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Updated on September 28, 2010
It's a new world
It's a new world

The Arrival

It started out as an adventure. Lara, a 16 year old German Student had been saving her money since she was 12 years old, working odd jobs and making excellent grades in school so that she could take a year off and spend it in America. She wanted the International Cultural Experience that the F.I.T. Organization promised her in the brochures. Her family had read the brochure and felt that it was a safe and well structured organization. But, Lara's arrival into the United States was far from the brick home she had seen photographs of, nor were there smiling and friendly faces meeting her at the airport. Lara arrived in the United States at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in early August. Tired, but still very excited about meeting her new host family, she couldn't wait to get off the plane and finally meet the people she had spoken to on the phone those few times and see the home she would be living in for a year, while she went to high school here in SC.

As Lara got off the plane, she was expecting to be greeted by her host mother Pam F. Instead, she was met by Pam's older daughter and her younger sibling. She was not greeted with a lot of kindess but with indifference. They loaded up her luggage in their small car and Lara was on her way at last to see her new home. As they pulled around the corner into a neighborhood that Lara thought they must live in, they pulled up in front of a very large and beautiful brick home. Sitting in the back seat, Lara did not see the faces of the two girls right away, but heard their laughter first. As they began laughing louder, the oldest daughter looked at Lara with a smirk on her face and stated "betcha thought you would get to live here didn't ya"? Lara, not sure what they were referring too, innocently asked, "this is not where we live"? The girls laughed out loud again and said "yeah right" and drove on down the road. They made a few turns and then came to a small trailer park, something that Lara had never seen before. In Germany, as they don't have mobile homes. They pulled in front of a small single wide trailer that was occupied by Pam, her two daughters, 20 and 11 years old and one other host student named Maja.

Surprised and confused, Lara entered the home which had only 3 small rooms, a den and 2 small baths. But only 1 for her and the other 3 girls to share. Not really understanding how she ended up in this single wide trailer with so many people crammed inside, she tried to adjust to her current situation. Having met Maja, she was a little more relieved to know that there was at least another student there with her. She decided to give it a few days and learn to acclimate herself to her new surroundings. After all, she had been saving for this trip since she was 12 and her parents too had provided her with a lot of funding for her trip to the U.S.


The Awakening

It's been over a week since Lara arrived into America. It took a very short time for Lara and Maja to become friends. They both had a lot in common. They enjoyed, laughing, singing, dancing and just talking among each other about their expectations for the time they had planned to spend in America. School started in less than two weeks and they both were very excited to start high school and make new American friends. Both girls came from very good homes. Lara from Germany and Maja from Poland. Both families had working parents, siblings and nice homes. Their new living arrangements were a lot less than what they had been use to living in.

At first, Lara was made to stay in the room with the 11 year old girl. Later, Lara and Maja began sharing a room. There was a small bed and a air matress. The room was very small. The home was not clean and had minimal amounts of food. There were roaches crawling in the shower, in their rooms and on the counters in the kitchen. They also had never seen palmetto bugs, until they arrived in SC and were very surprised to find them in the home they were staying at.

Pam was gone at night for work and her daughter finally moved next door into a place of her own. The girls were often left at night alone and made to baby sit the 11 year old daughter while the host mother worked the night shift. They were also never supplied with emergency numbers, given 911 information, so had there been an accident, the girls would have had no way to contact someone for assistance.

After the girls began going to school, they were made to ride the school bus. They were not allowed to have friends come home from school and over to Pam's house to visit them, nor were they allowed to leave the trailer and go to other friends home. They were not allowed to go shopping or to any stores, aside from the local Walmart, when Pam needed to go for groceries. To that end, the girls were made to wash clothes for the family, clean the home, cook the dinners, babysit the 11 year old and only allowed to call home for 15 minutes once a week and that was done in the presence of the host mother so that nothing negative could be said to their families to inform them of their living conditions. It seemed like this was going to be a very long 9 months in America. 

The Realization

It's now been over 3 weeks and things are now getting worse. The host mother is rude and uncaring. The Area Representative Tony was dating the host mother Pam, so there was no one that they could go to for support or help. They were told that if they complained, they would be sent home and their J-1 Visa revoked.

