Services for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors: Select Findings from a Descriptive Study

Publication Date: July 2, 2021
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  • Pages: 12
  • Published: 2021


Research Questions

  1. What are the characteristics of populations served by the URM Program and how are services for each target population implemented?
  2. What do we know about how different URM programs administer benefits and services for refugee youth?

The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) Program serves refugees and other eligible youth within the United States who do not have a parent or relative available to care for them. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families awarded MEF Associates and its subcontractor, Child Trends, a contract to conduct a descriptive study of the URM Program to better understand the range of child welfare services and benefits provided through the URM Program. This research brief summarizes the types of services provided to URM youth and factors that affect service delivery, which are discussed in more detail in the Final Report of the Descriptive Study of the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program: Service Provision, Trends, and Evaluation Recommendations


This brief summarizes the characteristics of the youth served by the program, services provided to youth, and factors affecting service delivery. It is intended to accompany the Final Report from the Descriptive Study of the URM Program, which provides further detail on each of these topics as well as the potential for future evaluation of the URM program. These findings are most relevant to those involved in operating the URM Program and providing services to URM youth, but may also be of interest to those who serve other youth who are recent immigrants or refugees.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • All local URM programs offer a comprehensive set of services to youth, either internally, through external partners, or both. These services include out-of-home placements, case management, physical and mental health services, education support, and services to support a successful transition to adulthood.
  • Programs vary in how they provide services to youth due to differences between programs, in state and local context and policies, and the characteristics of youth served.
  • Youth experiences in the URM Program vary depending on their strengths, needs, and past experiences, as service providers tailor services to individual youth.


The brief draws from qualitative data collected through site visits to six URM programs, in which the research team conducted semi-structured interviews with URM program staff and community partners, as well as focus groups with a total of 45 URM youth and 56 URM foster parents. This report also incorporates findings from our surveys of URM program directors (23 respondents), State Refugee Coordinators (14 respondents), and child welfare administrators (four survey respondents and four semi-structured interviews). The report also includes findings from an analysis of program data that included characteristics of URM youth who entered the Program from FY 2014 to FY 2018 and information on the services provided to these youth.


Williams, S.C. & O’Meara, M. (2021). Services for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors: Select Findings from a Descriptive Study, OPRE Report #2021-80, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.