2005 Oct 30: Exchange Student Abuse Spurs Background Checks, New Rules

From Perth, Australia to Plainwell, Mich., there is a pattern of abuse that is making headlines around the world, according to the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, a group of concerned citizens in the United States, a voluntary organization formed to protect the exchange students that arrive in the thousands from all over the world to study in the U.S.

During their stay, the students share accommodations with a host family, or a welcome family, and in numerous cases the students were reportedly abused by their host parents.

Danielle Grijalva of Oceanside, CA, CSFES director, says that given the recent events in Florida, the U.S. States Department of State should now be requiring the student exchange industry to notify and seek the permission of the natural parents when they plan to place their son or daughter in the home of a parolee or convicted criminal. The form must include the parolee’s background and the Department of Corrections Number, when applicable, and include signature lines for the natural parents granting full permission.

Ms. Grijalva was referring to the situation of the placement of a 16-year-old female Japanese exchange student in the home of a St. Johns County family in Florida where the husband is a convicted felon. The man was convicted for burglary in 1994 and sentenced to 12 years of prison, including three years of prison in Georgia and nine years of parole. On one occasion, the man was charged with sexual battery and rape in Florida He is still on parole.

She said CSFES was notified of the situation last month.

Despite the husband being a convicted felon and a parolee, the family has hosted high school Japanese girls for the past three years.

The foreign student was placed with the St. Johns County family by a Gainesville company, the Foundation of Academic Cultural Exchange (FACE). Executive director Richard Moss, who supervised the placement of the Japanese student, admits that the firm rarely undertakes criminal background checks of prospective families. Moss said that he did not feel it was important to inform the natural parents of the fact that their daughter would be placed in the home where the host father is on parole until July, 2006. Furthermore, according to Ms. Grijalva, Moss did not notify the Japanese foreign partner of the conditions of this placement of its student.

When CSFES brought its concerns to the attention of the Department of State, Stanley Colvin informed Ms. Grijalva that the natural parents had since been notified and are perfectly fine with the knowledge that their daughter is living in the home of a parolee. He further stated to Ms. Grijalva that the 144 months the host father spent in prison and the nine counts against him was for a “minor run-in with the law.” When Mr. Colvin’s rationale was questioned by an overseas expert, he responded rudely on the lines that it was none of her business.

Ms. Grijalva said that what concerns CSFES is the effect this will this have on future placements of foreign exchange students. United States parents who are contemplating sending their son or daughter abroad should ensure that the student exchange agency does not place their children with hosts who have a criminal background. Much seems to depend on the integrity of the student exchange organization, but our experience has been that when things go wrong, the agency protects itself, not the students.

“The fact that this subject is being addressed is absolutely unconscionable”, Grijalva said. “However, due to the fact that this placement was approved by FACE, it must be addressed and brought to the attention of those concerned”.

She urges that anyone having questions or concerns about the placement of foreign exchange students should address them to Stanley Colvin , director of the Department of State office of exchange coordination at ColvinSS@state.gov or Ms. Danielle Grijalva, CSFES at DGrijalva@csfes.org. More information can be found by visiting the organization’s website atwww.csfes.org.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration proposed new rules to screen host families and to regulate the agencies that sponsor the nearly 28,000 high school exchange students each year, nearly all of them minors.

There has been no requirement for a sponsor to report sexual abuse or molestation cases to the federal government nor maintain records of such cases but Colvin said that under the proposed new rules, all adult members of host families and personnel in sponsoring groups will be screened through the sex offender registry for criminal history. Sponsors would be required to report any allegation of sexual misconduct to local law enforcement agencies and to the State Department. If they fail to do so, their program would be closed.

Exchange students would be advised during orientation of inappropriate sexual contact and how to handle such occurrences.

The proposed rules were published in the Federal Register in August and were expected to go into effect after 30 days of public comment. 10-30-05

© 2005 North Country Gazette


1986: Foundation for Academic Cultural Exchange, California (Fred Gonzales)

1998: Foundation for Academic Cultural Exchange, Inc., Florida (Richard Moss/Regina Bach/Beverly Moss/Roger Riske/Mutsumi Terui/ )

2005: Are Foreign Exchange Students Safe?

