Teenager left to roam streets

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WHEN NATALIE Karpel returned from her exchange trip to Germany last year, she tore the film from her camera and destroyed it. She was so traumatised that she refused even to write an essay about her experiences.

Although the 15-year-old had come to no physical harm, her mother, Maggie, feels she should have been given far more support than she received.

She was left in the house overnight with the boyfriend of her exchange partner's mother, who had gone into hospital to have a baby. She also spent an entire day wandering the streets alone after her "friend" stole all her jewellery and the mother, struggling to cope with her new baby, told her to get out of the house.

"She was in a terrible state when she got home," Mrs Karpel said. "The teachers who were there hadn't taken on board how upset she had been, and had failed to find her anywhere else to stay."

Schools should be bound by codes of conduct on how to run exchanges, she believes, and should have to look into the backgrounds of host families before they send children abroad.

"We bring children up not to speak to strangers, but we still ship them abroad to stay in their houses."