Stikkordarkiv: #Alkoholmisbruk

Vanlige problemer: Bytte familie, alkoholmisbruk

Av Mari Sofie Lerfaldet, Beate Kold Hansen,
Publisert: 09. mai 2014, kl. 18:00

Utvekslingsåret til Rine Langslet (19) ble ikke helt som hun hadde forestilt seg. Etter fire måneder i USA valgte hun å reise hjem igjen.

Utvekslingsåret til Rine Langslet (19) ble ikke helt som hun hadde forestilt seg og hun valgte å avbryte USA-året og dra hjem.
Utvekslingsåret til Rine Langslet (19) ble ikke helt som hun hadde forestilt seg og hun valgte å avbryte USA-året og dra hjem. (Foto: Jarran Flokkmann)

Rine Langslet fikk ideen om å dra på utveksling gjennom skole og venner.

  • Skolen har et møte hver høst og jeg ble introdusert ordentlig til det å dra på utveksling der, forteller Rine.

Glad i å reise

  • Det var noe helt annerledes og jeg har alltid vært glad i å reise. Jeg ville se mer av verden.

Rine valgte å dra med utvekslingsorganisasjonen Speak i august 2012.

  • De virket profesjonelle, og det var vel intervjuet med dem jeg fikk mest ut av i forhold til andre utvekslingsorganisasjoner.

Den amerikanske organisasjonen de samarbeidet med mistet lisensen like før hun skulle dra.

  • Jeg fikk en ny amerikansk organisasjon, men skulle fortsatt ha den familien som hadde blitt valgt ut av den gamle, sier Rine.

Ønsket en barnefamilie

Rine fikk allerede vite om familien sin i mars, og utvekslet brev og e-mailer med dem før hun dro i august.

– Jeg ønsket meg en familie med barn eller andre utvekslingsstudenter, men endte opp hos et 70 år gammelt ektepar. De virket først veldig hyggelige, men jeg merket da jeg kom dit at det var en del som skurret rundt dem, forteller Rine. Familien hun kom til hadde nesten ingen kontakt med de andre familiemedlemmene rundt seg.

  • Ekteparet hadde barn fra andre ekteskap, men de hadde ingen kontakt med dem, sier Rine.
  • De drakk ganske mye alkohol og tok en del medikamenter, noe jeg synes var ubehagelig. En gang sovnet til og med vertsmoren min bak rattet da vi kjørte!

Fint sted

Rine kom til Seattle i Washington State.

Hun hadde ikke selv valgt dette stedet, men var veldig fornøyd.

  • Jeg kom til et veldig bra sted, det var litt mer liberalt enn i de sørlige statene. I forhold til skole var det nesten som å bo i Hønefoss. Vi lå utenfor en større by og jeg gikk på den «bra» skolen. Det var godt å vite at skolen hadde en bra standard så jeg visste at jeg fikk god undervisning, forteller Rine.

Hun synes det var mye bedre å være på skolen og fritidsaktiviteter enn å være hjemme.

Byttet familie

Rine fikk til slutt skiftet vertsfamilie etter å måtte krangle med organisasjonen som mente hun ikke trengte det.

  • Jeg byttet etter hvert familie da jeg slet en del med familien jeg først hadde. Det at blant annet vertsmoren min sovnet bak rattet gjorde det ekstra viktig for meg. Hun var veldig ustabil, det var mye krangling og lyving, sier Rine.
  • Den familien jeg kom til hadde veldig snille foreldre. De hadde en datter som var like gammel som meg og en sønn som var litt yngre. Datteren og jeg fungerte veldig dårlig sammen. Det ble en konstant dårlig hjemmesituasjon noe som gjorde at jeg fikk veldig hjemlengsel……………………

  • Resten av artikkelen finnes hos Ringerikes Blad

    Problemer: Bytte familie, dopmisbruk, tyveri og trusler

    Ekeberg-jenta Heidi Nathalie Hovland (19) hadde gledet seg til å dra på utveksling i mange år. Da hun endelig var fremme, oppdaget hun at det var ikke helt som hun hadde trodd.
    UNGDOMSREDAKSJONEN | Michael Moe Bjørnholm
    Publisert 19.06.2014 kl. 20:13 Oppdatert 19.06.2014 kl. 20:13

    EKEBERG: En sen sommerdag i 2012 stod Heidi på Gardermoen med store forventninger til det som skulle bli hennes år i USA. Istedenfor kom hun hjem bare tre måneder senere. Dette er hennes historie.

    – Jeg ble helt traumatisert

    Heidi er 19 år og bor på Ekeberg hjemme hos moren og stefaren sin.

    – Jeg har alltid elsket Ekeberg. Storesøsteren min, som for øyeblikket bor i Dubai, har alltid vært det store forbildet mitt.

    – Jeg var vel som «alle andre», som skulle prøve alt og finne ut av ting. Håndball var noe jeg drev med i mange år, men sluttet etterhvert med det også. Nå er det vel musikk og skriving det går mest i, forteller en Heidi med et smil.

    Da hun fylte 14 år opprettet hun sin egen blogg. Det tok ikke lang tid før bloggen ble populær og havnet på topplisten av blogger i Norge.

    – Jeg husker jeg begynte å få kommentarer på at folk kjente seg igjen i det jeg skrev. Målet mitt med bloggen var ikke å bli noen kjendis, men for å få frem det jeg følte for andre. Jeg syns det var en fin måte å formidle noe på. Jeg skrev aldri om mote eller hva jeg spiste til middag, det interesserte meg ikke. Jeg ville bare skrive.

    En dag reiste søsteren hennes til Texas på utveksling. Hun hadde hørt mye positivt om utenlandsturen, noe som ble inspirerende for Heidi. Etter to år kontaktet Heidi STS, arrangør av språkreiser. Noen måneder senere fikk hun en tekstmelding der det stod at hun hadde fått familie.

    – Jeg ble hoppende glad og innså at jeg faktisk snart måtte begynne å pakke.

    Dagen var endelig kommet

    Avreisedagen hadde kommet. Den store kofferten var pakket og klar, og en grytidlig morgen dro hun til Gardemoen. Heidi fikk beskjed om at hun skulle bo i Virginia.

    – Da jeg stod på flyplassen i Richmond kjentes det ut som jeg skulle lette fra bakken. Jeg var så nervøs og spent.

    Vertsfamilien tok henne godt i mot og hadde en lang og koselig prat i bilen på vei til huset de bodde i. Et gjemt hus i et lite, mørkt strøk.

    Skummelt

    Ifølge Heidi var vertsfamilien ikke helt som de utga seg for å være. Vertssøsteren fortalte Heidi et par dager etter ankomst at moren røyket hasj – men at det var helt normalt i USA.

    I tillegg til dette fortalte hun at hun selv hadde noen piller hun pleide å ta før hun skulle på fest. Heidi følte seg redd og ensom.

    – Jeg husker vi skulle en liten tur til en elv for å bade. Alle røyket hasj og tilba meg piller slik at jeg ble mer våken.

    LES OGSÅ: KOMMENTAR: Den store skjønnheten

    Skolegangen ble vanskelig. Vertssøsteren til Heidi hadde ikke så mange venner, så det gjorde det litt vanskeligere for Heidi å bli kjent med folk. Her stod hun på egne bein.

    – Jeg husker første skoledag. Jeg hadde ikke fått noen omvisning så visste ikke hvor noen ting var. Folk blikket meg. Det var en gutt på skolen jeg kom godt overens med som het Nick. Jeg fortalte han om min situasjon. Etter den dagen ble alt forandret.

    «Drama mama»

    Det hadde vært noen tøffe dager for Heidi. Kjæresten til vertsmoren var alkoholiker. Datteren hang med feil folk og Heidi var midt oppi det hele.

