By nCa The voice of Greater Central Asia
Tips for Parents:
CSFES is receiving requests from parents to recommend suitable student exchange organizations. While CSFES is not in the position to make such referrals, we offer the following when making this very important decision:
Fingerprint Background Checks:
Ask specifically if the student exchange organization conducts fingerprint background checks. If the answer is no, search for another company.
In Case of an Emergency:
Check how well the student exchange organization responds to emergencies, especially of an evening, weekends and holidays. Find out the emergency telephone number in which to call. Then call the telephone number. The response will tell you if this is a responsible organization.
Reviewing Student Profiles:
When visiting the exchange organization's website, what controls are in place to prevent easy access to the student's profile? Is personal information easily accessible complete with the student's photo? Is this the method in which you would like for your son or daughter to be placed by the student exchange organization?
There is an increase in sexual predators targeting children through the Internet, therefore, this is a vital concern to CSFES.
Host Family Information:
In the event you have progressed to receiving your son or daughter's prospective Host Family information packet from the student exchange organization:
Check to see that this family's interests are similar to your son or daughters.
If your child has allergies or asthma; is he/she being placed in a home with animals or those who smoke?
**Be very concerned if prior to your son or daughter's departure, you are notified by the student exchange organization that there has been a sudden change with the Host Family selected for your child. If you are told the Host Family is no longer the same "due to a divorce or unforeseen circumstances," etc., this is a major concern to CSFES." **
You will be told that a Welcome Family will instead await your son or daughter. It has been our experience that this gives cause for your child to potentially be bounced around among Welcome Families many times prior to a "permanent" family being secured. Does the organization pre-screen welcome families, including fingerprint background checks?
As per the United States Department of State regulations, Section 62.25 (d)(3) "Ensure that no organizational representative act as both host family and area supervisor for any student participant whom that organizational representative may host."
Your son or daughter should not be placed in a home where his/her host mother or father is also the organization's supervisor, area representative or regional director. This provides no neutrality in the event your son or daughter has concerns or an emergency.
Secure High School Placement:
Do you have a letter of acknowledgement from the high school your son or daughter will attend?
As per the United States Department of State regulations, Section 62.25(f)(4) "Under no circumstance shall a sponsor facilitate the entry into the United States of a student for whom a school placement hs not been secured."
Student Identification Card:
As per the United States Department of State regulations, Section 62.25 (g)(4) "An identification card which lists the student's name, United States home placement address and telephone number, and a telephone number which affords immediate contact with both the Department of State and sponsor in case of emergency. Such cards may be provided in advance of home country departure or immediately upon entry into the United States."
Parents: Make certain your son or daughter has this information; complete with a telephone number that will provide immediate contact with both the Department of State and sponsor.
** In the event your child is not provided with a Student Identification Card complete with the above-referenced information, prior to departure or arrival into the United States, please notify CSFES immediately. **
Ask who has the final say on the selection of family. If you have concerns about the family (age of host parents, etc.) and you are told that if you have to accept the family -- ask more questions.
CSFES asks that parents:
1) ask for a copy of the child protection policy of the agency responsible for placing students.
2) ask for a guarantee in writing that the home of the host family has been inspected and the privacy of the student in bathroom and bedroom ensured.
3) ensure that their children are aware of what constitutes sexual harassment given that most rapes are preceded by touching the thigh, commenting on the sexual attractiveness of the student, "accidentally" touching breasts etc., which if ignored leads the perpetrator to think that it is acceptable to proceed further.
4) ask if the agency informs the student of telephone numbers to call if abusive behavior occurs (police, rape crisis centers, etc) ? If not, do not use that agency.
5) make certain your child can access the passport and return ticket if an unacceptable situation is encountered.
6) ensure your child knows how to phone home from overseas.
7) ensure they know how to contact their consulate in case they encounter problems that the agency ignores.
