Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program

The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program provides culturally and linguistically appropriate foster care and independent living placements for refugee-eligible unaccompanied minors in the United States. The goals of the URM program are first to reunify program youth with family or kin and second to provide programming that facilitates social, cultural and economic integration.  

Although some of the first unaccompanied children placed in Colorado were Cuban in the 1960s, the URM program was developed in 1979 to address the needs of thousands of children in Southeast Asia without a parent or guardian to care for them. Nationally, the URM program is implemented through a partnership between the United States Department of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Office of Refugee Resettlement by placing these children in foster placements through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Human Services administers the URM program through a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Refugee Services Program and the Division of Child Welfare. The program began in El Paso County in 2008 through foster placements at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains. Currently, youth in the URM program are placed all along the Front Range in the custody of El Paso County and Denver County Departments of Human Service. Funding for the URM program comes from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. URM programs administered by states differ from the federally administered Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program, operated through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  Learn more about the differences between these programs.

URM Eligibility

The URM program is fully funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which determines eligibility for the program. Learn more about the eligibility requirements on ORR’s website. Applications for the URM Program must be submitted to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Learn more about the application process.

  • Refugee children and youth live outside the United States are accepted into the URM program through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration;
  • Children and youth in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Unaccompanied Alien Children’s program must be determined unaccompanied (i.e. without a parent or guardian) by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and younger than age 18 at the time they enroll in the program; and
  • Refugee minors can become eligible for the URM program after arrival in the U.S. through a reclassification process (e.g. following family breakdown or a death in the family, etc.). ​

Eligible youth for the URM program must have an eligible legal status:

  • Refugees,
  • Asylees,
  • Cuban and Haitian Entrants,
  • Victims of Trafficking (T-visa for T-Visa eligibility letter),
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJS) meeting certain criteria,
  • and U Status Recipients (victims of a qualifying crime).