Category Archives: Agreement

2012 Mar 20: Bag Facaden – Misbrugt i værtsfamilien

Skrevet af: Christian Rask

20. marts 2012 kl. 20:00 på DR1  Flere danske unge er blevet misbrugt af deres værtsfar i forbindelse med udvekslingsophold til USA. Det afslører DR-programmet ‘Bag Facaden’.

I Bag Facaden fortæller en række unge om drømmerejser, der udviklede sig til et mareridt. Og sagerne handler ikke kun om sexovergreb. Nogle unge er havnet hos fattige amerikanske familier, der ikke havde råd til mad. Eller hos familier, der slår deres egne børn og undertrykker dem psykisk.

Den seneste og mest alvorlige af sagerne handler om placeringen af en 16-årig dreng hos en amerikansk værtsfar, der efterfølgende blev dømt for gentagne seksuelle overgreb. Sagen blev aldrig indberettet til de danske myndigheder af Interstudies, firmaet bag opholdet.

I en anden af sagerne ville organisationen STS, Student Travel Schools, kun udbetale en delvis godtgørelse til familien og en dengang ligeledes 16-årig dreng, hvis de underskrev en tavshedsklausul. Også han blev placeret hos en enlig mand og udsat for overgreb.

– Jeg er harm over, at de ville have mig til at tie stille om de overgreb, jeg blev udsat for. Folk skal høre om dem, så de ved, hvad de kan risikere, siger Nicklas i dag.

Hemmeligholdelse
Unge danskere kan vælge mellem i alt 10 godkendte udvekslingsorganisationer. De unge placeres hos en værtsfamilie – og betaler typisk 50-60.000 kr. for en samlet pakke mens staten støtter med 10.000 kr. pr. ophold. Hos kontrolmyndigheden, Styrelsen for Uddannelse og Internationalisering, SUI, ser man meget alvorligt på hemmeligholdelsen af sagerne om seksuelle overgreb.

– Vi kan selvfølgelig ikke acceptere, at man hemmeligholder så kritisable forhold, siger Mikkel Buchter, kontorchef i SUI, der nu vil indføre et skærpet tilsyn med Interstudies.

Året efter, at sagen om Nicklas blev lukket ned af STS, blev en 17-årig pige udsat for to grove seksuelle overgreb af sin værtsfar. Her havde STS benyttet samme partner i USA til at finde værtsfamilien. Den nuværende chef for STS beklager sagsforløbet:

– Det var en fejlbeslutning. Vi arbejder ikke længere sammen med den organisation i USA, der stod for anbringelserne, siger John Cedergårdh, general manager i STS.

STS er ikke blevet godkendt i år efter flere kritisable sager, hvor unge blandt andet blev sendt til områder i Sydafrika med høj kriminalitet.

Drømmerejser blev til mareridt
Unge fra hele verden søger hvert år til USA på udvekslingsophold. Det har ifølge Bag Facadens kilder ført til mangel på egnede værtsfamilier – og en utilstrækkelig screening af familierne.

Flere unge, som får problemer under opholdet, har oplevet, at de kun må have begrænset kontakt til familien hjemme. Da 17-årige Stina fik problemer, blandt andet fordi familien slog sine børn, og hun måtte fjernes med hjælp fra politiet, blev hun bedt om at underskrive en kontrakt, der begrænsede hendes kontakt til familien og til dem i USA, der hjalp hende.

– Vi blev svigtet af Interstudies, da der begyndte at opstå problemer, siger Bettina Hjortshøj, mor til Stina.

Direktør i Interstudies, Anette Sørensen, meddeler, at hun ikke ønsker at kommentere de enkelte sager i medierne.

Men Bettina Hjortshøj mener, at firmaet har et alvorligt troværdighedsproblem.

–  Den tillid og det sikkerhedsnet, vi havde betalt for – det var ikke til stede, da vi fik brug for det, siger hun.

Op mod 1000 danske unge rejser hvert år ud som udvekslingsstuderende. Af dem får i gennemsnit 50 så problematisk et ophold, at de rejser hjem før tid.