Studentexchange.net informs, "Before Sending Your Child to The United States as an Exchange Student" for your review:
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
CSFES is a California-based 501(c)3 non-profit corporation (EIN 43-2100110) advocating the safety, protection and well being of exchange students around the world and was instrumental in the strengthening of the U.S. Department of State regulations for the protection of these young people.
CSFES raises public awareness and provides education related to the safety of exchange students to prospective and current, exchange students natural parents and school
administrators, with a specific focus on educating exchange organizations and government agencies to ensure the protection of exchange students around the world.
Presently we are an all-volunteer organization advocating for the safety of foreign exchange students.
CSFES supports cultural exchange and is committed to the idea that every foreign student deserves a safe and memorable exchange experience. We believe without reservation that while these sons and daughters are studying abroad, they should expect and fully deserve, to be treated as if they are our own.
As an organization, CSFES strives for cooperative relationships with exchange programs, based on the explicit understanding that CSFES will always prioritize exchange student safety above all other concerns.
Given this understanding, CSFES sees the following issues as specific cause for concern exchange students should:
If you are an exchange student with concerns about your safety, please contact CSFES 760-583-9593 or BeSafe@csfes.org. All international visitors may also contact local law enforcement agencies in the event of an emergency by dialing 911.
Anyone who suspects suspicious behavior or maltreatment of foreign exchange students, please report it to the proper authorities or CSFES at Complaint@csfes.org.
CSFES monitors exchange student abuse and provides information to interested parties in an effort to significantly reduce the number of children who become victims of child/sexual abuse, neglect and extortion.
Student Exchange Agency: Education Foundation
Letters of Abuse from Former Exchange Students
By Danielle Grijalva - Committee Looking to Stop Abuse of Student and Looking to State Department for Assistance
To my left, I see a stack of handwritten letters from exchange students eager to come to the United States of America for their very first time anxious to experience American culture.
Sadly, to my right, I see handwritten letters from previous exchange students who have already returned home. All have experienced some form of abuse and neglect during their stay in the USA.
I have a letter from a retired parole officer, who, while supervising sex offenders, learned of five instances where sex offenders gained access to new child victims by becoming hosts of foreign students. One was convicted of molesting a 16 year-old Japanese girl.
I found myself wondering how the letters to my left by students full of innocence, anticipation and hope, ended up being letters of heartache nearly impossible for me to read. This occurs to these precious kids in the very country in which I live. It will continue to happen if the US Department of State does not raise their standards and require student exchange organizations to perform mandatory background checks of host families and publish child protection policies and guidelines.
In Northern California, the student exchange organization Student of the World Invitation to Friendship and Travel (SWIFT) made headlines in June 4, 2005 Inside Bay Area Newspaper. "Exchange students in dire need of homes - Host families still have not been found for 150 teens bound for Bay Area."
Students will be arriving in eleven short days. Per my recent conversation with SWIFT, they still need "well over one hundred homes."
This article stresses that host families "do not need to provide a separate guest room" for the students. As a former Representative with the Center for Cultural Interchange, (currently known as Greenheart Exchange), I came to learn of two Korean boys found sleeping on cots in their host mother's garage.
"Exchange students still need homes" appeared in the News 8 Austin Newspaper June 7, 2005. Marilyn Bretherick of International Student Exchange (ISE) is looking for homes for 71 students for this coming school year.
"I'm really surprised I'm not finding homes for them," Hagewood with Program of Academic Exchange (PAX) said. "I'll put them anywhere."
John Hishmeh of the Council for Standards on International Educational Travel (CSIET) worries about the financial toll that mandatory background checks would make on the industry's smaller players. Yet as their tax files via the Internet show, these are multi-million dollar agencies.
My worry is that the stack of letters to my right will continue to grow. I fear the next set of headlines will be those telling the accounts of exchange students sexually abused by their hosts. I have a stack of those headlines, too.
Parents and teachers, please do not become involved with agencies that do not properly screen host families or produce child protection guidelines.
Danielle Grijalva is the Director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
by Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly
Source: Rock Center with Brian Williams
Copyright © Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. All Rights Reserved.