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ORR Guide to Eligibility, Placement, and Services for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM): Introduction

Published: October 17, 2016


The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) Program provides specialized foster care for refugees and other special populations of youth. Originally, the program provided services for refugee minors arriving from overseas unaccompanied by a parent or adult relative. Over the years, Congress passed laws making other populations already in the United States eligible for the URM Program.

The URM Program is administered by participating states and funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). The URM Program operates in 15 different states, and provides the same range of child welfare benefits and services available to other foster children in those states, as well as services required by ORR regulations.1 URM placements include foster homes, therapeutic foster homes, group care, supervised independent living, and other settings appropriate to meet a youth’s needs, such as residential treatment facilities.

Services in the URM Program may include:

  • Case management,
  • Family tracing and reunification,
  • Health care,
  • Mental health services,
  • Social adjustment,
  • English language training,
  • Education and vocational training,
  • Career planning and employment,
  • Preparation for independent living and social integration,
  • Preservation of cultural and religious heritage, and
  • Assistance adjusting immigration status.

A minor must enter the program before the age of 18 because the process requires a state, county or URM provider to petition a court for legal responsibility of the minor. Depending on the state, foster care services end between the ages of 18 and 21 years old. Some states permit a youth to remain in foster care after the age of 18 by signing a voluntary agreement to extend placement and services, or by other means.

After a youth ages out of foster care, he or she may qualify for additional independent living services, if the youth meets program criteria. Available benefits and services vary by state. Many independent living benefits and services can last until age 21, and support for education and/or vocational training can sometimes be extended to age 24.


1. For more information see state child and family service plans under Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, as well as 45 CFR 400.110 – 120.