Maja, had finally had enough of her environment, and the way she was treated. She first called the Operations Manager of this program, Joy to find her a new host family. Joy kept pushing Maja off and telling her that there were "no other families for her" and later threatened that she" must go home if they could not locate a new family for her". She was also labeled a "trouble maker" and "dramatic".

After several days of trying to get the organization to assist her and move her to a cleaner and safer environment, Maja decided to take initiative and began taking photographs of her environment and forwarding them on to her parents in Poland. After receiving the photographs, the parents immediately contacted One World and then F.I.T. to request that she be removed from the current host family. Having no other option but to respond at this point, Joy then went to pick up Maja from her current host family. However, knowing exactly what kind of environment she was in, they left Lara behind to fend for herself. Maja was taken home with Joy for a few days. Maja describes walking into her home. It was large, spacious, and she was certainly making a very good living from her job with F.I.T. What Maja was not aware of was that Joy had been contacting other Area Representatives to try and get Maja placed because she did not want her in her home.

Finally she called an Area Rep in Lexington SC whom after much begging and threats of sending Maja home without the option of being allowed to complete her already paid for exchange experience, the Area Rep agreed to bring Maja into her home to live with her and another exchange student from Germany that she was already hosting. According to the Area Representative, they met her halfway between NC and SC. She literally pulled up, put Majas things into the Reps vehicle along with Maja and then left with little to no words.

Imagine how Maja must have been feeling during this whole transition. The Area Representative was kind and Maja and her new roommate Anna were introduced. Maja was very excited about her new host family. They had a beautiful home, she was able to remain at the same high school she had already been attending and things were finally the way they were meant to be.

Lara however was still in the trailer park with her first host family. By now they had begun charging her 60.00 a month to use a cell phone they were only paying 10.00 a month for. When Lara bought food for herself to eat by the time she came home from school, they had already eaten it. Things had gotten to the point that Lara started buying raw carrots to eat, because no one would eat them and she would have something of her own to eat without having to ask permission to get food or drink from the host family. The Area Rep was not allowed to have more than 2 students in her home at once. She wanted to move Lara, but was unable to because of the rule.

Lara and Maja remained in contact at school, but Lara's host mother Pam refused to allow Lara to have contact with Maja by phone any longer, claiming that Maja was a "trouble maker". Lara was now left alone to do all the chores by herself, cook, clean, wash clothes and babysit at night, all while trying to maintain her academics. She was still not allowed to have friends, nor was she allowed to participate in any school events, and was only allowed to call her parents 15 minutes per week. The phone calls had to be made in the presence of the host parent so she was to afraid to say anything about her situation to her parents. In Germany, her parents thought everything was fine where their daughter was staying. Because of the restraints put on Lara's communication and having to be in front of the host parent, she could not request to leave. Lara did make a call to the same Operations Manager Joy whom did nothing to remove her from her current situation.


A Way Out

Things were progressively getting worse for Lara. Since her and Maja communicated at school. Lara relayed events that were happening to Maja whom in turn told her new host family and Area Rep.

The Area Representative that hosted Maja was very worried about leaving Lara in those conditions. Since she could not have a 3rd student residing in her home, she began trying to locate a new family for Lara as well. Which is how I became involved in the equation. On October 10, 2009, I received a phone call late in the evening from my father whom is a 76 year old Respiratory Therapist. He was approached by the Area Representative whom happened to be a nurse at the same hospital. Since she had worked with my dad for years and knew that him and my mother had raised all their children and lived in a home with extra rooms, she explained the plight of Lara and asked if he would consider taking Lara in. Unfortunately, my mother was out of town dealing with sick relatives and they were unable to take Lara in. But, my Dad decided to call me to see what could be done to help this student. I was going through training as a Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children at the time, and my dad thought there might be some kind of law out there that would protect her.

