AFS

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3.7 / 10 after 41 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings
Program website: http://www.afsusa.org

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My family hosted through AFS twice. AFS was hosting a booth at the High school my son was going to start at in the Fall. As someone who spent summers abroad, I saw the value in having students come and understand our culture and school system.

The first year I participated in AFS, I did a double placement. My one student did really well with us. The other student not so much. Counting the students with us we have become a family of 7. The student articulated that she did not want to be in such a large family or being a part of a double placement. That bothers me since she was aware of our family size and hosting situation before she left her country. I had a few concerns about the students mental health and expectations. My husband and I tried multiple times with AFS to understand the core of what students are told and to make the best compromises with the students expectations. Even though she was not an only child at home, we felt that she was not understanding the dynamic of time and money.

The issue with AFS was how they deal with compromising. I did not feel that there was a lot of support for a student that was struggling like she was. They would talk to her separately, but never follow up with us in regards to what was discussed. Every couple of months we would have the same issues with that student. I received an email from that student a few months after her stay with us stating how we were the worst experience of her life. That was hurtful given how much energy and money was put into the relationship. I reached out to AFS in regards to this note, but never received a follow up from them.

Regardless, we hosted again and changed the variables. We decided to host only 1 student and I read with a fine toothed comb the letter the student wrote to the family. All the family has to go on is this letter. In hindsight I would have liked to have seen more including social media. That could go for both sides. I'm accepting a person in my home for a year, I want to make sure that we are the right fit.

The student arrives to our country and already during the orientation she is very distracted. The liaisons pulled her out and found out she is in love with a boy she met and how she hates that she left him... They did call and warn me.

I pick her up and the first few weeks are ok. The student was always tired so she really did not get acclimated with us too much. I wrote a lot of it off as jet lag. I felt I was trying hard to acclimate her and not put pressure on the student.

So my student decides to go to a concert with some of her friends, but DRINK while she is there. She became so sick that the paramedics were called and she was taken to the hospital. She did not call us or the liason. After the hospital released the minor, she called us to pick her up. I was pretty upset. I called AFS for guidance and reiterated the displeasure of how neither us or the program was contacted. Under AFS rules she should have been sent home. After many weeks AFS finally sends her a warning letter to sign and that she could stay if she follows the rules. The letter also stated that if they get her medical records that they will send her home if the levels of alcohol were too high.

At this she starts freaking out telling me how she did a lot of weed in her home country. I'm upset at this because I'm not ok with a teen who does this in my home. I submitted feedback to AFS regarding better vetting students and there was no follow up.

At some point this student did not like living us, but never expressed any issues. She complained how for 15K she is not getting anything in return from AFS. She complained about our family to her school peers and found herself a new host family. AFS came and removed her. Never told us of any issues. We were completely blindsided, but my liason kept emphasizing how I did nothing wrong. She continues to attend the same school as my son.

By AFS guidelines this student continued to break rules, but also got to call the shots.

I will not host with AFS because of the lack communication and support when dealing with difficult situations. I love my one student but it was not because of AFS, it was because she was an appropriate student for the type of program. That is not true with the majority of students. I'm constantly filling out surveys, but I have never been talked to about the feedback. In the end, you feel disposable. There is a lot of responsibility involved in being a parent to a teen, given how AFS handles the situations I'm not interested in taking on the liability.

Program:
Location:
Posted: January 9, 2018
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
37

If there were a rating for negative score, I would have given negative. Now, I have to give 1 star reluctantly. I urge those students who want to participate in this program to think seriously that AFS especially Canada is definitely NOT an option to go.

My daughter has a disappointed, disgraceful and humiliated experience with AFS Canada. They not only lack of empathy, but also treat a 16-year-old girl mercilessly.

My daughter departed from Hong Kong to Quebec the end of August 2017 with full of fantasy, yet ending with early return on Nov 30, 2017 due to her own grandma’s terminal illness. Grandma’s illness was found out the mid of September, which was after my girl had departed to Quebec, and deteriorated drastically. Sadly, she passed away last Sunday, Dec 3.

AFS Hong Kong did arrange once for “trip interruption” in October to see grandma and the Senior Manager told us clearly that the next “trip interruption” would be for funeral. When we requested AFS Canada to let my girl coming back to see grandma the last time or even to attend the funeral, they not only declined our request but also forced my girl to choose between staying with the program and seeing grandma the last time and/or attending her funeral. She chose the latter and got returned home for good. Although we have been trying to explain many times, AFS Canada declined cold-heartedly and insisted that she has broken the rule without considering the real situation.