    En dag hadde kjæresten til moren overnattet, og dagen etter var det en øl som var borte. Dette var det Heidi som fikk skylden for, og fikk derfor husarrest.

    Noen dager senere fant de ut at det var vertssøsteren som hadde drukket den sammen med en av hennes venninner. Det hadde vært mye krangling de siste dagene, og Heidi følte seg ikke lenger trygg i huset.

    – En dag merket jeg at tingene mine ble borte, som mobil og pc.

    Redningen kom først da Nick hadde snakket med foreldrene sine om hvordan Heidi hadde det. Heidi måtte lyve til sin familie og si de var kjærester. Sannheten var at hun ønsket å komme seg bort derfra. Etter noen uker ringte moren til Nick områderepresentanten til Heidi og sa at de ville hun skulle flytte inn til dem. Heidi hadde vært der samme dag, og det tok ikke lang tid før hun ble hentet av vertsmoren.

    – Jeg fikk utrolig mye kjeft da hun fant det ut, og det var ikke så mye jeg fikk gjort. Hun prøvde å nekte dem i å flytte meg. Jeg fikk ikke byttet med en gang og måtte bo sammen med dem fremdeles. Det var dårlig stemning i huset, og jeg torde ikke gå å ta mat lengre.. Vertsmoren min klikka fullstendig og begynte å skrike så høyt at man hørte det utenfor huset. «Du skal ut!».

    Det tok ikke mange timer før Heidi var ute av huset.

    – Jeg ble helt traumatisert.

    Heidi fikk byttet vertsfamilie, men måtte gå på samme skole.

    Hun forteller at vertssøsteren la ut mye stygt om henne på nettet, og at det påvirket skolegangen hennes. Etterhvert fikk Heidi nok og valgte å reise hjem til Norge.

    – Det var ikke mer for meg å gjøre der, jeg gråt hver dag og ønsket bare å dra hjem. Jeg var redd for hva folk i Norge ville si, men jeg kunne ikke brydd meg mindre da jeg først var hjemme. Det var selvfølgelig en vondt opplevelse, men jeg har lært mye av det.

    Problems: Alcoholism

    In 2009, Norwegian exchange student Kristine Pedersen (EF Foundation) was placed by EF in a host family with an alcoholic mother who spent her days being intoxicated. Pedersen was sent home by EF with only 24 hours notice following false claims that she was “ill”, despite her being perfectly healthy.


    Hentet fra: Hostage in America

    Local neglect allegations open door to a world where students are shuffled from home to home

    The Times Tribune | BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) | Published: May 31, 2009

    House by house, Edna Burgette knocked on doors last fall in her Scranton neighborhood, asking whomever answered whether the 17-year-old Colombian boy at her side could stay with them for the school year.

    «Take him. He is a good boy. He speaks English,» Mrs. Burgette said. People closed their doors in his face.

    The boy then spent several months in a home with an 80-year-old man, where he was not allowed to eat food in the refrigerator, and where he lost too much weight.

    The scenario, written in a complaint to the U.S. Department of State by his mother, Nemesia Lago, was not the taste of American life the boy was promised – and paid for.

    Foreign students and past host parents allege that Mrs. Burgette, as an area coordinator for the Aspect Foundation, brought students from countries around the world to Scranton without first securing them a place to live.

    The students report living in filthy homes which were later condemned, being shuffled from home to home, including living with ex-convicts. At least one required medical attention for not being given adequate food and drink. A criminal investigation is under way into the treatment of nine Lackawanna County students, and three in Luzerne County.

    The scandal is just now coming into public view, as a Lackawanna County grand jury considers whether charges are warranted for the alleged exploitation.

    But those involved tell The Times-Tribune that Mrs. Burgette has operated an inadequate foreign-exchange system here for at least a decade. They shared new details of an exchange program that takes in much money but takes on little responsibility.

    Advocates say the situation here is extreme, but also an example of lapses nationwide, permitted by a lack of oversight and fueled by greed.

    An ‘American family’

    Foreign-exchange students are promised a taste of American life, by spending a year at an American high school and being part of a local family. Each year, 30,000 students come to the United States through the country’s visitor-exchange  program.

    They experience family outings and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas – neither of which the boy from Colombia got to celebrate in the home he was placed in, his mother wrote in an e-mail to The Times-Tribune.

    «He has always admired the American culture and way of life … and wanted to spend a year of his life experiencing firsthand all of the good things that he had seen and heard. … We, his parents, thought that a year in the U.S. would help him mature, know more people, help him to learn to make choices in life, have a white Christmas and have the best experience of his life,» Ms. Lago wrote.

    Such hopes were worth a lot to Ms. Lago.

    She said she spent about $12,000, most of which went to the San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation, to send her son to America. In the year ending Sept. 30, 2007, Aspect placed 1,109 students in host homes, according to IRS forms it submitted.

    The fee is supposed to provide for individual host family selection, high school placement and room and board, provided by a «carefully selected volunteer host family,» according to Aspect’s Web site.

    Repeated attempts last week to contact a representative from Aspect or Mrs. Burgette  were unsuccessful. Mrs. Burgette was removed from her position after the allegations of neglect surfaced.

    Host families are not paid to provide room and board for the student, and students must bring their own spending money.

    But working for the foreign-exchange agency can be profitable. Mrs. Burgette was paid for each student she brought to the region.

    Danielle Grijalva, director of the California-based Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, estimates Mrs. Burgette received between $750 and $1,150 per student, plus bonuses like trips and other stipends at the foundation’s expense.

    As a coordinator, Mrs. Burgette was responsible for matching students with host families, supporting students and families and planning activities to introduce students to America, according to Aspect’s Web site.

    All of this year’s students, who are between the ages of 15 and 18 and come from countries including Nigeria, Denmark, Vietnam, Norway, Tanzania, France and Colombia, are now living with suitable host families.

    Until now, that was rarely the case.

    Long-standing issue

    A decade ago, while in the neighborhood, Kathie DelGuercio and her husband met foreign exchange students outside 810 Myrtle St. in Scranton.

    A girl from Germany invited them in and showed Mrs. DelGuercio where she slept –  in a 6-foot-by-6-foot room, on a cushion from a lounge chair.

    «Pack your suitcase; you’re coming with me,» Mrs. DelGuercio said she told the girl.

    The student, and several others who lived in the home, were placed there by Mrs. Burgette. They had come to America with promises of experiencing life with an American family.

    The same residence at 810 Myrtle St. was condemned earlier this month, after a student from Nigeria, who was placed there by Mrs. Burgette, was found living with floors covered in dog feces. It is unclear how often Mrs. Burgette stays at the home.

    Ten years ago, Mrs. DelGuercio said she contacted the Aspect Foundation and made complaints, with no response.

    Over the next few years, the DelGuercios accepted five more foreign-exchange students from Mrs. Burgette. When the students arrived in Scranton, Mrs. Burgette had made no arrangements for them, including enrolling them in school, Mrs. DelGuercio said.

    «We felt sorry for these children,» she added. «We were just making up for her negligence.»

    Ten years ago, the first student the DelGuercios rescued paid between $6,000 and $7,000 to Aspect, not including airfare, for the American experience, Mrs. DelGuercio said.

    «To me, it borders on human trafficking,» she added. «What kind of an attitude do they take back to their home countries? It’s just totally awful.»

    School concerns

    In fall 2001, William King, then the West Scranton High School principal, had reservations about the home of a foreign exchange student who was enrolled at West.

    «It was not what you and I would want to live in,» said Mr. King, who will become the district’s superintendent July 1.

    Mrs. Burgette had placed the student in the home.

    As principal, Mr. King said he discontinued the West Scranton school’s relationship with Aspect, but Scranton High continued to accept students. To his knowledge, Mr. King said, no problems had been brought to the attention of Scranton High administrators.

    Teresa Osborne, Lackawanna County director of human services, said she had no knowledge of prior complaints against Mrs. Burgette, but when reached late Friday, said she would check the county’s database Monday.

