New foundation launched to improve safety of study abroad programs

study abroad programs

The non-profit ClearCause Foundation was recently launched with the aim of helping to ensure the safety of young people studying and traveling abroad.

"Travel and study abroad can and should be a wonderful experience for a young person, but there are inherent risks and failures in this self-governed industry that must be addressed," ClearCause co-founders Allen and Sheryl Hill, whose son Tyler Hill died during a People to People Student Ambassador trip to Japan in 2007, said in a statement.

"There are literally thousands of youth travel, study-abroad and student-exchange programs, but virtually no government oversight or federally mandated safety standards regarding their operations--most importantly, how they handle a crisis involving a child," Sheryl Hill said.

The foundation is pushing both for transparency and for protections to help ensure the health, safety and human rights of young people participating in the $17 billion youth travel, exchange and study abroad industry. Key objectives include the following:

  • Federal regulation of the youth-travel, foreign exchange and study abroad industry to help prevent cases in which young travelers have died, been denied health care, abandoned, abused, sexually abused and even killed while abroad.
  • An easy-access response system that instantly connects young travelers in emergency situations to timely health care, police protection and embassy assistance and notifies emergency contacts at home.
  • A family-friendly federally mandated transparent database containing reports about incidents and safety breaches involving American youth and students chaperoned overseas that names the agency responsible.

"We need a central, accurate clearinghouse for information so parents and students can determine whether good safety practices and vital support systems are in place," ClearCause board member Annamarie Saarinen said in a statement.

ClearCause Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and the ClearCause Coalition, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, were both created in order to encourage improved federal oversight and accountability in global youth travel, foreign exchange and study abroad programs.

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