1) What does EFI Offer?
En Famille International organises up to six month exchanges in Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and USA. The two children in exchange spend one year together, six months in each child's home (for older children, we offer variable durations depending on each case).
The rules of our exchange are based on a total linguistic immersion which results in incredible verbal fluidity.
However, it is important to remember that En Famille International offers a second loving family, beyond mastering a foreign language. At the end of the year of the exchange, children and families are connected in an important way.
2) How long has EFI been organizing exchanges?
EFI, a French non-profit organization, has been organizing exchanges for 40 years, and has overseen more than 3,500 exchanges.
3) How much does a family exchange cost?
See our fee sheet (click here for fees). There is no exchange of money between the two families. Each family incurs the expenses of the foreign child living with them, as they would their own child. The exception is in the US, where international students have to attend SEVIS approved schools with private school fees shared between the participating families.
The amount paid to En Famille International, for an exchange, is used to organize information meetings in each country, to prepare interviews (for each family), to visit families in their home, to supervise the current exchanges, and to pay the permanent staff (employees of the association). The amount is due when the child in exchange begins to live with his new family. If you host first, you will only pay EFI after the first six months of your exchange.
4) Is there a fee to file an application?
Yes. There is a registration fee of 120 euros (cashed a few weeks before the meetings).
5) What do I need to do to make an exchange for my child?
After reviewing this site and talking to each other within your family and if you are enthusiastic about making an exchange, you can contact Vivienne. You can also email the local EFI representative in the country you reside in.
6) At what time of year do the exchanges begin?
LExchanges usually start in August/September or February/March. We meet twice a year, in the spring and fall. The spring interviews will be used for exchanges beginning in late August/early September. In Autumn, the talks will give rise to the beginning of exchange in late February/early March.
7) At what age will an exchange be more successful?
After 40 years of experience, we know that the best ages for long-term language immersion exchanges are 9, 10 and 11. Nevertheless, we allow teenagers up to the age of 16 to exchange. To the extent that they are able to follow the EFI rules, they make excellent exchanges.
8) I want an English-speaking country for my child, am I sure I will get it?
En Famille International offers exchanges to many different countries and receives many requests. We aim to offer children an adventure and hope that they are motivated by the experience of an exchange abroad and a journey of discovery, wherever the destination. The more open-minded you are, in regard to the country, the better your chances of getting an exchange and being matched with the right family. What matters to us is the state of mind of your family and your child. We do not guarantee, 100%, an "investment" in an English-speaking family.
9) What do you mean by "total immersion"?
After the first week in their foreign family, we ask children to stop communicating in their native language. They cannot bring books in their own language or computers. You parents have the right to call them once a week for up to 30 minutes. They may receive a few letters per month, but no more than 2 or 3. We also ask them not to be in contact with their friends or family via social networks or texting. It may seem difficult, but all children who follow the rules, succeed perfectly in their immersion. This method allows language acquisition to be done very quickly and allows children to be part of the family and community in which they find themselves. Two things are essential for a successful exchange: 1) the ability to communicate/understand, 2) the close connection with the new family and community.
10) Why limit parental/child contact?
Our experience shows us that after 30 minutes of telephone conversation per week, children in exchanges are once again becoming aware of their distance from their families. It risks making them homesick, making them sad. The host family is then helpless in the face of these moments of nostalgia. On the other hand, contacts between parents (nice emails, sending photos...) are encouraged as long as they remain positive.
11) Is an EFI exchange more than a language immersion programme?
Yes! EFI has kept its original ethos and values. Since the first exchange in 1978, and even after 40 years of experience, En Famille International is still a simple organisation. The philosophy of exchanges is based on open-mindedness, sharing and respect. We strongly believe that our exchanges allow children to increase their self-confidence and to build a solid foundation for personal growth that will help them in their adult and professional lives. While it is true that the number one reason for the exchange of children is to become bilingual, many families value the considerable human contribution that this experience brings to them as a whole.
By participating in an EFI exchange you gain so much. Your own child’s family grows and you discover, to your surprise, that you also gain the love for new sons and daughters through the experience!
12) Is my child safe?
We prepare your exchange with the utmost care. Since 1978, more than 3,000 children have successfully completed one or more exchanges. We interview families, we make visits through our local representatives, we ask for references... a range of safeguards are in place to ensure your child’s safety.
13) What is Home-Schooling?
As the name suggests, it's "home-educating"! We have some American, Canadian and/or British families who adopt this style of teaching and learning. So, no, it's not school in a corner of the kitchen! These are parents who have decided to take charge of their children's education and delve into the curriculum in a way which suits their child and their interests. We have EFI children who discovered this practice during an exchange and who came back delighted! And yes, it's part of the adventure of the exchange: doing things that are not usual. Most children in home-schooling are ahead of the country's official curriculum. They move at their own pace and do not have the inertia of the group to slow them down. In addition, they have one or two parents who offer them discovery activities (for example, in geography, the best way to learn about volcanoes may be to go and visit some extinct ones!). Home-schooling families also sometimes like to socialise and learn together and may set up a special program together with an expert in the field. E.g. They may bring in a Drama teacher to lead a theatre course.
14) Negative reactions from family or friends?
Remember that you will be in a minority. Your friends and family might not understand why your child would want to participate in such an adventure and why as a parent, you would allow it or want to be apart from them for such a long time. You might get negative feedback and receive disturbing remarks that make you feel guilty about sending your child abroad. Ask us to put you in touch with families who have already made an exchange and listen to what they have to say!
15) Are children different when they go home?
Absolutely! And in the best way possible. They are more mature and more open.
16) What is a "Local Representative" family?
This is a family empowered by En Famille International to come and meet you at home during a meal. There is a mandatory visit from the local representative for all new families who request an exchange. This visit is made shortly before the "New Family Encounters" weekend. This "Local Representative" family has already successfully conducted one or more exchanges. The purpose of this visit is to get to know you better and to know the environment in which a foreign child will evolve. During this meeting with the local representative you will have the opportunity to ask your questions and have the testimony of an experienced family.