Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day. Since our June theme is international child welfare, we decided to highlight a program in the United States that helps unaccompanied refugee minors, in honor of this day.
The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program, overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, "helps unaccompanied minor refugees develop appropriate skills to enter adulthood and to achieve social self-sufficiency" through placement in licensed care settings (mostly licensed foster homes, though the child's needs may dictate other placements, such as therapeutic foster care, group homes, residential treatment centers, and independent living programs). Eligible children must be under 18 years of age, unaccompanied, and either a refugee, entrant, asylee, or a victim of trafficking. In some cases, a refugee child who entered the U.S. with his/her family may become eligible if he/she experiences a family breakdown. Since its inception, the program has enrolled nearly 13,000 children; currently, there are about 700 refugee children in ORR's care.
According to ORR's website, the program ensures that unaccompanied refugee minors
"receive the full range of assistance, care, and services which are available to all foster children in the State...Reunification of children with their parents or other appropriate adult relatives is encouraged, through family tracing and coordination with local refugee resettlement agencies. Additional services provided include: indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing, medical care and other necessities; intensive case management by social workers; independent living skills training; educational supports; English language training; career/college counseling and training; mental health services; assistance adjusting immigration status; cultural activities; recreational opportunities; support for social integration; and cultural and religious preservation."
This program would not be in existence, however, if it were not for the following policies put in place to guide its implementation:
- 45 CFR Part 400, Subpart H Child Welfare Services: Office of Refugee Resettlement child welfare regulations
- Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 412 (a) (6): Mandates that states develop a plan that provides "for the care and supervision of and legal responsibility for unaccompanied refugee children in the State" in order to receive assistance
- INA section 412 (d) (2) (A): States may receive assistance and reimbursement, and grants and contracts may be provided for public and private nonprofit agencies, for child welfare services (including foster care maintenance payments and services and health care) provided to any refugee child for the first 3 years the child is in the U.S
- INA section 412 (d) (2) (B): Extends the previous section to until the age of 18 (rather than just the first 3 years); requires the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement to assume legal and financial responsibility for the unaccompanied refugee minor during interim periods (while the child is in transit to the U.S. or has just arrived but has not yet been placed); allows the Director to arrange for placement of the child; requires a list to be created of all unaccompanied children since April 1, 1975, including their parents' names and addresses at time of arrival and the child's location, status, and progress
- Title V of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980: Includes Cuban and Haitian nationals as persons eligible for refugee assistance
Also, check out the following documents as they were written for the State Refugee Coordinators to guide them in their work:
- State Letter #01-27 Policy Issuance: Re-classification to Unaccompanied Minor Program
- State Letter #02-07 Reclassification of Unaccompanied Minors
- Statement of Goals, Priorities, Standards, and Guidelines
- State Letter #09-09 Clarification of Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Eligibility for Chafee (Independent Living) Funds and Education and Training Vouchers (ETV)