The host family application process is how we learn about host families and screen them to ensure they meet AFS standards and Department of State regulations. This article walks through the entire application process from start to finish, including:
- Starting a Host Family Application
- Completing and Submitting a Host Family Application
- Background Checks
- Reference Checks
- Host Family Interviews
- Linking Families & Students
- School Approval
- Non-Traditional Approval
- Host Family Orientation
- Connecting the Family and Hosted Student
If a host family is having trouble with their application, they are welcome to reach out to the Hosting Programs Specialist (HPS) or the Hosting Operations staff at any time. Hosting Operations can be reached at email@example.com or 1-800-AFS-INFO (press 2 and 2 again).
Starting a Host Family Application
In order for a host family to start their online application (OA), the Hosting Programs Specialist (HPS) must email the interested family a link to start the application. If you have a family ready to start the OA, please send your HPS the following information:
- Host parent first name and last name
- Host parent email address
- Host parent zipcode
Any additional information you have about the family such as their address, phone number, or names of other family members can also be sent to the HPS to enter into Global Link to keep the family from needing to enter this information themselves.
If a family has hosted with us previously, the HPS will carry over information from their most recent host family application (as long as it was completed after 2010).
Completing and Submitting a Host Family Application
Once the family has received an email from the HPS to work on their host family application, volunteers can monitor the family's progress. Please see the View Host Family Applications and Identify What's Missing articles to learn more. The HPS and Hosting Operations staff can help address any questions or concerns the family has. Hosting Operations can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-AFS-INFO (press 2 and 2 again).
Once the host family has completed all of the required parts of the Host Family Application, they submit it for Hosting Operations staff to review. For a full list of Host Family OA Statuses, please see the View Host Family Applications article.
After the host family's submitted OA has been reviewed by Hosting Operations staff, the family is sent email instructions for completing the required background checks for host families. The background check email can be sent earlier in the case of an urgent student move or other time-sensitive situation as long as we have information about all people living in the household first. If host families have questions or problems completing their background checks, they may contact email@example.com or 646-751-2045. Because of the sensitive nature of background checks, very few AFS staff have access to host family background check information.
Note: Pennsylvania host families must complete three additional requirements, which are communicated to Pennsylvania host families during the application process.
Once the host family's submitted OA has been reviewed by Hosting Operations staff, auto emails will go to the references the family provided asking them to complete and submit a hosting reference form. We ask host families to provide 4 or 5 references that know them well even though we only require two positive references to be submitted to us. This is to ensure that we have enough qualified respondents to move the host family's application forward in a timely manner. Likewise, if there are any host family red flags it gives more people an opportunity to weigh in on the family's suitability to host.
Host Family Interviews
The Host Family Interview can take place at any time during the application process. To learn more about conducting and submitting interviews, please visit the Interview Applicants section.
Linking Families & Students
A host family can pick out and be linked to a student at any time during the application process. In fact, if the family is committed to hosting a specific student, it is best to enter a Placed without Papers request to communicate to other volunteers that the student is no longer available. Please keep in mind that unscreened families can only look at limited information about a student. Check out the Share Student Information with Host Families section to learn more.
Once a family has selected a student, the process of seeking school approval can begin. Please see Securing School Approval for details.
There are some types of placements that require additional approval from the student, the student's family, or others. Please learn more at Get Special / Non-Traditional Approvals.
Host Family Orientation
Once a family has successfully passed the Online Application (OA), background checks, references, and interview, the host family receives an email confirmation that they are approved to host. They are now considered a Screened Host Family. However, the family must complete the Online Host Family Orientation before the student arrives in their home, and they may be asked for additional information or clarification from our Compliance team before final approval is granted for the Host Family to have a student in their home.
Note: Families hosting YES or CB students must complete the Online Host Family Orientation as well as the Sponsored Programs online Host Family Orientation before hosting. While they receive an email to this effect, many families are still confused!
In addition, AFS volunteer teams are required to offer an in-person host family orientation before students arrive. Please see the Conduct Orientations section to learn more.
Host Family Approval
As the various components of the Host Family Application process are completed, Hosting Operations staff reviews them for completeness and to determine if a host family is qualified to host. They use the Hosting Checklist in Global Link to track completeness (see image below). Once every part of the application is complete and approved by the Hosting Operations team, Compliance staff begins a second review. State Department regulations regarding host family screening are so strict that AFS requires a second review to be sure that nothing was overlooked during the initial review. A family is fully ready to host once both the Hosting and Compliance checklists are complete. Hosting Volunteers can monitor completion using the Hosting and Compliance Checklists on the Host Family Service Case Detail page here:
You may also want to reference the Identify What's Missing article.
Connecting the Family and Hosted Student
Once a family has completed the OA, background checks, references, and interview, and school and special approvals have been received, the host family receives email confirmation that they are fully approved to host the student with whom they were matched. They are sent an email titled "Information about your AFS Hosted Student and Host Family Orientations!" The message encourages them to complete the Host Family Orientation if they haven't already, and it provides instructions for contacting their hosted student. If the family will be hosting a student who is already in the U.S., volunteers will need to put the family in touch with their student and secure a move-in date.
Note: Sometimes fully screened families are not allowed to reach out to their YES student immediately. Although we know host families are usually eager to get in touch with their students, due to the timing of the YES scholarship announcements it isn't always possible right away. Please be assured that our Sponsored Programs staff will alert host families as appropriate once their student has been made aware of their finalist status and placement.