Complaint to the US Department of State against EF and their representative Nettie Lowery
Dato: Tue, 04 Dec 2012 20:50:33 +0100
U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20522
Dear Sirs and Madams,
I remind you of the story of my own M’s meeting with Forte International Exchange Association and their representative Becky Sanderson. Below is the story from a mother of the treatment of her daughter by another representative, this time from EF. It is clear that the representatives of the various organisations are getting away with traumatizing exchange students coming into your country for «the adventure of a life-time». Instead they leave the US with the impression that they are not taken seriously and that adults are free to treat teen-agers as they like. This is something that the Department of State needs to take seriously.
To whom it may concern,
Complaint about the treatment of my daughter, XXXX, by EF USA/Norway and their Fayetteville, North-Carolina representative Nettie Lowery.
Early on XXXX was given the XXXX family in Fayetteville, North-Carolina as her host-family. They were a young military family consisting of mom, dad and a one-year-old son. The dad also has a daughter from a previous relationship. She does not live with the family.
The family had planned a vacation to Tennessee before school-start and wanted XXXX to join them. EF advised XXXX to leave ahead of time so she could be part of this vacation and that way get to know the family. XXXX left four weeks ahead of time – August 1, 2012.
In spite of being afraid of flying, XXXX was booked for four flights. She also had to travel on her own. At the airport XXXX and her mom were met by an inexperienced representative from EF. XXXX got her tickets and it turned out there were only two of them. The EF-representative was not able to give an answer as to why there were only two tickets. Neither could she tell XXXX at which airport XXXX needed to pick up her luggage and where it continued on its own. XXXX was told to ask at Information in New York and ask about the tickets there.
The flight information the family had received from EF included four destinations, but the reservation confimation only had three destinations. When we aired this with the representative, she had no clue and felt XXXX should get an answer in New York. The phone card we had been given had been filled and registered by the family, but it did not work. The representative was not able to address this problem either.
After 36 hours of travel, XXXX was met at the next to last airport by host mom. Worn out, XXXX arrived at a home that stank, where it was dark and filthy and where noone greeted her. In addition there were more people living in the home than we had been told. In addition to the family XXXX had been told of, the host-mom’s sister, the host-mom’s mother and three dogs lived in the house. XXXX is afraid of dogs and had not been told about the pets.
It turns out the courts had refused visitation rights to host-dad and that the family were going to court the week after XXXX’s arrival. This was the alleged vacation to Tennesse.
XXXX’s representative, Nettie, told XXXX that she had not wanted to approve the family, but that EF higher up had overruled her.
August 12, 2012 XXXX was removed from the home of the XXXX family. She was then placed with with XXXX. XXXX stayed with XXXX a few days until EF had approved the next temporary home. This time XXXX moved in with XXXX. XXXX could only stay with XXXX a couple of days as XXXX was awaiting her own exchange student and therefore would not be able to fit another exchange-student into her home.
After a couple of days XXXX with XXXX, XXXX was then moved to Nettie, her own representative. XXXX’s experience with the XXXX’s had been traumatic. Having to move into three temporary homes did not help the matter any.
Nettie turned out to be an awful host-mom. She threatened and bullied XXXX. In the end XXXX became so afraid of Nettie that she was unable to tell her how she really felt. Nettie had threatened XXXX with dire consequences if XXXX was troublesome. XXXX was told in no uncertain terms that Nettie could make serious trouble for XXXX. She would make sure that XXXX would never be herself again. XXXX was also told that Nettie’s salary was based on how many exchange-students Nettie was able to place and that XXXX would be held responsible if she did not stay with the next family. Nettie told XXXX that she could care less what happened to XXXX and coerced XXXX to sign a «Contract of Behavior» where among other things XXXX had to promise to stop crying, to love and respect her «mother» and to speak English at all times (see below).
