In everything you do, there are risks involved. The key is in reducing risk to a manageable level. Similarly, a 100% safety guarantee for an international youth exchange does not exist. There are, however, a number of things you can do to effectively mitigate risks.
It all starts with careful preparation. Take the time to think things through. Always have parents/guardians closely involved. Start by sitting down with them and thinking of a plan before you start searching and contacting other community members and potential host families.
Choose the right destination
Next, your choice of exchange destination is important. Obviously, an exchange to a neighbouring state or country is very different than an exchange to a foreign place on the other side of the world. Travel complexity and cultural differences become greater. And not all countries are equally safe.
If you still are a bit unsure, why not consider trying out a first youth exchange at an accessible place close by? Consider, for instance, an interesting destination which is at least a three/four hours drive or at a one/two hour flight distance. Such a change of scenery and family surroundings can already be very enriching.
We advise you to make thorough travel arrangements. Depending on their maturity, distance and destination we recommend that kids of the age of 16 years or younger should be accompanied by an adult during their travels and the first day of their stay. This offers the parents/guardians the possibility of making sure they are leaving their kids in a safe environment.
Select and vet the right host family
Furthermore, your choice of host family is key. It is imperative to thoroughly vet the intended host family. Get to know them in various (online) face-to-face discussion, check their personal details, home address and (government issued) ID’s. Use search engines and social media to verify each other’s background, activities and living environment.
By default YouthExchange.club verifies the identity of all regular and premium members. This provides a good basic verification of their identities, so you generally know who your fellow community members are. However, once you have found your potential exchange family, and you are at the point of carefully checking and formalizing everything, you might feel the need to have the identity of your potential exchange host hand checked extra thoroughly.
Our Qualified Identity Verification service offers you the possibility to have IDs thoroughly checked by an experienced verification agent, who is qualified to authenticate over 3,500 different types of passports, driver licenses and identity cards from nearly every country in the world. In combination with the use of facial recognition, additional forms of documentation and access to ID data bases, this multi-factor identity verification service enables you to get a trustworthy ID confirmation.
In additional, we recommend that you explicitly discuss, agree and formalize all relevant exchange conditions between both families. In order to ensure the mutual expectations clear, it is also a good idea for each family to come to a homestay agreement and an agreement on the household rules with the exchange youth. You can find useful examples of an exchange agreement, homestay agreement, house rules, and code of good conduct and ethics in our Library | Downloads section.
Before you travel, make sure you have everything well organized. It is particularly important that you have all required insurances well taken care of. Again, you can download useful checklists from our Library | Downloads section.
Be and act responsible
Finally, the most important aspects that determine risk will be your son’s/daughter’s choices and behaviour. Needless to say that you should only consider a youth exchange if you think that your son/daughter is up to it. Make sure that he/she understands the responsibility involved and that you are convinced that he/she is indeed sufficiently mature to embark on such an experience.