A host family for multiple foreign students was arrested this week for abusing the kids in their home. The parents of these exchange students, all from Korea, sent their children halfway around the world to attend school in the US. They trusted the host family, who speaks the same language and no doubt assured the parents that all was well. The parents also trusted the school(s) to look out for their children. But the students weren't protected--they were being preyed on by corrupt adults who have forever tainted the lives of these young people.
What can schools do to better protect foreign students?
Screen and Train Host Families
How can a school determine whether a family that claims to be a friend or family member of the students is legitimate and will provide a safe and secure environment for the student? Should the school be responsible for validation of host families? Parents inevitably send these children with very little background knowledge, and they don't know the signs to look out for to protect the kids from compromising situations.
Host families, whether chosen by the family or the school, should be required to complete an application, background check, and in-house interview. The application collects critical information about the family that can be used to improve communication and establish expectations. Expectations to provide for the safety of the student, support emotional and social development, and engage with the student in school life. The background check validates that there are no known issues with the family that should prevent them from hosting children, and the in-house interview is how the school can validate the quality of the living conditions (to make sure, for example, that bathroom access is appropriate as well as sleeping arrangements).
Training for host families should include how to provide healthy food options, dealing with cultural differences, integrating the foreign student into family life, dealing with discipline, handling computer and social media concerns, managing weekends and holidays, and communicating with the school and foreign family.
Provide Hotline Support
Visiting students need someone they can call 24/7 for assistance or an emergency. They need the security to know that protection is available when needed--which is unpredictable. Frequent conversations should be cultivated with each student to verify healthy growth at home, at school, and in the community. If you don't look out for them, who will? Foreign parents also need someone associated with the school with whom they can communicate regarding questions or concerns. Naturally, this requires access to people who speak foreign languages.
Require Legal Agreements
Signed agreements are highly recommended for each party involved and should include at least the following points:
- Host Family: To protect from harm or damage to the student not caused by negligence. To grant authority for the host family to make health decisions for the student. To protect the school from harm that is caused when the student is in the care of the host family. To establish expectations for the level and quality of services, and schedule for host family compensation.
- Foreign Family: To grant authority for the host family and the school to make decisions on behalf of the student. To define expectations for the level and quality of services to be provided by school and by host family. To establish consequences and processes in the event of academic or behavioral issues. To protect the school and host family for harm or damage to the student not caused by negligence.
- School: To establish expectations for the level and quality of services, including limitations and communications. To protect the school for harm or damage to the student not caused by negligence. To establish consequences and processes in the event of academic or behavioral issues. To define student commitment to unique qualities of the school's mission, culture, curriculum, and/or schedule.