After talking at length with my dad and realizing that I could not help her legally, the only thing I could do was offer to be her host mom and try to fix and already tainted experience to America. We had a quick family meeting with my husband and two sons. Having two sons meant that one of them would have to give up their bedroom for almost a year so that Lara could have her privacy. My 18 year old son Stephen stepped up immediately and offered to sleep on the sofa downstairs. With that said, rules in place on behavior because they had never had a little sister, we offered to bring Lara home.

It's now Sunday, October 11th. I went through a whirlwind application process that took only an hour to get my family approved as a host family. The Area Representative came by to meet us first and brought Maja and Ana the other German Exchange Student. They looked around our home and looked into Lara's new room which we had already changed to make it appear a bit more girl friendly. Later in the evening around 4:00pm, they all arrived back to our home and this time with Lara in tow. We all went outside to greet her and the boys immediately went to get her luggage. Lara however jumped out of the car and started hugging all of us immediately. It took 5 minutes with her to realize that she was going to be a natural fit for our family. When she came into the house her eyes teared up. The girls all went upstairs to look at Lara's room and get her settled, the whole time with tears in Lara's eyes.

After a short tour of the house, we made our way to the kitchen. We are a family that loves fruit. So, in the middle of our kitchen on an island was a very large basket full of apples and oranges. Lara saw the fruit and started crying again. I had also made her a gift basket with girly items and toiletries so when she was given that, the tears came again. I was a little surprised so we sat down and I asked if everything was OK. Lara smiled and said "oh yes, these are tears of joy". We hugged and then went off to her room to make sure she had everything she needed to get her prepared for school the next morning. We later went to the grocery store together to find things that she would like to eat and I purchased some bright pink Tupperware for her to put things in that she bought herself so that no one would eat her special snacks.

It took a few days, but Lara finally began settling down in our home and was an instant part of our family. She won our hearts immediately and it was nothing short of wonderful from that day on. I could not have hand picked a child that was as close to a real daughter if I wanted to. We shopped, we cooked, we decorated, we made fun of the boys and interrupted them when they were watching sports just to see them turn 3 shades of red. Then we would all laugh. We watched movies as a family, sat out on the deck at night and had our girly chats. She joined school functions like dance, hung out with the tennis team, went to Clemson baseball and basketball games with us. She went on vacation to Florida with us. We also visited Charleston for Memorial day, had a great Christmas, a birthday party for her 17th birthday and many more special occasion's.

We added a Vonage phone line so that she could call her Mom and Dad everyday, as many times as she liked. She spent early mornings on the weekends talking to all of her friends in Germany and I gave her a cell phone from our plan that she used to text her friends at school and talk to them. Lara had friends stay the night with her and she was allowed to stay the night over at her friends house once I met them and they met my approval. She was treated no different than my own children.

We did an interview with Jodi Barr from WISTV to expose F.I.T. and the first host parent for placing her and Maja in danger and using them like they were nannies and maids and we even were able to work with our State Senator Jake Knotts, and the US Department of State to hold F.I.T. accountable for their actions and have their designation revoked indefinately. They were no longer allowed to recruit highschool students and bring them into the United States.

To this day, Lara and I still skype so we can see each other. She also talks to the boys and my husband. Since I did not want to disrespect her mother, and Lara did not always want to call me by my first name, we decided to nick name me "hommy". I was her "host mommy". I believe there is a reason that everything happens. I know that we were destined to meet and be a part of each others lives and we are both better for it. Lara plans to come back to SC to spend the summer with us next year and my oldest son Chris and I plan to fly to Germany in February of 2011 to visit Lara and her family.

Foreign Exchange Students are not being protected like they should be. These children and their families spend thousands of dollars for this experience. They expect that their children are guaranteed respect, safety and a genuine cultural experience. There are approximately 33,000 children a year that come to the United States in a Foreign Exchange program. 1 out of every 3 students are either raped, used as maids or nannies, placed in the homes of criminals, are malnourished, and sometimes their experience has been fatal. These children deserve to be protected and given the same respect and safety as every American child. They may be from a different country, but they are still someones child, sister and grandchild.

