Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Inclusion and Social Development

First Advisor

Dimity J. Peter

Second Advisor

Andrea M. Leverentz

Third Advisor

Thomas M. Crea


The United States' Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Program, which has served around 13,000 foreign-born children since the 1980s, aims to incorporate unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) in need of international protection into the child welfare systems of 15 individual states. Despite the fact that children accepted into the URM program have access to the same benefits as those in state custody, URMs face unique challenges from their non-refugee peers. Limited research exists regarding the wellbeing of URMs who have transitioned out of the URM program and into adulthood. This study aimed to explore the experiences of participants who have transitioned out of the URM Program, related to their health (physical/mental), environment, and social connections. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 21 adults who have transitioned out of the URM Program across five states. Utilizing the World Health Organization’s Quality of Life Framework (WHO, 2012), the URM program’s “successful integration” outcomes (USCCB, 2013), and domains from the Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (Midwest study) (Courtney et al., 2007), phenomenological data collection focused on participants’ quality of life, identification of services and supports that have facilitated their transition to adult life, and primary challenges faced. Results showed that despite strong support from URM programs pre-transition, URM youth face significant challenges in adulthood. These challenges include a lack of support post-transition, societal expectations of self-sufficiency, economic insecurity, and difficulty continuing their educational pursuits. Utilizing the findings from this study, policy and practice recommendations are proposed to help inform future service provision for URMs transitioning out of the URM program. Recommendations are also made for future research on this population, based on the study’s findings.