9) Supporting Host Families

Host Family Handbook
A handbook has been created for use by host families to give information necessary for helping their student adjust to a new environment and explain the expectations of the student and the host family. Many families use the handbook as a reference to locate information for questions concerning program rules, cultural shock, medical insurance, student travel, etc. There is a host family handbook.  The host family handbook is below for you to download or read by clicking here

Host Family Orientation Session
A host family orientation session is held each year for new families to help them understand the rules and expectations of the program, give them guidance about their role, and help them understand the support offered by the program. The Host Family Handbook is reviewed during the orientation session allowing families an opportunity to ask questions for clarification.  We are moving some of this into a virtual certificate for families to take (similar to this training you are taking).

The orientation session is a good networking opportunity for both coordinators and families. Many coordinators prefer to invite experienced host families to this information session so they may provide a different perspective.

  • A good tip when organizing an orientation session for families is to try to make the meeting casual by providing time for families to chat while drinking coffee and snacking. Host families who are able to connect with one another and find they have students with similar interests can use this opportunity to consider drive-sharing and may feel more comfortable organizing common activities.

A sample session may look like this:

  • Brief History: Why People Come Here
  • EFT and Payment schedule
  • Homestay Evaluation: Program, Students, Host Parents
  • Arrival and Departures: Sign, Let airport greeter know you are there and when you leave, Reimbursement gas receipt from trip required
  • Relationship between parent and student “A family member”
  • Computer Use
  • Rules: Communicate your family rules, Our Student Discipline Policy, Communication of Concerns
  • Travel: Within Province and Outside of Province
  • Insurance Blue Cross http://www.nsispinsurance.ca/
  • Culturegrams.  Website logon: http://online.culturegrams.com.  Userid: nsisp. passwrod: cgrams
  • Nova Scotia International Student Program
  • Facebook
  • Student Orientation
    • Purpose
    • Transportation
    • Needs

Many of us have been doing this for a very long time, but to most of our kids, this is the most exciting thing they have ever done in their lives.

  • Parent Concerns/Questions

Regular Communication
Host families must never feel they are alone in dealing with their international students. While host families should accept the student into their homes and treat them as one of their own children, it is important they understand they have the support of the program behind them.  There is a very fine line between communicating enough and families feeling stressed by too much communication.  Please be aware to not over-communicate.  A program evaluation done last summer showed that we had families stop hosting because of too much communication that wasn’t needed.

A major part of the Homestay Coordinator’s role is to regularly communicate with students and families. Regular communication allows many small issues to be dealt with before they become larger ones. While each Homestay Coordinator may vary in how they communicate with their families, the NSISP has the following expectations for communication:

  • The first month—biweekly checks with host families
  • Following months—checks should occur at least monthly (these can be done by phone, email, or in-person)
  • A visit to the home should occur each semester

All Homestay Coordinators have business cards and these should be given to host families to have at their disposal. 

A good tip for Homestay Coordinators is to have a group set up in their email account allowing them to share the news with host families. This news can be about upcoming events, holidays and in-service days, ideas for Christmas vacation, etc. It is a good idea to copy families on all emails for students even when an activity is only for international students as families should be aware of upcoming activities to help organize drives, make arrangements, organize personal schedules, and encourage reluctant students to participate.

In many cases, host parents are in communication with the student’s natural parents, and having information about upcoming program activities, in-services, etc. is information they will relay and explain to natural families.

Please note: In the case where the host parent is also the Homestay Coordinator, an effort should be made to have someone else act in the Homestay Coordinator role for this student. This can be done by another Homestay Coordinator or the Program Manager/Special Projects Manager. The student should be informed of who is taking this role for them very early in their stay in Nova Scotia.

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