Stikkordarkiv: #PennsylvaniaUSA

Problemer: Bytte familie, salg og bruk av dop, psykiske problemer

Dette er opplevelsene til ei jente (Pinnsvin) som reiste med YFU til USA høsten 2007. Jeg har kommentert underveis. Enkelte ting har forandret seg i reglementet her i Norge siden da.

For det første så plikter utvekslingsfirmaet å hjelpe deg med den formelle prosessen i forhold til godkjenning av fagene. I dette tilfellet var YFU lite villige til å hjelpe utvekslingseleven med informasjon om hvordan hun kunne få til dette. Pinnsvin gikk på Medie og kommunikasjon.

Både skole og vertsfamilie skal ha mottatt detaljert profil over eleven de har sagt ja til å motta. For skolens del så har dette noe med tidsfristene de har i de ulike statene. For vertsfamiliens del har selvfølgelig det å ha en detaljert profil over eleven som kommer noe med at de skal være forberedt på den nye personen som skal dele deres liv.

Selv om bakgrunnskontrollene ikke var like grundige i 2007, skulle man sjekke hjem og personer som bodde i dem. Familien skulle ha mulighet til å ta seg godt av eleven som kom og det skulle ikke være kjente problemer med familien.

Noen elever er litt vanskeligere å plassere enn andre. I Pinnsvin’s tilfelle hadde hun vært åpen sine politiske meninger og YFU mente at dette kunne være en årsak til at det tok tid å finne en familie til henne.

YFU har en ordning med at eleven får en utreisedato som gjelder samme hva. Om man ikke har fått en fast familie kan man få en midlertidig familie til en fast en dukker opp. I Pinnsvins tilfelle så det ganske lenge ut som om dette var det som kom til å skje.

Pinnsvin påpeker noe som kan være greit for dere å sjekke. Disse bankkortene deres. Vil dere kunne bruke dem som kredittkort eller vil de bare kunne brukes som et bankaksept kort. Det er egne regler for dere mellom 15 og 18 år. Sjekk på banken.

Endelig, 14. august 2007 hadde Pinnsvin fått seg en familie i en by som heter Renovo i Pennsylvania. De aller fleste av dere kommer nok til å havne på steder med opp til 10.000 innbyggere – i USA. Det virker som om interessen for å ha utvekslingselever er størst der. Men Pinnsvin fikk ikke vite mer enn navn på by og stat. Navn på familien fikk hun først vite dagen før hun reiste over. Som dere ser over er ikke lenger dette godtkjent praksis i USA.

Men skolen brukte YFU lenger til på å få Pinnsvin inn på og det var ikke YFU som ringte Pinnsvin om familien men Pinnsvin som måtte ringe YFU.

Familien som Pinnsvin endte opp hos er på mange måter typisk for familiene dere kommer til å ende opp i. Det var et lite men hyggelig hus, familien var en kjernefamilie med mor, far og to barn. Riktignok hadde de dårlig råd, men det har mange av vertsfamiliene. Noen av dem har ekstremt dårlig råd.

Familien til Pinnsvin skilte seg ut fra vanlige familier på et par områder.

  1. Faren var pillemisbruker. Han var en av veteranene fra Vietnamkrigen og slet med langtidsvirkninger. I hans tilfelle tok han svært mye reseptbelagt medisin. Ingen forsøkte å skjule at faren var misbruker.
  2. Familien solgte dop.
  3. Moren brukte Pinnsvin som en slags erstatning for det mannen hennes ikke klarte å være for henne. For en 17 åring blir det litt voldsomt å skulle fungere som psykolog for en voksen.
  4. Familien fikk beskjed om at Pinnsvin hadde underskrevet en klausul om at hun ikke skulle ha sex mens hun var i USA. Pinnsvin mente helt sikkert at hun ikke hadde gjort det.
    • Vår sønns kontrakt hadde en klausul om at det var forbudt å laste ned pornografi.
    • I tillegg plikter man å følge husreglene. I USA betyr gjerne dette en forventning om at man ikke skal ha sex mens man går på videregående.
    • Man plikter også å følge aldersgrensene som gjelder i de ulike statene. De varierer noe når det gjelder seksuell lavalder.

