Continued from page 2

Two of the girls were placed in the same South Carolina home with little food and with a single mother who forced them to babysit, according to Gina Barton, of West Columbia, S.C., who later was appointed as a temporary guardian for the girls. Barton said they were denied bathing facilities at times and were permitted only rare phone calls to family in Poland, and then were instructed to say nothing about the living conditions.

One of the students took pictures of the house and sent them to her parents in Poland, who complained to the company that arranged the trip. It took weeks before that girl was removed by the sponsor and placed in another home, but the company left the other girl behind. Barton heard about the second girl’s case and arranged for the student to move in with her.

No charges were ever filed in the case.

Barton said the student told her about a third girl who came over with her and was living in a mobile home where the host family was openly using drugs and threatening her. She was removed from “dangerous living conditions” — but only after she repeatedly complained to the company and the State Department, Barton said.

“We were shocked,” she said.

The company that sponsored the trip has gone out of business, but has since resurfaced under another name, Barton said.

The State Department needs to conduct extensive background checks of not only host families, but of sponsors, she said.

“If they don’t, they are constantly going to place the kid’s in harm’s way,” she said.