2005: Exchange Student Living With Convicted Felon

2005: Loophole landed student in home of felon

2012: The Foundation for Academic Cultural Exchange, Nevada (Richard Wiseman/Kunxiang Chen/Judith Counter)



2008 May 07: Agencies Seek To Silence Child Protection Group

Posted on Wednesday, 7 of May , 2008 at 10:24 am

OCEANSIDE, CA—A child protection organization is being taken to court by student exchange placement agencies due to efforts to protect foreign exchange students.   

Danielle Grijalva of Oceanside, CA, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES), will be in court in North Carolina on May 15 facing student placement agencies, which have obtained a restraining order to thwart her efforts. At issue is whether a child protection advocate should be restrained from reporting incidences of abuse of foreign exchange students. 

CSFES is a non-profit advocacy group for the protection of foreign exchange students. A New York teacher allegedly witnessed the physical assault of a French female exchange student by her ASSE International, Inc.  representative and sent a complaint to ASSE. The teacher provided the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) a copy of his complaint, complete with translated letters from four exchange students who witnessed the assault. The teacher’s complaint was forwarded by CSFES to the Buffalo Police Department, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the U.S. Department of State. 

On Sept. 26, 2007, the ASSE partner in France, Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges (PIE France) filed a Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Expedited Discovery against the director of CSFES. ASSE and World Heritage, Inc. filed a separate Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order against the director of CSFES.“Do I believe this is an intimidation tactic?  Absolutely.”  said Danielle Grijalva, director of CSFES.  “Let me emphasize that children’s safety must be first and foremost in foreign exchanges and every other aspect of education.  We want to ensure that visitors to our country enjoy a safe and enriching academic and cultural experience that builds bridges for future collaboration, be it social, educational or economic.”Grijalva remains firm, “Abuse by those in positions of trust will not be tolerated.”  The May 15 hearing will be held at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice, 200 North Main Street, Courtroom 4C, Winston-Salem, North Carolina  


1999 Jul 27: Exchange student testifies in rape case

1999 Jul 29: Witness: Student, host father had consensual sex

1999 Aug 05: Company blamed in exchange student sex case

1999 Aug 05: Exchange student may get USD 649 000 for assaults

2000 Nov 15: 233 F. 3d 441 – Kristin Beul, et al. v. Asse International, Inc., et al.

2007 Sep 03: Complaint to USSD re. ASSE temporary homes

2007 Sep 21: Programmes Internationaux D’Echanges v. Grijalva

2008 Jun 26: Advocate for exchange students says order defies free speech

2008 Nov 03: Grijalva v. Brandt

2009 Feb 04: Foreign exchange program controversy

2010: Ely faces felony charges

The original link was: wwmt.com (Newschannel 3) but the article can no longer be found there. This article has been copied from dreamindemon.com

CENTREVILLE, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – An exchange student from Thailand who has lived in west Michigan for more than five years is facing the possibility of deportation and her former host mother is facing two felony charges in St. Joseph County for stealing the girl’s savings.

Laura Ely had an arraignment Wednesday and faces charges of larceny and illegal sale or use of a financial transaction device. The most serious charge could put her in prison for ten years.

Donnapha Kuppatikasem – known as Tak – came to Michigan when she was 16 years old with dreams of becoming a doctor.

“As long as I’ve known her,” said Theresa Hawkins, Tak’s friend, “she hasn’t changed it.”

Theresa met Tak when both attended Colon High School. She spoke to Newschannel 3 on Tak’s behalf because Tak is waiting to tell her story of what happened in court. Tak is 21 now, and may have to reconsider her dream. She may lose her student visa because she cannot afford this fall’s tuition at WMU. Detectives in St. Joseph County say Laura Ely stole thousands of dollars from Tak.

“[Tak] trusted her,” Theresa Hawkins said. “She lived with her for years and years and never knew she was that kind of person, but people can be deceiving.”

The probable cause affidavit says Laura Ely slowly drained $17,000 from an account at First State Bank in Middlebury, Indiana, first deposited in June 2008. The affidavit says Ely also took $15,000 deposited in November 2009 at Omni Community Credit Union in Sturgis.

Investigators say Laura Ely also used Tak’s credit card without permission at least 10 times at Dury Oil in Sturgis, Kalamazoo Animal Hospital, LaGrange Veterinary Clinic and other locations.

Tak’s new host family estimated the credit card purchases total about $4,000.

Theresa Hawkins says Tak never knew about the money disappearing.

“I don’t think [Tak] ever did, not until it was gone,” Theresa Hawkins said.

The affidavit says Laura Ely did not deny using the money or the credit card. She told detectives she had permission and Tak was aware of every transaction.

