Sign Up To Visit With A Host Family
The Fresh Air Fund is operating the Friendly Towns program for Summer 2022 on a limited basis.
All participants, staff, volunteers and eligible members of host families are required to be fully vaccinated. An application will not move forward without proof of full vaccination. Read more here.
Any visits and gatherings during Summer 2022 not organized through The Fund are outside the scope of The Fresh Air Fund’s official programming and will not receive the same support and coverage. Read the full policy here.
The Fresh Air Fund is not currently accepting applications from new host families.
If you are a returning host family, please click here.
If you are interested in hosting during a future summer, please complete this form.
thousands of New York City children visit with volunteer host families who live in rural, suburban, and small town communities along the East Coast. Host families apply and go through a rigorous screening process that includes an in-home interview and background check.
Is your child excited to learn to swim, build sandcastles at the beach, ride a bike or camp out? We ask our host families to tell us all the fun activities they will do so we can make the best match for each child. Many children form close friendships with their host families and return to the same host family year after year.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who can participate in the Friendly Towns program?
- Does my child need to be vaccinated to attend Friendly Towns?
- Where will my child be staying?
- Why do many parents select Friendly Towns for their child's summer experience?
- How are the host families selected and screened?
- Who supervises the host families while my child is staying with them?
- When will I know where my child is going?
- How will my child travel to their Friendly Town?
- Does my child need to wear a mask?
- Will my child need to get a COVID test prior to departing for camp? Is there anything else I should know about COVID safety precautions?
- What things should a child NOT bring with them?
- How can I communicate with my child while he/she is away?
- What if my child gets sick?
Who can participate in the Friendly Towns program?
The Fresh Air Fund will be operating the traditional Friendly Towns program for Summer 2022 on a limited basis in limited geographic areas. The Fund will contact eligible Fresh Air children and host families.
All campers and staff need to be fully vaccinated to participate in any Fresh Air programs. Read more about our vaccination policy here.
Where will my child be staying?
Families from across the East Coast volunteer to host children through The Fresh Air Fund. Volunteer hosts live in rural, suburban and small town communities, which we call “Friendly Towns.”
Why do many parents select Friendly Towns for their child’s summer experience?
Parents tell us that one of the reasons they sign up for Friendly Towns is because their child will have an individualized experience. Host families plan several activities and speak with parents before the trip to learn about their child’s likes and dislikes, and to get a better understanding of what a parent would like their child to get out of the trip like learning to ride a bike, going fishing for the first time or learning to swim. Parents can also can speak with their child during the trip (as scheduled with the host family), and get pictures – through texts and emails.
How are the host families selected and screened?
Host families go through a multi-step screening process:
- Prospective host families are pre-screened over the phone.
- Next, an in-person interview is scheduled to take place in the home of the prospective host family. All members of the family must be present as well as any caregivers or others who will be spending large amounts of time with the child (grandparents who live nearby, cousins, etc.).The interviewer spends between 1 ½ and 2 hours with the family. The interviewer observes interactions between the family members, discusses the Friendly Towns program, checks the home for safety concerns, and covers many other important areas (How do the parents communicate with each other? How do the parents communicate with the children? Is there an extra bed for the child? How do the pets behave with a stranger, etc.).
- All adults (18 or older) in a host family’s household have a background check completed through an independent contractor.
- If the interviewer is comfortable with the family (we ask each interviewer to ask themselves “Would I place my own child in this home for two weeks?”), three references are checked. The prospective host family must provide at least one professional reference (a teacher, day care provider, family doctor, etc.).
Who supervises the host families while my child is staying with them?
Each Friendly Town has a Chairperson, a volunteer trained and supervised by The Fresh Air Fund, to oversee all families in their area. The Chairperson checks in with children while they are visiting their host family, and sometimes organizes activities for all host families while the children are visiting. The Chairperson is always available while children are visiting host families in their area. Chairpeople are supervised by the volunteer Fund Representative from their region, and all volunteer leaders are supervised and supported by Fresh Air Fund staff in the New York City office. Support services is available on-call 24/7.
When will I know where my child is going?
After your child’s application is completed, we will register your child for their Friendly Towns experience. A Fresh Air Fund staff member will contact you to provide host family options and to get your final approval. You will be provided with host names, address, phone number, pets, family activities and other important information.
How will my child travel to their Friendly Town?
Children travel to their host family by Fresh Air Fund charter buses, leaving from The Port Authority Bus Terminal. Your confirmation letter will tell you the date, time and location of your child’s departure and return. Children are required to wear a mask on the bus.
Does my child need to wear a mask?
- Children do not need to wear a mask but can wear one if they prefer. Host families may also ask your child to wear a mask in certain circumstances when appropriate for health and safety.
- Children do need to wear a mask on the bus ride to Friendly Towns.
- NYC and host families will need to complete a pre-trip wellness survey 24 hours before the trip. The Fresh Air Fund encourages (but does not require) NYC and host families to have a COVID test before the trip. If a member of a host family or Fresh Air child experience symptoms, they should COVID test and, if positive, notify the Support Services Team.
- In the case of a positive test before or during the trip, The Fresh Air Fund will coordinate next steps with families and provide directions aligned with CDC guidelines. More detailed information will be available to families after their child(ren) are registered.
What things should a child NOT bring with them?
Money, valuable items including jewelry, electronic equipment such as portable games or music players. It is not recommended that your child bring a cell phone to their host family.
How can I communicate with my child while he/she is away?
You should receive a safe arrival call from the host family when your child arrives at the host home. If you do not receive a call, you are welcome to call The Fresh Air Fund. Please remember, it can take hours to travel to a Friendly Town (depending on where the host lives). Even if the bus is due to arrive in the Friendly Town at 3:00 PM, the family might live another hour away from the bus stop and/or the family might choose to go out for dinner or to stop for ice cream along the way. Do not worry if you don’t hear from the family until bedtime on the first night.
You should discuss how often you will speak with your child before they leave, and then confirm your confirmation schedule once your child arrives. Phone calls sometimes make a child homesick. Please do not call, especially at night, if you sense that your child is homesick. Hearing your voice can make it harder for a child to adjust to their new environment. We suggest that you call at the start of the day, when your child is excited and can share with you the planned activities for the day. Feel free to contact the host family for updates without speaking to your child.
You can also write to your child. It is always fun for a child to receive mail while away from home.
What if my child gets sick?
- If your child gets hurt or sick, the host family will inform the local Fresh Air Fund volunteer leader. If there is an emergency, the host family will take your child to the hospital and will call our Support Services Team. Our staff will contact you and work directly with you, the host family, and hospital or clinic, to support your child’s medical care. Even if the host family has already called you, we will also call you to inform you of the situation and keep you updated.
- If your child tests positive for COVID during their trip, the host family must contact Support Services as soon as possible (within 4 hours) and The Fund will then inform you. Support Services will set up a video conference to discuss next steps in alignment with CDC guidelines.