URM Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ascentria Care Alliance a detention center for immigrant children?
No. Ascentria Care Alliance is not a holding site for immigrant children, and does not have any temporary detention facilities, or shelter services of any kind. We only serve children who have been cleared to stay in our country and whose reunification options have been exhausted. Through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program and Division for Children’s Services Program, Ascentria provides foster care for those children by placing them in homes with loving families. When possible, reunification is a primary and ongoing priority for all children in care.

Are you receiving children who are being separated from their parents at the U.S. border?
At this time, we are not. Ascentria Care Alliance runs the following two programs related to unaccompanied minors – The Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program and The Division for Children’s Services Program. These programs provide foster care for youth with varying immigration statuses from a variety of countries who do not have a parent or guardian to care for them. 

How can I get information about children who are being separated from their parents at the U.S. border?
The Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is responsible for children who are separated from their parents. Please visit their website here or call 202.401.9246. To advocate for children at the border, we encourage you to contact your local representatives.

How can I help unaccompanied children in Massachusetts?
Ascentria’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program is the only program in New England that assists unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children with foster care. Our program makes a difference by giving children a loving home environment, thus preventing them from spending prolonged periods in overcrowded detention centers or refugee camps. You can help our youth in a variety of ways. First and foremost, we have an urgent need for families willing to open up their hearts and homes to one or more of these youth as foster parents. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please fill out this inquiry form. You can also volunteer as a mentor or make a donation.

What are the ages of URMs in need of care?
The majority of URMs enter the program between ages 15 and 17. They must enter the program prior to their 18th birthday in order to be eligible for our program. As with all children in Massachusetts foster care, once URM youth turn 18, they are able to sign a voluntary placement agreement and remain in care until age 22. It is rare for youth in our program to be younger than 13.

Why doesn’t your program have young children in care?
Our program serves unaccompanied children who have typically embarked on the journey to the United States without a parent or guardian to care for them. Generally, unaccompanied minors who make the dangerous journey across the border alone are adolescents seeking safety and resources. The goal for all children intercepted at the border is reunification with family, so long as that is in the best interests of the child. Of all children intercepted at the border, most are either repatriated back to their home country or are reunified with family here in the U.S. A very small percentage of youth are determined to be eligible for a URM program like ours. Our program serves this unique group of youth for whom it is determined that foster care is the best option.

How long are URMs in foster care?
On average, foster care placements in our program last between 2 and 3 years. With support from the program and their foster families, our goal is for URM youth to reach independence. Often youth that have finished high school are ready to move out of their foster homes into college settings or their own apartment. Many of our youth develop lifelong connections with their foster families and stay in touch for years to come, returning to the foster home for frequent visits.

How will fostering an unaccompanied minor impact my family?
Adding a new family member to your home will be life changing for each individual in your home. When a new child comes into your home, many aspects of your daily routine will change; from the foods you cook to who uses the bathroom first. You need to be willing to make changes in your home in order to meet the needs of the new child.

I have young children. Is it safe for me to foster an unaccompanied teenager?
Yes! Many of our current foster parents have young biological children in the home, and have successfully added an unaccompanied teen into their family. These foster youth have experienced significant trauma, and it can be common for them to experience depression or anxiety. This looks different for each youth, but it may mean, for example, that they need encouragement to socialize and try new things. Your Ascentria social worker will help to support that everyone feels safe and comfortable.

Will I be eligible to adopt my URM foster child?
Unlike traditional foster children, refugee minors are generally not eligible for adoption. However, recent policy changes from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and The Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR) now permits adoption of children in the URMP, under very specific circumstances.

Are URMs ever reunited with their families of origin?
If there is an opportunity for a URM to reunify with family, our program pursues that option within the best interests of the child.

What languages do URMs speak?
URMs speak a variety of different languages. Many of our youth from Eritrea speak Tigrinya, while youth from the Democratic Republic of the Congo could speak Swahili or French. Many of our youth from Central America speak Spanish, but it is also common for these youth to speak an indigenous language from their community, such as Quiche from Guatemala. All of the URM youth are learning English at different levels, and foster families must be creative in communicating with URMs when they first arrive.

What are the requirements to be a foster parent?
Applicants must:
  • Be a resident of Massachusetts 
  • Be at least 25 years old
  • Be a stable, mature and healthy adult able to meet the needs of a youth
  • Have a clean criminal record for the past 5 years with no history of abusing children
  • Have a home that meets safety requirements and standards
I am single. Can I be a foster parent?
Yes, as long as you feel you have the time and resources to provide for a new child.

Can I work full time?
Yes, many of our current foster families are working parents that juggle the responsibilities of family life. It is important that our foster families be financially secure in order to meet the needs of the foster child. It is equally important that working parents who want to foster for our program have flexible working hours in order to meet once a month with a case manager and a family resource worker.

Do I need to own my own home?
Absolutely not. The only requirement is that your residence must meet safety standards.

Does the URM need their own room?
No, they can share a bedroom with other children, as long ages and genders are appropriate together.

May I choose the gender, race and age of the child I would like to foster?
You and your foster care worker will determine the best possible match for your family which includes consideration for the gender, cultural background and age of the youth.

May I foster more than one URM?
Absolutely! As long as your home meets the requirements, and we determine that you can care for multiple youth.

How do I pay the cost associated with caring for a URM?
The Ascentria URM program contracts with the Department of Children and Family (DCF) of Massachusetts to reimburse you for the expenses of fostering a refugee minor. These expenses include food, clothing, household necessities, the added cost of an extra person as it impacts utilities costs, transportation, etc. The exact rate is determined by the State and the number of calendar days the child is in your home.

Who pays for the medical/dental/vision/ hearing, prescriptions and mental health services for these youth?
Young people in the custody of the State of Massachusetts receive Masshealth insurance, the state provided insurance program that covers medical/dental/vision/hearing, prescriptions and mental health services. 

How long does it take to become a foster parent and what is required?
There are many factors that determine how long the licensing process takes. To become a foster parent you must attend 30 hours of training and have a social worker visit your home at least 4 times to complete a home study. If your schedule is flexible, you will be able complete the training sooner and meet with the social worker more frequently, thus helping the process along. On average, it takes about 6 months to become a licensed foster parent.

Once I have my certification, how long before I can welcome a refugee youth into my home?
It depends on how open you are to older teens, various cultural backgrounds and sibling groups. We want to make sure that you are fostering a youth who is a good match for your family. We are committed to working WITH you to make sure that you have a positive experience.

Why should I become part of the Ascentria family?
There are a lot of different agencies you could work with. We are a small agency with more than 30 years of experience in this field, and over 140 years of serving children in the region. We are also the only agency in New England to exclusively serve refugee young people. We have the resources and experience of a much larger agency but our size and commitment provides the personal connection of a small family. We believe that our best asset is that when you work with us we treat you like family. We recognize that when you bring a young person into your home, one who truly needs your care and support -- that you will need the personal and professional support that we can provide. Ascentria also administers intensive foster care programs for American young people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. We work with children and families who need our services, regardless of their background or belief.

I still have more questions. Who can I talk to?
Please contact us or call us at 774.243.3062. We will be happy to talk with you about the program and answer any questions you have about becoming a foster parent.
 

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230 Second Ave, Suite 125
Waltham, MA 02451 
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11 Shattuck Street
Worcester, MA 01605
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Phone: 774.243.3068
Fax: 508.519.8310 ​

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