Stikkordarkiv: #Alkoholmisbruk

Utvekslingsåret ble en skuffelse

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

    2014 Jun 19: Heidi gikk fra himmel til helvete på tre måneder

    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.

    2009/2010: USA: Alcoholic host-mother

    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

    2009 May 31: 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


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    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


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