The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program, operating since the mid-1970s, is the only program of its kind in the world—unique in its fusion of child welfare and refugee protection by incorporating unaccompanied children into the United States’ existing child welfare framework through agencies with expertise in serving children and families with forced migration experiences. The URM program embodies the core ideals of U.S. domestic and foreign policies by offering protection to the most vulnerable and promoting the integration of unaccompanied children into local communities.
Currently, 23 URM programs operate in 15 states. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) are the two national resettlement agencies that are authorized by the U.S. Department of State to place unaccompanied refugee minors throughout the national URM network.
Initially developed to serve unaccompanied refugee minors, the URM program has evolved along with patterns of conflict and forced displacement, and today it serves refugee, asylee, Cuban/Haitian Entrants, survivors of human trafficking, children with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and U visa recipients. Most often, children referred to the program have parents who are deceased, untraceable, or for whom family reunification is not viable due to war,civil unrest, or unresolvable child maltreatment, however, family tracing and reunification efforts continue after placement. URMs are not generally eligible for adoption as it is often difficult to prove child’s parents are deceased or to terminate parental rights given the nature of the conflicts.
Unique Service Approach URM programs follow the same state laws and regulations that govern domestic foster care. In addition, URM programs provide trauma-informed
services specific to the needs of a foreign-born child who has encountered a
forced migration experience, to include integration while preserving heritage
culture and religion, development of independent living skills, English
language acquisition, educational needs and goals, and employment
preparation. URM programs are developed by agencies that have experience
with reception, placement, and integration of refugees and immigrants.
Each URM program is a state-licensed child placing agency that enters into a
contract with its state refugee coordinator’s office. The state refugee
coordinator’s office oversees the administration of the URM program, and the
program is also monitored regularly by state child welfare authorities. Program
services are 100 percent reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services/Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR). In addition to their role as the national placement agencies, USCCB and LIRS serve as an ongoing resource for the programs offering case consultation, training, and program development assistance.
If you need further help entering the kindness movement and supporting children, contact Beth Klein, Attorney Boulder 303-448-8884.