Laura Ely is out of the St. Joseph County jail on bond and told Newschannel 3 at her home in Sturgis on Thursday that she did not steal anything. She says the charges are retaliation for evicting Tak from her home in March.

WMU told Newschannel 3 student visa rules require a student to maintain enrollment for the entire academic year. The university says Tak has until September 7th to enroll in classes for the fall semester. Tak’s tuition bill is $13,305.38; she owes that to keep her student visa in good standing or risk deportation back to Thailand.

“Like when an unexpected bill comes, you don’t have money to pay for it, you’re frantic,” Theresa Hawkin said, “and you’re scared and you don’t know what to do. [Tak’s] basically screwed.”

will appear in court again next week. If you’d like to donate to help Tak pay her tuition, her new host family has set up an account for her at Citizens Bank in Colon. The account is under her full name – Donnapha Kuppatikasem.

2008/2009: EF threatens student with jail

Extract of the story of one Pedro Acevedo of Venezuela and his experiences with EF Foundation. The entire exchange may be read here

My name is Pedro Acevedo, I’m from Caracas, Venezuela, and I’m currently an exchange student in Southaven, Mississippi, with the company EF, also known as the Education First. During this year, I have been target of several irregularities and injustices from EF part, making this year extremely hard to endure. At the moment, i find myself in a hurry, and i dire need of help. …

… Tonight I was approached by Emily Force, my area representative, from the EF company, and i was told that tomorrow, Wednesday may 13th, i was scheduled to leave at noon, and that she was to pick me up at 9 am. She said that the department of state had “said” that i had to go home no matter what, and that otherwise i was going to get in “big trouble”. She put me on the phone with a woman named Susan, “a lady” from EF, and i was told by her that my requests of staying longer were just going to be ignored, and that i shouln’t keep asking for it, and that they didnt needed “valid reasons” to send me home. I was told that if i don’t get on a plane tomorrow morning, my j1 visa was going to be removed and i was gonna be forced to leave, no matter what. I was told that i could be “Taken” to the airport without my things if necessary, like some kind of criminal. My constant requests for reasons from them to want my early depart, are ignored. …

This is coming to me as a shock since i wasnt informed of a time, i wasnt given a ticket, they kept me in the shadows until hours before the supposed leaving time. … my natural parents, not only they dont want me to leave, but they don’t even know if they could pick me up at any random time, given the short notice. My host family have approved my stay, and they want me to stay the remaining 2 weeks. … I’m being told that if i refuse to leave at the time they want me to, i could even go to jail. I don’t understand how this can be possible. Please, any assistance on this matter will be greatly appreciated.

2008: AYUSA refused student contact with sick mother

All of the exchange organizations send their students warning letters/probation letters/agreements that make a case against the exchange students. At times these letters reflect reality and sometimes they illustrate how dangerous it is for company representatives to be good friends of host families.

In this case, there are two letters from AYUSA that demand the exchange student sign. As punishment they take away all electronic devices from the student. At the time the student’s mother had contracted cancer and the student needed to be in contact with her. Yet the student had not been allowed to speak with her for more than a month. AYUSA were aware of the situation. He was living with AYUSA regional representative, Norma Latini. Below is an extract of the communications between CSFES and the US Department of State, along with the warning letters:

The mother of a foreign exchange student from Montenegro is suffering from cancer and contacted this child protection advocacy group for help.

Her son, … has not been allowed to speak with his natural mother for over a month.

October 15, 2008 Probation Letter (see below) issued to her son by student’s placement agency, “Your computer and cell phone use has been terminate indefinitely.

Natural mother reported that her son’s Host Mother, AYUSA Regional Director, Norma Latini, … has confiscated his cell phone.

This family has spent approximately $10,000 for their son to come live his dream; live a year in America. Her son is being returned home early on November 3. …

Probation Letter:

Oct 15th, 20008

xxxx (348772)

15101 Woodson Street
Overland Park, KS  66223
Dear xxxx,

I recently received reports that (brief description of the behavior). The purpose of this letter is to inform you are officially on probation with AYUSA for the remainder of the year and to clarify with you what we expect of you as an AYUSA student. Failure to make an effort to (refer to the rule violation) could result in your dismissal form the AYUSA program.

It has been reported to me that:

You recently posted 2 exchange students on YouTube making discriminatory and inappropriate comments about each student on the video. You added personal information about the students which could be detrimental to their relationships at school and their personal well being.

