1) What does En Famille offer? En Famille arranges six month exchanges to France, Spain and Germany for 9 to 16 years old. The two exchange children spend a year together, six months in each child’s home. The rules of our exchange include total language immersion, which produces amazing verbal fluency.

It is important to remember though that En Famille offers something beyond fluency: a loving second family. At the end of the exchange year, children and families are attached in a powerful way.

2) How long has En Famille International been arranging exchanges? EFI, a French non-profit organization, has been organizing exchanges for  40 years, and has overseen more than 3000 exchanges.

3) What do I have to do for my child to be considered?  Remember that asking for information or completing an application form does not commit you. It provides an opportunity to think through whether an exchange is right for your child, and for your family. It is simply the first step along a path that you may or may not follow through to the end. You should know that while some children are matched the first year they submit an application, it can sometimes take several years to find a match.

4) How much does an En Famille exchange cost? No money changes hands between the two exchange families. Each family incurs the expenses of the exchange child living with them.

There is a $3,500 fee to En Famille. En Famille uses this fee to host New Family Meetings and interviews in each country, attend conferences to increase awareness, interview families, visit homes, oversee on-going exchanges, and pay its employees. The fee is not due until the exchange child begins living with their new family. If you welcome first, you will not pay En Famille until after the first six months of your exchange. Other expenses you will incur: round trip airfare (price varies), student medical insurance card (approx. $325), visa fee (approx. $130).

5) Is there a fee to file an application? Yes. There is a $125 application fee due upon submission of the full application.

6) What time of year do exchanges begin? Exchanges generally begin in August or February.  We interview twice a year, spring and fall.

7) At what age is an exchange most successful? After 40 years of experience we know that the best ages for long term language immersion exchanges are 9, 10 and 11. However, we offer the opportunity for teenagers up to 16.

8) What countries can English speaking children exchange to? English speaking children can exchange to Germany, France and Spain. There are many children in each of these countries interested in an exchange with a child from an English speaking country.

9) What do you mean by “total language immersion”? After the first week children do not hear, speak or read their first language. They are not to bring English books or a computer with them. Except one 30-minute phone call each week,  there should not be any contact with friends or family from home.  Yes, this can be very difficult, but it is actually kinder than the alternative. This method ensures very quick language acquisition and allows for the child to become part of the family and community they have joined. These two things are essential for a successful exchange: 1) ability to communicate/understand, 2) close link with new family and community.

A six week visit does not require these rules, a six month one does. It is imperative for a child to learn the language quickly because the longer it takes to become part of the family and community, the more difficult it will be.

10) Is En Famille more than a language immersion program? Yes. En Famille hasn’t lost touch with its roots. The first En Famille exchange was in 1978. (Read more here: History) Even after 40+ years of operation it remains a very simple organization. It is more about love, family bonds and relationships than anything else. While it is true that the number one reason children exchange is to become bilingual — and En Famille has a total language immersion program in place that is incredibly successful in achieving this goal – a funny thing happens on the journey: the parents gain another child and the child gains another set of parents/siblings. The families are fused.

What a surprise it is to discover that an exchange child has become your own. It is hard for people who haven’t experienced it to understand. The pain of sending your child-of-the-heart home to his biological parents is difficult to endure, but the experience of adding a child to your family is not to be missed.

11) Will my child be safe? Please know that we will prepare your exchange with great care, as we always do. Since 1978, more than 3,000 children have successfully completed exchanges. Families are interviewed, houses are visited and a variety of safeguards are in place to ensure safe exchanges. Nothing is more important to us.

12) We homeschool. Can my child still participate in an exchange?Homeschoolers are a wonderful fit for En Famille. one of our American executive, Karen Roddy, was a homeschooling mom. The flexibility of lifestyle and academic choices makes homeschooling a particularly good fit for exchanging. If you currently homeschool your children, you should plan to homeschool your exchange child while they are with you. It is likely that your child will have a chance to attend school while in Europe. Karen’s children found it to be a great way to learn the language quickly.

13) What about school?  When your child goes to Europe s/he will attend either a public or private school, depending upon which school your exchange family’s children attend. Enrolling exchange students in public or private schools in France, Germany and Spain is not a problem.  Most school boards in Canada have a reciprocal agreement, therefore exchange students can attend school at no additional cost. In United States children attend Sevis school. 

14) We believe being bilingual will broaden our child’s career opportunities and make colleges more interested. Have you found this to be true? Yes! This is one of the very exciting aspects of having done this than 40 years. Our past students send us notes thanking us for their En Famille experience. They tell us that being bilingual and having lived six months abroad helped them attend the college of their choice, obtain a scholarship, and follow a career path that otherwise would not have been possible.

15) What about the negative reaction of family and friends? Remember that you will be in a minority in wanting your child to participate in such an adventure. You will most certainly hear all kinds of negative and worrisome remarks that will make you feel guilty about “sending your child away.”  Ask us to put you in touch with families who have already done an exchange and listen to what they have to say.

16) Are children different when they return home? Absolutely! And in the best way possible. They are more mature and more open-minded.