Feds Seek Better Protection for Foreign Exchange Students

     WASHINGTON (CN) – In the wake of several incidents of host families abusing or neglecting teen foreign exchange students, the State Department is inserting objective measures into rules for screening potential hosts.

     Since the 1950s, suitability of host families has been evaluated solely by foreign exchange student sponsors, such as the AFS (formerly known as American Field Service), although, for three years criminal background checks have been required for family members over 18.
     The department requests information on appropriate objective measurements of financial means, moral character, and composition of the families, as well as the suitability of the “home environment.” It also is interested in application questions which sponsors have found to elicit important information. Measures for adequate criminal background checks also are in question.
     An example of neglect occurred in Pennsylvania, last spring, when nine exchange students were removed from homes by the local social services department for malnutrition, dehydration, unsanitary conditions or living in condemned housing, according to the Web site of State Senator Robert Casey, Jr. In the case of one of the teens, an investigative reporter, unnamed on the Senator’s Web site, found that one of the homes was surrounded by dog feces, which were tracked indoors along with dirt. This home belonged to the sponsor in charge of ensuring that the foreign exchange students were placed in appropriate homes.
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