We’ve all read the stories about those amazing people that adopt numerous kids and seem to have endless compassion and patience. We often wonder if they have super-human ability or if we could ever be that type of family. It is a major life commitment, not right for everyone.
For families who have room in their homes and hearts, and want to test the waters before committing to foster parenting, there are lots of opportunities to do so.
Exchange programs are the most common way, with host families taking in a child from another country for an entire school year. Students and family members must sign a contract agreeing to specific rules, but generally, the family provides food and shelter and necessities. The students must abide by house rules and aren’t allowed to drive.
They key to finding a good fit is to look for accredited programs that work with your local school. Check with your school district’s administration office or the guidance council office of the nearest high school to see which programs are most compatible.
Alexandria, Virginia, resident Maria Filios is a six-time-and-counting exchange student host mom. “With every exchange student, we learn something new. We are certain that these are lifelong relationships that create further connections. Nothing makes your children more aware of the world than hosting an exchange student.” Filios says she keeps in touch with all of her “kids” and even had the opportunity to visit some in their native countries. Her son is currently studying in Italy.
Many sports programs, such as the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, need host families for players, and require a shorter time commitment but a big return for a budding athletes and host families. An amateur summer wooden bat baseball league in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, the CRCBL gives college players from around the country an opportunity to get a sense of professional baseball life. Players stay with the family from late May through July or early August and the host families provide a bed and access to a washer and dryer. Their assigned team provides the rest.
Your local recreation department should know of any other sports programs needing short-term hosts for athletes. Or check with the Chamber of Commerce to see if there is an International Business School that is looking for host families for adult students looking for business opportunities. Your city may even have a sister-city exchange program that needs hosts for different events.
Our family had the opportunity to host a young student from Italy this past summer. She wanted to experience life in the US and because she missed the school deadlines, we arranged for a month and a half visit. Admittedly, we had a brief moment of panic as we waited for the plane to arrive. Letting a stranger into your house isn’t easy and should be never taken lightly. But after a family vacation out West, plenty of laughs, great food and some competitive game nights, the house feels a bit empty now that she’s gone. We think of her often—when we set the table for three instead of four; when we drink milk at dinner instead of just breakfast (something Italians never do); whenever we see Oreo cheesecake (her newfound favorite), we know we’ve made a friend for life. Ti voglio bene e mi manchi, Giulia!