It gets worse. Nettie brought XXXX along to an acceptance-interview with her supposed next permanent family, the XXXX. At the XXXX’ home XXXX was displayed and «interviewed». Still present, XXXX was discussed and evaluated. This was how she was approved by the XXXX. This is illegal! The students aren’t supposed to be presented with name or picture to a potential host-family ahead of time. It is extremely difficult for young girl to experience this kind of evaluation, especially considering what had passed previously. Their representative is supposed to be a «safe» person, someone the exchange student can turn to in difficult situations.
Before the papers were in order, XXXX was placed with the XXXX. They stated that they did not dare ask EF about this because they saw how terribly Nettie treated XXXX, and they were afraid that Nettie would remove XXXX from the family if they dared question anything.
Conversation started September 15: 7:56am
- I am sorry to bother the two of you, but I am hoping that maybe somebody would be willing to tell me what happened. XXXX was adjusting nicely, doing better in school, getting more comfortable with the family, or we thought so anyway. I knew she had not made a final decision whether to stay or leave, but she was finally smiling, seeming to settle in, I know she was sleeping, I could see it in her face. We had all been making plans for the fair this weekend, and for making some trips to Washington DC, going down the coast and maybe new york in the spring. I went to work on Monday, while I was gone she decided to go home. She has never spoken to me again. She never told me she was going home, she never said a word abut why all this happened. I know her start in the States was not good, but my family and I opened our home and our lives to her. While we are not perfect we are decent people in a decent home. I don’t mind so much that she went home, I just wish someone would tell me what happened. XXXX is a lovely young lady with a wonderful spirit, which is why is suprises me so much that she simply never said a thing. She has also removed both my daughter and I from her FB account, which is her right, I simply find that I would really like to know what it was that we did to her that was so horrible that she simply will not speak after staying in our home and being a part of our family. If either of you would be willing to explain that, I would truly appreciate it. On another note, I intend to call EF now that I know XXXX is back home and settled and discuss her contact here in the states. She had placed XXXX with us before all of the paperwork was done, and her treatment of the child was completely unpleasant and unprofessional. Unless either of you has a great objection I intend to speak to the people in Boston about it. I had told XXXX that I would do that, I just did not want to do it while she was with us for fear that they would move her again.
Oh XXXX I can stand. Have no fear for me. Whatever you need of me just ask. I wish I had known. I just did not know what my family had done. I told XXXX I would say nothing about Nettie while she was here for fear they would take XXXX from me. I just did not know why XXXX was mad with us. We are a bit silly and unorganized but i thought we were normal. Whatever you need, I will send whatever you need and I am calling nettles american boss on Monday. If I have my way she will no longer have a job. Please know my family and I would have never participated in threats to your daughter and if our name was used we had nothing to do with it. I have never treated any child like that.
The XXXX lived way out in the country and were very religious. Mrs. XXXX was not interested in XXXX having contact with anyone outside the family. XXXX and the host-family were asked if they would like to visit another Norwegian (Sue) living in North-Carolina, but the XXXX would not allow this. XXXX was then invited to go with the same person to a Greek festival, but she was not allowed to do that either. After that conversation XXXX’s host-mom had pulled her into her room and yelled at her saying that she was not to have people call their house to convince XXXX to go out. After this XXXX was only allowed to speak with people in English.
Friends of Sue then offered to host XXXX for the rest of the year so she might experience a normal year. All of the information about that family was sent to EF. EF would not let XXXX move until mediation/councelling had been done with the XXXX.
XXXX had by this time become so broken in spirit that she and I decided that the best place for XXXX would be with her mother. After arrival in Norway XXXX was evaluated by the family-doctor and he concluded that the previously healthy young lady had come back to Norway with depression and anxiety problems. Even now XXXX struggles with nightmares of EF taking her back to the US.
We wish to accomplish several things with this complaint:
1. EF should refund the whole program fee of NOK 78 762.
2. In addition EF should refund all of the extra expenses that have been placed upon our family due to this avoidable situation. This includes all of the trips we have had to make, medical expenses and a vacation that was cut short: NOK 110 000,-
3. In addition, XXXX’s representative, Nettie Lowery should be held responsible for her actions and expelled from the EF system.
4. The State Department needs to make certain that all of the exchange organizations (including EF) are held responsible for their actions.