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Original message: The DEPARTMENT OF STATE is proposing to amend 22 CFR Part 62 (RIN 1400-AC56) regarding who can host a high school foreign exchange student coming to the United States. Section 6 of this proposed rule change specifically excludes single adults without school aged children from sponsoring a foreign exchange student. This is what is stated in the proposed rule change: "The Department does not define what constitutes a family; however, we take administrative notice that a family is considered to be more than one person.... NO SINGLE ADULTS WILL BE ALLOWED TO HOST SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS." I am a single female physician, retired Air Force colonel who sponsored 4 foreign exchange students between 2001 and 2008 without problem. As of the 2011-12 school year I would no longer be able to serve as a host parent if this rule is adopted in its entirety. I have organized an e-mail campaign to provide comments to the State Department on this proposed rule change. The American Field Service, with which I am affiliated but for whom I am not an official spokesperson, is the largest student exchange organization in the world. They are also requesting their membership to respond to two specific aspects of this proposed rule change: the prohibition of single parent placements and the requirement for finger printing of all family members. Specifically my basis for challenging the proposed change in Section 6, preventing single adults from hosting a high school student, is as follows: 1) Nowhere in the proposed policy is there documentation that single parents without school aged children have provided a more dangerous or inferior host experience for high school foreign exchange students. Large exchange organizations I have queried are not aware of any pervasive problems with single parent placements. 2) The statement that the Department of State "takes administrative notice that a family is considered to be more than one person" is offensive and retrogressive in 2010 when families come in all shapes and sizes. Currently there are at least 75 million US residents over the age of 18 who are single and without children. Singles are permitted to adopt and become foster parents. More than a few of these individuals have a strong heart-felt desire and capacity to be excellent host parents. Some of them have been foreign exchange students themselves. Many of them have successfully hosted high school exchange students in the past. No doubt some of these singles are professionals who have more time and resources than their married or single counterparts who have children to offer foreign exchange students, providing them an enhanced experience in the US. Additionally, many of these individuals have strong extended families and networks of friends and neighbors that are every bit as integral and central to their lives as "live in" family members are to others. Additionally, we all have heard of some high profile abuse situations in nuclear families. 3) The Department of State notes: "The success of the Secondary School Student program is dependent on the generosity of the American families who support this program by welcoming foreign students into their homes. The number of qualified foreign students desiring to come to the United States for a year of high school continues to rise and student demand is now placing pressure on the ability of sponsors to identify available and appropriate host family homes. The Department desires to provide the means to permit as many exchange students into the United States as possible so long as we can ensure their safety and welfare, which is our highest priority." Given the increasing demand, how does it make sense to exclude an enthusiastic pool of potential host parents when during the current economic downturn, host families are harder to find. This policy will only reduce the availability of suitable homes. Having been an exchange student myself, I find section 6 of the proposed rule change misguided, as does American Field Service (AFS). Those of us who have been exchange students want to share the experience that so influenced our lives with other young people. I will be sponsoring a Norwegian exchange student during the coming year, but if this rule passes as it stands, that will be the last year I will be able to do so. I think this proposal is a dangerous precedent and puts us further along the slippery slope of excluding non-traditional families from fully participating in society and potentially stereotypes all singles interested in parenting as sexual perverts or abusers. I also strongly resent the implication that single professionals cannot provide a quality exchange experience equal to that of any other family. The proposed rule change in its entirety can be found at: http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=0900006480ae5aa0
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