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2/29/2008 - A Message from AFS-USA

The following is an official statement from AFS-USA in response to media reports regarding Jonathan McCullum:

The first priority of AFS Intercultural Programs is always the safety and security of our students. As is the case with all issues of student well being, we take this situation very seriously.

Upon learning of Jonathan’s weight loss, AFS acted immediately. In cooperation with Jonathan’s parents it was determined that Jonathan should end his participation in the program and return home.

We have no evidence that the host family failed to provide Jonathan with sufficient food or that at any time food was not available to him. Nor have we received any indication that Jonathan’s host family failed to care for him in an appropriate manner. Based on this AFS has serious questions about the accuracy of published news reports.

AFS conducts monthly contacts with participants through local volunteer liaisons and through AFS staff members. These visits and contacts clearly took place; we have no evidence that Jonathan ever indicated he was not provided with an adequate amount of food.

Jonathan was also able to communicate with his parents and others, by internet and otherwise, during his experience abroad. AFS does not limit participants’ contact with parents, friends or relatives in any way, and did not do so in Jonathan’s case.

Throughout our 60 year history we have developed and implemented policies and procedures to help ensure participant safety and well being, including the careful screening of host families. These screening policies were followed in this case, and this family had successfully hosted AFS participants previously.

AFS has, and will continue to have, a reputation built on trust and care. AFS is deeply committed to the values of cultural exchange, and we have the utmost confidence in the ability of our thousands of dedicated volunteers and staff around the globe to ensure the safety and well-being of our participants. Most importantly, all were pleased to know of Jonathan’s strong recovery.

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