Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) serves unaccompanied children in two distinct programs: the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program (URM) and the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Program.

The URM program serves some of the most vulnerable minors in the world — those who were fleeing persecution, violence, or abuse, and entered the United States without a parent or custodian. In 2017, minors and youth served in the program represented more than 50 nationalities.

ORR provides foster care placement and services to unaccompanied refugee minors and other special populations of youth in the United States.

Bridging child welfare experience with expertise in refugee resettlement, the program is uniquely shaped to care for minors with forced migration and traumatic experiences.

The program works with states and local URM providers to provide unaccompanied refugee minors with necessary care and services. With support from ORR, states administer and oversee the program and ensure program and fiscal requirements are met.

The program relies on engagement from a wide range of community members including foster parents, mentors, former unaccompanied refugee minors, volunteers, leaders of faith communities, ethnic community leaders, teachers and coaches, business owners and many others.

Qualifying Populations

Initially, only unaccompanied minors with refugee status identified overseas were eligible for the URM program. Over time, Congress has expanded eligibility to other populations.

Eligible opulations include:

  • Refugees
  • Asylees
  • Cuban or Haitian entrants
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles
  • Victims of Human Trafficking
  • U-Status recipients

With the exception of refugees referred by the U.S. Department of State, ORR requires all other eligible minors to go through an application process for placement and services. Based on the minor’s best interests and availability of appropriate placement options, ORR determines whether a minor can enter the URM program.

Services Provided to Minors

Programs focus on the safety, education, well-being, and self-sufficiency of minors in their care. Services are based on state child welfare requirements.

Programs may provide:

  • Indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing and other necessities
  • Intensive case management services by social workers
  • English language training and education
  • Independent living skill development
  • Educational Training Vouchers
  • Health, dental, and mental health care
  • Job training and career development skills
  • Cultural orientation and social integration
  • Preservation of ethnic and religious heritage
  • Safety planning
  • Coordination of immigration assistance
  • Family tracing and reunification

Reunification

The program encourages reunification of minors with their parents or other appropriate adult relatives whenever possible. Minors whose parents are deceased, untraceable, or inappropriate due to abuse or neglect may be placed in foster care for a long-term basis. Other placement options include group homes, semi-independent living, independent living, placement with a relative, and residential treatment facilities.

Providers

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, help with the placement services for all eligible populations. These two agencies coordinate placements with local URM providers.

Unaccompanied refugee minors are served by the local providers in 15 states

  • ​​​​​​​Phoenix, Arizona
  • San Jose, Fullerton, and Sacramento, California
  • Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Washington, DC
  • Miami, Florida
  • Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Grand Rapids and Lansing, Michigan
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Rochester and Syracuse, New York
  • Fargo, North Dakota
  • Roslyn, Pennsylvania
  • Houston and Fort Worth, Texas
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane, Washington

The program is funded by ORR’s Cash and Medical Assistance grant to certain States through State Refugee Coordinators’ offices. The State offices then fund the local URM providers.

Contact the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program