Tens of thousands of refugee youth arrive to the U.S. alone every year, mostly from war-torn countries where they have lost their entire families. Catholic Charities’ St. Jerome Emiliani Foster Care program provides a nurturing environment for unaccompanied refugee children and youth, many who have escaped devastating situations in their native lands. Through foster families and supportive services, we help them heal and thrive.

Become a Foster Parent

Our Program

Services Provided

St. Jerome’s is an international foster care program with community homes throughout the Houston metropolitan area. All community homes have the capacity to care for up to five males and/or five females (this includes biological children). Youth in our program differ from youth in domestic foster care as they are usually long-term placements.

Assessment Homes
These homes provide the initial placement for the youth into the program. While the youth are living in this environment, evaluations are provided to assess all their needs (medical, psychiatric/therapeutic, educational, vocational, social, familial, legal) with the development of an initial service plan. After these assessments are completed, a decision about a long-term placement is made in the best interest of the youth. If there a no beds available in an assessment home, then a youth may be placed directly into a long-term placement home.

Placement Homes
These homes are meant to be long term placement homes for our youth. Youth may come into a placement home once they have been assessed in the assessment home or directly from their previous placement. Youth may be in a placement home until they reunify with family, move into our Supervised Independent Living Program, discharge, or age out of the program.

Respite Homes
These homes provide temporary care to youth in our program when placement foster parents are unable to. These can be on occasions such as vacation, family emergencies, foster parent emergencies, etc. These homes will then care for the youth until their placement foster parents return.

Additional services provided by the program include:

  • Indirect financial support for housing, food, clothing, and other necessities
  • Intensive case management by a social worker
  • Independent living skills training
  • Education/English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Tutoring/mentoring
  • Job skills training and career/college counseling
  • Mental health services
  • On-going family tracing, where possible cultural activities/recreation
  • Special education services, when needed
  • Legal assistance

Minors of all ages who have been designated as a refugee, an asylee, or a victim of human trafficking. The program also serves minors who are in federal custody awaiting designation of status, (i.e., asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status) who require long-term foster care due to the amount of time the legal process takes, varying from 3-36 months.

These youth are referred to us through our funders United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Many of these youth have fled their home country due to war, abuse and neglect, and other violence related crimes. These youth have had adverse experiences and are in need of homes that will provide a therapeutic, safe, and nurturing environment.

Foster Parents

  • Must be at least 25 years old
  • May be single (non cohabitating) or married*
  • Consent to and clear background check
  • Be financially self sufficient
  • Physically and emotionally stable
  • Have adequate living space
  • Attend pre-service training
  • Participate in Home Study

*as defined in our Code of Ethics

Service Area

Due to the capacity of the case management work that is provided to our youth and families we only service foster homes in the Houston Metropolitan area.


The process in becoming a foster parent can take a minimum of 3 months. This process includes; intake, orientation, training, and a home study. If you are interested in beginning this process, please begin by filling out our online questionnaire.


If you have additional questions or are not interested in becoming a foster parent but want to provide help/volunteer in another capacity, please contact us at 713-874-6501, or email SJEHCRecruitment@CatholicCharities.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon are youth placed in the home?

Once a family is verified youth can be placed in the home right away. However, it may take any where from 3 days to a year for youth to arrive to Texas.

What population do you serve?

We serve youth from all over the world. However, we do see a large population from Africa and South America.

How old are the youth?

While we have the ability to serve youth of all ages a majority of the youth in our care range from ages 9 – 21.

I don't want to be a foster parent, but I want to help. What can I do?

If you are interested in helping this population of youth the are a few alternatives to becoming a foster parent. You can be a volunteer, become a tutor, or offer to teach a life skill to the youth in our program. If you are interested in any of these options please reach out to us at SJEHCRecruitment@catholiccharities.org.

Do you have adoption services?

Our program does not offer adoption services.

How many hours of training must I complete to become a foster parent?

There are roughly 50 hours of in person training and 15 hours of online/self directed training that needs to be completed prior to becoming a foster parent.

Where is the biggest need?

Many of the youth that are referred to our program are Spanish-speaking teenage males. Many families feel more prepared to take in younger children, therefore this population of youth is always in high need.

Where are the birth families?

Many Unaccompanied Refugee Minors have been separated from their families. Their families may be in their country of origin, in a refugee camp, or missing. Other family members may be present in the US but unwilling or unable to provide care to the youth. It is important to our program to keep youth connected to their families through phone calls, letters, video chats, and/or visits when possible.

How do I know if I am within the Houston Metropolitan Area?

If your address is within 60 miles of our midtown office located at 2900 Louisiana St., Houston, TX 77006, then you are within our service area.

Do my spouse and I both have to complete all preservice requirements and training?

Yes, all parents in the home must complete all preservice requirements and training.

Myth vs. Facts

You can be licensed by multiple foster care agencies

Unfortunately, you can only be licensed with one agency at a time. If you have become licensed with another agency you will have to go through some of the steps in the process again as the international foster care program is different than domestic foster care.

You have to speak the same language as the youth in your home

Many of the families in our program do not speak the same language as the youth in their homes. While we try our best to match youth linguistically, it is difficult. However, we do provide 24/7 interpretation services to our foster parents through a language line called MasterWord.

Our Program receives youth from Child Protective Services (CPS)

Our program is different from CPS and domestic foster care for many reasons. One of them is the way in which we receive youth into our program. Our youth are referred to us through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). We do not receive our youth from CPS.

Unaccompanied Refugee Minors are not allowed to travel

We encourage youth in our program to travel with their foster families, especially within the United States. Once the youth receives their Legal Permanent Residency (LPR), they are then allowed to travel outside of the United States with the appropriate documentation and approval.

You must be a two-parent household

We not only welcome married couples into our program, we also welcome single, non-cohabiting individuals!

I have to be Catholic to be a part of this program

While our program closely follows the Catholic Social Teachings, we welcome foster parents of many different religions. Our program is one of diversity and where you will learn about many different cultures and backgrounds. We want our foster parents to reflect the type of diversity we see with our youth.