3 Qualities of a Great Local Community Counselor

by cv harquail on February 24, 2010

We’ve got quite a backlog of posts waiting to go up about LCCs (Local Community Counselor)  — those agency employees who are in charge of your local cluster of au pairs and host families.

If you use an agency, your LCC can make or break your au pair experience. She is the link between the rules and reality, between the general and the specific, and between the needs of the host families and the needs of the au pairs. Your LCC needs to be effective, and you need to maintain a strong relationship with her.

Let’s start a conversation about LCCs, what we need from them, what our au pairs need from them, and what they need from us to make sure everyone has a great au pair experience. First, we’ll establish what makes an LCC really great.

The easiest way to see the difference between great LCCs from those who are simply good are the qualities that they display when there is some kind of problem between the host family and the au pair. In these situations, there are

3 Qualities that really great LCCs demonstrate: Perspective, Empathy, & Discretion.hleewell.jpg


1. Perspective

When a problem arises in a host family-au pair relationship, a great LCC should be able to take the perspective of each important party — one after the other — so that she can then step back and also see the ‘big picture.’

A great LCC can see the situation from the au pair’s point of view. She can understand how a 20-ish young person challenged by a new culture and a new family system might interpret what’s going on.

A great LCC can also see things from the host parent’s perspective. She can understand the tension between needing an employee and wanting a trustworthy family member. She can tell the difference between expectations that are appropriate and expectations that are out of line.

And, a great LCC can see the situation from the perspective of the Agency and ‘the law”. She knows the rules, she understands why the rules exist, and she knows how to explain the principles behind the rules when host families and /or au pairs fail to recognize the rules.

2. Empathy

A great LCC should be able to respond to the emotions that get triggered during a tough host family-au pair situation. The great LCC is able to show sympathy to the host mom who has discovered that her au pair has totaled the new minivan, and she is able to show some concern for the au pair whose BBH just dumped her.

A great LCC is also able to model in her own expressed emotions how big or how little a problem really is— the totaled minivan is something that can be fixed, the broken heart is something that can be healed, the disrespect is something that cannot tolerated.

A great LCC makes you feel like she ‘gets’ how it feels, regardless of how logical or predictable the situation is.

3. Discretion

A great LCC uses her discretion to protect your privacy and your au pair’s privacy. She does not discuss your family’s systems or situations with other families. When au pairs and families confide in her, she puts everything under the ‘cone of 201002211419.jpg silence’. A great LCC will never share your secrets with others.

She may find ways to share stories of other families and other au pairs, to help give you some perspective on a situation, but she does this in a way that protects everyone’s privacy.

Those are my top 3 Qualities of a Great LCC.

What are yours?

Photo Credit: The mad hour returns, by Hleewell on Flckr
The Cone of Silence from The RawFeed


Darthastewart February 24, 2010 at 11:43 am

Another great quality of an LCC is being available to both au-pairs and to host families. I’ve seen a number of them over the years who were difficult to get in touch with. If I’m having a problem, I want a response TODAY, not 4 days from now. Waiting 4 days shows me that they have absolutely no clue- and they could care less.

PA au pair mom February 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm

This is my current problem. We haven’t spoken to our counselor since october. We receive group emails regarding upcoming activities but no personal communication.

We have been trying, as has our au pair, to talk to her regarding college courses. No response. Au pair has asked at the last 2 cluster meetings and she always says she will call or email but she never does.

Darthastewart February 24, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I would suggest going over her head and getting answers on those classes. We had to do that a while back, because the LCC was constantly out of town. The AP had questions about which classes qualified, and couldn’t get a straight answer.

franzi February 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

i absolutely agree! my first counselor was so difficult to get in touch with. and even the cluster meetings were scheduled with other clusters and there was only one LCC present OR it was a big outdoor event where we were “gone” and didn’t have time to just sit down and ask questions.
with that counselor, even my rematch was handled via the phone.

the second one was lightyears better!

CV February 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Tomorrow’s Post:
When your Local Community Counselor can’t remember your name

Anonymous February 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

that’s my post CV….can’t wait!!!

PA Au Pair Mom February 24, 2010 at 4:24 pm

sorry. using hubby’s computer. the above post was from me.

