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Children, Youth, and Family Services

Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Foster Care

In 1974, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) resettled a 10-year-old child from Cambodia who needed open heart surgery to survive. This was the first documented case of an unaccompanied refugee minor entering the organization's care. A local hospital unfortunately cancelled the operation as it didn't have the funds to cover it. LSSNCA guaranteed the hospital payment of $7,000 if they performed the operation. Over the course of the next year, LSSNCA paid off this bill. This dedication and generosity continues today with open doors to those seeking assistance.

Funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area’s (LSSNCA) Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) program creates loving and responsible foster homes for youth who fled war and persecution and arrived in the United States without parents or legal guardians. LSSNCA’s program ensures eligible unaccompanied refugee children receive the full range of assistance, care, and services available to all foster children in Virginia and Washington, D.C. LSSNCA is also authorized to place children in Maryland for the D.C. program.

In 2019, 27 refugee youth were served through our URM programming and 31 parents were trained in foster care. We are currently placing Afghan youth, and we have Afghan foster parents who are fully licensed and ready to welcome.


Children who are not in the company of parents, legal guardians or another adult caregiver in a situation of displacement, or specifically in this context, when arriving at United States borders. The State Department identifies URM as children who, after a U.S. reunification search was completed, do not have a parent or a relative available and committed to providing for their long-term care. These children receive refugee foster care services and benefits. The majority of these children initially enter the U.S. as unaccompanied children, and then are referred to this program once they meet all of the eligibility requirements. 

We also offer transitional, or short-term, foster care for unaccompanied children while reunification searches take place. 


We welcome foster parents who are over the age of 21, able to support the child’s needs, and pass a criminal background check. We invite and encourage those who are married or single; homeowners or renters; already-parents or never parented; and LGBTQ+ families to open their home and heart.

We provide informational sessions and training to prospective and current foster families, as well as case management and support services to children and youth.

Please consider opening your heart and home to a youth in need by becoming a foster parent.

Uplifting Voices

  • Shavonne, Foster Mom with LSSNCA
    Shavonne, Foster Mom with LSSNCA

    “We all understand that parenting does not come with a manual and a lot of lessons are learned through experience. When we became foster parents, it opened up an entirely new way for my husband and I to not only raise our foster children, but to incorporate a lot of what we learned into how we raised our biological children.

    My husband and I became first time parents at the age of 19 & 23 years old. When I became a parent, my instincts for loving another human instantly took over as if I was a natural caretaker. On the other hand, for my husband, it did not come as natural. He was nervous with holding our infant, properly changing his Pampers, and feeding him correctly; eventually, his daddy instincts caught up and he was a Daddy Pro. Of course, this was the beginning stages, the real test came when our children grew up, started school, and their personalities began to blossom.

    Fast forward to 2020, our household has grown from four biological children to now having eight wonderful children, four of them coming from foster care. We have fostered more than 26 kids since we began our foster parents’ journey.

    It was not until we started caring for teenagers, that we had to start taking classes that geared towards how teenagers think, why kids who experienced trauma respond a certain way, and the list continues. Being a foster parent/family, helped us be more empathetic to others, understanding everyone's story is not the same, and recognizing early that love heals broken wounds.”

Daniel's Story