Saturday, May 06, 2006

Abuse of Foreign Exchange Students

It's sad that we've come to this:

The families who host the nearly 30,000 foreign exchange students who stay in this country each year now will have to undergo criminal background checks, under new federal rules that went into effect this week. (emphasis mine--Darren)

I understand the reasoning. I just don't like that such things are necessary.

13 comments:

Kate said...

Darren, While I understand the potential abuse of foreign exchange students, it is getting harder and harder to find acceptable people to take them. I think most of these programs ought to end. We hosted an exchange student three years ago from Japan. He was not a bad kid. Just really immature compared to a typical American boy of the same age. The program he came to us through was YFU. (Youth for Understanding) It had recently merged with another program that I don't remember the name of but the upshot was even though we were told in the beginning that there would be a 300 dollar a month stipend to cover the cost of being a host family, there wasn't one. The whole experience was out of pocket for us while the top YFU administrators gobbled up the huge amount of money they had charged our exchange student to come to the US and used it to fund their executive salaries and their own scholarship program for favored American Students. The upshot was the people on the local level that were doing all the grunt work and paying all the expenses associated with having an extra kid were paying for the privilege and it wasn't cheap. We were required to provide all meals or money for meals for free, all transportation, etc. It added up. I would not have minded doing to for free IF the whole organization had been doing it for free but YFU bore a pretty close relationship to a Ponzi scheme. I would not doubt that they have few repeat “volunteers” and hence the need for getting into background checks for criminal behavior. Kate

Darren said...

Thank you for the inside word.

Anonymous said...

My senior year in high school I met a foreign exchange student from Chile in one of my classes. She was a very sweet girl, with an elementary knowledge of English. She lived in Santiago and was much more sophisticated than myself and other students in my small town. The family she was placed with was extremely religous and of a different religion than she was. They lived about 15 miles outside of town in the country. It was not a good match at all. She was miserable and so were they. She ended up gaining about 25 pounds during the five months she lived with them. She spent several weekends overnight at my house to get out of their house. I think the companies should make every effort to match students with a compatible host family.

Darren said...

Anonymous, one would think your suggestion would be a *given*.

Kate said...

Darren, the anonymous post above is another example of what I am talking about. The structure of these foreign exchange programs makes it almost impossible for them to find qualified host families without offering a substantial stipend. They are unwilling to do that with their insistence on the host families and lower level administrators being "volunteers". What they end up with now in large part is people who have an agenda or are just plain weird. You know the type; extremely religious often equals anxious to proselytize to the world.
I had a friend who ended up taking in a foreign exchange student in desperation after two failed placements for the kid with other families. The kids themselves can be the problem. Often parents that are willing to fund the big bucks that these programs require are not raising well-rounded kids. Only the wealthy in many countries (or the over stretched financially) can afford the fees that these programs are charging. The kids that come are often spoiled, and indulged. In Japan, in particular, there are far more kids who want to be exchange students than there are families in other countries willing to host them. It is a form of one-upmanship in Japan to have been selected by a host family and have parents who will pay for it. I had another friend who kept an exchange student for a few weeks until her intended host family got back from vacation. My friend lives on a farm, the Japanese girl was germ phobic, used up every roll of toilet paper in the house in a few days, rarely left her room, and had a screaming fit every time she saw an insect. I am sure it was a nightmare for both of them. The girl ended up being sent home early from her permanent placement.
Our exchange student, Yoshi was not too bad except he was accident-prone and broke a few expensive things around the house. He was also a little sneaky about things that were non negotiable like wearing his seatbelt in the car. Clearly tactics of passive non-compliance with parental wishes had worked for him in the past. My son got over pulling stunts like that when he was 8. Yoshi was also able to maintain the fantasy (for the entire year he was here) that he was destined to be a professional basketball player. He was a full 5'8" inches in height and sat the bench for the entire season on our high school's not particularly competitive JV team. We live in a small city in Wyoming. Our city has only had one player in the last 10 years who even made a Division 1 College team.
I guess the positive part of being a host family is I now have a much healthier respect for the maturity and common sense of American teenagers, and I think that people who admire Japanese culture are probably only seeing, for the most part, what the Japanese people want them to see, not the reality. Kate

Darren said...

I never thought about all the potential problems with exchange students. Thanks for enlightening all of us!

DGrijalva said...

Please visit www.csfes.org and read Reports of Abuse to learn why this is such an important child safety measure.

Darren said...

I have no doubt it's an important measure. Allow me to *re*state the last two lines of my post:

I understand the reasoning. I just don't like that such things are necessary.

Kate said...

Darren, I went to the web site and read their manifesto. Can't say I disagree with it but the problem lies with the organizations. These organizations make a lot of money off of every exchange student they place. They make nothing off of the ones that they do not place. When they don't get repeat volunteers from among the well educated professional classes who can do math and realize that these organizations collect upwards of $7000 plus per student with little or none of the money going to the host family, how many people who can do math are going to volunteer more than once? What does that leave? a lot of suspicious people, some with outright criminal records and an exchange organization with a vested financial interest in making a placement and no payoff at all for not making one. YFU is outright deceptive when they label the huge fee they charge the exchange students "tuition" knowing that American public high schools charge nothing of the sort. They should have been sued for fraud but the exchange students don't know enough about this country to do it. Kate

Anonymous said...

I am not even sure where to start, other than to state that YFU is a non-profit organization that does paid host families. The only thing I can think that perhaps you were told about the tax credit that you can recieve. I am very sorry you had a negative experience with hosting with YFU. Many host families have had a very good experience and host with YFU for years. It should be noted that YFU is a group of partner organizations around world, each operating individually.

It also should be noted that many America Students go on exchange each year, some by scholarship (most are funding by corporations) and many pay the tuition for an amazing exchange experience.

Again, I am sorry Kate had such a negative experience but I do believe this is an exception to the rule. YFU is no longer "merged" with other organizations.

To the original comment, it is an unfortunate reality to have to submit to Criminal Background Checks (although it's not different than any other professional who works with teenagers.. i.e. teachers etc). And the unfortunate reality is that some of the issues that have arisen in the past years, would not have been diverted by a criminal background check.

Personally, we need more exchanges, particularily outbound so that American's will have a better understanding of the world around us.

Anonymous said...

Clarification -- YFU does NOT pay it's host families.

Anonymous said...

Background checks should be done, but families shouldn't be excluded if they have some sort of record, it should be based on the Sevarity Of the crimes committed. If a person does have a record with non violent crimes and has been out of trouble for more than five years, then they should not be excluded, Does'nt mean because a person has a past, that they can not change and turn there life around, and some people should not make assumpations that if a person does have a past, that they shouldn't host.

Karl Johanson said...

In Denmark we also have started an investigation into the exchange student industry.

Our youth culture are very different than most countries. It is nothing to blame these countries, however a typical Dane would find it as a kind of prison experience to live abroad for a period without being able to use the tools typical Danes use for socializing.

That's why I saw that the webpage Exchange Student Information was established a year ago. It is not run by any organization founded to earn money on the students, so they are able to provide independent information for our youth.

Maybe there should be similar pages for students coming from other countries.