How to Become a Host Family: Step-by-Step Guide

Hosting an exchange student is a fun and enriching opportunity that will benefit your family in many ways. Whether you have already made the decision to host a student or are still contemplating hosting, this step-by-step guide will help prepare you for the process, so that you can better understand what to expect. 

Reach out to ICES to start the process.We understand there are many different types of families that might be interested in hosting an exchange student. ICES host families are comprised of all kinds of people: married, single, younger, older, families with teens, young kids, or no kids at all. There is no specific living situation required to make a great host family. The most important qualities necessary to become a host family are an interest in learning about another culture and a willingness to welcome an international student into your family. 

Complete an online host family application.The first step in becoming a host family is to complete a Host Family Application.  This can be done online or by hard copy if you prefer. The application is brief and will ask you some general information about your family, your home, and your community so we can verify that you are eligible to host.

Submit to a criminal background check.Student safety is our top priority. Part of your host family screening includes a criminal background check, which is paid for by ICES. This is required for everyone 18 and older who lives in your home, and may be submitted via our secure online portal or by completing a hard copy authorization form. 

Receive an in-home visit.Your Local Coordinator will schedule a time to come to your home when all family members are present. During this visit, they will explain the program in more detail, answer any questions you might have, and get to know your family. They will also tour your home, taking pictures of the common areas of the home and the student’s bedroom and bathroom. The home visit usually takes 1-2 hours.

Select your exchange student.For most families, the most exciting part of the application process is selecting the student who will live with your family. You may select a student who shares your interests, hobbies, or faith, or perhaps choose a student from a particular part of the world with a culture that interests you.   Who you host is entirely up to you. If you’re having trouble deciding between two students, you might consider hosting a double placement. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand your family even more by hosting students from different countries. Please note that students who speak the same native language may not be placed in the same family.

Your Local Coordinator will provide you with student profiles that include general information and a letter from the student. After your background checks have cleared and you have been confirmed as eligible to host, you will have access to additional information, including student photos and a letter from the student’s natural parents. As you go through the process of selecting a student, feel free to ask advice from your Local Coordinator who will be happy to make suggestions or give opinions on which student might be the best fit for you. Note that your local high school may have admission restrictions that will need to be considered as you select a student. Your Local Coordinator will assist you in finding the right student for your family.

ICES obtains acceptance at your local high school.Your Local Coordinator will get in touch with your local high school to obtain acceptance for the student’s enrollment, get school start and end dates, and find out about any special requirements the school may have for exchange students. There is nothing you need to do for this part of the process.

Get to know your student.Once the placement has been finalized, you will be able to start getting to know your student before they arrive. You can start bonding with your student through email, Skype, social media, or phone calls. It is fun and exciting to start learning about one another's personalities and cultures. Perhaps they can share additional pictures of their family, friends, and hometown with you, and you can help them get an idea of what to expect when they arrive

Participate in a host family orientation.The Local Coordinator will conduct a required host family orientation before the student arrives. The orientation will address cultural differences, program rules, and how to overcome common challenges, as well as give you the opportunity to ask any questions you still have about your role as the host family. You may also be able to meet other families in your area that will be hosting at the same time.

Reach out to your Local Coordinator for anything you need.We do our best to prepare you for the hosting experience, but you will likely have questions along the way. Don’t hesitate to contact your Local Coordinator if you have questions, need assistance, or simply want some advice. All of us at ICES want this experience to be a rewarding one for your family and your student. If you are ready to become a host family, please contact us today. You can also view a list of frequently asked questions or read testimonials from families who have already been through the hosting experience. 

Tags: Welcome Family, Host Families

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