Foster Families Step Up to Support Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the United States

Amidst a surge in immigration, faith and community groups rally to find foster families for unaccompanied minors

As the United States grapples with a significant increase in immigration and a surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, faith and community groups are stepping up their efforts to recruit foster families. These families provide much-needed support and care for children who arrive in the country without a parent. With nearly 140,000 unaccompanied minors encountered at the border in fiscal year 2023, there is an urgent need to find safe and nurturing environments for these vulnerable children. This article delves into the experiences of foster families, their motivations, and the challenges they face in helping these young immigrants.

A Growing Need for Foster Families

The surge in immigration has led to a significant increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, nearly 140,000 children arrived at the border with Mexico in fiscal year 2023. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement is currently caring for almost 10,000 children. To address this overwhelming demand, faith and community groups are actively recruiting foster families to provide a safe and stable environment for these children.

Answering the Call to Help

Many foster families are driven by their faith and a desire to help those in need. The story of Andy and Caroline Hazelton, a couple in their early 30s living in a Miami suburb, exemplifies this commitment. Inspired by their faith and the Gospel’s call to help others, the Hazeltons have fostered five migrant minors over the past four years. Their motivation is simple: to assist children in need, regardless of the divisive politics surrounding immigration.

Providing Stability and Support

Foster families play a crucial role in helping unaccompanied migrant children adapt to their new surroundings. By offering stability, these families help the children become comfortable with unfamiliar customs, such as air conditioning and strict school routines. They also provide a nurturing environment for the children to learn English and acclimate to life in the United States. While foster parents acknowledge that they can never replace the children’s biological parents, they strive to create a supportive and loving home.

Trauma and Resilience

Many of these children carry deep emotional trauma from their experiences in their home countries and throughout their journey to the United States. The trauma they have endured can manifest in various ways, from fear and grief to a premature maturity beyond their years. Foster families, along with mental health professionals, work to address these challenges and help the children heal. By providing a caring family setting, foster parents play a vital role in helping these children rebuild their lives.

Licensing and Training

Becoming a foster parent for unaccompanied migrant children requires licensing and specialized training. Foster families must meet state requirements and often receive additional training specific to immigration law and trauma. The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, for example, runs a program in Baltimore that focuses on short-term care for children whose return to their biological parents is being assessed. The agency emphasizes the need for more foster parents, highlighting the national shortage and the urgent need for safe and loving homes.


The surge in immigration has placed a significant burden on the United States, particularly in caring for unaccompanied migrant children. Faith and community groups have risen to the occasion, actively recruiting foster families to provide support and care for these vulnerable children. The dedication and compassion of these families offer hope and stability to those who have endured trauma and uncertainty. While challenges persist, the commitment of foster families to create nurturing environments for unaccompanied minors is a testament to the power of empathy and compassion in times of crisis.

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