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2003 Apr 26: Local student exchange group reprimanded

2005 Aug 02: Robert Medley convicted for sexual battery

2013 Mar 19: John E. Hamilton v. Commonwealth of Virginia

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EF Foundation for Foreign Study: “Agreement”

This is an example of the type of Behavioral Agreement EF Education First / EF High School Year / EF Foundation for Foreign Study operate with. As a rule, we ask that students and parents avoid signing anything once the initial contract has been signed. These types of documents are part of “power games” some representatives like to play.

If you are interested in the background of this Agreement, please feel free to contact Danielle Grijalva at CSFES.org.

EF Foundation for Foreign Study behavioral agreement

7 homes/3 states/3 schools

Exchange organisation US: EF Foundation – 3 states (Oregon/Washington/Idaho)

Exchange families: 7 families – temporary and so-called permanent

My exchange year was 06/07. I had been looking forward to my exchange experience for many years. Like many here I trusted that EF was a good and trustworthy organisation – something that later turned out to be a naive expectation.

Like many others I was told by EF that it was not unusual to not have a permanent exchange family by the time I left my home country. I had been given a welcome-family that would also function as my IEC representatives.

EF told me many times that a welcome-family was plus in that it created a larger network in the US. So I felt this was the least of my problems.

I chose to attend EF’s Language and Culture Camp at Rhode Island and the friendships I found here turned out to be the only support I felt I had during my stay in the US. EF say to proudly that this will be “the best year of your life” and that they have a great support network for you, 24 hours a week. I might have been blind to this network but am afraid that it was non-existent rather than a real thing. Unfortunately I was not alone in experiencing this. At camp we were told to make certain of the subjects at the schools we were being placed at. The state I was going to was Orgeon – and I knew I could end up at three schools: McMinnville, Sheridan and Willamina. It turned out only McMinnville was a school that offered a certain spectrum of subjects – the other two were more limited. They did not offer French – something I accepted – and hardly any math classes.

I contacted my present IEC and asked if they could try to place med at McMinnville. I was told I’d been placed with a family in Sheridan – and that this was where I was supposed to live! This family was excited about having me come live with them. I felt reassured.

At the airport in Portland I was met by what I thought was to be my future exchange family and my IECs. I remember the first thing my IEC’s said to me was: “Isn’t this weird XXXX, this is going to be your family for a whole year…” The family itself was really nice, and I have nothing to say against them. The strange thing was the family situation when I got to their home. Exchange mother’s mother was dying from cancer and a lot of time was spent with her. Exchange father was a police officer who had recently been in a shooting incident where he had been the shooter. This made XXXX wonder why the family would take in a permant exchange student? I had been given the youngest daughter’s room… But this was really strange. She slept in the middle child’s room on an air mattress. This couldn’t be right? XXXX’s suspicions were confirmed when friends of the family came to visit. They asked a lot of questions about schools and other things. I think they suspected I was a bit confused – when exchange dad later talked to me about how much he liked me, and that I would have been a great fit, but that he hoped that it wouldn’t be fair for them to keep her. That they were only a welcome-family was not meant as an insult. I told him what my family and I had been told – that this was to be my permanent family!

Exchange father was extremely provoked at my IEC who had called and nagged them over a longer period. After a lot of pressure they had agreed that I could live there temporarily – max 3 weeks, while they were looking for another family. When I tried to confront my IEC with this – he told me further lies about exchange mother phoning him stating that she wanted me to stay, but not exchange father. And he did not have time to talk with me about this. Exchange father became even more provoked over these continued lies – and phoned my IEC again and told him that exchange mother had NEVER spoken with him.

EF later accused me for having complained to the exchange family that I had to attend school in Sheridan (never happened) and for me making such a mess I was practically thrown out of the family. This was not true either as I had asked to not go on a camping trip with the family and move out earlier instead, because I was at that time incredibly upset, angry and worried with EF. Therefore I did not want to join them camping because I was afraid I would ruin the experience because of the situation I was in. This led to me moving in with the RC of the area. I was supposed to live temporarily with them until something else turned up. EF has yelled at me repeatedly because I have called both of these exchange families as they were only temporary families. I realise this is correct – but they were still families I had to adjust to.  This was an elderly couple – where the days were spent with the exchange father watching sports on TV. I had little or nothing to do. I got breakfast when I rose around 9 am (i.e. cereal and milk) and there was little chance of other meals between breakfast and dinner. I did not dare to ask. Dinner was not until 8 pm. So long days, with little food.