We are striving to change the laws and require a more thorough background check on all host families that include a national criminal check, not just a local background and that will require a DSS registry check to see if the family has ever had there own children reported for abuse or neglect in the past. Home inspections need to be done randomly to verify who occupies the home on a full-time basis. Just because a host family tells them someone doesn't live there, doesn't mean that they don't. Meaning a pedophile, or criminal could reside there, but wasn't there the day the home study was done. There are to many loop holes when it comes to the criteria used to approve families as well as Area Directors.

If you agree with what you have read here and would like to be a part of helping us change the law to make our Country a more secure place for students to visit and learn of our culture, please sign our electronic petition at

Thank you for taking the time to read about these wonderful young women. They are remarkable and they make quite a contribution in the lives of the people they meet. Lara will forever be a part of our family and in our hearts.

On a side note: I just received another phone call regarding abuse of a child in Florence, SC. Prior to this child being placed with this family, they had to remove another student from the same home in 2009 for neglect. Yet, the Agency and Area Representative placed another student in harms way, knowing they already had removed a child from an unsafe enviornment. This family has had their own child removed from their home for neglect. Makes you wonder why they would have ever been approved to care for another families child.



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    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      5 years ago from South Carolina

      This happened in 2009-2010 and no the F.I.T. was terminated via the Department of State and no longer qualified to bring exchange students to the United States.

    • profile image

      Lise Almenningen 

      5 years ago

      When did this happen. Is the F.I.T. organisation still up and running?

    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I appreciate the job that you do. If all ARs were like you, there would not be so many children being exploited. I too agree. If you would not place your own child in a home, why would you ever place someone elses child in that home. I am being blessed with a return visit from Lara this very July and cannot wait to see her. I also keep in touch with Maja who is now in college to become an Attorney. Gabriella resides in America and married. These girls regrouped and were able to move on with their lives, but they also were removed from their situations and they were also given control back over what happened to them by taking part in the taking down of the company who took advantage of them. I cannot begin to understand why our Government would not take better care of children visiting our Country. You are right. There must be better background checks and they must be NCIC checks to cover the entire United States and not just one state. I feel that random home visits should be required without any warning to the families. I feel that visits to the school to meet with the students away from the home should be conducted monthly as well. But, these are just processes that I feel are important. ALL children deserve the right to be respected, treated with care, nourished and there should be a safety plan in place and gone over with every student that enters our country. There unfortunately are Area Reps and Regional Reps too that are in it for the small amount of money. I volutneer my time, I refused any payment from F.I.T. and I truly feel that if you are in it to enrich a childs life, then you do it for the child, not the money. My reward is in the smile and positive experience the child receives. My reward is from God and the feeling he places in my heart for doing what he wants me to do. There are some great people out there who do what's right, unfortunately, there are more bad apples that prefer hurting children, taking advantage of their lack of knowledge of our country and their rights while they are here. Legislation must be changed in order to safely care for these children. It's going to take an army it seems to move the mountain that is the Department of State. We are growing in numbers, but we do need more.

      Thank you for your comments. It's important too that people know there are good Reps like you out there and I do appreciate what you do and why you do it. I only became a Rep to protect these girls and get them through their time here and safely back home. I ended that contract once they were safely returned home. I do still get involved with other students who are abused and I do intervene and support the people who come forward to protect these children. If I cannot help them, I find people who can.

      One would think that they would want nothing but good experiences for these children who come to learn our culture and experience our education system. These are future leaders of our world. I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to harm a child. But, evil does exist everywhere. There has to be someone out there to shine the light on it and keep it on until change happens.

    • Char Zimmerman profile image

      Char Zimmerman 

      6 years ago from PA Capital Region

      I am a Regional Director for a company and have worked in Foreign Exchange for 20 years. Hosted 19 students myself, will be hosting my 20th and 21st student this upcoming school year and have 3 of my own children and do foster care and am also a CASA worker. I have heard many of these things happening to students when they come here and I have had students come to me because they spoke to a student of facebook that was in dire need. I would go to my higher up and inform them. If I ever found out that one of my children were treated unfairly or were placed in a home of such nature above, I would be the first to fire the Area Rep and would be the first to take the student till I found them a home that was caring and loving. All companies are not the same and there are good companies that still have an Area Rep out there that could do wrong by a student. If you walk into a home and would not put your own child or grandchild in it, walk you hear me...WALK AWAY. It will never get better, it will only get worse. I remember going into a trailer not knowing it was one till I got there and wanted to just turn around and leave but they saw me so I went inside, they were nice but it was not the trailer that hit me wrong, it was when the father opened the refrig up and it was full of beer. No food. I kindly explained it all to them and at the end I told them we could not place a student into a single wide trailer and I was very sorry. If they ever purchased a double wide or a home, please call me back.

