Dept of State 2021 Participant Survey Results – Monthly Contacts

Dept of State 2021 Participant Survey Results – Monthly Contacts

In the spring and fall of 2021, the US Department of State surveyed all secondary school J-1 visa exchange participants. Over 50% of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 participants responded, roughly 11,000 participants. While we don’t know how many of these respondents were AFS participants, we’d like to share with you some key results of these surveys, and what we know about the AFS experience in comparison, to inform your work as a Liaison/Support Volunteer.
DoS Survey Results vs. AFS 

    • In both DoS surveys, overall, exchange students that responded reported being mostly satisfied with their program experience, with 93% rating their program experience as extremely or somewhat good in the spring of 2021 and 98% reporting the same in the fall of 2021. Overall satisfaction rates of AFS students hosted in the USA are similar to those reported by the DoS. (2017-94%, 2018-96%, 2019-93%.)   
    • In both cycles, most exchange students reported to the DoS that they did not have to change host families. Yearly, about 30% of AFS hosted participants change families at least once.
    • 75% of DoS Survey respondents in the spring, and 98% in the fall, reported having received monthly check-ins from their local coordinators.The participants who did not receive monthly contacts were less likely to report feeling safe, more likely to change host families and more likely to be less satisfied overall. 
    • AFS participant monthly contact completion rates in the past three cycles range from the low to high 90s with July 2021-January 2022 rates currently ranging from 92% to 99% (with host family contact rates usually about the same or slightly lower than that of participant rates.) At AFS we usually see a decrease in the percentage of monthly contacts recorded as the cycle progresses.
    • Results of the DoS survey show that often the student perceives the host family and liaison ‘to be friends’, a dynamic which can make them reluctant to share their concerns about the host family with the liaison. (We sometimes see this at play in AFS support cases too.) To prevent this perception, or reality, please ensure that the liaison is indeed an objective third party. The DoS also recommends that the participants have the name and contact information of another local support volunteer, should they feel uncomfortable raising any concern with their liaison, regarding the host family or otherwise. 

We thank all liaisons and support volunteers for your efforts to make and record monthly contacts and we ask that you please keep up the good work through the last months of the program! While we are well above average in this area compared to other sponsors according to the DoS survey results, we know many contacts are made and not recorded, or not recorded in a timely manner. For example, only 2% of the total number of required host family and participant contacts for the 2021-22 cycle represents over 400 missed contacts! These contacts provide essential insights into the daily lives of our students and host families and without the perspectives and information volunteers glean from them, we can’t fully support them.

It is imperative that all required contacts and visits are made and recorded as soon as possible thereafter not only so that any concerns raised can be addressed in a timely manner in collaboration with your Support Coordinator, Associate Support Coordinator and/or AFS staff, but also because those who report more frequent contact with their liaisons report a higher level of well-being. Please note, 21-22 program participant and host family files will be audited by the DoS, so please, make those contacts and visits as required, and record them as soon as possible to avoid having to back-track come July, when the audit begins.

We encourage Support and Team Leadership to review Improving Compliance – Tools for Team Leadership, created by members of the Compliance and Support Advisory groups with the assistance of volunteers from across the US. It contains tips and strategies on how to achieve 100% compliance with contact and in-home visits requirements.

In closing, we thank all volunteers for your contributions to building intercultural understanding and peace and making a rich and rewarding AFS experience possible for thousands of host families, sending families, inbound and outbound participants across the USA and around the globe!

For survey results regarding host family screening, please click here.