About Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

Through its network of caretakers, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program (URM) helps unaccompanied refugee minors develop appropriate skills to enter adulthood and to achieve social self-sufficiency.

Background
URM 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.  For refugee minors, the State Department identifies 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. ORR also identifies certain minors who may become eligible for the URM program after they arrive in the United States and do not have a parent or a relative available to provide care. The majority of these minors identified by ORR within the U.S., originate as unaccompanied alien children (UACs) and are referred to the URM program once they meet all of the eligibility requirements.

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 1300 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.

Program Description
The URM 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(s). Our programs encourage reunification of children with their parents or other appropriate adult relatives through family tracing and coordination with local refugee resettlement agencies. However, if reunification is not possible, each program works to design a case specific permanency plan for each minor or youth in care.

Additional services we provide 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 including educational training vouchers (ETVs)
  • English language training
  • Career/college counseling and training
  • Mental health services
  • Assistance adjusting immigration status
  • Cultural activities
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Support for social integration
  • 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 as well. 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:

  • Refugees
  • Entrants
  • Asylees
  • Victims of Trafficking
  • Certain minors with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • U visa holders

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:

  • 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
  • Conduct training, research and technical assistance on URM services.

Geographic Locations

Phoenix, AZ; Fullerton, CA; 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; Fort Worth, TX; Houston, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; Richmond, VA; Tacoma, WA; Seattle, WA.

Contact Information
URM Program
Division of Children’s Services
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
901 D Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447
Fax: 202.401.5487
Email: Urmprogram@acf.hhs.gov