NoVA Host Mom February 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm

When we first started, our LCC was very involved and helped us through the horrible mess that was AP#1. However, I have heard from our AP that she is less than available to the APs (or at least that is their perception) and that is so believed that our AP asked me to call the LCC on her behalf so whatever question she had could be answered. Between that and the fact that I rarely hear from her any longer (and had trouble getting input in December when I had questions — I ended up running with the answers I had here on APMom), I think things might be falling through the cracks.

On the other hand, I also think that our cluster has grown far more than it was when she first became the LCC here years ago, and it is now far too big for a single LCC to manage. She has about 75 families/APs to manage. That is far too many and frankly our cluster is too far spread apart (the geography might not seem too much physically, but it can take 40 minutes+ to drive 15 miles around here). I definately think the national office is not paying attention and meeting our regional needs.

NoVA Host Mom February 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Sorry, not everything made the cut when I hit enter:

I think a great trait of a great LCC is determination. Sometimes it is necessary to go to bat with the national office or stay on either a HF or an AP to ensure things that need to be done are handled. An LCC can only be as good as the national office supporting him or her.

Calif Mom February 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

A great LCC will listen to your family’s story at from your first meeting in order to help you figure out what kind of questions to ask and how to position yourself in order to find an au pair who will be a good ‘fit’. She does not judge your lifestyle, but acknowledges the parts of it that are relevant to matching and keeping a happy au pair and a happy home.

A great LCC really enjoys the cultural exchange aspects of this, and is an optimist.

When those regions do get too big, they will split them. We had a fantastic LCC the first time, and then got a new one dumped on us. The first had those traits that CV outlined so thoughtfully above.

A lousy LCC offers all kinds of unsolicited advice on which countries to pick APs from, based on her own stereotypes and personal preferences.

A lousy LCC is the one you cringe at when you see her name in your inbox, because you don’t want to read her latest screed. She seems to not respect the au pairs (ie, REMINDING THEM THAT THEY HAVE TO MAKE THEIR OWN ARRANGEMENTS for transportation to the next cluster meeting, to be held during the day (!) at a donut shop (!), and NOT TO CALL THE LCC’s CELL PHONE IF THEY ARE LOST AND NEED DIRECTIONS.). Sorry for the shouting, but that’s what this person does. No wonder the girls can’t stand her.

A lousy LCC is stretched too thin, and may have a second job/business.

We’re going to switch agencies next time because I do feel strongly that a great LCC makes for happier au pairs, who feel like they have a strong network of support and someone who will advocate for them and have their back.

Anonymous February 25, 2010 at 9:52 am

We were told by our LCC to stay away from selecting an AP from Brazil because they were “partiers” and to stay away from APs from Turkey because they “just never adjust well”.

Anonymous March 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Just wondering… was this comment in response to a question like
” what is your personal experience with aupairs from these regions ? ” or ” which nationality would you encourage us to explore first ? ” Did you want to place with one a young lady from one of these countries and were discouraged by your LCC ?
Does the LCC have the ability to prevent you from placing with someone you like ? What were your experiences with these two countries ? Did you find someone you really like. I am fascinated by both cultures ? Have you had good experiences ?
I wasn’t sure if this post means that the LCC isn’t good at any aspect of her job … how is she otherwise ?

Sara Duke February 25, 2010 at 12:15 am

A great LCC goes to bat for both the AP and the HF so that both have the best chance of suceeding in their relationship. We took on an AP whose driving skills were less than advertised, much less. Because we had been with our agency for several years, our LCC went to bat for us and helped us get financial assistance with driving instruction, which made the crucial difference between our going into rematch and hanging on. The AP’s driving became acceptable.

My first LCC was a disaster. She sided with the HF more than the APs, and while that might sound good if your a HF, it’s not. She constantly criticized my AP, for no good reason that I could see, other than to undermine her confidence. At one cluster meeting, she asked my AP, “Does your HM know you dress like this?” My AP repeated the incident to me, and I was aghast. Not only did I know, I didn’t care (what I cared about was her excellent ability to care for my children). Let’s just say that the dress, while scanty, was completely appropriate for both the event and the weather.

Supportive, for me is an important quality. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I get what I want, but that my concerns are heard and some action is taken so that my AP has the best chance of success and so do we as the HF.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 25, 2010 at 1:56 am

3 Great Qualities of an LCC

1. Honesty
2. That she is available to both the host family and the AP
3. She is aware of her responsibilies in which the job she is being paid to do!