There were still many terrible experiences that my girl had encountered, which we think AFS Canada have violated the human rights and privacy acts, such as:
-She was taken away by another volunteer from the host family without notifying us when she returned from Hong Kong during the "trip interruption" ;
-the volunteer forced her to hand over her mobile phone and computer and be kept by the volunteer so that she could not send any message to home, or else, she would be early returned;
-she was also forced to show the messages between her and the host sister, who took her out for lunch and chatted, to the volunteer and then was told angrily that she cannot “disturb” the host sister anymore;
-under such isolation, we had no choice but to contact one of her friends/classmates in Quebec by Facebook in order to understand her real situation, we really worried about her safety. Unfortunately, such act was somehow found out by the volunteer who got mad and asked my girl to tell us to stop contacting her friend immediately. This is really ridiculous!

One night, we received her whatsapp because she was allowed to use the phone for 1 hour, she begged me to let her come back because she was frightened and helpless. It was really heartbreaking. We tried to talk to AFS Hong Kong and see if they could provide any assistance, but turned out negatively. Luckily, her friend’s family in Quebec is very kind and willing to host her the rest of the program and registered as AFS host. She became very happy eventually. Unfortunately, grandma’s life started counting down in days as told by doctor, but AFS Canada insisted that she can only choose between stay with the program or leave for good, she returned Hong Kong without hesitation.

What we wonder is, Canada as a country which human right priors to everything and how can AFS Canada be so cruel to a 16-year-old girl whose wish is so simple, pure and full of love to grandma. Besides, we have paid around US$15,000 to join this program and she has now been forced to return home by doing nothing wrong. Our money had just gone to drainage. We are just a normal family and this amount of money is pretty much to us. It seems that they don’t care about what happen to you, just send you home and that’s it, no hassle anymore. Is AFS really a non-profit making organization? I doubt it! Furthermore, it is hard for my girl to return to school in the middle of school year. That’s why I have to warn those who want to join this exchange program to Canada to think twice before you take any action.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 11, 2017
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
By: Yukwa
Age:
52

As a freshman in high school, our daughter befriended a very distraught young lady in her health class from Spain. As their friendship progressed, the exchange student confided in our daughter the unpleasant relationship with her host family. This young lady spoke of neglect and psychological abuse by the younger host sibling. Our daughter confided in my husband and i, we acted quickly and had the student removed from her original host family into ours. This happened within a week. We were able to complete the application process, background check and home visits due to the fact that our "students" liason and regional director were aware of her predicament.
She arrived without incident. However, I must admit we had no ideas as a host family what we had just signed up for. She arrived November 2, 2013. The dynamics of my family changed, as expected, instantly. Raising 3 teenagers is quite a task. She came to us Ill prepared to manage daily tasks The year passed quickly. We had very little support from our liaison or regional director. They did not do their in home visits as we were lead to believe were required. However, the mandatory meetings we as host's were required to make we're not negotiable even when they placed an undue burden on the family. One meeting was 3 hours away. The meeting was to start at 9;00. We left our home at 5:30 am only to discover the leaders just trickling in at 9:30. Meeting did not start til 10:30 once everyone arrived and got things set up. Needless to say, we were not happy. But this simply sums up AFS.... They do not keep there end of the deal. Once the original family couphs up the cash, AFS disappears. However the host family is left to figure it out.
Our exchange daughter returned to Spain in the spring of 2014. Happily, our family went to visit her family the following summer. We were thrilled to meet our exchange daughter's family. The visit cleared up a lot of the cultural differences. We toured all over Spain and became close to the family.
Needless to say, when the family asked if we would host their son 2016-2017, we obliged. Our exchange son arrived Aug. 2016. AFS was helpful until arrival. Then they switched to the AFS of old.... Obsolete. We were placed with a liaison who wer never saw. She contacted me 1-2 times, scheduled a visit and cancelled 30 minutes prior to arrival. I had rescheduled my work to accommodate her schedule and arrival time. We never heard another time from AFS until April 2017. A regional volunteer called after she realized we had not had a liaison visit since our students arrival In Aug. She stated that AFS was under the gun to get a liaison to our home asap because if the State Department were to review his records, AFS would be in violation and AFS could potentially lose their visa program. Suddenly, we were a priority! Next thing we know, a gentleman from our community who's daughter was an exchange student in the 1980's arrived on our door step with paperwork in hand, ready for us to sign he documents. He visited our "son" a second time prior to his return to Spain. Our student departed for home this past week early due to family obligations. AFS acknowledged his departure and informed us that their insurance would not cover his return trip. However, they have contacted us 2 times since his departure wanting to know if he would be in attendance at the final departure meeting! Lastly, they have asked for my daughters background check since she turned 18 today. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE AGREEING TO HOST OR USING AFS::
You and your family will not have any support what so ever from AFS.
Your exchange student will not have any support
AFS is run by volunteers, need I say more
This is an extremely expensive ordeal. You better be prepared to open up your wallet
Good or bad, your family dynamics will change
It's a good idea to vet your student and their family. It's a great idea to have an open dialogue with the original family.
Don't put the responsibility of the exchange students on your biological children. It will cause hard feelings.
About the time your student acclimates to the new culture,language and forms strong friendships, the program ends.
Lastly, please remember you will not have any support from AFS.

