Risks fall into three categories. These are:
- Risks associated with assessing suitability for exchanges, and matching children for exchanges
- Risks associated with assisting children and families in the course of exchanges
- Financial and business risks
Risks associated with matching
ALLEF works closely with sister organisations in France and Germany (‘Apprendre Les Langues En Famille’ and ALLEF Deutschland e.V.). All three organisations have a common application form (albeit in different languages), so information about children and families is gathered in a consistent manner in the 3 countries. At least 1 coordinator with appropriate language skills and experience of exchanges from the 3 countries reads every application form to ensure they are fully complete and there are no inconsistencies.
ALLEF also requires school reports for the past 2 years, two references from family friends, and a reference from the school. In England the system is different, as an exchange is a private fostering arrangement, and social services make whatever checks they think are appropriate.
The adults of French and German families involved in English exchanges are police checked, while ALLEF performs DBS checks on host families in England and Wales and the equivalent checks in Scotland.
Every family is visited by a coordinator to check the information on the application form is accurate, particularly information relating to the house and household (where a family has successfully completed an exchange recently, and no details have changed, ALLEF may decide a visit is not necessary).
The whole family is interviewed by an international team, which interviews children in all three countries.
Children and families are then matched by the coordinators, to ensure families and children are compatible across many criteria – religious and cultural background, the age of children, family life, special needs of children, the availability of sports and hobbies, and any constraints caused by schools. Coordinators discuss the prospective match with families, paying particular attention to any points where there is a mismatch, to ascertain whether that is acceptable.
We believe that these procedures, operated by experienced and trained coordinators, minimise the risk of an unsuitable match being made
Risks associated with assisting children and families in the course of exchanges
An exchange is an arrangement between two families, facilitated by ALLEF. The family accepting a child takes on parental responsibility for the exchange child. Parents speak to their child weekly by telephone, in private, and this is the principal mechanism for raising concerns. ALLEF does not have parental responsibility, but provides support to families as needed. This support is usually in relation to practical matters such as school admissions, vaccinations etc., but may include communication between parents where their language skills are not strong. ALLEF coordinators will speak to the exchange child and family from time to time, to ensure language and social skills are developing as expected.
All children are provided with two ‘parachute letters’ which they are able to send in the event they feel something is badly wrong. If this happens the coordinators will immediately contact the child and assess any disclosures that are made. Any further action would depend on the nature of any disclosures, including whether a reference to the statutory authorities was needed.
ALLEF also ensures that all exchange children attend school in the host country, so that there are other adults who regularly see the exchange child, and who could raise the alarm if they felt something was wrong. In England there is additional comfort provided by social services, under private fostering arrangements, as these include regular visits to check the welfare of exchange children.
ALLEF ensures that all coordinators are aware of the latest child protection documentation, and receive appropriate training, either through ALLEF, or through their professional life eg if they work in a school, or in the medical profession.
Financial and business risks
ALLEF in the UK is a branch of a bigger, well-funded German not for profit membership organisation with substantial financial reserves and a reliable income stream. Exchange co-ordinators in the UK are members of ALLEF Deutschland e.V. and as such are covered by their insurance policies.
This policy will be placed on the ALLEF website and reviewed annually.