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Youth Homestay Placements

Alyssa Keehan, Esq.
October 2020
Safe practices and oversight procedure standards for homestay placements

By arranging homestay placements, your K-12 school, college, or university may enrich experiences of visiting international students, host families, and the campus community. But these placements also could expose unwitting participants to illicit drug and alcohol use, sexual misconduct, and other problem behavior.

To ensure a safe and positive experience, 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.

Follow Standards for Screening

Federal standards for screening host families include:

  • Completing a comprehensive application form
  • Criminal background check for members of the host family who are over 18
  • In-person interviews with each family member
  • Home inspection
  • 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 State Department guidelines. Screen returning host families annually to ensure they still meet the qualifications. The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) recommends establishing a formal process to standardize application review and approval criteria.

Train Visiting Students and Host Families

Ensure training is 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 visiting students follow program rules. For example, describe how 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
  • 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.

Manage Homestay Placements

Establish procedures for your institution’s 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.

Additional Resources