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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
Division of Children’s Services
Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
901 D Street, SW
Washington, DC 20447