led to the adoption order. Next, she was able to find the school where Rachel had attended and requested transcripts. With these documents, she was able to obtain a certified birth certificate and help Rachel apply for a West Virginia state ID card. It was a long process, but thanks to the persistence of LAWV staff, Rachel was finally able to open a bank account and apply for jobs.
“One of my highlights at Legal Aid was the day Rachel came into our office to tell me she applied for a job,” says her legal assistant. “She landed a job as a cashier starting at over $11 an hour! Now, she can go to work and will be able to go off benefits.”