If you (your child) like me, have an issue with an Exchange Firm, I highly recomend that you contact CSFES on the link below
http://trygghetforutvekslingseleven.com (Here you will also find a lot of tips to avoid getting into troubble in the first place, and you can see if your local or area representative has a bad reputation or not before accepting your assigned family.
If you perfer to contact the American Office, you may reach them on http://csfes.org/
My top tips is to:
1: Get a Lawyer, so that you have one on call if need be.
2: If possible, arrange your exchange year yourself, for legal help you can contact a lawyer.
3: Go to the sites linked above, to gain more practical information.
4: Once a host family has been assigned, check them out online, see if you find them proper to host a student.
5: DO NOT LISTEN TO THE FIRM SENDING OR RECIVING YOU AS THEIR CLIENT! All they care about is the bottom line, and if you become an inconvinience they would rather get rith of you than solve your problem. Fallow their rules, but if problem arrises, contact your parents and have them hear your side of the story. Contact your parents before you contact the agency you travel with. If you feel the area rep or local rep. is not taking proper care of you or your child contact a lawyer, and research the laws of the host country (American laws can be found here, or you can contact CSFES at (email@example.com) Lise’s mail adress. If you are in the USA you may perfer to contact Danielle at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
6: If problems arrises at your home, please contact your shool principal and tell them your story. They migth be of great help, and I tryly wished this was something I had done.
7: Department of state is the place to refer complaints on American exchange firms.
You are told that you are the one that should adapt, not the host family, and this is true. There are however limits to what you should accept, and adopt to. Just keep that in mind, will you?
I had issues with the Area Representative, Becky Sanderson. From what I last heard she should no longer be of any concern, as she has been fired from multiple exchange firms, and are now working in a different sector. My Local Rep in Mena, AR, USA with forte was Cristine Lovell. She did a poor job.
I traveled with Into Education and Forte International Exchange Assosiation, and below you may find a copy of a complaint sent by my mother to Department of State.
I started a blog when my adventure begun. I wrote about daily stuff, before, during and after my exchange year. So if you want to read about my whole American Adventure you may press this link.
10-30% of exhange students get into some kind of problem during their exchange either with their host family or with their local rep. However like me there are some who have problems with several host familys (2 in my case) their local and area representative. This is my story.
(Me/I/etc.= Mikkel Adrian)
My family have previously sent a complaint about Forte International Exchange Association’s (FIEA) mistreatment. This complaint has been sent to several medias, but there has been no interest. CSFES have helped us know who to send it to in the State Department as well as non-political engaged individuals.
I wish to illustrate the many lies told by FIEA through some of the claims made in their Termination Letter. FIEA’s claims are in cursive.
After this incident, the current host family, the Moes, were afraid for Mikkel to be around their children as he began acting “weird.” Mikkel had been accused of putting paint in the children’s hair, kicking the children, pushing them, and ordering the host parents to clean and vacuum.
I and Jessia played with paint, and we were not the only once either. This happened at the city theatre, when building the sets. Neither Jessia nor Delany (Host sisters) had anything against this. I did not kick any of my host sisters at any time. I asked my host-parents if they could show me where the cleaning articles where, and if I could clean the house, as this where in great need, but my host-parents where uninterested in doing so. They told me that I where only allowed to clean my own room, and so I did.
The most upsetting action done by Mikkel was in front of his host siblings, where he would put his finger to his head like a gun and act like he was shooting himself.
Maggie Simpson illustrates my point about the ridiculousness of this statement perfectly (it’s something you do when people say something stupid): Watch 5:30-6:00 http://gorillavid.in/x59mdffkr1ge
During one occasion on the way home from school, Mikkel asked his host dad, Malcolm, if Malcolm ever had dark thoughts. Malcolm questioned Mikkel what he meant by “dark thoughts”, but Mikkel said he couldn’t tell him because of Malcolm’s response. There was another incident where Mikkel saw a posting on Facebook about suicide and made the comment of “if you are going to commit suicide, you don’t talk about it, you don’t say anything, you just do it.”
During one occasion, on the way from the way to a school parade, I asked Malcolm what he thought about dark subjects. This because I wanted to tell him a dark joke.
You’ll find the actual Facebook post and comments below.
“ok im ready to die but i caint pull the triger whow wants to do it for me”
“wow, i thought i had it bad. life cant be that hard… can it?”
“(Mike’s comment): (name) you have one of the kindest hearts I know and you have an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people around you. You should watch Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington. Great movie. God bless!”
