By the time she was just 15 years old, Estelle had experienced unspeakable things in her home country in Central America, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world. She had witnessed violence, murder and threats from the gangs in her community. To have those experiences as an adult would be devastating, let alone as a child.
In hopes of finding safety, Estelle and her mother fled their home for the United States. Unfortunately, after traveling thousands of miles by bus, they were separated and unable to find each other again. Estelle continued her journey to the U.S. and entered as an unaccompanied minor.
Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program
Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) program allows foreign-born children to enter foster care when they do not have a legal guardian in the U.S. Like Estelle, these youth are escaping violence, poverty, and political and/or religious persecution in their home country. The program addresses the challenges and loss that each unaccompanied minor faces, offering individualized foster care, legal aid, healthcare, counseling and case management.
When she first arrived in the U.S., Estelle was placed at a children’s shelter for unaccompanied minors. After several months, she was welcomed into the Long-Term Foster Care (LTFC) program at Catholic Charities. During this time, Estelle had no idea where her mother was and worried for her safety every day.
A New Life in the United States
In the meantime, Estelle began to adjust to her new home. She was placed into a caring foster home and enrolled in school. She began learning English and playing on the school soccer team, embracing the sense of freedom and safety she never had back home.
Eventually, Estelle’s case manager was able to connect her with the American Red Cross, which located her mother. Although her mother was unable to complete the journey to the U.S., Estelle finally got to speak with her on the phone.
A Successful Future Ahead
Since then, Estelle has grown into a successful young adult. She now has a large group of friends, is prepared to graduate high school within the next year and a half, and works two jobs. Estelle is getting ready to move into her own apartment and learning how to drive.
Estelle’s foster parent has been instrumental in preparing her for independence. The days of violence are far behind her. Her resilience, perseverance, and ability to see beyond the inhumanity she experienced are an inspiration.
If you’re interested in supporting our work with unaccompanied minors, give online or through our Amazon Charity List.