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Catholic Charities assists refugees and immigrants that are legally in the United States. Our Refugee Resettlement program supports refugees who flee their country of origin, often running from violence, war and persecution, to save their lives. They are granted refugee status by the United Nations due to a well-founded case of persecution and cleared for entrance to America by our Department of Homeland Security.

Our Immigration Legal Services team helps reunite those in the U.S. legally with minor children and spouses who remain in their country of origin. Many of those we assist are refugees — those granted refugee status by the United Nations and invited here by the U.S. Federal Government — to reunite with their spouses and minor children. We also help U.S. citizens and those with legal residency secure residency for their spouses and/or children.

Thursday, 13 June 2024

Foster Mom’s Experience as a Refugee Helps Her Care for Unaccompanied Minors

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Foster parent Elizabeth Aguer inspires others with her warm smile and positivity, despite having experienced struggles that would break most people. As a refugee from South Sudan, she understands the trials of fleeing one’s home and finding refuge in the U.S.

When Elizabeth’s husband was killed in the war in South Sudan, she was left to care for her newborn son by herself. She walked hundreds of miles to Uganda, where she stayed in a refugee camp for six years. Then she moved to a refugee camp in Kenya, where she waited eight years to finally resettle in Phoenix, Ariz.

Building a Life in the U.S.

Adjusting to the U.S. was yet another test of Elizabeth’s resilience. She worked night shifts for many years and braided hair to bring in extra income. She did all this while taking classes to learn English and saving up to purchase a home.

She now owns a convenience store where she sells products native to countries like Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Sudan. She is well known for her hair braiding skills and offers these services at her store.

Finding Purpose with the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program

Because she grew up as the eldest of nine siblings, Elizabeth always had someone in her care, whether it was her siblings, a niece or nephew, or her son. Her nurturing spirit and experience as a refugee led her to foster youth through Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program.

The URM program licenses and trains foster homes to care for foreign-born children in the U.S. without a legal guardian. It also helps with legal aid, healthcare, counseling and case management to support unaccompanied minors and their foster families.

Becoming Part of a Loving Family

Elizabeth has lost many family members due to war. Fostering allows her and her kids to feel like part of a family. They may not be biologically related to her, but they are hers.

“When we go out together, people ask me, ‘Are these your kids?’ I say, ‘Yes, they really are,’” adds Elizabeth.

Making Connections Through Firsthand Experience

She has a strong understanding of what her kids are going through when they arrive in the U.S. She likes to cook food that’s familiar to her kids to provide them comfort and let them know she cares.

“I am here to listen to the kids’ stories about their life and how they made it to the U.S. I know what it is like,” Elizabeth states.

Elizabeth hopes to be an example to her kids of how it’s possible to accomplish your dreams, even if you start with very few resources in a country far from home. “I tell the boys that no matter what you have been through, you can succeed in the U.S. if you work hard and stay focused,” she says.

Start Your Journey as a Foster Parent

Are you interested in fostering through Catholic Charities? If so, check out our available programs to learn more.

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Ruthanne Hopkins

Ruthanne Hopkins has worked with Catholic Charities' Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care program for two years. She has lived overseas and enjoys the richness of different cultures. She has 20 years of experience working with refugees.