      There is no one telling us to do these bad things. It is just some AR's who want the money and don't care about the placement. Yes, all AR's are given a stipend for placing a student. It sure is not a lot but who would do this for free. Think about it....No one. I don't make enough and could care less because my heart is for all children. My hours are long, they are 7 days a week, my cell phone never is turned off and neither is my IPad. My families, AR's and my students in my region can find me anytime of the day, no matter where I am. It is just me. So as we read the awful stories, we need to pray for these children and to also pray that the Dept of State will come up with a way to have finger prints done for all families who what to host. They also need a criminal background check run like I have to have done to be a foster parent. No more criminals, sex offenders are needed to host our precious children. We have enough to worry about when it comes to our own children and them being prayed upon when walking home from school, sitting on their own front porch, being on the internet or just living. The world is bad and no one can tell me different. Thanks for listening to what I had to say and how I feel.

    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      You are so right. They are here to experience and American Education, and to experience America period. It's educational purpose is to teach, not to abuse. It saddens me to hear the stories and see the damage that these Exchange Students suffer because there are so many people out there willing to exploit children and find legal ways to do it through our State Department. It's shameful. I am happy to know that they are improving the process. But, we still have many things to do before the system is perfected. In the mean time, parents of ALL children who are considering allowing them to participate in these programs need to take a very strong approach and hands on roll in investigating where their children are going, who they are staying with and making certain they know ALL of their rights before they ever board that plane. They also need to have a safety plan in place so that their child knows exactly what to do in the event they find themselves involved in something horrible like this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      As a representative for an exchange program this story is very troubling in deed. Students are not brought in to be nannies for host siblings and should not be used as such. The one main factor of an issue here is not only the family that was approved but to as the representative who approved them. In the program in which I am affliated, if you have students who have to be relocated due to an unfit family, it goes on your record for review as well. It is as well is reported to the Department of State. Fortunatley, the DOS did inact a new clause this year, requiring a second check from a different rep to review homes that students were placed. As far as the students riding the bus, that is common our own children ride buses to school that shouldn't of been an issue. As well, students contact with their native families are suppose to be limited to 30 minutes a week, so that a positive relationship is built between host student and family - but what I don't like is the fact the students in this story were given no privacy to speak with their families. The one thing I tell all of my students, if they are at school and want to call me because they can't feel free to speak when they are at their host home they can. And as well i provide them a contact number to our main office and the department of state, as well as a contact person at the school who acts as a liason for them. This way if someone in my company doesn't do what's right,that student has a multitude of ways to ask for help. Students regardless of country need to be respected, student or not they are still someones child.

    • MSantana profile image


      7 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      Thank you very much for helping kids and international students. It is not easy to adapt to a new culture, environment and school system without the support of caring people.

      BTW-thanks for following

    • tigergirl15 profile image


      7 years ago

      This is very troubling. I have never heard of this before. I mean, I knew there were exchange programs, but I had no idea that there were children being abused to this level. What the hell is our US Government thinking by allowing this to continue with no reprecussions. From what I can tell from your links, this has been going on for quite some time and aside from a few people who are outside of politics like you, there is no one really stepping up to help these kids. This is a black eye on our Country. We are suppose to be a cherished Country, one that values our Women, Children and Men. We value all life. What is happening to our world? This is very disturbing news. They were lucky to have you. I have read your hubs. You seem to do a lot of fighting for other people, do you have a legal degree to?