    Eventually, Mrs. Burgette was allowed by another principal to re-enroll students at West.

    After this school year, the entire Scranton School District will no longer accept Aspect students, and officials have developed new guidelines, including reviewing criminal background checks of future host families from other companies, Mr. King said.

    «If they choose not to do that, then we’ll choose not to deal with them,» he said.

    National problem

    Across the country, foreign-exchange students have been found living in a variety of unsatisfactory conditions.

    «These cases are rampant. It’s not just in Pennsylvania,» said Ms. Grijalva,  of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students.

    In Oregon, a man was charged this month with sexually assaulting the foreign exchange student who was living with him. The teenager was placed there by AYUSA Global Youth Exchange, which reported the alleged assault to police.

    In Minnesota, the California-based Council for Educational Travel USA reportedly did not have homes lined up for students before they arrived. A student from Norway reported that he lent his host family $1,000 for groceries and their son’s acting classes, and the state announced an investigation earlier this month.

    In February, Allentown-based United Student Exchange was ordered by a court to halt all activities, based on students not being placed in proper homes, and the group’s owners diverting $100,000 that was meant to pay school tuition.

    In other places, Ms. Grijalva has seen a student be given a sleeping bag and told to stay in a musty basement, and another student being forced to sleep on a pool table in a garage.

    «What is so concerning and disheartening, the reason why these problems occur, is because the placement agencies get greedy,» Ms. Grijalva said.

    Federal investigation launched

    Last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to investigate the department’s oversight of U.S. youth-exchange programs, based on what is happening in the region.

    The U.S. Department of State is now reviewing the allegations and its own oversight protocols.

    Under Department of State regulations, agencies must «ensure that the host family has a good reputation and character by securing two personal references for each host family from the school or community, attesting to the host family’s good reputation and character» and verify that members of the host family have undergone a criminal background check.

    Parents question whether this was done.

    Other foreign exchange placement agencies say they follow the rules.

    Before placements are made through the ASSE International Student Exchange Programs, a criminal background check and a home visit are done, and three references are contacted.

    Representatives have to answer, «Would they allow their own family member to live with this family?» according to Sue Nelson, the company’s coordinator for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. «We try to be very thorough,» she said.

    Tunkhannnock resident Nick Aiello, regional manager of Horizons Du Monde student exchange agency, said local coordinators work through schools and churches to find families interested in hosting students.

    A telephone interview is first conducted, and a home visit is mandatory, Mr. Aiello said. The current neglect investigation will have a negative impact on students wanting to come to this region, he said.

    «Reputations are on the line; families are concerned,» he said.

    Shattered dreams

    Ms. Lago made repeated complaints to Aspect about the living conditions her son was enduring. He wanted to go home. The complaints were never answered.

    «We felt helpless, frustrated and very angry that our son’s dream year was shattered and broken,» she wrote in her e-mail.

    After learning of his situation, another family took the boy in earlier this year. Though his time recently in the U.S. has been what he originally expected, Ms. Lago said he was robbed of his full American experience.

    Students will return to their homes in the coming weeks. Ms. Lago said she wants a full refund.

    «The cultural learning, appreciation, sharing and the unconditional support that a host family could have given my son, never happened,» she wrote.

    Contact the writer:  shofius@timesshamrock.com


    Saksforløp

    2009 Jul 16: State Department punishes exchange student company as criminal probe widens

    The Times Tribune | BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) | Published: July 16, 2009

    The organization at the center of neglect allegations concerning foreign exchange students in Scranton is poorly run and violated at least a dozen regulations, the U.S. Department of State has concluded.

    In light of the alleged neglect of up to a dozen students placed in the region, the Department of State is penalizing the California-based Aspect Foundation. The department will limit the amount of student visas Aspect can receive in 2009-10 by 15 percent, leading to a potential $540,000 loss of revenue.

    The penalties and additional changes in State Department policies will have national implications across the foreign exchange student industry, as more checks are created to ensure student safety.

    Meanwhile, a Lackawanna County grand jury is continuing to consider whether criminal charges are warranted, and its investigation has expanded beyond just the actions of Edna Burgette, the local coordinator who placed students in Scranton homes.

    Aspect Foundation is also a focus of the grand jury, which started hearing the case in May. The district attorney’s office has been obtaining documents and other records that may lead to charges against the organization, District Attorney Andy Jarbola said.

    «That’s the time-consuming process,» Mr. Jarbola said.

    Twelve area foreign exchange students, who paid Aspect to place them with area families, have reported arriving in Scranton and not having a host family secured, then living in filthy homes, some of which were later condemned. Students say they were shuffled from home to home, including living in one with a man who had been convicted of drug-related offenses. At least one required medical attention for lack of adequate food and drink.

    One student had been so deprived of food he cried when offered pizza by county detectives, Mr. Jarbola said Wednesday.

    Regulations violated

    Along with the criminal probe by the county district attorney’s office, the U.S. Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation.

    Depending on the outcome of the case, penalties imposed by the Department of State may become more severe, including Aspect being forbidden from bringing foreign students to the U.S.

    Aspect «is a financially troubled corporation operating with a largely untrained and unsupervised field staff,» according to the Department of State. «Underlying this weak organizational structure appears to be a corporate culture that does not grasp the complexity of the current international high school exchange environment.»

    In a letter sent to Aspect, the department outlined 12 regulations violated by Aspect, including «failing to ensure that a number of host families were ‘capable of providing a comfortable and nurturing home environment’ » and failing to check references or perform background checks. Aspect also was cited for bringing notoriety and disrepute to the department, as outlined by quotes from The Times-Tribune stories that were included in the letter.

    In addition to the 15 percent reduction in visas for the 2009-10 school year – the largest penalty allowed without due process – Aspect has been mandated to implement a corrective action plan, which the Department of State is reviewing. The foundation’s 12-page plan calls for an «Exchange Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities» and mandatory monthly check-ins with students.

    An 800-number hot line also has been established by the department so exchange students may call the department directly to report concerns, rather than go through their local coordinators or agencies.

    The Office of Inspector General is conducting an internal inspection of department protocol, and an external management audit that would allow the department greater control has been proposed.

    «We need a look at our own internal processes, why we did not have oversight in place that could have caught this,» Miller Crouch, acting assistant secretary of state for the department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, said Wednesday.

    ‘Willing to work’

    The Aspect Foundation, which has accepted the 15 percent sanction to give the organization «the opportunity to make staffing changes and to ensure our program’s integrity,» is willing to work with the department to correct any problems, Karen Walsh, a spokeswoman for Aspect, wrote in an e-mail Wednesday.

    Aspect, which company officials say has an «excellent track record» of 25 years, «fully acknowledges that what happened in Scranton was deplorable and in complete violation of our own strict standards and those of the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program.»

    Aspect’s executive director, Vivian Fearen, was unavailable for an interview, Ms. Walsh said.

    Numerous attempts to speak with Mrs. Burgette, who was fired after Aspect learned of the allegations, have been unsuccessful. A cell phone number for Mrs. Burgette has been disconnected.

    Mr. Jarbola declined to say when the grand jury would conclude its investigation and possibly recommend charges.

    Although the students have returned to their home countries, they are willing to come back to testify at a trial or may provide testimony via the Internet or by video, he said.

    «Here these students believed they were coming to the greatest country in the world,» Mr. Jarbola added. «For them to be treated that way, it’s certainly criminal.»

    Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com Timeline

    • May: Allegations surface that foreign exchange students were neglected by local host families. County grand jury convenes.
    • June: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey vows to work with the U.S. Department of State to correct flaws in foreign exchange industry.
    • Now: Grand jury probe expands to Aspect Foundation; Department of State penalizes Aspect.

