by Marlene Bylenga, SCSBC International Education Coordinator ◊
On a recent trip to Asia, I was privileged to meet with many of the parents of our international students at Langley Christian School. The opportunity to share meals with them, to listen to their dreams for their children and their reasons for sending them overseas touched me deeply. It was heartening to hear about the deep appreciation they had for their children’s host families and in some cases the growing relationship between sets of parents.
School administration and boards need to realize the immense responsibility that enrolling international students involves. We are not only responsible for educating these children but are required to ensure that they are in safe environments both at home and school. Our schools value the partnerships we have with parents; those relationships also extend to our overseas parents. It is important to have International Student Program Homestay staff who work at building the bridge between overseas parents and school personnel and who ensure that students are in safe, caring homes.
The key pillar of an international program is the quality of care students receive in their host family. An excellent homestay environment not only allows students to improve their English skills within a positive family atmosphere but gives them an opportunity to experience Canadian culture and traditions. In addition, host parents are instrumental in encouraging and guiding students as they grow as children of God.
Recently, The British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Education has provided homestay guidelines to all international student programs in British Columbia. (http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/administration/kindergarten-to-grade-12/internationaleducation/home_stay_guidelines.pdf) The purpose of this document is to provide consistent, province-wide, best-practice standards. SCSBC supports these standards and is committed to providing new resources and support to our schools in addition to the SCSBC policies and procedures that have already been developed. A new resource available to SCSBC member schools is the Homestay Program Guide, which is formatted so that schools can adapt it for their particular context.
One of the interesting pieces of legislation mentioned in the Ministry of Education guidelines is in regards to the number of students permitted in a home. A community care license will be required under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act (the “CCALA”) if a host family cares for three or more persons in his/her home. The CCALA may also apply to other homestay arrangements, depending upon the facts of each situation. A host family that is unsure whether the CCALA applies should contact the regional medical health officer for further information.1 This legislation refers to unrelated minors being cared for in a homestay environment.
In summary, a quality school-based homestay program where students are cared for both physically, emotionally and spiritually is a necessary part of any international student program. It is the responsibility of administration and boards to ensure the safety of the students who are studying here without their parents.
Please review the guidelines and set aside some time to discuss the following questions.
- Are our international students in home environments that support the mission and vision of our school?
- What procedures do we have in place for screening host families and for the placement of students?
- Have all homestay family members over the age of 18 submitted current criminal records checks?
- Are we ensuring that there are no more than two international students in the homestay at the same time?
SCSBC is here to support international student programs and provide the resources you need to grow and improve your programs. Please contact us with any needs you may have in regards to International Education.