    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Thank you for your response and for your excellent questions. There is an answer believe it or not. These girls when brought into the Country by this Organization were told that if they had any problems they were to go directly to their Area Representative or they would be considered trouble makers and deported back to their country and lose the money (which is over 10k) that their parents paid for them to spend the time here. To that end, 2 of the girls had their passports taken by the host families which were also the Area Representative (which should have never been the case). Also, to that end their computers and cell phones were limited to use on with the family in front of them. As for Maja taking care of Lara and contacting her family after she was removed from the home. Maja did not contact Laras family out of respect for her because in a lot of these children's culture they are taught that they made a choice, good or bad and that it would be at the shame of their families to be returned home. Or in Lara's case, she felt embarrassed and the thought of losing the hard earned money that Lara herself worked partly for as well as her parents hard earned money was more than she could bear. So, she thought she could adjust and stick it out. With that said, Maja never gave up on Lara and called her daily and saw her at school. She pressed her new host parent whom was also an Area Representitve to find a new home for Lara, which is how I got involved in all of this to start with. I was contacted by my father so that he could have me verify any laws in our State that would protect her. Instead, I opted to remove her immediately and into my home. Secondly, I learned of Gabriellas plight through Lara and Maja which is the only reason I became a Area Representative for F.I.T. which was to get Gabriella to a safe home and then seek to hold this agency and it's agents accountable for the harm they placed the girls in. Interestingly enough, they were not provided information that should be required not just by parents but by these agencies to teach their children.

      1- You teach people how to treat you by what you are willing to allow them to do or how you allow them to talk to you. So, never tolerate abuse or disrespect and you will either teach that person that you will not tolerate it, or that person will find someone else to pick on.

      2- You have the right to be safe, to be treated with respect, to be fed, clothed, and to enjoy your time in America. After all we are the land of the free. But, that is not how they were treated.

      3- NO ONE has the right to take what belongs to you, to put their hands on you or to threaten you.

      With all of that said the last is the best part of this entire outcome. Lara, Maja and Gabriella all stood before the FBI and told them their story to investigate and shut this organization down. They all reported their incidents to the US Department of State to prevent it from happening to other children, which unfortunately, still continues to happen every year. But, most of all, these 3 girls were given their power back by not dwelling on what happened to them, but fighting to prevent it from happening to other people. Lara went on our local news to give other children a voice and let them know how important it was for them to not accept poor treatment from their host families and to report it to the schools, neighbors, police, or anyone who will listen. Because there is a way out and there are people in this world who will fight and stand up for you. We have now been able to save over 10 children since Lara, Maja and Gabriella stood of for themselves. But, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the 33,000 children sent over here every year with a 1 in 3 ratio of being abused, raped or neglected in some way.

      For the record, we put in a phone line to Germany so that Lara could call her parents anytime she wanted to. The organizations policy is that they are only allowed to talk to their parents 15 minutes a week and to limit the conversations with them. I believe as a parent that to prevent home sick, the children should be able to talk to their family, in their language when they need to hear their voice. The important factor is that they communicate at school and with their host family in English. The rules that these agencies have in place are not welcoming to allowing these children to communicate to anyone, including parents and school officials. They make them think they will get in trouble for speaking out. When you are a child and you come to a completely different country ALONE and know NO ONE. Who do you trust, the people that brought you here and can send you home? Or complete strangers? Troubling isn't it?

    • WindyScribbler57 profile image


      7 years ago from Hoffman Estates

      I am acquainted with a couple who have hosted students from around the globe since 1991. They've been associated with two organizations that I know of, but primarily with YFU.

      One of the two of them was officially involved with Youth For Understanding for a few years. And among her duties was dealing with dysfunctional situations that arose within a specific district. This included reassigning some of the students to new homes after - for one or another reason - the initial situation failed to work out.

      Even knowing this, though, I was shocked to read your account of Lara and Maja.

      Generally speaking, I tend to be leery of intrusion and invigilation by the state. However, I think this is one circumstance wherein there need to be more official safeguards in place. I am appalled that these young ladies were unceremoniously, and carelessly, thrown into this hideous environment, and that such people as the Area Representative and the Operations Manager appear to be, not only entirely unaccountable, but to act as an impediment to remedies when students have legitimate complaints.