You continue to transfer the blame to someone else for all of your personal infractions. ” Fadi has too much drama.”  “Norma did not have to tell Mary Lou.”

You say, “it is a joke,  just a joke” about serious violations of rules and disrespect you have shown to others.

You have violated Host Family rules and the personal privacy of others.

Because this behavior is considered unacceptable, you will be placed under close supervision by your local AYUSA representative, Tracy Ellenz, who will look for an improvement in your behavior and actions. Probation is a step before dismissal, meaning that AYUSA is giving you a chance to demonstrate a successful program experience.

As an AYUSA student, it is your responsibility to follow program rules and procedures. You were selected for this program because we believe that you have the maturity and capability to deal with the demands of a year in the United States.

xxxx, you must work very hard to prove that you should remain on the AYUSA program. In order to continue to be an AYUSA student you must meet the following requirements:

Your computer and cell phone use has been terminated indefinitely.

You will take responsibility for your own actions and take the consequences.

No more jokes, or what you consider jokes on anyone.

Respect others’ privacy and listen to staff and host family when they tell you that you are being disrespectful to teachers and other.  Change your disrespectful behavior to others upon the request.

An addendum may follow after investigation into the YouTube videos by authorities.

AYUSA expects that you will take this probation notice very seriously and will make strides toward changing your attitude and behavior and completing a successful year in the U.S. We anticipate that you will act, for the remainder of your stay, in a manner befitting an AYUSA student and a junior ambassador of Montenegro.  After reading this letter, please sign the copy enclosed and mail it back to me at the following address by October 20th, 2008.

Mary Lou Dunekacke
Regional Manager
491 32nd Rd
Rising City, NE  68658

I have read and understood this Probation Letter

_____________________________                          _________________________
(Student’s Name)                                             (Date)

AYUSA International
Mary Lou Dunekacke (Regional Manager)


Zanka Samardzic
Jenna DeFabio (HQ)
Tracy Ellenz (CR)
Norma Latini (RD)

M( 17 )      9* AICEE-SM 348772

Dear xxxx,

I recently received reports from AYUSA staff regarding the following

  • You have told others that you have lost 22 pounds in the USA.
  • You have told others that you were made to go to church.
  • You have demanded the food of your native country, not eating the food of your host family. In the meantime, you have ordered delivery pizza and chocolate dunkers on at least 10 occasions after the host family’s meal.
  • You act distant to relatives and friends of the host family when visiting, even though you were explained this and your host mom has a code word for you.  You said you do not think you are disrespectful.
  • You have refused to wash your clothes and wear clean clothing.
  • You spend hours on your Playstation, then ask for  help with your homework late at night.
  • You are talking to your natural mom frequently on your international cell phone and reporting to staff that she has contradicting reports about your issues.

Consequently, the purpose of this letter is to inform you that you are officially on warning with AYUSA and to clarify with you what we expect of you as an AYUSA student.  Failure to make an effort to change your behavior/attitude will result in being placed on probation with the AYUSA program.

As an AYUSA student, it is your responsibility to follow program rules and procedures as part of having a successful year abroad.  I realize that adjusting to a new situation can be challenging.  The following are suggestions on what you can do to show that you are serious about having a successful experience on the AYUSA program:

  • You will follow any and all rules of your host family
  • You will give accurate accounts to others.
  • You will read the in your student booklet pages 2-25.
  • You will report to your representative, Tracy Ellenz as to what you have read.
  • You will discontinue ordering from pizza delivery and try to adjust to American food and the special cooking of your host family.
  • Your host mom has a code word for you when you are acting disrespectful,  she will use it and you will stop your behavior. You will act respectful to teachers and  others.
  • You will wash your clothes and wear clean clothing at all times.
  • You will limit your time on Playstation until all your homework is finished, the time limits will be set as needed by your host mom.
  • Limit calls from home to once every two weeks.

Your local AYUSA representative, Tracy Ellenz, is here to support you and will closely supervise you over the next 4 weeks. She will observe your attitude and effort weekly in making the suggested changes listed above.  On October 2, 2008 Tracy will talk with you to check on your progress.  If, at this time, reports indicate that you have not made any changes or your behavior has worsened, you will be placed on probation.

xxxx you were selected for this program because we believe that you have the maturity and capability to deal with the demands of a year in the United States.  AYUSA expects that you will take this warning letter very seriously and will make strides toward changing your attitude and behavior and completing a successful year in the U.S.  We anticipate that you will act, for the remainder of your stay, in a manner befitting an AYUSA student and a junior ambassador of Montenegro. After reading this letter, please sign the copy enclosed and mail it back to Mary Lou Dunekacke at the following address by September 14, 2008.

