Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care Program

Unaccompanied Refugee
Minor Foster Care

About Catholic Charities’ Program

A holistic, culturally competent program that provides safety and stability for unaccompanied refugee minors and their foster families.

Hussain was born in Iran to Afghan parents. At the age of 14 he returned to Afghanistan with his family. Within a year he was orphaned and forced to flee for his safety. He trekked through seven countries before finally finding safety at the age of 17 in Phoenix with the Unaccompanied Minor Program.

Unaccompanied refugee minors arrive in an unfamiliar environment without a parent or adult caregiver, have limited English language skills, and are experiencing the loss and pain of being separated from their families. They are vulnerable and in need of long-term care to help meet their physical, mental, emotional and social needs.

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Catholic Charities
Foster and Adoption Support

What are Unaccompanied Minors?

Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care Program | Catholic CharitiesUnaccompanied minors are youth who have fled their homeland to escape political and/or religious persecution, and often seek safety in a refugee camp of a neighboring country.

“I am grateful for the support from the program. It is a safe place for me, and I feel like I am part of a family. They have helped me to learn how to overcome personal challenges, and also connected me with school programs and other programs in the community.” – Refugee Male Youth*

*Name withheld for privacy



Catholic Charities Provides Ongoing Support to Refugee Youth

The Catholic Charities program addresses the specific challenges and loss that each unaccompanied refugee minor faces. The services provided include individualized foster care, legal aid, healthcare, counseling, and case management. Our compassionate case managers provide trauma-informed care and help youth overcome language barriers while maintaining their cultural identity and cultural integration into their new home.

Case management helps ensure that each unaccompanied refugee minor:

  • Has the ability to practice their beliefs, religion, or spirituality
  • Preserves their own cultural identity while adapting to life in the United States
  • Has the resources to pursue the vocational and professional education they enjoy
  • Has knowledge about economic independence and independent living
  • Has the ability to participate in and feel connected to the community

Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care Program | Catholic Charities“It has been a privilege to walk with the youth on their journey. When they arrive, they are scared and don’t know what to expect. I have enjoyed helping them grow and start making their own decisions, then moving out of foster care to their own apartments, becoming self-sufficient and ready to take the next steps of their journey as they become successful individuals contributing to society.”

- Judy Alvidrez, Case Manager, Unaccompanied Minor Program

Fostering Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

Although our goal is always to reunite youth with their biological families, unfortunately refugee minors usually need long-term foster care since reunification with family members is rarely possible. Catholic Charities is a licensed child welfare agency that has provided foster care for unaccompanied refugee youth since 1984. In that time, we have served hundreds of minors from more than 30 countries.

There is an urgent need for families who are willing and able to share their home with these youth. Foster families are provided with free training to become licensed in the state of Arizona. The youth have insurance to cover medical needs, and foster parents are provided with a foster care stipend to cover the expenses of adding a new member to the family.

Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Minor Foster Care Program differs from traditional foster care in that it provides a unique supportive environment for both the foster family and the unaccompanied refugee minor. Their support system includes mentors, case managers, former unaccompanied youth, volunteers, community members, and more.

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“I’m not sure I have the words to express the gift that these refugee teenagers have brought to our lives. Not only has our sense of gratitude continued to grow with each difficult life story we hear, but my four young children are immersed each day with the beautiful lives of kids who don’t look like them or talk like them. We learn about their religion, culture, amazing food, and traditions, and we are forever richer people because of it. I knew that our family would bring these refugee teenagers safety, love, and stability, but I would have never guessed the unexpected blessings they would bring to our lives.”

- Lisa and Joe, Foster Parents

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