After this I was moved to a very lovely couple. They tried to help me as much as possible. Unfortunately I was unable to stay with them as they were not able to find a school to take me in.

At this time I was given my 4th – yet first permanent family. I was told that I was to live with a German exchange student. EF once again broke their rules. They were supposed to ask my parents if it was OK for me to live with another exchange student. This never happened. From the first time I met my exchange mother I felt this would never work. This was a woman who smelled strongly of sweat – covered with strong perfume. She was very direct – and several uncomfortable episodes happened around her. When we were in a store and a guy sat selling cell-phones the woman would go up to the guy and tell him I was from Norway and interested in getting to know him. She would then laugh and walk away. The other thing she asked me about from the first days was: “XXXX, do you need any tampex or anything? Because you know, if you were my daughter, I wouldn’t let you use that stuff, it is not good for you… But I guess since you’re not my daughter I can’t control whether you use that stuff or not… But to put it plain – there’s only one thing you put up there, anyway, you’re not doing any of that while you’re here”… and looked at me angrily. This was the second day – 2 hours after we had spoken properly… The house was about 2.3 metric miles from other civilisation. It was large – but extremely dilapitated and gross. They had 10 cats and 2 dogs. One of the dogs was very unstable. It would bark and bite… The animals urinated and defecated several times in the hallway and basement and bath rooms. All exchange mother would do would be to throw sand over it all – some that led to a strong smell all over the house. The large amount of dust often led to me having problems breathing. The bath room was practically a hole in the wall – with cement floor. The house and bath-room were not washed in the nearly 3 months I lived with the family. One window was taped over with a piece of cardboard – as it was broken. It was not fixed for the longest time. The exchange family did not only live in a gross house. They were also (as several people in the neighborhood said) mentally unstable. I can tell of several episodes, but here are some of the worst.

The first episode was at the dinner table where I was doing my home-work. Exchange mother explaimed: “XXXX, do you want to see my mother?” I said, “huh?” She then said, “Yes, do you want to see my mother? I have her ashes in my closet. Do you want to see?” I said no. For an outsider this might sound like a joke – but unfortunately it was anything but. Another time she phoned a friend of mine and yelled at her because I’d not been able to get in touch with her one day. My friend thought I was very angry with her – something that wasn’t cleared up until later. When I confronted exchange mother with this, she stated that she could do anything she wanted even if it did created intrigue and misunderstandings. The day I left, I turned around and there she was with a scissor. She then said: “Come on XXXX, give me some of your hair?” “No, why should I?” I answered. She then said: “Sure, come on – I want it as a souvenir.” With a strange look in her eyes. I refused. Later she held my hand in a hard grip and said strictly: “look me in the eyes; will you miss me? ANSWER me.” While I was in that home I went to be at 6 pm every day to get through the days.

The German boy and I did not get along very well – in the beginning I blamed him too much for that. Mostly because I wasn’t possible to talk about our experiences with EF. Later on we became better friends when we realised that we only had each other. The situation in the house – plus its location which led to my driving the bus about 2 hours every day to get to and from schoo, made it a difficult situation. Only seldom was I allowed to speak with my parent and then only for 10 minutes. She could not have her telephone line held up. On her own part she spoke with her own daughter almost every day. There was no coverage for cell-phones or TV. The area was dangerous to go for walks in because of traffic. We could not go online – because of keeping the phone line busy. Fortunately I was able to speak with my parents via my Norwegian cell phone every day. I brought it with me to school and texted them. Those texts kept me going.