    Saksforløp

    2009 Jul 19: Exchange student neglect happened a decade ago, host parent says

    The Times Tribune | BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) | Published: July 19, 2009

    Nine years ago, Margaret Marshall says Edna Burgette called to ask her to host a foreign exchange student for «a few days.»

    Mrs. Marshall had never met Mrs. Burgette, the local coordinator for a student placement agency, who said she heard from someone that Mrs. Marshall had hosted a student before.

    After Mrs. Marshall said she was not interested, Mrs. Burgette told her she was desperate, the student’s host family was painting his room, and she would only have to provide a home for «a few days.»

    Mrs. Marshall says she reluctantly agreed.

    After «a few days» of hosting Hans, a boy from Denmark, Mrs. Burgette was unreachable.

    When Mrs. Marshall finally confronted Mrs. Burgette at her workplace several weeks later, she says Mrs. Burgette put Hans in another home – an apartment that reeked of cat urine and had a cat tending to kittens under the couch.

    Mrs. Marshall has described this scenario to officials in the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office and the U.S. State Department and wants both agencies to expand their investigations beyond the alleged neglect of up to 12 students Mrs. Burgette placed in homes this school year.

    The situation described by Mrs. Marshall adds to evidence that the alleged neglect of foreign exchange students in Scranton has gone on for years before the recent discovery by law enforcement officials and the federal agency entrusted to oversee exchange programs.

    Mrs. Marshall also wants to know why student placement agency and Mrs. Burgette’s employer, the Aspect Foundation, never did anything about the problems.

    «I feel that Aspect holds more responsibility than even Mrs. Burgette because they were clearly informed of the situation in Scranton but allowed her to continue for another nine years,» Mrs. Marshall wrote in a complaint to the State Department and district attorney.

    A home for Hans

    One day after Hans moved from Mrs. Marshall’s home into the second-floor apartment with several children and multiple cats, Mrs. Marshall got a call for help.

    Hans, who had paid Aspect for a yearlong taste of American life, begged her to take him back.

    «The placement was horrendous,» she said. «It was unfit for any human habitation.»

    Mrs. Marshall and her husband welcomed Hans back into their home – one Mrs. Burgette, who was responsible for checking in with the students, knew nothing about, Mrs. Marshall said.

    «She never did a background check,» Mrs. Marshall added. «She never stepped foot in my home, She didn’t meet my husband, She never knew anything about it.»

    Both Mrs. Marshall and Hans’ parents contacted Aspect and provided detailed descriptions of the experience, and Aspect never responded, she said.

    Aspect issued a one-sentence statement on Mrs. Marshall’s complaint: «In light of the ongoing investigation, Aspect Foundation is unable to comment on these allegations.»

    Numerous attempts to speak with Mrs. Burgette, who was fired after Aspect learned of the allegations, have been unsuccessful. Mrs. Burgette was paid $400 per student she placed and received bonuses like trips and other stipends from the foundation.

    Charges possible

    A Lackawanna County grand jury has heard testimony from up to 12 students. Some, like Hans, reported arriving in Scranton and not having a host family secured. Students say they were shuffled from home to home, including living in one with a man who had been convicted of drug-related offenses and another home which was later condemned. At least one required medical attention for lack of adequate food and drink. The students paid more than $10,000 to Aspect for the American experience.

    The Department of State is penalizing the California-based Aspect Foundation. The department will limit the number of student visas Aspect can receive in 2009-10 by 15 percent, leading to a potential $540,000 loss of revenue.

    The U.S. Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation, and the State Department is scrutinizing the «overall conduct» of Aspect through the years, according to a spokeswoman.

    The county grand jury is continuing to consider whether criminal charges are warranted, and the investigation has expanded beyond the actions of Mrs. Burgette to the Aspect Foundation.

    District Attorney Andy Jarbola said he received the complaint from Mrs. Marshall on Friday, but refused to elaborate on his office’s response.

    «We’ll act accordingly,» he said. Prior complaints

    Mrs. Marshall has not been alone in reporting prior problems with Aspect.

    Ten years ago, Kathie DelGuercio and her husband met foreign exchange students outside 810 Myrtle St. in Scranton. A girl from Germany invited them in and showed Mrs. DelGuercio where she slept – in a 6-foot-by-6-foot room, on a cushion from a lounge chair.

    The same residence at 810 Myrtle St. was condemned in May, after a student from Nigeria, who was placed there by Mrs. Burgette, was found living with floors covered in dog feces.

    When Mrs. DelGuercio saw the living conditions of the German girl a decade ago, she took her in and reported the problems to Aspect, she said in May after the most recent allegations surfaced. Mrs. DelGuercio said Aspect never responded to her complaints.

    Mrs. Marshall wants more former host parents who took students from Mrs. Burgette to come forward.

    «It seems to me that Aspect and Mrs. Burgette cared only about collecting significant fees from these students and after the money was in their pockets, their responsibility ended,» Mrs. Marshall said.

    Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com


    Saksforløp

    2009 Jul 23: Exchange students say complaints were ignored by program officials

    The Times Tribune | By Erin L. Nissley (Staff Writer) | Published: July 23, 2009

    When Mussa Hassan, an 18-year-old from Tanzania, told Edna Burgette that he had gone without food for days and had begun seeing blood in his urine, she allegedly told him he would be OK if he just kept drinking water.

    When Anna Bardoz, a 17-year-old from Norway, complained to Ms. Burgette about the pet waste covering the floors of a small apartment where she was staying, Ms. Burgette allegedly told her she deserved to be there because of the bad things she had done.

    And Carlos Villarreal, an 18-year-old from Colombia, was afraid to complain that he could not wash his clothes for more than two months because he heard what Ms. Burgette had said about other foreign exchange students who complained.

    «Edna would say that the students who were complaining were being so ungrateful and ridiculous,» Mr. Villarreal told a county grand jury investigating allegations of neglect of at least 12 foreign exchange students Ms. Burgette placed locally for San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation. Ms. Burgette has been charged by county prosecutors with five counts of endangering the welfare of children.

    Although the five students came to Scranton from all over the world, their experiences here had a lot of similarities. All reported having inadequate food and drink, living in filthy conditions and having their complaints ignored by the one person who was supposed to help them.

    As a coordinator for Aspect, it was Ms. Burgette’s job to recruit and interview families willing to host a foreign exchange student for half or a whole school year, the grand jury learned. Coordinators are paid $400 to place a student with a family and $20 per month to check in on each student monthly to «make sure everything is going well,» prosecutors said.

    If students have complaints, it is the coordinator’s job to resolve them, according to testimony from Aspect Foundation employee Judy Long.

    Coordinators are supposed to screen host families before placing students with them. The screening includes a face-to-face interview, criminal background checks for anyone over 18 in the home and verification of at least two personal and one professional reference, Ms. Long told the grand jury.

    Prosecutors said Ms. Burgette did not follow procedures in finding host families and did not check in with students as she was supposed to. Four of the five students ended up living with members of Ms. Burgette’s family, and several students told the grand jury that ex-convicts and drug dealers lived in the houses and apartments with them.

    Attempts by The Times-Tribune to reach Ms. Burgette over the past few weeks have been unsuccessful. Her attorney, Christopher J. Osborne, declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.

    Contact the writer:  enissley@timesshamrock.com


    Saksforløp

    2009: Foreign-exchange coordinator arrested

    The Times Tribune | By Joe McDonald, (staff writer) | Published: July 24, 2009

    A Scranton woman who allegedly placed foreign-exchange students in area homes so deplorable that prosecutors called it a crime was arrested Thursday after turning herself in to authorities.

    Edna Mary Burgette, 69, of 810 Myrtle St., was charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of children after she showed up at the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office. Detectives had been searching for her since Wednesday but were unable to find her, District Attorney Andy Jarbola said.

    «We knew where she was staying,» Mr. Jarbola said. «She wasn’t on the run.»

