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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.

Friday, 03 June 2022

Fostering Refugee Youth

Written by Abigail Verdugo

Everyone fears the unknown. Our minds imagine every way that things could go wrong and we find comfort in doing things that feel familiar. It helps us feel safe and in control.

Mary Kaech is no exception.

Mary went through the licensing process to foster unaccompanied minors while she was pregnant with her first child.

Unaccompanied minors are youth with refugee status, T or U Visa status, Special Immigration Juvenile Status, and child victims of human trafficking without a guardian able to care for them. Mary knew she wanted to be a foster parent someday, but she took time to focus on the new chapter she was embarking on with her newborn and husband.

When Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care program called Mary and asked her and her husband to take in a 17-year-old girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she was unsure of what to do. “I was a bit hesitant, of course, fearing the unknown. Who is this girl? What exactly went on in her old foster home? What if we don’t get along? Am I putting my baby in danger?” Mary thought.

However, her hesitance was mistaken.

A Place to Belong

Mary now has one Congolese daughter, one Afghan son and two biological daughters. Reflecting on her experience, Mary emphasized precious memories and impactful lessons she learned from fostering her unaccompanied refugee son and daughter.

“One night, a few months ago, our Afghan son came home from work and told us how good it feels to know that he belongs somewhere, that we’re waiting for him to come home…I am beginning to learn about the pain so many people feel when they can’t find a place to belong,” Mary said. This was a special memory and lesson she holds dear to her heart.

Mary believes standing in for children’s parents when their parents can’t be there is important. “I do this for the youth, of course, but perhaps even more so, I do it for their mothers. It’s hard for us to imagine living in a war zone or under the rule of the Taliban. But if you go there with your imagination, you realize that if you could no longer protect your beloved child…you would do anything to keep them safe,” Mary said.

Fearing the unknown is a valid reaction to an unfamiliar experience like Mary’s. Luckily, there is support to help in the endeavors that come with fostering unaccompanied minors.

Catholic Charities Supports Foster Parents

Mary has been a foster parent for unaccompanied refugee minors for five years with Catholic Charities. “They have a staff member on call 24/7, should we ever need support, and they listen well. I feel like we are part of a team that has the youth’s best interests at heart,” said Mary.

Perhaps, if we let go of our fears, we may uncover a series of blessings and experiences we never knew we needed in our lives. “Never once have I regretted fostering unaccompanied minors. However, very frequently, I’m taken aback and think to myself, ‘I can’t believe I almost missed this. I can’t believe we almost said no,’ and I just shake my head,” said Mary.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help unaccompanied minor youth, please contact Ruthanne Hopkins at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 602-647-8154.

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