Our LCC that just quit was a nightmare, the AP’s had a hard time reaching her when needed and she NEVER called the host families once per month nor did she contact us via email monthly. She would demand that the girls attend all meetings in which she show up with a friend and then would leave after 15-20 min. If you spoke to her about a problem she would tell the AP everything that you said regardless if you ask her to approch the situation in a different manner. Plus the ongoing 4 times a year education that she was suppose to be doing never was completed. I have been in contact with the agency and complained about this LCC. In fact, after my transition from this last AP I switched agencies.

BEST ONE YET!!! She is was such a LIAR!!! this past weekend she had a meeting schedule for our area, (she was covering two cities with only having 6-8 AP all together in her group) so the meeting was announced last month for our area to meet at the local mall at a certain establishment. The LCC send a reminder to our AP of the meeting place and time last week. My AP leaves to attend the meeting and waits 45 min. no other au-pairs and no LCC. She calls me all upset since this was her first meeting and no LCC. I tried to phone her no answer. So my husband leaves a message that it is not acceptable and that he will contact the agency in the AM. Later that evening my AP speaks with the other au-pair from the neighboring city that was to attend the meeting! The AP tells my au-pair that she and another AP had the meeting at a Panera Bread in the LCC local city. Our LCC told the two AP that she met with that day, that my AP didn’t want to drive to that city so she didnt come to the meeting! The meeting was not schedule where she had it and she bold faced lied to get her paycheck to say that she had her monthly meeting. 1/2 hour after my husband left the message she sent a letter to HF and AP that she resigned! GO FIGURE…. We the HF didnt receive that email and in the resignation it had a statement : Au-pairs since we had our FEB meeting today , I probley won’t be seeing you again! Talk about a lousy LCC…

Mom23 February 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

The first time out, I went with a big agency. The LCC was a neighbor. The first au pair did not work because of driving issues and so went to rematch within a month. The au pair did not inititally find a new family so was going to stay with the LCC. I made the arrangements, but the au pair told me that she would get herself and her things over to the LCC’s house (only a few blocks away). The LCC called me and started screaming at me for not getting the au pair to her myself. I did apologize thinking that I had not followed protocol, but I found her totally unprofessional and she never apologized. The hard part now, is that I still run into the LCC at social functions.

We decided to switch agencies for many reasons, mostly over how agencies matched au pairs, but having an LCC that I felt I could work with was an important part of my choosing the second agency. I called the LCCs or equivalent and found one I really liked. The agency is small, but I feel that I get very good service both from headquarters and from the LCC.

Deb Schwarz February 25, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Thanks for this topic….as an LCC, it’s always good to know what areas to focus on. I think there are two other traits of a good LCC that I’d like to add to the ones cited – things which I strive for:

– Above all, a commitment to facilitating a great year for both the HF and AP. From welcoming APs (making sure that they make friends quickly), to scouting out doctor’s that take the insurance plan, to planning fun meetings, to being able and willing to fight the hard fight (e.g. recommending that a host family or ap go home or be taken off the program), being able to mediate, facilitate communication and normalize situations that come up during the course of the year, and setting expectations up front – and having a eye for the “details” e.g. up to date au pair lists, meeting schedules, website updates, educational opportunities.

– Having a passion for the au pair program – and all that it entails (the positives and negatives). I always say that this is my “feel good” job because I have had a hand in improving peoples lives: from the host family that calls me to tell me that their marriage has been improved with regular date nights, to host family children attending their former au pair’s wedding halfway around the world, and au pairs who blossom and mature in front of my eyes. You have to love these “little things” to get you through the difficult aspects of the job.

Deb in CA

Karin Six February 26, 2010 at 2:51 am

Bravo Deb! I just have to second your comments as I also have a great passion for this program! I also apologize to all of the host families where their LCCs have let them down. Please speak to their Program Directors next time! All companies need to weed out their bad seeds! (Some agencies may not know unless you tell them.) Cultural Care has a survey every six months where you rate your LCC! Thus, your input is very valuable to CC and your LCC! (CC host families, please fill out these surveys!)

Anonymous February 26, 2010 at 9:56 am

We’ve had huge problems with our LCC, and in fact, once we finish this year with our current AP we are switching agencies to get away from her. But the suggestion of contacting the Program Director definitely didn’t work for us.