    Ms. Burgette was released on $25,000 unsecured bail at her arraignment before Magisterial District Judge Sean P. McGraw in Carbondale. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

    Her arrest does not mean investigators have ended their inquiry into the foreign-exchange student scandal centered in Scranton, Mr. Jarbola said.

    «The investigation is continuing,» he said. «It’s continuing before the grand jury.»

    The grand jury is scheduled to reconvene next week, he said. Last week, Mr. Jarbola said his office was securing records and other information from Aspect Foundation, the agency by which Ms. Burgette was employed.

    The charges against Ms. Burgette revolve around five foreign-exchange students who were placed in area homes between August and May by Ms. Burgette, the former area coordinator for San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation. She was fired after the organization learned of the allegations.

    The students told investigators they lived in filthy homes, some of which were later condemned. Several said they were living with ex-convicts and drug dealers. At least one student required medical attention for lack of adequate food and drink. All said Ms. Burgette ignored their complaints, even though she was paid by Aspect to place and check up on the students.

    According to court papers, a girl from Norway said she was placed in a home filled with dog feces and cat urine on Dickson Avenue, and a boy from Colombia said he was exposed to similar unsanitary conditions at 935 Madison Ave., where he lived with people who had been released from prison and liked to smoke marijuana.

    A student from Nigeria who stayed at Jermyn Apartments and at 935 Madison Ave. also said her living conditions included animal feces and life with ex-convicts, as well as very little food.

    Two other students, one from Tanzania who lived at a home on Quincy Avenue, the other from Vietnam who also lived on Quincy Avenue, said they were not given enough food.

    Contact the writer: jmcdonald@timesshamrock.com


    Saksforløp

    Problemer: Språkreise var partyferie for mindreårige

    Publisert 31.01.2010 22.31
    Haakon E. H. Eliassen
    hei@tv2.no

    Alkohol, festing og innpåslitne hotellgjester ble en del av studiehverdagen for tre venninner (15) fra Bergen.

    De tre 15-åringene fikk en tidlig smak på voksenlivet da de dro på språkreise til Malta i fjor sommer.

    De tre venninnene ble plassert på et hotell midt i partyområdet.

    Rebekka, Andrea og Margot mimrer mens de blar igjennom den nye 2010-katalogen fra EF Språkreiser.

    I fjor dro jentene sammen til Malta på språkkurs i regi av EF Språkreiser. Men med på kjøpet fikk de flere uannonserte opplevelser.

    Innpåslitne hotellgjester

    Den første overraskelsen var bostedet, som ikke var et studenthjem, men et helt vanlig hotell med innpåslitne guttegjenger:

    – Vi trodde jo vi skulle bo på et studenthjem, det var det inntrykket vi fikk. Men vi havnet på et vanlig hotell, omtrent midt i partygaten, sier Andrea Tviberg Frammarsvik (15) til TV 2 Nyhetene.

    Og blant hotellgjestene var flere guttegjenger med festglade italienere i tyveårsalderen, som la seg etter de norske jentene:

    Banket på midt på natten

    – Midt på natten banket det på døren og vi trodde det var lederne, men på utsiden sto mange italienere. Innpåslitne og ville inn, derfor satt de en fot i døren, husker Margot Kortebein Birkeland (15).

    – Vi ble forsøkt sjekket opp av 27-åringer, de var veldig påtrengende og hadde ingen hemninger, tilføyer Andrea.

    Vorspiel og barturer

    Jentene forteller at mange av de mindreårige kursdeltagerne drakk alkohol i løpet av oppholdet, enten på hotellet som lå tett ved partygaten, eller på barer og diskoteker.

    – Det var nesten sikrere å gå på bar, dersom man ikke ønsket å bli tatt, sier Andrea.

    Jentene forteller at kontrollen for å avdekke regelbrudd var lite effektiv, selv om lederne gikk rundt og sjekket og foretok pusteprøver

    Spydde i bøtte

    – Hun ene lederen gikk inn til en som lå å spydde i en bøtte, og var helt ute. Han klarte å komme seg unna ved å si at ble dårlig på grunn av en vannpipe, sier Andrea.

    – Hva gjorde dere for å unngå å bli tatt?

    – Vi spiste sjokoladepålegg før lederne kom og sjekket oss, ler de i kor.

    – Vi tok Nutellaboksen og det funket tydeligvis bra. Hun ene lederen sa at her lukter det bare sjokolade og alt i orden, smiler Margot.

    12-åringer på bar

    Venninnen forteller at jenter helt ned i tolvårsalderen fikk kjøpt alkohol på barene i området.

    – Det var ingen som spurte om legitimasjon, og spesielt jenter slapp lett inn på utestedene. De var overhodet ikke strenge, forteller Rebekka Isehaug Kristensen.

    – Vi bare gikk bort og så bestilte vi en drink, sier de tre, som viser frem foto av barkartet med «Tequila shots», «Sex on the beach» og en rekke andre drinker.

    Jentene forteller at alt gikk bra, til tross for fristelsene og mulighetene. De passet på hverandre, og ingen skeiet helt ut.

    – Hvis dere ville, kunne dere drukket hver dag uten å bli tatt?

    – Ja, det tror vi, sier de tre i kor.

    – Grundig lurt

    – Det som jeg ikke synes er akseptabelt er jo det at vi ikke blir opplyst om at de skulle bo på et vanlig hotell. Jeg hadde aldri sendt min datter av gårde på en språkreise om jeg visste at de skulle bo på et vanlig hotell midt i partygaten med mange andre gjester på samme hotell, sier Gro Frammarsvik som er moren til Andrea, til TV 2 Nyhetene.

    Hun er helt klar på at foreldrene betalte for at de skulle bo på campus.

    FØLER SEG LURT: Mor Gro Frammarsvik føler ikke at EF hadde kontroll på ungdommene på språkreisen.

    – Og da ser du for deg at de bor på en type studenthjem hvor kun språkelever bor og hvor de har god kontroll på elevene. Jeg føler meg rett og slett lurt av EF og jeg føler at de har ikke hatt noen kontroll på ungene slik som de bodde på hotellet, sier Frammarsvik.

    Hun mener også at det er uholdbart at reiseselskapet blander 14-åringer med 18-åringer i en gruppe.

    – Det er jo helt feil, det er så stor forskjell på en 14-åring og en 18-åring at de har ingenting sammen å gjøre på et slikt sted, mener Frammarsvik.

    Nulltolleranse for alkohol

    På hjemmesiden til EF Språkreiser presiseres det at barna er trygge: «Ditt barns sikkerhet, vår største prioritet».

    Overfor TV 2 poengterer EF Språkreiser at man i regelverket har nulltolleranse for alkohol og studenter som velger å bryte avtalen, må reise hjem til Norge. I en e-post til TV 2 skriver Kirsti Kollenborg, daglig leder i EF Education, at det dessverre har vært 20-40 studenter de siste årene som selskapet har måttet sende hjem til Norge fordi de har brutt reglene.

    – Vi synes det er trist, men understreker viktigheten av at reglene som studenter og foreldre får før språkreisen må holdes av respekt for både medstudenter og ledere, skriver Kollenborg i en kommentar til TV 2 Nyhetene.

    – Ikke sendt hjem

    I følge jentene ble noen studenter tatt og fikk husarrest, men ble ikke sendt hjem.

    – Det var åtte stykker som ble tatt noen dager før vi skulle dra hjem. De fikk husarrest, men fikk bli til vi reiste hjem fordi de ikke fikk tak i billetter, forteller Andrea.

    –De bryter loven

    – Det skal være samsvar mellom markedsføringen og det du får som kunde. Selger de seriøsitet og trygghet, så skal barna ha trygge rammer, sier forbrukerombud Bjørn Erik Thon til TV 2 Nyhetene.

    Han mener dette er et brudd på markedsføringsloven fordi det i så fall her kan være snakk feil markedsføring.

