How Foster Care Works?

Transitional Foster Care

LIRS partners with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to place especially vulnerable children–children under 12, pregnant teens, and at-risk youth–who have crossed the border alone into transitional foster care homes.

While LIRS has traditionally served children who have crossed the U.S. border alone, under the 2018 “zero tolerance policy,” children who were separated from their parents at the border were also classified as unaccompanied children. Putting our expertise to work during the family separation crisis, LIRS provided immediate care and counseling for nearly 150 separated children while supporting efforts to reunite them with their parents.

For children who make the journey without their loved ones, LIRS works to connect them with existing family in the United States. In these instances, our case workers work to contact these family members and assess their willingness and suitability to care for the child. These family members, and close family friends, are called “sponsors.” (Read more about our family reunification work.)

If a sponsor cannot be found, and the child is a likely candidate for asylum or legal status, they may be transferred to a long-term foster care home.

Long-Term Foster Care

Some children who come to the United States do not have any family or family friends who are able to provide care for them. In these cases, the children may be placed in Long-Term Foster Care with LIRS, where they will enjoy the benefits of a loving, stable family until early adulthood.  

Children in our Long-Term Foster Care network typically come to the US fleeing domestic abuse, gang violence, or trafficking — and all children are afforded legal representation to pursue a more stable, permanent life in the U.S. by seeking legal protective status.

As they cope with the uncertainties of the U.S. immigration system, these children are surrounded by a loving and supportive foster family. They will go to school, they will engage in sports and other activities, and they will seek to live their lives as they await their determination from an immigration court.  

In some cases, children in Long-Term Foster Care may apply for Unaccompanied Refugee Minor status, which affords them more security as they rebuild their lives around a loving foster family.

Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

LIRS is one of only two organizations that works with the government to support unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs).

Our URM foster care programming is catered to a uniquely vulnerable population. Many of the youth we serve through this program have lost parents and family members to systemic violence in their home countries — and they are often approved for refugee resettlement overseas.

Other vulnerable children may apply for URM status from within the U.S. — in fact we have seen a steady population of URMs travel up through our southern border to seek safety — and receive the same long term support through our URM programming.

Having endured unimaginable trauma, these children typically face obstacles to integration, but, with the loving support of their foster families, they tend to display great resilience as they work toward being independent and self-sufficient Americans.

Support Services

Once the children have settled into their new homes, we offer a range of support to their families help the children transition to life in the United States–from educational support and English language training to legal, health, and mental health services, cultural activities and religious preservation.

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