The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program (URMP) takes responsibility for refugee children who arrive in the U.S. with no parent or guardian. The program places the minors in foster care with specially-trained local families and provides culturally and linguistically appropriate social services support. This includes:
  • training foster families
  • assisting the minors with educational and medical issues
  • helping these refugee children to adjust to life in America
  • preparing them to live independently as adults

The program began in 1995, when MORI and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) agreed to provide unaccompanied refugee minors with the same range of child welfare benefits and services available to other children in Massachusetts who require such services. The benefits and services allowed may include:

  • foster care maintenance payments (room, board, and clothing)
  • medical assistance
  • expenses incurred in establishing legal responsibility

Under the agreement, an unaccompanied refugee minor is defined as (1) someone designated by the USCIS as a refugee according to the Refugee Act of 1980 and (2) someone under age 18 (or a child over 18 who qualifies for child welfare services in Massachusetts under certain conditions of the Social Security Act), who entered the United States as a refugee unaccompanied by either a parent, an adult relative willing to serve as the child's guardian, or an otherwise legally qualified guardian.

MORI and DCF work together to provide a smooth transition for unaccompanied refugee children. DCF contracts Lutheran Social Services of New England (LSSNE) to provide direct services to the refugee minors. The enrollment ceiling is currently at 125 slots. LSS has offices in both Worcester and Wellesley, and serves minors throughout the state.

Currently in 2009, there are 90 minors in the program. The ethnic breakdown of the refugee minors is very diverse: 2 Afghani , 29 Burmese, 2 Chinese, 12 Congolese, 2 El Salvadoran, 4 Guatemalan, 6 Honduran, 1 Indian, 9 Liberian, 4 Mexican, 1 Rwandan , 2 Somali, 14 Sudanese,1 Ukrainian, and 1 Zimbabwean.

To find out more about becoming a foster parent for an unaccompanied refugee minor child, please view www.lssne.org/Children-and-Families/Foster-Care/Becoming-a-Foster-Parent.aspx.

For definitions of terms used by the Office for Refugees and Immigrants, please view the Glossary .


This information is provided by the Office for Refugees and Immigrants.