    – Hva bør foreldre gjøre?

    – Det foreldrene bør gjøre er å sjekke grundig på forhånd, søk på nettet og sjekk blogger. Der finner man både positive og negative erfaringer rundt disse reisene, sier Thon til TV 2 Nyhetene.

    Thon mener også at du kan klage på produktet dersom du ikke har fått det du er blitt lovet:

    Problemer: Bytte familie, alkoholmisbruk, ikke seng, overfylt, skittent, lånte penger

    Utvekslingsoppholdet ble en gedigen nedtur for Tobias (17). Nå må han gå 1. klasse om igjen.

    Siri Guldteig Larssen | Onsdag 01. desember 2010, kl. 19:56

    Tobias Waage Kyte fra Drammen fikk en tøff velkomst da han i høst reiste på  elevutveksling til USA gjennom Explorius sitt program. Planen var å  tilbringe andre klasse på en amerikansk High School, men etter bare to  måneder i USA fikk 17-åringen nok og nå er han tilbake i Drammen.

    Helt «Texas»

    Først to dager før avreise i september ble Tobias tildelt en vertsfamilie og  da i Texas, til tross for at han hele veien hadde fått opplyst at han skulle  til Florida.

    – Det var egentlig ikke noe problem for meg. Jeg tenkte at; Texas, det er jo  dødskult! Hvor mange er det som får oppleve det, forteller Tobias til TV 2  hjelper deg.

    Men det som møtte utvekslingseleven i Texas var langt ifra dødskult. Ifølge  Tobias ble han plassert hos en vertsfamilie med elendige boforhold. Han  mener det hele virket som en nødløsning for å få han over til USA.

    – Det var skittent og ekkelt og doen virket ikke skikkelig. En av rutene var  knust uten at noen hadde tatt seg bryet med å bytte den og jeg hadde ikke  engang en seng å sove i, forteller Tobias oppgitt.

    I huset bodde en familie på seks personer, i tillegg til en tysk  utvekslingsstudent og alle disse skulle, sammen med Tobias, dele to soverom.

    – Jeg ble bare helt fortvilet og følte virkelig ikke at dette var det  Explorius hadde forespeilet meg, sier Tobias.

    Vertsmor fyllekjørte

    Etter at han hadde klaget ble han raskt flyttet ut, men problemene stoppet  ikke her.

    Hos en av familiene opplevde Tobias at vertsmoren ved flere anledninger drakk  og kjørte bil under en rundtur i Florida. Hun skal også ha bedt om å låne  penger av Tobias eller om han kunne donere penger til turen. Da foreldrene  til Tobias fikk vite om disse hendelsene reagerte de med stor bekymring og  kontaktet Explorius som igjen konfronterte den aktuelle vertsmoren – mens  Tobias bodde i huset.

    – Jeg syntes det ble fryktelig ubehagelig, du kan jo tenke deg hvordan  stemningen var i det huset, sier Tobias, som fortviler over måten det hele  ble behandlet på.

    Hans egne foreldre, Kristin Waage Kyte og Mårten Kyte, syntes det var tøft å  følge Tobias hjemmefra og hadde hyppig kontakt med sønnen. De forsøkte å  motivere og støtte ham så godt de kunne via skype, sms og telefonkontakt.

    – Det er jo det kjæreste du har og selv om vi vet at Tobias klarer seg selv så  var det tungt å høre at han var utrygg og på gråten og ikke kunne hjelpe  ham, sier Kristin.

    I løpet av sine nesten to måneder i USA har Tobias blitt flyttet rundt til tre  ulike familier i Texas, en familie i Kansas før han til slutt ble sendt til  en siste familie i Missouri. Her kunne de ikke tilby noen skoleplass til han  og alternativet var å flytte ham en siste gang.

    Kontraktsbrudd

    Foreldrene til Tobias mener de ikke har fått den tjenesten de har kjøpt av  Explorius og at organisasjonen ved flere anledninger har tilbudt et  utilstrekkelig skoletilbud. Til sammen har de betalt 70 000 kroner for  oppholdet og Tobias har et stipend fra Lånekassen som vil bli gjort om til  lån fordi han ikke har fullført skoleåret. I tillegg kom han tilbake for  sent til å følge sitt eget årskull og må derfor gå 1. klasse om igjen.

    – Det er utrolig kjipt og så demotiverende. Dette året skulle liksom bli mitt  livs opplevelse, men nå ender det bare med en gedigen skuffelse og brutte  forventninger, sier 17- åringen.

    Explorius mener foreldrene har skylden

    Explorius hevder på sin side at det er familien Kyte som har brutt kontrakten,  fordi Tobias til slutt valgte å dra hjem fra USA. De mener også at oppholdet  i stor grad ble ødelagt av at foreldrene hadde for mye kontakt med sønnen.  Det reagerer Tobias sin mor sterkt på.

    – Hvem er det som ikke ville ha fulgt opp sønnen sin i en slik fortvilet  situasjon, det er vår plikt som foreldre, sier hun oppgitt.

    Hos ANSA, organisasjonen som organiserer studenter og elever i utlandet, har  de fått flere liknende henvendelser fra elever som har vært utenlands  gjennom Explorius.

    – Vi synes det er utrolig uheldig at utvekslingselever havner i slike  situasjoner og derfor er det veldig viktig å skille mellom de seriøse og  useriøse aktørene, sier president i ANSA, Kristoffer Moldekleiv.

    Administrerende direktør i Explorius, Tom Ericsson, er veldig lei seg for at  Tobias ikke har fått et vellykket opphold i USA. Han beklager forholdene hos  den første vertsfamilien som Tobias kom til i Texas, men legger vekt på at  det mangler dokumentasjon på Tobias sine påstander.

    – Det er en del alvorlige påstander som kommer frem her og det vil vi sjekke  grundigere, sier han.

    Ericsson mener at Explorius har gjort alt i sin makt for å hjelpe Tobias  underveis når problemene har oppstått og at skoletilbudet de har gitt har  vært tilfredsstillende. Etter at TV 2 hjelper deg tok opp saken har  Explorius tilbudt Tobias å reise ut på et nytt opphold, men med bedre  betingelser. For tiden forhandler de også med familien Kyte om et økonomisk  krav.

    2009 jul 16: «Exchange students live American nightmare»

    /US
    Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston | CNN | 16. juli 2009:
    SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (CNN) — They came from around the world hoping to spend a high school year immersed in the culture and joys of America.

    Exchange student Carlos Villareal of Colombia says he was underfed and kept in "an unsafe environment."
    Exchange student Carlos Villareal of Colombia says he was underfed and kept in «an unsafe environment.» Source: CNN

    Instead, five young foreign exchange students found themselves caught in a nightmare of neglect, malnourishment and abandonment by those supposed to protect them.

    Now those five — natives of countries stretching from Norway to Tanzania to Colombia — are back home telling friends of a different America than they expected. And their brief visit reverberates in America as a United States senator demands accountability and reform, a Pennsylvania district attorney seeks criminal charges and the U.S. State Department concedes it failed to protect kids coming to America.

    «We at the Department of State recognize [because we] are responsible for this program we have to make sure we are aggressively overseeing this program and make sure children are well-suited,» said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.

    «This is a program that is very important to the Department of State,» Crowley said. «We are talking 15- to 18-year-old children. We are introducing them to the United States. We are trying to put our best foot forward. We recognize in this incident in Scranton and also elsewhere around the country we have failed to do so.»

    What happened in Scranton, according to Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, District Attorney Andrew Jarbola, is a crime. He has convened a grand jury to look into the families where some of the 12 students who came to Scranton were placed, as well as the company who placed them there and its officials.

    «Well, in my opinion they were treated kind of crudely,» Jarbola said. «Not provided the proper food, hygiene and things of that nature. And the areas they were placed? I know one of the students was placed in a home with a convicted felon — convicted of drug trafficking or drug offenses — and that is very disturbing to me.»

