Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
Grijalva had worked as an area representative for CCI (Center for Cultural Interchange), a foreign-exchange program for students that is based in Illinois. As an area representative she had the task of ensuring the safe placement of exchange students travelling to the United States. As she gained experience as a representative, Ms. Grijalva learned that not all exchange students were placed with safe host-families.
In 2004 Danielle Grijalva resigned from CCI in protest when she found that another coordinator in the same agency had knowingly placed two boys from non-English speaking backgrounds in the home of a pederast who immediately began to groom them with gay pornography (which constitutes a crime in California), to provide them alcohol (which is against the law) and to deprive them of bathroom privacy. This was the eighth time that this man had been allowed to host boys.
Grijalva was appalled when she found that her agency was totally disinterested in what had happened to the boys, but threatened her with a lawsuit if she continued her concerns. The agency then concocted the allegations that the boys were expelled from high school for downloading pornography from their host father's computer. The school principal contacted the Police Department and local Child Protective Services. Police, not the agency, removed the boys from the home. Their report claimed that when the officer went to the door, the man who answered stood there with his pants around his legs.
When she expressed concerns about future students being placed in this man's home, the manager allegedly said, "Now, Danielle, we cannot discriminate against homosexuality. Back off!"
The president of the agency interfered with law enforcement stating that the boys concocted the allegations because they were accustomed to having a swimming pool in their back yard and wanted to be placed in a house that had one. The manager refused to change the placement and, hearing their allegations, notified police that the boys had attempted to steal from their host when they were caught looking for their passports and return tickets to go home. They, in common with most others in this situation, were instructed to sign a statement that the breakdown of the placement was due entirely to their own bad behaviour and they were told that they would be denied future access to the US if they refused to sign. This is sheer bullying because agencies do not have the power to prevent return visits. However the boys did not know that they were being blackmailed and they signed. This of course prevents them from suing their abusers and the agencies.
When in Grijalva wrote to inform the German agencies responsible for sending the boys to the US, she received an aggressive response. When she persisted and wrote again, she received a one-sentence reply: "When we told you we didn't wish to hear from you we meant it."
Grijalva received so many complaints from parents and students that she set up a website which has attracted more and more horror stories. She established the International Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students (CSFES), enlisting the support of others who were aware of the problems. CSFES became a registered charity in 2007, by which time its filing cabinets were full of complaints from parents along with newspaper reports of exchange students raped, molested and exposed to every type of extortion. CSFES has no power other than its ability to support parents and students, to publicise the actions of unscrupulous agencies using media, to lobby politicians and to lodge complaints with government and exchange agency officials who invariably blame students.
CSFES maintains that every exchange student deserves a safe exchange experience. To ensure this, Ms. Grijalva tries to educate various government agencies, the exchange organizations themselves and potential host-families.
Unfortunately, not all exchange students end up in safe host-families. CSFES then steps in and acts as an advocate for exchange students in the US. Due to the efforts of CSFES, many exchange students who have felt alone in difficult circumstances have been able to achieve their goal of a good experience.
Not everyone has been happy about this attention. Exchange organizations have filed lawsuits against CSFES because of its work. Media in non-US countries have contacted CSFES to get their take on the way the exchange industry works in the US. CSFES have become the go-to fount of information that has been needed.
CSFES works with other non-profit organizations dedicated to the safety of exchange students:
- with Child-Safe in the United Kingdom
- with the consumer-protection group Aktion Bildungsinformation e.V. (Campaign for Educational Information) in Germany.
Representatives of CSFES operate in various countries around the world.
- Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
- ABC10news, 2008 Jul 03, Leadership Award Winner Danielle Grijalva
- § Sec. 62. 25 Secondary school students
- Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
- Kansas City Infozine, 2012 Mar 05, Exchange Agencies Must Not Take Student's Cell Phones or Laptops
- Student Exchange Industry Opposes Child Safety Measures
- Treatment of Exchange Students Leads to Lawsuits Filed
- Child Advocacy Group Calls on Michigan Attorney General to Investigate
- West Virginia State Police Investigating Former Principal for Years of Alleged Sexual Abuse
- Exchange Students Must Leave USA with a Positive Impression of America
- Utah Is First State to Require Fingerprint Background Checks for Host Families
- The Seattle Times, 2009 Jul 30, Calif. mom exposes abuses of exchange students
- CNN.com/US, 2009 Jul 16, Exchange students live American nightmare
- Bergens Tidende, 2012 Jul 30, Sexpress, tyvery og utnytting
- "Important information for students going to USA under exchange programme". News Central Asia. 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2014-09-02.
Found by Ms. Danielle Grijalva some seven years ago, CSFES has evolved into a dedicated powerhouse for well-rounded and effective support for the exchange students.
- ZDF Media - Frontal 21 in Germany on September 18, 2012
- Aftenposten, 2012 Jan 14, Et amerikansk mareritt
- The Sydney Morning Herald, 2008 Dec 21, Exchange students put at risk of being abused
- Child-Safe: Be active, travel, stay safe
- Aktion Bildungsinformation e.v
- CSFES Brazil
- CSFES Denmark
- CSFES France
- CSFES Germany
- CSFES Norway
- CSFES USA