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    March 2019

    Youth Homestay Placements

    Schools and higher education institutions that arrange homestay placements enrich the experiences of visiting international students, host families, and the campus community. They can also expose unwitting participants to illicit drug and alcohol use, sexual misconduct, and other problem behavior.

    To ensure a safe and positive experience, institutions should establish oversight procedures for homestay placements for summer camps and study abroad programs.

    The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs regulates homestay arrangements for secondary school students. While the federal regulations apply to designated sponsors of semester or yearlong programs at secondary schools, they include safe practices for all homestay programs.


    Screening

    Federal standards for screening host families include the completion of a comprehensive application form, a criminal background check for members of the host family who are over 18, in-person interviews with each family member, a home inspection, and two references. Factors considered under a State Department rule include the host family’s financial constraints, any criminal history, and the healthiness of the home environment.

    If your institution uses a third-party organization to screen host families, verify that the organization follows the State Department guidelines. Screen returning host families annually to ensure they still meet the qualifications. The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel recommends establishing a formal process to standardize application review and approval criteria.


    Training

    The sponsoring institution should ensure that training is made available to host families and visiting students. Cover the program guidelines and how to report sexual abuse, any violation of program rules, or other serious problems.

    Educate host families on cultural differences and how to establish house rules such as telephone use, smoking, and chores. Encourage them to establish systems to help the visiting students follow program rules. For example, describe how the host parents can set and enforce rules pertaining to outside activities and curfews. Training should emphasize the importance of communication with participants and help host families anticipate misunderstandings.

    Orient participants on criminal laws and responding to potential danger. Address issues such as time management, hygiene, nonverbal cues, and dealing with culture shock. Younger students may benefit from a longer orientation where they practice social customs and interact with each other in structured activities.

    Consider offering an online host family handbook. It also can be helpful to provide a separate handbook for the visiting students.


    Management

    Establish procedures for school and college coordinators to respond to participant disputes and potential emergencies. Ensure that arrangements are in place for visiting students with disabilities and transporting students to and from their homes.

    Program coordinators should periodically check in with host families and students to ensure a smooth transition. Provide frequent in-person contact, especially with younger students who may experience homesickness or isolation.


    Resources

    Council on Standards for International Educational Travel

    Fairmont Preparatory Academy Homestay information

    Chapelgate Christian Academy International Student and Host Family Residential Agreement

    Pitzer College, Host A Student From Japan

    Carnegie Mellon University Host Family Program


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