“hey (name)? i aint seen u in a while, but i would like to, so don’t do anything drastic.”
“Let’s have a little talk tonight! I have enough dead people in my cast an yyou aren’t supposed to be one of ’em!”
“don’t do it”
(Mikkel’s comment): “i know that this is a despirate kry for help. i also know that you are not going to do that. because the people who take their own life do it without telling anyone about it. talk to me if you want to compare storryes or lifes. you or i will find out that our life is not that hard.”
(Mikkel’s comment): “i just talked to him. (name) what the hell is wrong with you. this is not something you are kidding about. i was woried. delite this post imidiately! sent from the crossing.”
I phoned my friend (name withheld for privacy reasons) to see if we could talk about what was bothering him. That was when I discovered that his friend had been kidding.
As you can see above, Mike (host-father) where part of this conversation. I would think that he forwarded the information above to Becky Sanderson, witch in return changed the information before forwarding it to the head office of FIEA. This is both cruel and self-serving.
Whenever a student expresses such signs of abnormal behavior, Forte takes it very seriously. Which is why our area director, Becky Sanderson, called Mikkel and had a conversation with him on whether or not he was depressed. Mikkel did open up to Becky and said he was depressed and had suicidal thoughts. Mikkel also admitted he needed help. After that conversation, Becky felt Mikkel would be a danger to himself and was showing signs of mental illness and needed professional help. At the same time, the host parents felt Mikkel would be dangerous around their children and would either hurt himself or their children. The Moe family no longer feels comfortable with having Mikkel in their home.
Becky Sanderson gave me a call, the same day as she booked my return tickets to Norway, she had already decided to send me home when she called me. She told me that she had been depressed herself in previous times, and asked me if I wanted to see a doctor. I said No. I told her of my problems with the host-family. Both before and after this conversation my host-parrents talked with Becky Sanderson for a long time on my phone.
This is my mothers reply to the last statement made by FIEA:
“I have no doubt Mikkel was a little depressed by this time. But at no time did he, himself, express suicidal thoughts. This was one of the things Forte tried to get his families to sign off on, but did not succeed despite pressuring them. See below facemails from Ray Lindsey – first host-father:”
10/15-2012: Conversation between Mikkel and Ray Lindsey
Ray Lindsey: Everything you are doing to fight this company is causing drama for the families here that may or may not care about you. We are being asked to sign something that says Forte did not take you out of a home that wanted you there. I have not read the actual paper yet, so I do not know if what it says is true enough for me to sign. I do know this…yes, we wanted you to stay. Forte did not make the decision to take you from this home that wanted you. You, yourself wanted to leave a home that wanted you. And while that is perfectly okay to want to leave somewhere, it somewhat defeats you’re argument that the company treated you wrong by pulling you out of homes. You also did it yourself, and had your reasons. I don’t know all that happened with other families, but if the company made the decision for you to leave their homes, I’m certain they had their reasons just as you did when you decided to leave our home. I’m not going to lie for you or for the company or for anyone. I guess is what I am trying to say is fight the company if you want, but could you leave me out of it somehow and quit causing us drama? I see the good in everyone, and you’re not a bad guy, but I am starting to regret that we let you come stay with us.
And Ray continues on 10/16-2012
Ray Lindsey: Forte is trying to get me to make written statements about anything that will help them with their case. I don’t like what they are doing or what you are doing as I am getting stuck in the middle. I wasn’t trying to be mean Mikkel. I was even told not to talk to you at all. I just had to state that for the record. I will be honest and say this…I don’t trust Forte and I don’t trust you. I don’t hand out trust easily, and I know how one can keep enemies close for certain reasons. I did not tell them you wanted to kill yourself fyi. They have tried to get me to make statements against you and I refused. I wrote something that would not help them or you and shouldn’t have hurt either, but apparently they believe if it won’t help them win they can leave out certain truths. I just want out of it, but I had to tell you that for record purposes. I’m sorry if anything I have to do hurts you, but it can’t always be helped.
After discussion among management at Forte, due to Mikkel’s current mental stability, admittance to depression, and thoughts of suicide, we feel he should be dismissed early from the exchange program to seek professional, psychological help in his home country with his natural parents. Forte cannot shoulder that burden onto our host family to endure. Although our host families agree to host our exchange students, they should not have to deal with the effects of what depression does to a teenager.