My IEC was extremely disrespectful. She spoke to me as if I could not understand what she said. She spoke to me as if I was a baby and it was difficult not to answer back in the same manner. On several occasions she would phone me and scream into the phone – just to yell. Everything I did was wrong. All I did was complain, try to get people to feel sorry for me etc. She never listened to what I had to say and interrupted me in the middle of any sentence. She made me cry and then called me a drama queen that would never get anywhere in life because I cried all of the time. And so on.

Today I realise that this was psychological abuse. Because how vulnerable is a 16/17 year old all alone in another country without a network. But EF would not listen to me. They refused to move me. I was desperate and talked to my Norwegian friend. She spoke with her exchange mother who reacted and demanded that EF move me there and then. This was not a great move on my part.

I was made to speak with EF in front of my exchange family. How easy is it to explain how bad the situation is then? While they were all listening in? Of course, I wasn’t able to say how I felt at that time. That was impossible. What I had thought was confidential between myself and EF was served up on a platter in for the rest of them. EF placed me on a behavioral agreement because I had broken “the chain of communication”. It stated that I should respect the family and computer and telephone usage (something I did, but OK) and I was also told that I should sign this and agree that this was the best family I could get and best school I could attend. Not only that, but I needed to treat everyone with respect etc. I refused to sign – I was not about to stay here the rest of the exchange year. I would rather end the year. I could not take any more time there. Apparently the agreement was supposed to be valid even without my signature.

In the period after this my parents were called up by EF Oslo who told them that I had been thrown out of the family and was now living with my IEC because of my behavior. My parents became terribly worried – until they were able to speak with me. These were untrue rumours – nothing even close had happened. I was in town with the other exchange student and nothing even similar had happened. I still don’t understand where that information came from. I visited my Norwegian friend and exchange mother. When they drove me home again the exchange mother entered the house because she claimed she needed to use the bath-room (probably an excuse to see my living conditions). Both she and my friend told me later that they had not realised that my situation was as bad as it was and that they were shocked. My friend exclaimed that she would not have stayed there even a day. It was simply too awful… And it probably was.

My dad phoned EF Oslo and told them what he had learned. He phoned several times. Finally he said that either you move her to a better home or you send her home. First then EF reacted. What I said meant little – only the exchange families’ versions count. To me it is incredibly that my exchange family could ever have been approved – and even more amazing that my IEC was allowed to be an IEC. I was then moved to another temporary family. But there was not space for me at a school.

I enjoyed myself there – but was of course worried because I could not go for too long without attending school. I needed my year approved.

I was moved to another state – Washington. EF called this another temporary solution. But I could stay if I liked it. I started my second school. I lived with an elderly couple. She was 86 years old and both were German. They spoke more German to me than English. He was very poorly. He used a walking frame and barely managed to get from his chair to the dinner table about a meter away. One time he fell over on the bath-room floor and I had to pick him up. During my stay there I was afraid of coming home one day finding one of them dead. I was supposed to have been included and invited by her daughter who was an IEC – and lived about 50 meters away. But was was kept alone there too. Long days filled with fear. Until I was finally told – after staying with the couple about 1.5 month – that EF had found me a permanent family. At this point my 7th family.

This family lived in Idaho – my third state. The problem was – as I discovered when I got there – that the school did not have room for me. None of the schools (three of them) wanted to take in another student until the trimester was finished. EF then decided that I could attend a private school for “problem children” – something I was fine with because it was a temporary solution. The problem was that this school was less than an hour from Idaho Falls – and that meant that it too was impossible. Later on EF talked about me home-schooling myself for 1.5 months. The did not even know if I could live there because they could not find a school. I liked the family a lot and would not agree to another move.

Even though EF said it was impossible to get into a school – my exchange mother and I want to Idaho Falls High School and asked to talk to the principal. Idaho is a gathering spot for mormons, so to speak – and the assistant principal had been on a mission to Norway and was fascinated with the country. He managed to convince the principal to admit another student in the middle of the trimester – even though they weren’t accepting any more exchange student for that school year. So I was really lucky. Who knows what would have happened if this problem had not been solved.