Mary Lou Dunekacke
AYUSA Regional Manager
491 32nd Rd.
Rising City,NE  68658
Fax:  402-542-2277

I have read and understand this Warning Letter.

_______________________________                  _______________
(Student Name)                                         (Date)

(Student Comment)                                                                                                                 

Zanka Samardzic
Jenna DeFabio(HQ)
Tracy Ellenz
Norma Latini

People to People Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit

01/29/2008 | ConsumerAffairs |  People to People News

By Lisa Wade McCormick

Tyler Hill (Family photo)

Sheryl Hill hugged her 16-year-old son a little tighter — and a littler longer than usual — shortly before he boarded a plane last summer and took off on his much anticipated People to People Student Ambassador trip to Japan.

The Mound, Minnesota, woman took a mental picture of their last moments together at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport recalling every detail of the excitement in her son’s big brown eyes, his brilliant smile, and even the burgundy polo shirt and khaki pants he wore on that June 16, 2007, day.

Sheryl and her husband had worried about sending their son, Tyler — who had Type 1 diabetes and complex migraine headaches — on this People to People excursion.

But the travel organization that touts its ties to President Dwight D. Eisenhower convinced her that it had a solid safety record and a 24-hour response team that could handle any medical emergency.

That promise sealed the deal. It’s the reason Sheryl and Allen Hill let Tyler join his friends on the trip overseas.

Now that promise is at the heart of a wrongful death suit filed on Monday in Minnesota’s Hennepin County District Court.

The lawsuit alleges the organization and its delegation leaders refused to get Tyler the medical attention he requested and that his June 29, 2007, death in Tokyo is the result of their negligence.

But thirteen days before this tragedy — as Tyler and his friends said goodbye to their families in the states — Sheryl’s thoughts focused on how much this journey meant to her son.

“This was the most excited we’d ever seen him,” she says of Tyler, a history buff who was born on the anniversary of D-Day. “He dreamed of going to Japan.”

During their bittersweet farewell at the airport, Sheryl says Tyler — who had “dominated” his diabetes since its onset at age five — assured her that he’d be fine.

“He told me not to worry. Then he picked me up, did a backwards dip with me, and said ‘I love you momI’m going to make your proud of me.’


Are P2P part of President Eisenhower’s programs?

2007: ASSE blames student for problem-family

Sometimes students are placed with host-families that are trouble. One of the things that happen to the students if they complain about their situation is that, if they are lucky, get re-located, or unlucky, get sent back to their home countries. The below example shows the latter:

Regarding ASSE International participant:  Marc Jaubert of FRANCE

Dear Ms. Melofchik, Ms. Dickerson, Ms. Findlay, Ms. Martin and Ms. Lawrence:

Marc Jaubert of France left Knoxville, Tennessee on August 25, 2007 and is currently living with host family:

Stuart and Heidi Jackson
128 N. Van Brant Blvd.
Kansas City, MO  64123

It has been reported to CSFES by ASSE International representative Amber Wallen that Marc has been crying uncontrollably since being placed in this home and feels unsafe in the neighborhood.  Amber Wallen’s contact information:  home telephone:  865-947-2823.

Marc Jaubert’s ASSE International area representative in Missouri is:  Christina Evans, telephone:  816-617-5173.

Last week, Ms. Evans gave an ultimatum to Marc that he needs to adjust or he will be sent back home.

Please be advised that on Tuesday, September 4, ASSE International is repatriating Marc Jaubert.

At approximately 8:20 am on Monday, September 3, ASSE International Regional Director Shannon Cochran will remove Marc Jaubert from the Jackson residence and will depart Missouri to France on Tuesday, September 4.

Note the names of former exchange students who were also not able to continue to reside in this residence Marc was placed:

  • Marianne of Norway
  • Rosario of Italy

Please be informed that a student from the Czech Republic has already been selected to be placed in the above-referenced residence.

It is an obvious pattern to blame the student for the placement breakdown.  This is not what the natural parents agreed to when they sent their son/daughter to the United States.


Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496 / Oceanside, CA 92052
www.csfes.org / 866-471-9203

Use appropriately / give credit where due

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