On September 14, 2017, the U.S. Department of State published Guidance Directive 2017-2 which provides guidance on what they expect sponsors to record in student and host family contacts, and in particular as related to student moves. Below please find a summary of best practices that reflect this guidance in the AFS context.
Best Practices for Recording Contacts
Comments should always be non-judgmental and objective, describing behaviors rather than subjective opinions. Comments should not contain your personal thoughts on AFS processes/fellow volunteers/staff. If you have concerns or feedback you would like to give, these should be directed to your TDS or Participant Support Specialist as appropriate outside of the monthly contact.
Please keep in mind that all monthly contacts may be subject to review by the Department of State and, so it’s important to be professional and avoid inappropriate language.
Each contact that gets recorded should be like a part of a story detailing your student’s time in the U.S. Reading through all the contacts should be like a narrative that flows together, detailing a student’s highs, lows, and any significant changes, from start to finish. Here are a few examples:
- If your student is playing on the basketball team, what position are they playing? Are they enjoying it? How do they get along with their coach and teammates? How did their season finish?
- If your student is frustrated at school, what is the source of the frustration? Are they having trouble with classes? If so, which class? What steps are being taken to try to fix it? How did it finally get resolved?
- What cultural or adjustment issues is your student encountering? How is their life different here compared to home? What day-to-day activities did they initially find challenging that they’ve now overcome?
Recording Contacts in Moves Situations
It is especially critical in the event of student moves to ensure that we clearly and appropriately document the narrative of a student’s move in a way that demonstrates the high quality of support provided to the student prior to and after the move.
- If volunteers are considering a move, what are the circumstances precipitating a new placement? What steps have been taken to address any issues with your student and host family before it was determined that a move was necessary?
- If a move has been decided on, how is your student’s state of mind going into a new placement?
- Once your student has moved into a new home, how are they adjusting to life in the new placement? How might they use any lessons learned to move forward on program successfully?
Changes to the Contacts and Visits Form
In response to feedback given to sponsors prior to the issuance of the Guidance Directive 2017-2, AFS had instituted a minimum character requirement for the “general comments” section of the monthly contact form. (This requirement is not in place for the Arrival or School contact.) In light of the recent guidance, this requirement will remain in place. We feel that 175 characters is a reasonable amount to satisfy the Department of State’s desire for more detail, while not being overly burdensome to volunteers who are recording the contacts. The general comments field is your chance to describe your student’s time here. Use this as an opportunity to highlight the significant moments in your student’s AFS experience. We thank you for your cooperation in this regard and for all of the time, effort and care that you invest in the support of your participants and of AFS!