We contacted our agency who typed up a report with our complaints, complete with direct quotes from me, and emailed it to our LCC. The LCC called me up and said (not making this up) “If you’ve got a problem with me, you need to say it to my face”. The agency then had our Area Coordinator contact me, who wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say and kept going on and on about what a great LCC we have.

Fast forward about 6 months, problems were getting worse. I again contacted the national office for our agency and specified that they not call up our LCC and tell her I had called – once again they completed a report, and I got a nasty phone call from our LCC once again – on a Sunday evening late at home.

To add insult to injury, even though we absolutely know for a fact (because they were our friends an neighbors) that there have been many families that have contacted the agency about her, and two families that left our agency completely because of her, the agency kept saying to me “Oh, we’re so surprised, no one has ever had any problems with her before.”

So while one might hope that the companies would be concerned that this was happening, in our case, they absolutely did not care a bit – and we are currently interviewing APs from two other agencies for our next AP – there is no way we would stay with this agency because of our LCC and because of the agency’s reaction to our concerns.

Darthastewart February 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

I think I would go to her Boss’ Boss, and keep climbing the ladder. Apparently who you’ve got now doesn’t appreciate customer service- neither does the LCC. I would also tell the LCC point blank on the phone that if she calls you late on a Sunday, you will treat that call as harrassment, and deal with it as such.
IMO, that is NOT acceptable, under any circumstances.
I had some bad LCC’s with CC, and frankly the person above them wasn’t any better- sorry guys. My LCC took 3 days to respond to a call when we wanted to break a match- it just wasn’t “convenient” for her. Then it took another 4 days before we saw the first application for a replacement. I realize that each agency has great people, and some not so great people, and I think we just need to complain to be heard, or walk with our feet and find someone better.

LLC March 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm

All of you need to remember that we are *Volunteers* this is not a full time job although it feels like it trying to make all of you happy. Sometimes meetings do need to be switched and the girls are adults why can’t they check their email before heading out? Also remember that when you call us that counts as the monthly phone call.

Dorsi March 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

What exactly do you mean by “volunteer”? With my agency the LCC gets paid to do her job.

New HM March 1, 2010 at 4:37 pm

I had not weighed in on this previously and maybe I’m showing my ignorance, but LCC’s are not paid?? We are only one week into the program, but I assumed that the LCC (who is wonderful, by the way) was an employee of the agency- is that incorrect?

Lee March 1, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Most LCC’s are independent contractors that are paid a monthly stipend per host family.

Darthastewart March 1, 2010 at 10:53 pm

EurAuPair has volunteers for their LCC’s. I don’t fully understand that. I do know that APC and CC both pay their LCC’s.

Anonymous March 2, 2010 at 12:09 am

Oh, really? So if we’re having a problem and make several calls in one week, or maybe ten in one month, that’s a valid excuse for not calling us for more than a year? We are long-standing customers who do everything (and more) in our contract, and expect basic courtesy and rule-following on the part of our LCC. And we expect her to be available when the APs need her to answer questions, although frankly, after four years in the program, I feel like I know more than her at this point. Ours is paid to do her job, and her cluster is now down to less than half of what it was when we started, so she is not busier (and I don’t believe she’s actively recruiting new families, either).

Anonymous March 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

God, she sounds awful. What I have found is that if I cannot reach an LCC, I call corporate and ask them to have her call me back. The folks at corporate are always there. I do think, though, that they think I am cantankerous because I don’t like to wait.

Anonymous March 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

I appreciate all of the hard work done by LCCs including but not limited to being ignored and sabotaged when they try to do their job.
I believe the word Volunteer ( which some agencies use ) refers to the fact that the LCCs receive a minimal stipend in return for their efforts: perhaps so little that it doesn’t qualify as income. My experience is that although there are minimal LCCs , there are also many fine people who get a rush out of the good experiences and believe in the goal of cultural exchange.
I do not exspect an LCC to hold OPEN HOUSE 24/7 for aupairs who do not attend meetings and I do not exspect an LCC to pick aupairs up at their door and drive them to and from meetings. Neither do I exspect an LCC to spend an entire meeting taking cell phone calls at the expense of interacting with the aupairs who are at the meeting.
It is never an easy job to serve as the middleman. If LCCs were better paid, most likely the agencies would pass the costs on to families. That is not something most of us would want to see.
Perhaps this rage is better directed at the agencies or the State Department which makes the rules.

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