After getting back to Norway I sent a letter of complaint to EF – one that was somewhat like this, except this is a much less detailed one. I was recompensed – but never really apologised to. That is what I would like. Money can never make up for my being sent from one family to the other – and for experiencing one lie after the other. I never got a network in the US – and the rest of my time there was nice – but I was often home-sick because of my experiences. Sure, all organisations can make mistakes – but for me it seems as if EF are really good at making them. What kind of organisation allows such things to happen? How can they place students in such families? This is what I wonder… But a proper apology? An answer to my complaint and questions? Nah, I don’t see that coming …

2007 Dec 9: Exchange group gets probe after teens complain

BY ROBERT J. SMITH
Posted on Sunday, December 9, 2007

The U. S. State Department is investigating complaints about where a Massachusetts company places foreign-exchange students arriving in Northwest Arkansas.

The eight cases involve Education First Foundation for Foreign Study and its Fayetteville coordinators, Gerald D. and Sherry A. Drummond, said Stanley Colvin, director of the State Department’s office of exchange coordination and designation. Six of the eight cases involve students attending Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville Christian School or Mission Boulevard Baptist School. The others attended schools in Northwest Arkansas but now live in Camden or Kentucky, Colvin said.

The complaints center on the nonprofit firm’s failure to find appropriate homes for some students before they arrive, as well as on how and where the Drummonds place the students.

“This is sloppy work,” Colvin said of the foundation’s operation in Arkansas.

The State Department is investigating whether Cambridge, Mass.-based Education First, better known as EF Foundation, violated a federal regulation by allowing some students to live in the Drummond home without assigning another EF employee as a supervisor, Colvin said.

Federal regulations require foreign-exchange companies to “ensure that no organizational representative act as both host family and area supervisor for any exchange student participant.” “If there was an emergency and she had to remove a child from a home and keep the student for a one-night kind of thing, that’s not a violation,” Colvin said.

It wasn’t clear last week whether EF Foundation had assigned a separate supervisor.

Sherry Drummond, 53, refused to answer questions about the allegations of students and host families.

“It hurts me too much, because I’ve put so much into this,” she said.

She deferred to EF Foundation spokesman Ellen Manz, who requested that questions be sent by e-mail. She didn’t respond to those queries.

MADISON’S QUESTIONS The State Department investigation — expected to be complete in a few days — began after state Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, received complaints from host families and foreign-exchange students about EF Foundation and the Drummonds. The students and their current host families in Northwest Arkansas told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last week how foreign-exchange students lived in what they considered unclean, unsafe homes and how they felt disliked by Sherry Drummond when they stayed with her. They also complained that the Drummonds improperly served the dual role of host family and organization representative for several students, making it awkward for the students to voice their concerns.

Rikke Stoyva, a Fayetteville High School student from Norway, didn’t care for emphasis on religion by her host family, John and Jill Foster. The family attended nondenominational church services three times a week in West Fork.

Stoyva, who is Lutheran, lived with the Fosters for three months, then was moved to Camden, where she’s attending Camden Fairview High School. She is living with EF representative Leigh Horton, Horton said Friday.

Colvin said he’s also looking into complaints that foreign-exchange students sat at tables at the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and in front of a Wal-Mart trying to convince shoppers to allow other students into their homes. “It’s not appropriate, but it’s not a violation of the law,” Colvin said. “It may be an indication of underlying regulatory violations. Why were they down there doing that ?” It’s been a difficult year for foreign students at Fayetteville High. In September, student Marije Stam of the Netherlands repeatedly came to school upset and crying, she said, until counselors helped her move from the Drummond home.

“I did not feel like a guest, or at least a family member,” said Stam, 17, who lived in the Drummond house for a month and is now staying with Russ and Mara Cole of Fayetteville.

“I do not know how to express my feelings at that moment, but in my country, I would say [Sherry Drummond ] made me feel like a dog,” she said.

Mara Cole, along with Madison, spent much of last week spurring the State Department to investigate EF Foundation, the Drummonds and how the company operates in Arkansas. They sent statements from students and host families to Beth Melofchik, a State Department educational- and cultural-exchange specialist, describing what they say EF and the Drummonds did and failed to do. “I think we have an extra-special obligation to bring these foreign-exchange students to our country and to take good care of them, and I don’t think that’s happening here,” Madison said.

