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  America
Convicted Felons Allowed to Host Teenagers
Regulations Falling Short of Protecting Visiting Teens
Exchange students in the U.S.

The federal regulations were released on May 4, 2006, requiring for the first time in five decades student exchange agencies to secure background checks for all host families who decide to host an exchange student. The regulations also require student exchange agencies to report all allegations of sexual misconduct against a visiting youth to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of State.

"If they don't do it and we find out about it, we will close their program down, period," said Stanley Colvin, acting director of the Federal Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation, in a September 5, 2005 story in The Press-Enterprise, "New Rules: Federal Officials Draft Regulations to Address Sexual Abuse of Visiting Foreign Youth" by Michael Fisher.

On September 6, 2006, The Reporter released, "DA Declines Suing Host in Exchange Saga" by Julie Kay. "The 30-year-old Vacaville woman investigated on suspicion of stealing money from and behaving inappropriately with an exchange student she hosted last fall will not be charged with any crime, according to the Solano County District Attorney's Office."

Despite federal law, President Libby Cryer, of the student's exchange agency, Program of Academic Exchange (PAX), did not report this to the U.S. Department of State as required by federal law. The September 6, 2006 story in The Reporter continues, "Cryer admitted this week she knew about the e-mails to the young man from the first host mother, but defended her decision not to report them to the State Department, despite federal law which requires the reporting of questionable behavior on the part of host family members."

Has Mr. Colvin shut down this agency as he so sternly stated to The Press-Enterprise for not reporting to the State Department?

No. Many wonder why Mr. Colvin is not keeping his word and instead decides to look the other way.

Danielle Grijalva, Director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES) stated, "Unless and until these student exchange groups respect and adhere to the federal regulations, these sloppy practices of placing students with just anyone and anywhere will continue. It is beyond irresponsible. This happens because these agencies clearly accept more students than there are host families available."

In August, 2006, a student from the Czech Republic was placed in the home of a five-time felon in New Mexico. The student resided in the home for five months before his student exchange agency, Educational Resource Development Trust (ERDT/SHARE!) removed him from the home.

On March 19, 2007, CSFES filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of State, asking how this man "was able to host in the first place given the fact that background checks are mandatory?" To date, the U.S. Department of State has yet to respond.

A recent study by Meaghan Kelleher of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) illustrates that name-based checks are not adequate and recommends fingerprint-based checks. The CSFES wants fingerprint-based checks because of NCMEC's study; it is the best screening method available.




 

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