Similarly to how AFS responds to situations in ways that can vary depending on the level of severity of the situation, reporting and communication with AFS staff and Support Coordinators can and should also take various forms, depending on the severity of the situation. (Click here for more information on tools for a continuum of issues). Below are the different forms of reporting available to AFS volunteers. Depending on the situation, you may need to report using one, some, or all of these forms of reporting.
Types of Reporting
Monthly Contact Reports
Monthly reporting is based on monthly contacts with the participant and host family as required by the Department of State (DoS). School contacts must also be reported- twice for semester students and three times for full-year students. Monthly Contact reports are usually completed by the liaison assigned to the participant and host family. Reporting may also be done by another registered volunteer - for instance, if contact is made with the participant and/or host family at an orientation.
Monthly Contacts can be completed by documenting specific areas of the exchange experience using the appropriate five-point rating scale and adding written comments as needed. Poor and Very Poor ratings generate an automatic notification to the Team Support Coordinator and Participant Support and Learning Staff for follow-up. Automatic notifications are also triggered for yes/no questions that may require Support Coordinator and Participant Support and Learning staff involvement. Examples:
Any upcoming activities that may require AFS approval (travel, activity waiver, visits)?
Are volunteers currently considering an unexpected/support related move for this participant?
Click here for further guidance on completing Monthly Contact reports and reporting requirements.
Please note that even if participant programs are going relatively well, and no significant concerns are noted, Monthly Contact reports are oftentimes the primary way in which AFS and your local area team stay up to date on how participants and host families are doing. In this way, you, and your monthly contact reports, serve a crucial role in confirming the safety and wellness of participants, and tracking participant and host family adjustment and experiences.
When a support situation is identified through a Monthly Contact report or by a stakeholder (participant, host parents, school official, support volunteers, or sending parents) follow up is required. This follow-up must be reported to ensure that the Participant Support and Learning Staff can review and assist as well as inform the partner country and the sending family appropriately. The following types of reporting are available:
Follow-Up Reporting on Global Link
The Global Link form has a block titled "Follow Up" which appears when a liaison gives a rating of poor, very poor or answers a Yes/No question that needs attention. This is where a Support Coordinator or another Support Volunteer may report follow up actions taken to resolve a support situation. Note: There is space for only a brief description of actions taken or to report the issue resolved. For detailed reporting use other reporting methods described below.
Support Coordinators and Associate Support Coordinators, as the Team's point of contact with Participant Support and Learning staff at AFS-USA's National Office, can communicate over the phone with their assigned Participant Support and Learning Specialist to discuss the details of the situation and agree on a plan of action. The Specialist will record this information in the participant's file. Participant Support and Learning Staff may also discuss the situation with the Liaison for additional first-hand information. Liaisons are welcome and encouraged to call their Support Coordinator or Support and Learning Specialist if there is a situation that requires reporting.
Support volunteers can also record and communicate their findings, actions, and resolutions by e-mail. It can also be the case that other stakeholders such as teachers, host parents, and school administrators may also communicate by email to provide their thoughts, concerns, and observations. Those emails can sometimes be important to forward to volunteers or staff. The Participant Support and Learning Specialist will record all email communication in the participant's case file. When a Plan for Success or a Support Agreement is issued, a copy of these documents and a written report of the counseling procedure should also be shared over email with the Participant Support and Learning Specialist.
AFS has staff on call 24 hours a day to handle emergencies. This service is available after regular working hours and can be reached weekdays from 6:00 PM until 9:00 AM (Eastern Time) and all day on weekends and holidays. This system was established to provide volunteers, AFS Participants, and host families with a responsive, effective, and professional emergency line. The Duty Officer number is 1-800-237-4636, Extension 9.
When you call the Duty Officer, be prepared to provide the following information:
- the caller’s name
- a telephone number where the caller can be reached
- the nature of the message
- the full name of the participant, the host family, and phone numbers
- the participant’s country
- what has happened
- any steps already taken by volunteers or families
The answering service is then responsible for contacting the Duty Officer. The Duty Officer will return the call as soon as possible and assist the caller. If you do not receive a return call from the Duty Officer within 15 minutes, please call again.
During regular business hours, this same phone number will lead you to the general line for the AFS-USA Support and Learning Department, whereupon you will be directly connected to a staff member. A call to the Duty Officer is only for emergency situations that occur after office hours. During business hours, emergency situations involving an AFS participant should be reported by phone as well, so that immediate follow up by Support and Learning Staff can take place right away.
Examples of emergency situations include:
· Emergency Moves
· Medical Emergencies requiring hospitalization and serious medical issues/injuries
· Sexual misconduct: Student victim or perpetrator
· Arrest/Police involvement
· Runaway students
· Suicidal thoughts
· Natural Disasters
· Death in natural family
· Student's physical and psychological safety compromised in any way
· Breaking 3 AFS rules: No driving, No Hitchhiking, No drugs.
As per the AFS Volunteer Agreement, AFS-USA volunteers are required to report any concerns about the health, safety, and well-being of AFS participants to the appropriate support contact person for their volunteer team and, where appropriate or required, to AFS-USA staff.
Preparing to Report a Situation:
In writing up or verbally reporting a participant support situation, it is vital to present information that addresses the following: who, what, when, why, and how. Helpful questions to ask before reporting information include:
- Do I have the participant’s complete name and country of origin?
- Have I asked the Seven Clarifying Questions?
- For a participant move, do I have details on the “process” by which the move is to take place, including information on:
o The specific issues
o How the issues emerged
o How they were dealt with; what has been done so far
o Who met with the participant and how often
o When and where the student will move and what are the details on the new host family
o If possible, have a recommendation on how you think you ought to proceed (if applicable).
The below form can also be a useful guide for liaisons to provide clear facts to the support department. In addition, this guide is useful for the liaison to understand what questions and/or issues should be addressed with their student. To access a print-friendly format, click here
Per the AFS-USA Volunteer Agreement, AFS-USA volunteers are required to report any concerns about the health and well-being of AFS participants to the appropriate support contact person for their volunteer team and, where appropriate or required, as outlined below, to AFS-USA staff.
AFS volunteers understand that AFS is required by law to promptly notify the DoS of any unusual or exceptional incidents that may bring the DoS or AFS into notoriety or disrepute. Further, AFS must report incidents involving alleged sexual misconduct.
When AFS is informed of any incident or allegation involving the actual or alleged sexual exploitation or abuse of a student participant, staff will also be required to report it to local police and Child Protective Services in accordance with State law for further investigation. Additional situations that must be reported include but are not limited to:
· Events involving serious bodily injury or death
· Allegations that the host family has taken or misappropriated the student’s money or credit cards
· Incidents involving the criminal justice system (police, child protective services, law enforcement, etc.)
· Patterns of behavior problems (substance abuse, aggressive physical contact, severe bullying, etc.)
· Mental health issues (eating disorder, cutting, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, etc.)
· Host parent substance abuse
· Threat of negative press, foreign government or embassy involvement (incident expected to bring DoS or the exchange visitor program into notoriety or disrepute).
· Events, alleged or actual, where the student is the victim or perpetrator of sexual assault
· Public events or natural disasters directly involving student safety (school shooting/violence, earthquake, tornado, flood, etc.)
· Missing/runaway students
AFS-USA Volunteers understand that when AFS is informed of any incident or allegation involving the actual or alleged sexual exploitation or abuse of a participant, the Manager of Government and Legal Affairs will review state statutes regarding mandatory reporting and consult with AFS legal counsel to determine the appropriate course of action.