SCHOOL CONCERNED Fayetteville High teachers and counselors said they’ve had frequent issues with the Drummonds and EF Foundation placements. They’ve complained to officials in the foundation’s headquarters about the Drummonds and believe the organization did nothing in response. “I only hear about the bad [situations ], and there are several each year that are miserable for the student, and the placement in the homes get changed and the students have to be moved,” said Anne Butt, the high school’s college adviser for nine years.

Butt said she took a German student into her home four years ago because EF Foundation put her into a Springdale home she disliked.

Lesli Zeagler, a Fayetteville High counselor, said there are few problems with the international students attending the school who are brought to the United States by Rotary International. Not true with EF Foundation, she said. “With EF, I’ve experienced students who are scared, who seem to be malnourished, and they seem to be isolated,” Zeagler said. “The problems go back years, but we’ve never had a group of students who have been so vocal about it.” Doug Wright, a Fayetteville High counselor, was the counselor at Elkins High School last year. Among the nine foreign-exchange students at that school, five came to the States with the help of EF Foundation.

One EF placement was an Asian girl put in a home where the host parents were going through a divorce. The woman moved out and the man was left behind with the student, Wright said. The school reported it to EF Foundation and the girl was moved to the wife’s home, said Becky Martin, Elkins High School principal.

That instance, however, isn’t part of the State Department investigation.

“There were some questionable placements in Elkins,” Wright said. “I can’t think of a non-EF kid who had a problem.” Boglarka “Boszi” Palko, a national history champion in Hungary who’s attending Fayetteville High, found herself in an awkward situation when she arrived at the Springdale home of Bobby and Sue Hawkins on Aug. 4.

Palko, 18, said she was never happy in the small house, where she was asked to live with the Hawkinses and their 17-year-old daughter. Cousins and grandchildren also regularly spent the night.

Family members smoked inside the house. Palko said she had instructions to put toilet paper in the trash can rather than flush it. That plus cigarette smoke made the house smell bad, Palko said.

Palko said Hawkins family members described her as “overeducated” and as a “present” for their daughter. Bobby Hawkins, a close friend of the Drummonds, told Palko she’d need to understand “redneck English” to survive in the home, Palko said. Palko said she also was accused of having a sexual relationship while she lived in the home. She denies the accusation. Sue Hawkins invited a Democrat-Gazette reporter to see her Oak Street home last week then wouldn’t allow him inside. The tan-colored house was well-kept on the outside.

Palko lived eight days in the Hawkins home, then was moved to the 41-year-old, 2, 100-squarefoot Drummond home near Lake Sequoyah. In order to move, she had to sign an EF Foundation “behavioral agreement” that described the Hawkins home as “suitable” and that the problems she’d encountered were her fault.

“Sherry hated me,” Palko said. “When you speak with someone, you can feel it.” She was moved five days later to the Fayetteville home of Dave and Brenda Servies. Sherry and Gerald Drummond visited the home to check it out, and family members passed a criminal-background check, which is required by the State Department. Palko said she’s been content in the Servies home. She’s visited local stores, loves Northwest Arkansas Mall and made her first trip last week to a Hobby Lobby crafts store. She’ll travel with the Servies as part of a Christmas trip to Florida. “I’m talking about what happened with the other people to protect the next kids from this,” Palko said. “It won’t be good for us to talk, but I can protect the next ones by letting people know.” DUAL ROLE Among the most troubling issues in Arkansas are the stories of Gerald and Sherry Drummond serving as host family and EF Foundation representatives, said Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for the Safety of Foreign Exchange Students. The 2-year-old watchdog organization monitors foreign-exchange organizations.

Having a different EF Foundation representative serve as a supervisor doesn’t protect foreign-exchange students, she said.

