Description of the Plan for Pro-active Support
The intent of the plan described herein is to be pro-active in providing information to participants and host families to reduce conflicts. When problems arise procedures should be in place to focus on the learning opportunities inherent in the situation. Finally, a number of steps should be taken in advance to be able to respond promptly to support issues.
The AFS Learning Objectives are a key component in defining the AFS Mission to provide an intercultural learning experience. Further the CSEIT guidelines, Standard 1. Paragraph B states, "The organization sponsoring the program shall have clearly established goals and learning objectives to fulfill the educational purposes of it's programs."
The revised (2015) Learning Objectives for Participants define the learning experience AFS offers in a format that recognizes that most participants are using English as their second language. The Personal and Interpersonal Learning Objectives are the most relevant to participants in maintaining a family placement, doing well at school, and engaging successfully with friends and others in the community. Lack of success in these areas my result in a family change or an early return, and thus are of major concern to the Support Department.
Developing effective personal and interpersonal relationship skills are crucial for our young teenagers who have left home for the first time, to live in a different country with a different culture and social norms. Personal and Interpersonal Learning Objectives directly address concepts such as accepting responsibility, adapting to new environments, and resolving conflicts. These are skills that shape the personality, effectiveness and competence of our students as they develop into adults capable of furthering world peace.
The AFS Orientation Framework has a cultural learning focus. The AFS objectives/(goals) of Personal Development, Interpersonal Relationships, and Global Awareness are not directly mentioned. “Personal Goals and Expectations” is one of the topics in the Orientation Framework, but the described intent is for the participant and host family to set personal goals, develop strategies to implement these goals and to evaluate goal accomplishment and personal growth and during the exchange period. Personal goals frequently do not have the same focus as the AFS Learning Objectives/(goals) See paragraph 6 below. Due to the single focus on cultural learning in the Orientation Framework, it is critical that the Support Department participate in the orientation handbook update process to insure Personal and Interpersonal AFS Learning Objective content is included.
List of actions envisioned in the Plan for Pro-active Support
- Work with the Orientation Department (on-going process as the handbooks are revised) to insure that support related elements are fully covered in the Orientation Handbooks. That includes:
- At the Host Family pre-Arrival Orientation discuss the AFS Learning Objects, both the Vienna version and the English as a second language version for participants.
- At the Arrival Orientation introduce the Learning Objectives to participants.
- At the Post Arrival Orientation the focus is on the Personal and Interpersonal Objectives as related to the participant’s current experience/difficulties.
- At the Midyear Orientation, in addition to the Personal and Interpersonal Objectives, the Intercultural Objectives come into focus
- At the Pre-return and End-of-Stay the focus is largely on the Intercultural and Global Awareness Objectives
- Be pro-active to reduce problems rather than just react to the trial and error learning process our participants use most of the time. Support volunteers (especially Team Support Coordinator and Associate Support Coordinator) should pro-actively participate in orientations, particularly on topics related to personal and interpersonal development. Participation should be to monitor student progress, provide support related guidance based on AFS’s decades of exchange experience and to develop a connection with each participant to help with support counseling, if needed.
- Liaisons should use the Learning Objectives to help focus on the learning opportunity when helping the participant and host family resolve a problem or crisis situation. A note by the General comment block on the Host family monthly form prompts this action.
- Support Coordinators should review the monthly liaison reporting In Global-link and respond to reported problems before the situation becomes critical.
- Support volunteers should use the AFS Wiki which provides guidance to support volunteers on the use of the relevant support counseling tools. See, Support Counseling for a Continuum of Issues.
- Support volunteers, in consultation with Support Staff, for most situations should use the Plan for Success first then if necessary a Support Agreement. Both processes are based on three elements, an understanding of the issues, the participant’s goals and the AFS Learning Objectives.
- Area teams and Chapters should identify and register Support and Temporary Host families in advance each year for participants who need support counseling or are involved in a host family change.