    Jarbola said some students were so malnourished that one was treated in a hospital for dehydration while another passed out during track at school.

    «They weren’t provided with food,» Jarbola said. «In fact there is one incident with tape on food items in the refrigerator of the host family that says, ‘Do not touch. This is for the host family only.’ So basically they were neglected.»

    The company that placed the students first denied any problems existed, then said it had corrected them and fired those responsible. The families who housed the students say the allegations are untrue. But the students themselves tell a different story.

    ‘It was nothing like I had envisioned’

    The San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation sponsored all 12 of the Scranton students, some of whom were on State Department grants. On its Web site, the Aspect Foundation says it began in 1985 as «a small non-profit organization offering affordable study-abroad opportunities to students from around the world,» and now «students live with volunteer host families in more than 350 communities throughout the United States.»

    In 2008, the State Department gave 17 placement groups $39.4 million in taxpayer funds to manage programs involving exchange students. Aspect received $1.08 million of those funds.

    Carlos Villarreal’s family, however, paid their son’s way to America from Colombia, giving Aspect $13,000 for him to study here. Villarreal said he lived with a family that housed ex-convicts and that he had very little to eat. He said his mother’s repeated contacts with Aspect about his situation were ignored.

    «I lost a lot of body weight, and [it was] an unsafe environment which I felt uncomfortable living in, and it was nothing like I had envisioned my experience in America,» he said.

    The Rev. Elmer Smith told CNN he took in Villarreal as a favor to Aspect’s local coordinator, Edna Burgette, and denied he failed to feed him.

    «The boy had no place to go, so I took him in and I fed him,» Smith said. «He had a television in his room, he had heat in his room, he had air-conditioning in his room.»

    Another woman who hosted students said she was sitting on her porch when Burgette walked by and asked her if she would take in a child. Like Smith, the woman said that she was just trying to help a student whom she was told had nowhere else to go.

    Jarbola said a girl from Norway, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Anne, tried to alert officials that she and some of the students were in dire straits.

    Anne told CNN she had school officials send an e-mail to Aspect in October explaining how bad things were and including photographs of the inside of the home where she was placed. The home was later condemned by the city.

    Anne’s high school principal took her in, but other students weren’t as lucky and spent nearly the entire school year in unsafe homes, until Children and Youth Services was tipped off about a month before school ended, Jarbola said.

    Jarbola, who said Anne’s e-mail is now evidence in the criminal investigation, told CNN that when welfare officials interviewed the students, one was so hungry he wept when they gave him pizza during questioning. In all, five of the students were removed from homes where they’d been placed by Aspect.

    Sponsoring agencies asked to police themselves

    U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pennsylvania, said the situation sickened him.

    «I’m the father of four daughters,» he said. «I would never want my daughter nor would any parent want their daughter or son exposed to these kinds of conditions anywhere, but especially when you’re in a foreign country. And in this case the United States was this foreign country.»

    Aspect gave conflicting responses to CNN.

    Vivian Fearen, its executive director, did not return calls seeking comment. Her Pennsylvania public relations firm issued a statement blaming the Scranton problem on Burgette, who was fired once the allegations surfaced in the Scranton media.

    Burgette also did not respond to repeated attempts by CNN for comment.

    Later, however, Aspect issued a statement through the public relations firm.

    «Based on their own investigation and verification from county children and youth officials, Aspect Foundation was led to believe that none of their students in northeastern Pennsylvania was abused, malnourished or dehydrated,» said Karen Walsh, public affairs director for the Neiman Group.

    But the statement also said Aspect «fully acknowledges that what happened in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was deplorable and in complete violation of their own strict standards and those of the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Program.»

    «Aspect Foundation has corrected the problems; terminated or accepted the resignations of those who were responsible for them; and established new policies and procedures to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again,» Walsh said.

    Walsh said the Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services agency reported no Aspect students in Scranton required medical attention and only three were relocated. In addition to Burgette’s firing, Walsh said, two other supervisors resigned.

    But the district attorney and other officials in Lackawanna County dispute Aspect’s contention. Jarbola said two received medical attention. All told, according to Jarbola, five were relocated, and those cases are being reviewed by the grand jury.

    But Casey’s staff pointed out that Aspect employed Burgette for 10 years, making it difficult to portray her simply as a rogue employee.

    Casey said Aspect knew in October the students were in trouble and chose to ignore it. But he saved most of his anger for the State Department, which allows groups like Aspect to police themselves.

    «It’s about time that the State Department complete its investigation — even as the grand jury is working — complete the investigation, level tough sanctions and make improvements to this program in terms of oversight,» Casey said.

    In its initial statement to CNN, the State Department said when it hears of allegations, «we immediately contact the sponsoring organization involved and ask them to investigate. We gather full information and act swiftly and appropriately.»

    That’s the problem, argue critics, who say the department has had a hands-off policy for years when it comes to foreign exchange group sponsors. When complaints are made against the sponsor, they are asked to investigate themselves.

    Arkansas legislator Sue Madison said she had a law passed in her state to protect students after it was discovered some of them were forced to do manual labor, live in unfit conditions and even forced to hand over their money to host families.

    «You make a complaint to the State Department and you basically never hear from them again,» Madison said, explaining why she decided her state needed a law to do its own enforcement.

    Watchdog groups struggle to get State Department’s attention

    Danielle Grijalva, director of the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students, said she once worked in the industry. The agencies, which she calls unregulated travel agents, can make millions of dollars enticing rich foreigners and lobbying for State Department grants to lure scholarship-eligible students here for a year of study.

    Her group now monitors complaints. The situation in Scranton, she said, is not isolated — nor is the State Department’s initial response to the crisis. She fields calls from parents and students alike who complain they have nowhere else to turn.

    «It’s self-regulated, unmonitored, under-reported,» Grijalva said. «Students being raped, placed in the homes of convicted felons, placed in the homes of registered sex offenders, come to the United States and lose 20, 30, 40 pounds.»

    Grijalva shared e-mails with CNN which she said came from parents and students and host families — even correspondence with the State Department managers who oversee the program.

    The State Department «will not accept as a complaint any matter that is not presented to us by an involved party to the exchange agency,» she was told in a 2006 e-mail by Stanley Colvin, a deputy assistant secretary for private-sector exchange.

    Complaints forwarded by watchdog groups like hers, she said, are not considered by the State Department as worthy of investigation.

    The State Department turned down CNN’s request to talk to Colvin or other managers directly involved in managing the exchange programs.

    «When we bring this to the attention of the State Department, once again, it’s a business issue, they can’t get involved and they continue to look the other way,» Grijalva said.

    Crowley said the department is not looking the other way now. He said the Scranton situation showed the department «tended to inspect by exception. Only when we were aware of dire circumstances did we send an investigator out.»

    Crowley said the department asked the inspector general’s office to investigate Aspect but also plans to inspect its own management controls. He said that given the number of students, the department will still have to depend on sponsoring agencies to monitor the students they bring over. But he said the State Department can and will do more.

    «We do recognize that the oversight of this program at the State Department was not strong enough, not aggressive enough,» Crowley said.

    «We were not out there in the community looking hard at where our children were. We have already taken steps to put more eyes on these homes around the country so that in the future not only will we be putting the appropriate emphasis on the agents that are responsible first and foremost for oversight we’ll be looking over their shoulders as well.

    «That did not happen certainly in the case of Scranton,» he said.

    Crowley also released a June 12 report on Aspect written by Colvin. In it, Colvin said the department has warned the industry for the past three years that it was becoming harder to find suitable host families. It said the department specifically told Aspect that an audit found the group only complying with host family screening requirements 67.7 percent of the time. It’s unclear from the report why the State Department did not stop awarding Aspect grants at that point.

