State Letter #01-27
Reclassification of Unaccompanied Minors
TO: STATE REFUGEE COORDINATORS
FROM: Carmel Clay-Thompson
Office of Refugee Resettlement
SUBJECT: Policy Issuance: Re-classification to Unaccompanied Minor Program
Over the past year, several thousand youth from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya have arrived in the U.S. under the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Nearly five hundred of these youth—under age 18 at the time of arrival in the U.S.—were resettled through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program. The remainder—about 3,500—were resettled in the U.S. under the regular refugee program.
The youths in the URM program are eligible for a wide range of benefits and services until age 18, or a higher age established by the State of resettlement in its child welfare plan under Part IV-B of the Social Security Act for the availability of child welfare services. Most of the States with URM affiliates sites allow youth to continue their education for a year or more after age 18. The youths over age 18 at the time of arrival, on the other hand, face the need for immediate employment and early self-sufficiency and, therefore, more limited opportunities for educational advancement.
The sharp division of the youths into two separate programs opens an issue about the accuracy of the dates of birth for these children. Some evidence suggests that the accuracy of these dates may be very low. Of the 90 youths recorded in the ORR database before the end of calendar year 2000, 89 recorded a birth date of January 1. These dates of birth apparently were chosen based on the best estimates of staff of the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Over the past several months, several States have requested that ORR reclassify youths as unaccompanied minors based on documentation that has surfaced since their arrival in the U.S. In order to provide for an equitable process of re-determining age eligibility for the URM program, ORR is establishing a formal policy regarding the submission of such documents. Beginning immediately, a request for re-classification to unaccompanied minor status based on a re-determination of age must be accompanied by as much of the following documentation as the local agency can obtain:
- An affidavit from the youth as to how old he is and why he believes that he is that age.
- An explanation from the youth or from knowledgeable other persons relating how the incorrect birth date was recorded in official records and by whom.
- An explanation from the youth or other persons of how the alternative birth date was derived.
- Where alternative documentation emerges which indicates that the affiant is younger than the age documented in INS records, an explanation of who obtained the alternative documentation (such as a birth certificate), the official authority from which it was obtained, and the line of custody of the alternative documentation since that time.
- An explanation of why the youth did not use the alternative documentation to correct official records in the Kakuma camp, if it was available at the time.
- A statement from the program director or the caseworker as to the general appearance of the youth and the opinions of staff, volunteers, and other youth as to his actual age, based on an assessment of the youth’s emotional and physical development.
- The professional opinion of a doctor, dentist, or other health professional in support of the youth’s claim based on objective medical findings, such as dental exams, wrist x-rays or bone scans.
- Where appropriate, a photocopy of the discovered birth document and a description from agency staff describing the appearance and credibility of the document.
With these documents, the Director will determine whether the preponderance of evidence merits a change in date of birth and re-classification to unaccompanied minor status.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Loren Bussert of my staff by telephone at (202) 401-4732, by E-mail at LBUSSERT@ACF.DHHS.GOV , or by fax at (202) 401-4587.