BLACKFOOT – Each year, students and families gear up for the start of school, whether here or abroad. With the start of the school year on the horizon, more families are needed to host children taking part in the foreign exchange program.
Jennifer Alder, a coordinator for EF High School Exchange Year, expressed the necessity for more host families in the area and from year to year, the need changes. This year however, the need is higher than it has been in the past. Jeff and Jennifer Alder have hosted five exchange program teens in the past, and will be temporarily hosting another this year while the coordination company finds the proper fit for the student.
Foreign exchange is a way to grow a family; each of the children the Alders have hosted keep in contact and have even arranged visits to their home countries for them to come and visit. "We have visited four of them," Alder stated, who has been visited by their fifth child's family here in the United States. "It was a really awesome experience. They got to show us what they felt was important to see," Alder exclaimed. The Alders also visited the traditional tourist attractions, but felt as though seeing it through the eyes of the locals was the only way they would want to enjoy these countries. The Alders' exchange children come from all over Europe; Spain, Italy, Germany, and Denmark. The experience of uniting these families together through the program has been a life-changing experience and is the reason why the Alders are headed back to visit again this year.
Alder spoke about the experience of seeing their exchange children's homes through their eyes and experiencing things that they find to be fun.
Families looking to become involved in hosting a foreign exchange student have a set of credentials that must be met. The first step involves completing an application. The application is a way for the family to show who they are on paper as well as provide two references for the coordinators to contact. The two references must be different; one personal and one professional, with one of the references must have been a guest in the applicants home more. Adding to the security for both the family and the exchange student, a comprehensive background check is carried out on anyone over the age of 17 in the household and a home visit by their coordinator. Based on the information provided and collected, a decision will be made in favor or against the family based on criteria provided. The top priority for coordinators is the safety of the child as well as the potential host family. There is a lot of trust placed in host families and coordinators to provide a home for these students and going the distance to provide a caring home is a must. "It's an absolutely amazing program," Alder stated.
Alder explained that they hear from time to time a few recurring concerns. The first being that a potential host family will not be able to prove that they make enough money to provide a comfortable home for the student; the second, being that what if they cannot handle adding an additional teen to the household. Alder responded to both of those concerns with an expert's experience: "We want American families willing to open their hearts and share their America. We want to build that bond that will last forever." Ultimately, Alder explained that the steps they take as coordinators help establish the base for each of these families.
The main items that will disqualify a family include felony charges, driving under the influence (DUI) charges, and violent crime charges.
Those who are qualified to host an exchange student may go one step further and become a coordinator; all that is required is an additional reference above the host application. Coordinator positions involve some financial benefits and help place exchange students in this area, which spans from Burley through the rest of Eastern Idaho.
For those interested in becoming an exchange student host, they may visit www.exchangeyear.org and search for the company EF High School Exchange Year.