The AFS Participation Agreement signed by the participant and, in the case of a minor, their natural parents or guardians state the following:
Laws on drug use in most countries are severe and may carry lengthy imprisonment or death penalties. We understand and agree that AFS participants are subject to the laws of their hosting country and community; that neither AFS nor the national government of the participant's citizenship has the ability to protect the individual from arrest or punishment with respect to involvement with illegal substances or any other illegal activities. We understand that in the event of legal proceedings related to such offenses or other legal matters, we are responsible for any legal fees and costs.
Further defined under causes for Termination of Program in Progress:
AFS also reserves the right to cancel an individual's participation and to return the individual home early if they violate the provisions of these Terms and Conditions or if it shall be discovered that the participant or their natural parents(s)/ legal guardian(s) have made material misrepresentation or non-disclosure to AFS or the participant develops personal behavior or pursues actions which in the sole judgment of AFS would not be in the best interest of the participant or of AFS. Example: a participant's driving a car is cause for an early return to the home country; a participant's abuse of alcoholic beverages, or use or involvement with drugs for non-medicinal purposes are cause for an early return to the home country.
We know there are different views about non-medicinal drug usage, which varies from country to country, or even within the same country. Because this is an issue that could have serious consequences for the safety of participants, AFS maintains a universal policy on how to manage situations involving participant non-medicinal drug usage.
When confronted with non-medicinal drug usage or involvement, these questions are most commonly raised. They are not all the possible questions, but those most frequently asked:
Why does AFS terminate program participation for individuals who use or are involved with non-medicinal drugs?
AFS maintains this universal policy for the protection of participants. Our policies are put into place for the participants' health and safety not as punishment to the participants for rule breaking. Immediate removal of participants from situations that can hold possible criminal consequences or personal risk for them reflects AFS’s responsibility to protect as much as is possible the participant’s safety.
What about countries where there are few legal consequences for drug usage? Does this policy apply?
This is a policy of AFS worldwide and may differ from individual government attitudes towards drug usage. The policy is not subject to individual Partner interpretation to reflect local or national views on the topic. At the center of this policy is the importance of participant safety. Consistency in application of policies is an important factor in AFS’ approach towards risk management and the protection of participants. The universal application of the policy provides a reliable framework so that AFS support structures in all countries can manage, in a timely and appropriate manner, any drug related situations that could potentially result in personal risk and serious safety concern for the participant.
What if the participant is not actually using drugs? Isn’t it unfair to send him or her home?
Program participation can be cancelled if the participant is in the company of individuals using drugs and drug equipment or involved in transport or distribution. Safety of the participant is of AFS primary concern. Drug enforcement laws can be extremely severe. The police can arrest or detain an individual on suspicion of drug involvement simply for association or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Consequences can result in arrest, jail time, and criminal charges necessitating court proceedings. In some cases, a participant’s personal safety is also at risk due to their association with people involved with illegal drug use. If a participant is arrested neither AFS, nor the participant’s country of citizenship or family can have much of an influence on the process. Therefore, in order for AFS to provide as much safety as is possible for the participant under these circumstances, we have determined that their prompt and immediate return to the home country is in the best interest of the participant’s welfare. To delay this action can put the participant at risk of being detained by the police and then entering into the criminal justice system of the host country, from which it can be difficult to extradite the participant.
Why doesn’t AFS depend on a drug test to prove whether or not the participant used drugs and should be returned home?
AFS cannot depend on drug testing as proof of usage or not, since the process can be so unreliable and the process can be questioned depending on where it is done. The tests are easy to tamper with depending on who administers the test and how it is administered. It is also possible for the individual to circumvent the outcome of these tests. Determining accuracy is difficult, and can show different results each time the test is taken. Please also know that drug tests cannot be administered without the consent of natural parents in consultation with the National Service Center.
It is important to remind everyone here that not taking drugs does not mean the participant cannot be returned home, as involvement with drugs is also cause to return as elaborated upon in the previous question.