      Two things confuse me about this story, though. First, what stopped these girls from seeking help from someone in authority at their high school? And second, why did the first girl to escape - Maja (not to mention the Area Rep with whom Maja went to live) - not immediately contact Lara's family with information about her plight?

    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      These companies make a ton of money off of these children. The interesting part is that the "Area Representatives" are not supposed to be paid, but do get paid. (I refused money from F.I.T. and told them if they cut a check it would go back to the children. Also, the only thing that the host family receives is a 50.00 tax write off. So, the Area Reps have incentive to place kids anywhere they can find to get paid. The "host family" either is someone looking to use a child, abuse a child, or if the child is lucky, just wants to provide them with what they paid for and thought they were coming to the U.S. for. Unfortunately, the odds are greater that they would be abused and neglected than placed in a safe home. Its disturbing to know how little our Government cares about children. Because whether they are from our Country or not, they are still children and should still be protected. It's our duty to rise above expectations and set the bar for other Countries, not fall below it and show them how inhumane the U.S. can be. I don't know what it is going to take for the Department of State to step up and own their opportunities, but they need to do it before more children are lost or hurt.

    • esatchel profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      One out of three! How this can happen at all amazes and horrifies me. One would think there would be safeguards in place. The companies who arrange these experiences certainly spend enough money and energy making the program appear well run and organized. I suppose that is because they want the money, and it costs money to actually oversee the children's safety and well being.

    • ugagirl66 profile imageAUTHOR

      Regina Harrison-Barton 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      I appreciate that information. I don't know what kind of wake up call it is going to take for the Dept. Of State to step up and enforce laws to protect these innocent children. But, they either need to establish laws to aid in protecting them, or shut down the program until such a time as they have established protocols to weed out these type of offenders as well as unsuitable housing for them. Instead, they focus on the money that they bring to stimulate the economy and their pockets. You really have to wonder how they sleep at night!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My exchange son from Denmark was sexually abused. That sexual predator was convicted. The U.S.Department of State failed to implement fingerprint criminal checks on Nov. 29,2010 so this pervert and other convicted sex offenders can still access victims through foreign exchange programs. They know how to work the foreign exchange student programs to host foreign teenagers. You should check out the Federal Register.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for your comments. I was not even aware of exchange program until I received the call to help them. But, the research that I have done since that time is disturbing and blows me away every time I learn of a story old or new of abuse. I can't begin to understand how the programs could make up such beautiful brochures about adventure and cultural experiences but they arrive and it turns into horrific and unimaginable experiences. There is an agency in California that has a great deal of information on these incidents and the President has been trying to help children for over 10 years. You can view it at

      They have a wealth of information. I live in SC and am working to cover my state with Foreign Exchange Student Abuse. We can use a volunteer to establish a chapter in every state. Ideally, if we had one person in every county of every state, we would actually be able to shut this kind of abuse down. Its going to take a collaborative effort on a lot of caring volunteers to pull this off. I appreciate your feedback and comments. But, we really love your help. If you are interested in starting a chapter in your area, please email me directly at my name is Gina Barton and I will be glad to tell you how to set it up at virtually no cost to you, other than a little bit of time and effort.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I know a girl that also had a horrific experience as an exchange student. She was a little older (college) so she was lucky enough she had more means and knowledge of protecting herself. Her host mother's husband would hit on her and try to get her to do inappropriate things. She worked up the courage to tell her host mother, who then became very hostile towards her and verbally abused her. At dinner, she would call her a "fat cow" and tell her to stop eating. She slept w/ her door locked from the inside bec the host father's advances would get bolder. She eventually removed herself and stayed at a hotel while her mother (who was ready to fly over for blood) arranged for another host family w/ the agency. The funny thing is the agency was not quick to respond until her mother became involved and threatened legal action.

    • Squidmom profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      I had no idea that the families who hosted these students were not looked into throughly, it's really shocking. I'm sure that your work will be very appreciated by those students and should be appreciated by anyone who values what is good and right. Thank you


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