Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

The Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program provides culturally and linguistically appropriate child welfare, foster care and independent living services to minors who do not have parents in the United States (U.S.), or who enter the U.S. unaccompanied by a parent, an immediate adult relative or an adult having documentable legal evidence of custody of the minor.  Refugee children who enter the U.S. with family, but later experience a family breakdown may be eligible for the URM program. 

Please note:  The state administered URM program differs from the federally administered Unaccompanied Children (UC) program, operated through the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) .

Populations served by the URM program include:

  • Refugees;
  • Cuban/Haitian entrants;
  • Asylees;
  • Victims of human trafficking who have an ORR eligibility letter;
  • Non-citizen victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes who have been granted a U-Visa from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and meet all other eligibility requirements, or;
  • Minors who have received Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) while in ORR’s custody.

A youth must be less than 18 years of age to enter the program and ORR determines program eligibility.  The URM program is 100 percent federally-funded through ORR for foster care type benefits and services and assists the unaccompanied youths in developing appropriate skills to enter adulthood and achieve social and economic self-sufficiency, as described in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program Fact Sheet.

Two lead resettlement agencies, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, assist ORR with the URM program by conducting several important functions.  They identify eligible children in need of URM services; determine appropriate placements for children among their national networks of affiliated agencies; and conduct training, research and technical assistance on URM services.  Affiliates of these two voluntary agencies contract with state refugee programs to become URM service providers.

Since April 2004, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), Refugee Programs Bureau (RPB) has administered the California URM program, contracting with two URM service providers:  Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (CCSCC), a USCCB affiliate based in San Jose, Santa Clara County, and Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF), a LIRS affiliate based in Fullerton, Orange County.  Both CCSCC and CSCF place URM youth in the counties surrounding Santa Clara County and Orange County.

Under Title 45 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 400.112[a], states are mandated to provide foster care and child welfare services to URMs that are equivalent to those provided to mainstream foster youth.  Additionally, states must provide child welfare services to URMs according to the state’s child welfare standards, practices and procedures. 

Contact Information

California Department of Social Services
Office of Immigrant Youth, MS 9-6-646
P.O. Box 944243
Sacramento, CA 94244-2430
Email: URM@dss.ca.gov
Phone: (916) 654-4356
Fax: (916) 654-7187

Information and Resources

For more information and resources visit the Office of Immigrant Youth and the Refugee Programs Bureau websites. This resource is designed to assist county eligibility workers and other partners who provide services to the public.

If you are a member of the public we encourage you to apply online at BenefitsCal or contact your county social services agency.