In reviewing and responding to incidents specifically related to One-Member Households, the Department of State has encouraged sponsors to review their best practices in preparing and supporting OMH placements to promote a positive, safe, and successful experience for all involved. Exchange Visitor Program regulations require sponsors to perform a secondary level of review before accepting the placement of an exchange student in a one-member household. This includes demonstrated evidence of the applicant’s close ties to the community through friends or family that can act as an additional support network for an exchange student placed in an OMH. AFS currently meets this requirement via a secondary level of review of the application, including the responses to related questions on the interview form and host family application.
We are working to add related questions on the reference form for host family applicants and in the monthly participant survey in the upcoming cycle. In addition, staff will add a student monitor flag to participants placed in OMHs which results in review of their monthly contacts.
We’d also like to provide the following best practices for Teams that have one-member household placements. We hope that the combined efforts of volunteers and staff will result in OMH placements where the participant and the host feel well supported by AFS, comfortable expressing any concerns to AFS, and any concerns raised are addressed in a timely manner.
Prior to the program start:
- During the host family interview, encourage the OMH to host two participants to decrease the likelihood that a participant with only one host family member may feel or be isolated. Having a third family member may also decrease the likelihood of a dynamic where either family member feels that they must be the sole emotional support to the other.
- Only assign experienced liaisons to OMHs as they may be better able to identify and address any small issues before they become larger.
- Assign two liaisons for OMHs to help ensure that the student and host feel well supported during the program and that any issues that may arise, are addressed in a timely manner.
During the program:
- Ensure that liaisons of OMHs encourage the student early on to become engaged with one or more activities at school or in the community to promote a sense of belonging and broaden the student’s social contacts.
- Assist the OMH parent in identifying transport for the student to engage in extra-curricular activities.
- Pay special attention to OMHs in teams that host fewer students or that are geographically dispersed and therefore may tend to have less contact with other AFSers and fellow host parents.