“What neutrality does that provide the student when she has a concern about her host father or host mother ?” Grijalva said. “Is that not a recipe for disaster ? It’s a disgrace.” Grijalva also expressed concerns about Stoyva, the Norwegian student placed in the Fosters’ home who’s now in Camden. The EF Foundation handbook says “we are not trying to change the student’s beliefs or convert anyone to a new faith.” Efforts to reach Stoyva in Camden were unsuccessful. Horton, the EF representative in whose home Stoyva now lives, refused to let her come to the phone Friday, saying she’s a minor. School officials and state Sen. Gene Jeffress, D-Louann, refused to ask Stoyva to return messages.

“She’s doing wonderful now,” said Jeffress, a retired Fairview teacher who went to check on Stoyva last week. “She’s in a better situation now. She conveyed that to me.” John Foster said his family didn’t try to change Stoyva’s beliefs and that the family knew of her Lutheran upbringing. He’d communicated with her by email before she came to the States about the family’s frequent visits to Unity Covenant Church in West Fork. The family attends church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. Stoyva knew what to expect, Foster said. “I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” said Foster, 28, a Fayetteville police officer assigned to work at Fayetteville High. “We felt like we gave Rikke a good home. “ Church was the only place we saw her smile at all. If loving your child and trying your hardest is something bad, then we did something wrong. We tried as hard as we could to make it work.”

EF FOUNDATION Madison said she was told by an EF Foundation employee that the Drummonds are paid $ 300 to $ 400 for each foreignexchange student placed in a family’s home, including their own. The Drummonds received $ 12 per student, per month, for verifying the students are doing well and helping with difficulties they encounter, Madison said. Grijalva said most foreign-exchange student companies pay $ 400 to $ 750 for each student who is placed in a home. Host families aren’t paid.

The payment is a small portion of the $ 5, 000 for six months or $ 10, 000 for a year that the students pay EF Foundation to come to the United States.

Around 30, 000 exchange students come to America annually, said Colvin of the State Department’s exchange coordination office, adding the State Department investigates about 200 complaints each year. About 20 percent involve students brought to the United States by EF Foundation, Colvin said.

As part of its investigation in Arkansas, Colvin said the State Department could reprimand the company and require it to write a corrective-action plan to ensure it doesn’t violate federal regulations. A more severe penalty could involve shutting down the corporation or limiting how many students it can bring to the United States. Colvin sent a letter Thursday to the EF Foundation describing five media accounts and complaints last week regarding the organization. “This is not a pretty picture,” he concluded in the letter.

John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, is familiar with the complaints coming from Northwest Arkansas. The nonprofit council monitors and distributes information about exchange programs. “Things go wrong, and you have to figure out if it’s a catastrophic failure or a single thing that went wrong,” Hishmeh said. Connie Williams, a counselor at Springdale High School for 35 years, said it’s wrong to “pinpoint” EF Foundation as problematic because she’s had difficulty with other companies, too. Eight foreign-exchange students are attending the school this year, she said.

“I’ve never particularly had trouble with EF, but I’ve had trouble with another agency,” Williams said.

Brad and Sarah Campbell, who are hosting a German student in their Fayetteville home, fear problems with foreign-exchange companies in Northwest Arkansas could have long-term consequences.

“These are high-achieving kids who were selected to come here,” Brad Campbell said. “They are diplomats. They want to know what it’s like in America, and they invest a year of their life to be here. We owe them a good experience. Their opinions of the U. S. are being formed.

“We’re not saying you have to be millionaires to have these kids, but you do have to have a solid foundation. A lot of the households aren’t solid. They are disruptive and filled with turmoil.” FOUNDATION FACTS

Education First Foundation for Foreign Study, founded in 1979, is the country’s largest foreign-exchange company. More than 100 companies bring students to the United States, said John Hishmeh, director of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel. The council has certified about 70, including EF Foundation. About 30, 000 foreign-exchange students travel to the United States each year and few report problems, Hishmeh said. EF Foundation brought 3, 712 students from more than 40 countries in the year ending Sept. 30, 2006, according to the foundation’s most recent federal tax filings.

The foundation’s income tax exemption submitted to the Internal Revenue Service last February reported its 2006 revenue was $ 10, 047, 865.


Student Fayetteville