Om ikke representanten gjør en grundig nok kontroll på vertsfamilien, vil det være vanskelig å klare å se slike problemer på forhånd. Om de, derimot, gjør den jobben de skal og ikke ser gjennom fingrene med noe vil de i teorien klare å forstå at noe er galt i familien. Desverre er det slik i USA at utvekslingsbyråene har elevkvoter de må fylle og da kan det være fristende å slippe vertsfamilier gjennom nåløyet som ikke burde vært sluppet gjennom. Det at representanten til Pinnsvin bodde 5 timers kjøretur unna var nok medvirkende til at jobben ikke ble gjort grundig nok. Intervjuene ble gjort per telefon.

Skolen virket helt grei og Pinnsvin fikk være senior. Dette er noe dere ikke må ta for gitt. Skolen bestemmer. Noe av opplevelsene var litt uvante. For eksempel skulle man øve seg på en babydokke for å se hva det å være foreldre gikk ut på.

Skolen forlanger en legeerklæring når man vil være med på et av lagene. Man får often en midlertidig en, men av forsikringsmessige og rettslige årsaker er skoler mye strengere med slikt enn det man er her i Norge. Fordi man havner i småbyer er det ikke alltid at den skolen man går på har det tilbudet man ønsker seg. Da er man avhengig av at vertsfamilien kjører en.

En del av dere kommer nok til å reagere positivt på hvordan lærerne er i USA. De følger opp elevene på en helt annen måte på mange av skolene – i hvertfall de små. Det kan man trygt si at skolen til Pinnsvin var. 40 elever i avgangsklassen er jo ikke akkurat så mange.

Kleskoder og forbud mot banning kan noen av skolene være veldig strenge på. Pinnsvin forteller at en av elevene ble utvist for dagen pga teksten på t-skjorta. Ord man IKKE liker er: Fuck, dick, bitch, hell, shit. Men du kan godt bruke «gay» som banneord mange steder. Det kunne man på skolen til Pinnsvin.

Pinnsvin var heldig. Hun havnet i en familie som lot henne bestemme selv om hun skulle være med dem i kirken. Selvfølgelig blir man med en gang og ser om man kan leve med det som foregår der. Men noen av kirkene i USA har ekstreme svoveltaler om homofile og det trenger dere faktisk ikke høre på. Desverre er det mange vertsfamilier som gjør det vanskelig for dere å si nei til å være med. Kanskje dere opplever press fra representanten deres.

Alkohol og røyking er forbudt mens dere er i USA. Det samme gjelder snus og selvfølgelig narkotika. Dere blir sendt hjem om dere blir tatt. Men et sted som Pinnsvin havnet på gjør sannsynligheten for det mindre. Der var det relativt vanlig med hasj, pillemisbruk, alkohol og tyngre stoffer. Vennene til Pinnsvin festet ofte ganske tungt og det så politiet gjennom fingrene med for det meste.

Pinnsvin ble boende hos denne familien i et halvt år før hun flyttet til en ny og bedre en.

2009 Jul 21: Warrant of Arrest for Edna Mary Burgette

Edna Mary Burgette was convicted in this matter and had to serve time. She had been responsible for placing exchange students for Aspect Foundation at least 10 years before the authorities got involved. During this time Aspect Foundation had received complaints regarding Ms. Burgette’s placements and her behavior toward the exchange students but to no avail. How many students were affected by Ms. Burgette’s criminal behavior during her time as an International Exchange Coordinator is difficult to know. The only ones with an answer are Ms. Burgette, Aspect Foundation and the students themselves.


