Unaccompanied Refugee Minors
Through its network of caretakers, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program helps unaccompanied minor refugees develop appropriate skills to enter adulthood and to achieve social self-sufficiency.
The State Department identifies refugee children overseas who are eligible for resettlement in the U.S., but do not have a parent or a relative available and committed to providing for their long term care. Upon arrival in the U.S., these refugee children are placed into the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program and receive refugee foster care services and benefits.
The program was originally developed in the 1980s to address the needs of thousands of children in Southeast Asia without a parent or guardian to care for them. Since 1980, almost 13,000 minors have entered the URM program. At its peak in 1985, ORR provided protection to 3,828 children in care. Now in various States, ORR has about 700 children in care. While most children are placed in licensed foster homes, other licensed care settings are utilized according to children’s individual needs, such as therapeutic foster care, group homes, residential treatment centers, and independent living programs.
The program establishes legal responsibility, under State law, to ensure that unaccompanied minor refugees and entrants receive the full range of assistance, care, and services which are available to all foster children in the State; a legal authority is designated to act in place of the child’s unavailable parent(s). Reunification of children with their parents or other appropriate adult relatives is encouraged, through family tracing and coordination with local refugee resettlement agencies. Additional services provided include: indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing, medical care and other necessities; intensive case management by social workers; independent living skills training; educational supports; English language training; career/college counseling and training; mental health services; assistance adjusting immigration status; cultural activities; recreational opportunities; support for social integration; and cultural and religious preservation.
Refugee children who enter the U.S. with family but experience a family breakdown may be eligible to participate in the URM program. ORR’s State Letters on reclassification to URM status provide the standards used to determine if such a child may access the program.
Children eligible for the URM Program are under age 18, are unaccompanied, and are:
- Victims of Trafficking
Two lead voluntary agencies− Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service (LIRS) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) − help ORR with the unaccompanied refugee minor program.
These agencies conduct several important functions for the URM program. They identify eligible children in need of URM services; provide technical assistance in the reclassification process; determine appropriate placements for children among their national networks of affiliated agencies; and conduct training, research and technical assistance on URM services.
Phoenix, AZ; Southern California; San Jose, CA; Denver, CO; Washington, DC; Miami, FL; Boston/Worchester, MA; Lansing, MI; Grand Rapids, MI; Jackson, MS; Fargo, ND; Rochester, NY; Syracuse, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; Richmond, VA; Tacoma, WA; Seattle, WA.
For more information, contact the appropriate State Refugee Coordinator.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Information
- State Letter: Eligibility for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program for Children Granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status by the Department of Homeland Security
- 45 CFR Part 400, Subpart H Child Welfare Services;
- Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 412 (a) (6);
- INA section 412 (d) (2) (A);
- INA section 412 (d) (2) (B);
- Title V of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980;
- State Letter #01-27 Policy Issuance: Re-classification to Unaccompanied Minor Program
- State Letter #02-07 Reclassification of Unaccompanied Minors
- Statement of Goals, Priorities, Standards, and Guidelines
- State Letter #09-09 Clarification of Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Eligibility for Chafee (Independent Living) Funds and Education and Training Vouchers (ETV)
ORR-3 Unaccompanied Minors Placement (PDF 38KB) (XLS 80KB)
Initial Placement w/in 30 days
Change Status w/in 60 days
- ORR-4 Unaccompanied Minors Progress (PDF 81KB) (XLS 112KB)
Mail Progress and Financial Reports to
Office of Refugee Resettlement, ACF
370 L'Enfant Promenade SW, 8th Floor
Washington, DC 20447
Attn: DRA or DCR as appropriate
Office of Financial Management, ACF
370 L'Enfant Promenade SW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20447
Attn: Joe Lonergan
Key: Office of Refugee Resettlement
DRA - Division of Refugee Assistance
DCR - Division of Community Resettlement
OFM - Office of Financial Managment
DBPDA - Division of Budget, Policy, and Data Analysis