Find out more about the process of getting on the ALLEF six month exchange programme to France and Germany
Many parents and children find out about ALLEF’s six month exchange programme by accident. They read something in their local paper about a family who have done the same thing. A child at their local school goes on the exchange and tells their friends, who tell their parents. Sometimes the original idea and enthusiasm comes from the child. Sometimes from the parents. In all cases, the important thing to remember before applying to take an ALLEF exchange is to ensure that everyone wants to do it.
The process begins by making contact with the organisation to express an interest in finding out more. All ALLEF exchange co-ordinators are parents of at least one child who has already completed an exchange. They will be happy to explain more about ALLEF and answer any questions about what to expect. We will do our best to put you in touch with a local family who have done an exchange before.
The next stage is to fill in an application form to ALLEF. The form is long and asks a lot of questions that will make you think hard about your family, your lifestyle, your values, parenting style etc. Please take time to answer fully and in detail. It is very important to be completely honest. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers, but we need to know as much as we can to be able to identify the best match between families (not just the children). Your application form will eventually be shared with the other family, if we are able to match you. You should complete it with that in mind. Please give them as much information as you would expect them to give you.
You will also need to supply lots of photos of all the family, the house inside and out, school and local environment, exchange child engaged in favourite activities etc. Again, these are for the benefit of the French or German exchange child and family, so that they can form an image of your family and the environment they will be living in for 6 months. Think of the kind of pictures you would want to see. We don’t need these straightaway with the application form, but you may want to start collecting together and getting them printed.
Once we have your application form we will then arrange a visit to you at your home, either by an ALLEF exchange co-ordinator or by a local family who have experience of at least one successful ALLEF exchange. The purpose is to get to know you in your home environment. We will need to see all members of the family living at home (including pets!), and anyone else who plays a significant part in looking after the child (nannies, au pairs, grandparents). Please give our representative a tour of the house, and perhaps a simple meal, again with the whole family present.
We will also take up references, and contact your school to ensure they are aware of your plans and offer to answer any questions they may have.
You will then be invited to a meeting at which the UK, French and German exchange co-ordinators, as well as British families who have already made an exchange, will be present. We want to meet the whole family who will be involved in the exchange, including any others who help with childcare, and any estranged parents who still have contact or whose consent is required. There will be an opportunity to ask more questions, followed by an interview. The exchange co-ordinators will talk to the family as a whole, the parents separately and the child exchanging separately. This is so that they can build up the most detailed picture of the family and find the best match with similar families in France or Germany (where this UK process is replicated).
Once a suitable family in either France or Germany has been found, we will call you and tell you the basic details, such as where they live, type of family, etc., if you wish to proceed, we will send a more detailed information package including photographs. We will make recommendations about the order in which the exchange should take place (who should receive first). We very strongly recommend that each family visit each other before the exchange takes place as a final check to ensure that everyone is happy to go ahead with the exchange.
There are important things that parents should discuss and agree explicitly in advance around the level of independence you are happy with your child having, including being left home alone, sleepovers, walking to school, using public transport, overnight stays away from home eg school trips, scout camps etc.
If the preliminary visit is satisfactory, the exchange is ready to begin. At this stage we will notify your local social services, and you will need to apply to be approved for a private fostering arrangement. We can support you through this process if necessary.