2009 Jun 03: Casey Presses State Department on Mistreatment of Foreign Exchange Students

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC- Following his meeting with Miller Crouch, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on the situation with mistreated foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today released the following statement:

“As new details emerge on the intolerable living conditions foreign exchange students were forced to endure in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, I have concluded that our system failed these young people.  In my meeting yesterday with the leading State Department official responsible for the oversight of educational exchange programs, he acknowledged a ‘systemic failure’ on the part of the Aspect Foundation and the need for the Department to establish more safeguards in the process to monitor personnel responsible for the safety and welfare of students.

When a family sends their son or daughter to the United States to experience a glimpse of American culture and values, they should not have to worry that their child will go without food or live in dangerous conditions without any supervision.  I look forward to working with the State Department to immediately correct the flaws in the existing process and ensure that future exchange students visiting the United States will only be placed with responsible families that have been fully vetted.”

Last week, Senator Casey sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to investigate the Department of State’s oversight of U.S. youth exchange programs following reports of abuse and mistreatment of the foreign exchange students in Pennsylvania.

Nine foreign exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 have been placed in the care of Lackawanna County’s Department of Human Services.  According to officials, some children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration while others were living in unsanitary conditions and in homes that were recently condemned.  Only after their teachers voiced concerns did their neglect come to light.  Currently, foreign exchange students are eligible to attend approximately 430 high schools, colleges and universities throughout Pennsylvania.

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Press Contact

Larry Smar: (202) 228-6367

(Uthevelser red.anm.)


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 Oct 23: Changes recommended for foreign-exchange programs after Scranton scandal

The Times Tribune | BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL (STAFF WRITER) | Published: October 23, 2009
Edna Burgette 1Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2009:07:22 16:15:52
Edna Burgette

Click here to read the report (pdf)

Insufficient oversight and resources plague the department responsible for overseeing foreign-exchange student programs nationwide, a report released Thursday found.

The probe by the U.S. Office of Inspector General was initiated after up to 12 students alleged they were neglected after being placed in Scranton-area homes during the 2008-09 school year. The case exposed the national lack of oversight and significant lapses in background checks for hosts of the 30,000 international students who come to the U.S. each year.

In the Scranton case, local coordinator Edna Burgette allegedly placed students in homes without completing background checks and shuffled some students from home to home.

The students told investigators they lived in filthy homes, some of which were later condemned. Several said they were living with an ex-convict, and at least one student required medical attention for lack of adequate nutrition. All said Ms. Burgette, now the former area coordinator for San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation, ignored their complaints, even though she was paid by Aspect to place the students and check up on them.

Last summer, Ms. Burgette was charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of children. She was fired when Aspect learned of the allegations.

The Department of State has penalized Aspect. The department is limiting the number of student visas Aspect can receive in 2009-10 by 15 percent, leading to a potential $540,000 loss of revenue.

The inspector’s report, while it did not mention the Scranton case, made several recommendations that could have made a difference in Northeast Pennsylvania.

According to the report, individuals within the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, responsible for overseeing exchanges, have not been directly monitoring students and instead were relying on the private educational associations, such as Aspect, to oversee students.

«There is an inherent danger in ascribing major responsibilities without clear guidance and support,» the report stated.

Aspect relied on Ms. Burgette to report problems and to make sure students were safe, and she did neither, Aspect officials have previously stated.

The report recommends the department be given adequate resources to conduct periodic unannounced site visits, and to establish a database to record student complaints and incidents so it is easier track problems.

The report also calls for national criminal history background checks to be given to potential host families.

Background checks vary significantly across the country, from not being done at all or relying on references from family and neighbors, to comprehensive checks, said Danielle Grijalva, director of the California-based Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students.

«You’ve got to do it right the first time,» she said.

While Ms. Grijalva had some reservations about the report, she said if taken seriously it could make a difference in the overall quality and safety of foreign-exchange programs.

«The problems will only repeat themselves if we do not get serious and make changes,» she said.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who has called for an overhaul in exchange program oversight, said incidents in Scranton «were allowed to happen, in part, because of a lack of clear regulations that allowed sponsor organizations to interpret the rules in a manner that ultimately endangered these students.»

The «real measure of progress will be what specific steps are taken to prevent this problem from happening again.»

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com


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State Department statement