The exchange process can be very rewarding, but please know what your getting yourself into'
Penny Crain

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 4, 2017
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
48

This program exploits well-intentioned host families for providing free vacations, food and board for ungrateful foreign students used as commodities to generate large amounts of money for the AFS program, the only winners in the mix, How it is a non-profit is beyond me.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 14, 2016
Overall:
1
Support:
2
Value:
1
Age:

I am very very disappointed with the program. The girl my family chose is from Japan. She was recommended to us by AFS and not on the website. She communicated with us right away as well as her family and the exchange student her family was hosting from Australia. My granddaughter and i became very attached to her from the beginning and planned to visit the family next year. First of all i would not recommend getting close to the family right away until you meet the child and not make plans on meeting until you know how the stay is going.
The first warning sign was my exchange students exchange student contacted us the day my student left for California from Japan. Her exchange student told us how "entitled and spoiled" our student was, how the students family mistreated her, how the student was when it came to boys ect. I told my granddaughter, who is the same age as our student, to ignore the comments and lets get to know our student for who she is.
Boy did we.
At first things went rather well. We grew to love her like another family member. She participated in family events, and it was actually a joy to have her around. She became very close to my granddaughter as they were both seniors in the same school. We made plans to travel with her, ect.
Two months into it the student started becoming lazy and did not want to clean. I had to comprise a schedule so she and my granddaughter would take turns doing normal chores like cleaning their room and bathroom, taking out trash, dishes ect. I noticed this girl was eating in her bedroom. I asked her several times to stop. My granddaughter became depressed because the girl was starting drama with her male friends and began to feel like she was the girls caretaker. I started to see what the other exchange student warned me of. Also, she ate like a linebacker. I understand we are supposed to feed them but can we have a limit? I am not joking when i say she eats her weight in food per week if not more. When i called the liaison to vent their solution was to take her from us. This upset us. We still cared very much for her and did not want her to leave. I just didn't expect to spend so much money out of pocket to feed the child. Eventually we had a sit down with AFS and they agreed to let her stay and assess the situation in a month.
Well things didn't last that long. After realizing dishes were missing and i was getting more and more ants in the house i inspected the students room and realized she was a food hoarder. I found food, dishes, empty food jars hidden in the closet, under the bed, in drawers and a half container of salad dressing in her laundry basket and boxes of trash hidden under the bed. At the time she was with one of the volunteers at her house visiting with their exchange student and siblings. I called and explained the situation and was told they were placing her someplace else. That's when the nightmare began. The student was placed with another family and this student proceeded to bash me to other students, friends of my granddaughter and whoever would listen. She lied about me not feeding her, said i made her get up at 11 pm to clean and it goes on. She is known to spread lies and even her mother commented on the weight gain, something that wouldn't have happened had i not fed her like she said.
I do not feel supported by the staff at AFS and feel like they took her side immediately. I opened up my heart and home to this "prima donna" who clearly did not clean at home (as her exchange student stated) was boy crazy and had mental health issues. I do not think AFS screens thoroughly enough. Also feeding a child and housing them for 10 months is excessive now that i think about it when its for free. This child complained that i made her pay for her own food when we went out to eat. Yes, that happened twice. But given the fact that she was eating me out of house and home, would eat everyone else food at dinner when we went out if they didn't want it, would order more than the average person could eat and her family would go out to dinner constantly and always make her exchange student pay, well she has nerve to say the least.
At this point i am using this forum to vent. I'm sure there are others who have had positive experiences. After hosting i talked to several friends who hosted at one point or another in their life and stated they would never do it again and neither will I. I feel used and taken advantage of and to top it off this ungrateful student is going around spreading lies about me to boot. It is not worth the aggravation.

Program:
Location:
Posted: December 1, 2016
Overall:
2
Support:
3
Value:
3
Age:

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