FIEA is the reason for my “current mental stability” I did not have suicide in mind at any time. I could have gotten professional help in the US, the host family already had a depressed teenager living with them, their own child, she where the one cutting herself,
Comment from my mother:
“Forte have behaved despicably throughout Mikkel Adrian’s stay. How he could have been placed with the families that he was and how on earth FIEA could possibly keep on letting Becky Sanderson get her claws into kids who are supposed to get a good impression of the US is unbelievable. Why has she not been held responsible for her actions? Into Education are no better for having supported FIEA through the whole process. Amazing that companies that claim to keep our children safe do such a poor job of it.”
My mother has been in charge of writing the legal information below:
As I see it, FIEA has broken several laws and regulations set forth in 22 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Section 62.25. The link to it is: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2012-title22-vol1/pdf/CFR-2012-title22-vol1-sec62-25.pdf
I am unable to comment on the training of FIEA’s and IEL’s representatives or their standing with their respective governments. FIEA did receive a “Letter of Reprimand” on 23rd November 2010 where they were placed on “Probation” for one year and were informed that they needed to implement a “Corrective Action Plan” that would “improve their program administration”. My understanding is that this is because their representatives had not done a good enough job in choosing host families.
Today, one of those representatives would have been Becky Sanderson. She does, after all, have 45 complaints lodged against her at the State Department. Unfortunately for our son, she was the representative that ended up taking charge of him. Since 2006 Becky Sanderson has worked for F.L.A.G., AYUSA, DM Discoveries and FIEA (According to Danielle at CSFES she got fired from FIEA and now works for Face the world, altrogth this is not confirmed from another source). It seems this would make her what is called a floating representative. She herself has hosted a great many students. In an article from the time she was with DM Discoveries (2007) she states that she had hosted more than 40 exchange students the previous 15 years(http://www.myssnews.com/news/2007/December/nt122107flavor.html). This is in clear breach of §62.25 (d.10.i), (d.15) and (l.1.ii). She has continued this practice since coming to work for FIEA – a fact that was witnessed by our son at a meeting with Becky Sanderson.
Becky Sanderson told Christine Lovell to approve of Ray and Becky Lindsey in spite of Christine’s protest that they were not ready to be a host-family.
Mikkel where provided with a phone card that only listed the home office number of Forte and the insurance company (g.6). A D of S number was not on it. We have a copy of said phone card.
As far as I know, the second host-family never got an in home interview, as Mikkel saw them sign the hosting exchange student contracts at the local theathre, and we as parents never got provided any pictures of their home, neither where they provided with adequate information about the move. Julie Moe (host-mom) later told Mikkel that he was to expensive to host and that his vegetarianism was a big problem. She also told Mikkel that their, and his views where completely different. FIEA were in breach of (j.1, j.2, j.3, j.4, j.6, j.7). The family had obviously not received adequate orientation about the role of a host-parent which is in breach of (k.1, k.4). There is no way there could have been time for all of the requirement in the three days it took from discovering Julie and Malcolm Moe to Mikkel moving in with them. This means that FIEA could not have fulfilled their responsibility under (d.9).
Mikkel’s temporary family already hosted two exchange student, when FIEA placed him in this home for 10 days they breached (l.1.ii). Forte had somehow rationalised that giving themselves a dispensation from the rule about staying only 2 nights was OK.
I’m wrote this part: (Mikkel).
FIEA and IEL claim that all rules and regulations have been followed and they admit 0% responsibility for the decision to send me back to Norway. They have given Mikkel all the blame, as if a 17-year old boy would know enough Department of State rules and regulations and contract law to be able to follow the labyrinthian thinking of FIEA and IEL.
IEL (Norway) did offer me one thing. I could go to Canada if I forked out another NOK 120.000(ca. 9.000$). This would bring my basic expenses to NOK 180.000. Not really a good deal at all, even if it meant that IEL were foregoing their own expenses in sending him there.
Comment from my mom:
“As we see it, FIEA and IEL did not intend to follow through on their obligations once Becky Sanderson discovered Mikkel was a thorn in her shoes, one that did not accept the treatment she was dishing out of the lies that were told about him. Thank God Mikkel had adult friends in Mena outside the FIEA/IEL world that knew the needs of a 17-year old boy.
The boy we sent out has come back a completely different person. The abuse doled out by Becky Sanderson and Ray Lindsey and the Moe parents is something no exchange student should be expected to have to endure. Mikkel made mistakes, but what happened to him goes far beyond anything he could even dream up.
Please do something about this situation. Exchange students coming to the US need to feel safe, not used and abused.”
Once again thank you for taking the time to reading this Blog-Entry.
Mikkel Adrian Almenningen.