    After finding a number of violations in Scranton, Colvin said the state would sanction Aspect by reducing the number of students it can bring over by 15 percent. Based on the fees it charges, the penalty, Colvin wrote, will result in a revenue loss of $540,000.

    However, there is no mention in the report whether Aspect will have to return any of the $1 million of taxpayer-funded grants it received for the 2008-2009 school year. The State Department did not respond to repeated requests for clarification.

    Despite conditions, Tanzanian student says ‘thank you’

    Meanwhile, Tanzanian student Musa Mpulki has since returned home. Before he left, he told CNN he did not want to upset his mother, so he never told her that he had little to eat during his nine-month stay in the home of a 72-year-old man who had signs on his refrigerator that some food was only for family.

    Although his housing situation was a nightmare, Mpulki said the students at the school made him appreciate America, and he said he appreciated the State Department grant that brought him to the United States.

    «I guess I like to say, ‘Thank you very much the government of the United States for to bring me here to get a good experience at the school and a good education.’ »


    Saksforløp

    2008/2009: Seksuelle overgrep, alkohol, mishandling, PTSD

    TH92 skriver:

    Jeg reiste med EF og tilbragte 11 måneder i rent helvette, med ustabilitet, alkoholisme, vitnet fysisk vold, ble selv  seksuelt  misbrukt,  trakassert, truet på livet, brukt som nikkedukke, dratt  mellom barken og veden i alle sammenhenger. Dagen jeg satte foten  ned på norsk jord var mitt livs beste. Like etter fulgte alle reaksjonene og jeg ble diagnosert med flere psykiske lidelser, bla angst, depresjon.

    Etter to år med søvnløse netter, skyldfølelse og fortvilelse begynner  det nå å bedre seg. Ble lettet da jeg leste dette og såg at jeg  ikke  har  vært alene om å ha store problemer, som skulle vise seg å ha store konsekvenser for det livet som kom etterpå.

    Det er ikke utvekslingsstudentens feil at organisasjonen  ikke  gjør  jobben sin, men det er utvekslingsstudenten som må leve med traumene i ettertid.

    Problemer: Bytte familie, selvmord, kastet ut, ingen hjelp

    T.H. skriver:

    Ser EF får mye pepper her, men må bare si at jeg reiste med SPEAK  en datterorganisasjon av ASF og de var ikke mye bedre! Det startet  med at hun som jeg skulle bo hos aldrig dukket opp på flyplassen. Så  da bodde jeg hos forskjellige vertsfamilier og koordinatorer. Ett  sted måtte jeg til og med sove på gulvet. Til slutt måtte jeg bo med en annen utvekslingsstudent hos et eldre ektepar. Dette ekteparet var mildt sagt IKKE egnet for å ta imot utvekslingsstudenter. Vertsfaren  min manipulerte og løy, han var alkoholmissbruker og tok livet sitt.

    Den andre utvekslingsstudenten i familien ble flyttet fordi de fryktet for sikkerheten hans, mens de lot meg være igjen der alene. Hadde  jeg ikke hatt så mange gode venner  hvet  jeg  ikke  hva  jeg  skulle gjort.

    Og organisasjonen visste aldrig hvor jeg var, heller ikke da vertsmoren min kastet meg ut på dagen… De nektet meg også  å  dra til min egen familie i USA da jeg var hjemløs i jula. Bodde hos litt forskjellige venner til jeg fant en fantastisk familie som jeg  bodd e hos resten av tiden.<

    Men ASF i San Fransisco ringte faktisk å kjeftet på meg fordi  jeg  hadde uroliget mammaen min med å fortelle sannheten. Ja, hva  skulle det være godt for.Jeg trodde nesten ikke det jeg hørte, og fortalte de det at noen måtte jo få vite hvor jeg var, og det ville jo mamma gjerne vite.Møtte eller snakket aldrig med min koordinator, møtte mange andre koordinatorer men hørte aldri fra min egen. SPEAK var jo absolutt mest redd for sitt rykte og da de fant ut at min pappa jobbet i dagbladet var de raskt ute med å  betale  tilbak  pengene.Jeg fullførte året mitt, og de siste månedene var helt  fantastiske! Men det må skje noe med systemet for at det skal  bli trygt å dra alene som 17 åring på utveksling!

    Problemer: Bytte familie, alkoholisme, interessekonflikt

    123 skriver:

    Det er gått flere år siden jeg var på utveksling i USA gjennom EF. Jeg var spent og gledet meg lenge til å dra, men etter å ha bodd et par dager hos vertsfamilien min innså jeg at alt var galt. Jeg takket ja til å bo hos min regionale  koordinator, noe jeg  ALDRI skulle gjort.

    Det viste seg at min koordinator, altså hun jeg bodde hos blandt annet var alkoholiker. Det verste er at EF lar uegnet personer ha ansvar for rundt 10 utvekslingselever.

    Det var mye bråk og styr og da jeg kontaktet EF under oppholdet sa de at det ikke var mye de kunne gjøre. Det viste seg at min vertsmor alt hadde kontaktet EF i Norge i frykt av at jeg ville bytte familie og fortelle om hva som foregikk. Av den grunn ble jeg syndebukken og måtte kun  finne meg i all galskapen.

    Jeg anbefaler på det sterkeste ikke EF.

    Problemer: Alkoholmisbruk, trusler, psykiske problemer

    Jeg vil fraråde EF på det sterkeste. Jeg reiste til England i fjor høst, men dro raskt hjem etter dårlig behandling av både vertsforeldre og EF i seg selv. De virket veldig hyggelige og hjelpsomme før avreise, men etter jeg kom til England og etter jeg dro hjem har jeg ikke fått svar på noen av spørsmålene jeg mener er en selvfølge å spørre om. Forstår det kan være ubehagelig, men det er jobben deres, og når den ikke blir utført har de ingenting å gjøre der. Pengene får man selvfølgelig ikke tilbake, og det blir en bitter del av livet mitt.

    Mine vertsforeldre begikk flere reglementsbrudd, og jeg ønsket å vite hvorfor de fremdeles fikk være vertsforeldre, mens utvekslingsstudenter blir sendt rett hjem om noe blir brutt. Jeg ble behandlet utrolig dårlig av en av deres kolleger i England, som presterte å kjefte på meg over telefon for noe som overhodet ikke var «materiale» for slik oppførsel, og jeg ble rett og slett skremt. Jeg fikk ikke snakke, ikke fortelle meningen min, og når jeg prøvde ble han enda sintere.

    Foreldrene mine og jeg klagde til EF om dette, men jeg fikk ingen unnskyldning. Jeg ville bl.a. ha et svar på dette, og hvorfor et slikt menneske uten tydelig kompetanse kan ha en slik jobb, da jobben er å veilede studentene og hjelpe dem. Vertsforeldrene mine var tydelig psykisk syke, og min koordinator for mitt område i England sa hun skulle finne en ny familie til meg med en gang. Jeg ble kjempeglad, men et par dager etter får jeg vite at dette er uaktuelt, og at jeg ikke har noe der borte å gjøre.

    Vil si det er ansvarsfraskrivelse og bruk- og kastmentalitet på det verste. Det er tydelig at de kun er ute etter pengene (EF tar mesteparten, og vertsforeldrene får ikke mer enn rundt £100 i mnd). Etter summen er betalt og du har reist er du etterlatt alene. Hvis noe mindre bra oppstår kan du bare glemme støtte og support, you’re all on your own. Naturligvis ønsker jeg svar på hvorfor de praktiserer jobben sin slik?

    Jeg vet om flere studenter i England nå som sliter, er i familier hvor alkohol og hasj er hverdag, mye fattigdom og jeg har sikkert navn på tretti stykker som har måttet bytte vertsfamilie. En rekke andre spørsmål følger også, men jeg ser egentlig ikke hvorfor dette er interessant for deg?