Arrangements for Dependents
Arrangements for Dependents

If your family will accompany you to the United States, there are other things to consider. Your international student adviser will be able to advise you in researching some of the options available for your family in your local community.
Schools for Children

In the United States, education is the responsibility of each state. All states require that children attend school from age six to 16 years, or in some states, until they graduate from high school. Most schools also have a kindergarten program for five-year-olds. By U.S. federal law, public schools must provide education from kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) free of charge to all students, both U.S. citizens and noncitizens who meet the residency rules established by the individual school district. However, there is one exception. A specific federal statute bars public schools that teach kindergarten through 8th grade (K-8) from issuing I-20 forms to students who wish to obtain F-1 visas to enroll. However, dependents of adult F-1 visa holders (dependents usually hold F-2 visas) ARE eligible to enroll in these public schools.

Private day schools charge tuition. Boarding schools charge tuition, plus room and board. Be sure to bring copies of your children's birth certificates in order to enroll them in school. It is also a good idea to bring transcripts for the last year or two of your children's education, as they may assist the school to appropriately place your children in their new classes. Talk to the international student adviser about how you can enroll your children in school.

Child Care

Various possibilities exist for full-time or part-time child care. Below are some examples.

Home Day Care

Many people provide private day care or babysitting services, caring for infants and preschool children (five years old and under). Sometimes baby-sitters come to the family's home to watch the children; sometimes a parent takes the children to the baby-sitter's home. Sometimes they will care for school-age children before or after school as well. Fees vary.

Day Care Centers

Day care centers may be public centers, run by churches, or privately owned. Day care centers usually take children who are preschool age — though not always infants — and sometimes they require that the children be toilet-trained. Some day care centers also take school-age children whose parents are at work before or after the child gets out of school. The parent drops off and picks up the child at the center. Sometimes the day care center works with the local school system to organize bus service to the school. Some day care centers require parents to give time to help care for the children one or two mornings or afternoons per week. Fees vary for this type of child care, but note that day care centers are usually quite expensive in large cities and metropolitan areas.

Nursery Schools or Preschools

These private schools are generally open for children three to five years of age. Most schools hold classes from two to five days a week, usually in the mornings or in the afternoons. Besides play activities, children are prepared to enter kindergarten, usually the first year of schooling in the United States.

Activities for Spouses

If you are the spouse of an international student, you will most likely find that keeping busy will help you adjust to your new home and to be happier there. Though you probably will not be allowed to work, you may find that this is an opportunity to discover new interests, improve your English, or take a few courses that you never quite seem to find time for. The international student adviser may suggest some of the following options:

School Parents' Clubs

Most schools have a Parent-Teacher Association, or PTA, that plays different roles depending upon the school. During the week, the local school may appreciate your assistance in the library, in the school office, or in a classroom. When you register your child for school, ask about details.

English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes

Universities or international centers, local adult education centers, community colleges, or local community volunteer programs often offer ESL classes. If you are just learning English or simply want to become more comfortable with one or more aspects of the language, this can be the perfect opportunity to improve your language skills. For more information, see Short-term Study.

Academic Courses

You may be qualified to apply for admission as a regular, special, or "auditing" student at the college or university that your spouse attends. An auditing student is one who takes class for no credit. Ask about tuition costs.

Other Courses and Recreation

Most colleges and universities and some counties or metropolitan areas offer continuing education courses that do not award academic credit. The courses provide instruction in a wide range of subjects, from understanding computers to working on cars to cooking. Ask the international student adviser if there are such programs in your community.

Volunteer Work

Hospitals, schools, day care centers, and other public agencies welcome volunteers' unpaid assistance. Opportunities are available in many fields. The yellow pages of the telephone book often has listings under "Volunteer Services" or "Social Service Organizations." Otherwise, the university may have a volunteer office, which will be happy to help place you even though you are not a student. Alternatively, try searching on the Internet.

Clubs and Organizations

Many people enjoy clubs and organizations that focus on a common interest, such as gardening, cooking, music, drama, knitting, card playing, or exercise. Ask the international student adviser or someone at the public library for a list of such organizations.
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