Advice for this au pair? Lost form, lost faith, and altogether lost…

by cv harquail on August 18, 2009

It’s the kind of situation that gives host families a bad reputation…I got an email tonight from an au pair trying to help out another au pair…. can you offer her your advice?

Dear Au Pair Mom Helper,

My friend has a problem and I am trying to help her out as much as I can. I do not know who should I ask for advice and how can I help her. I thought I will try on Au Pair Mom website. My friend (whom I haven’t met in person, just thru the au pair forum) told me about her situation.

She has been in the US since the beginning of the summer (maybe 6 or 7 weeks).

Lost I-94 form

Stop all the clocks.... Photo 3 of 3 "SOOC" edition on Flickr - Photo Sharing!_1240241782069.jpegWhen my friend arrived at her host family’s, she discovered that she had lost her I-94. (This is the form that says she’s entered the US legally. Many states require it for a drivers’ license.) I explained to her that she needed to fill out a form from the USCIS website, include a fee, etc. Her host dad helped her with the paperwork. The family paid the $320 fee for USCIS I-102 form for replacement I-94. Everything seemed just fine.

Now, things are falling apart.

Family ignores the rules re: scheduling

Unfortunately, her family doesn’t know how the program works and what are the family responsibilities. This au pair works every day, weekends too. This week she tried to make a schedule, because working everyday is not an au pair job. Host mom was quite surprised and admitted that she didn’t know an au pair needed a schedule…

The au pair was informed about a schedule, they didn’t work it together out. She was suppose to have a one Sunday off (yay!), but today host mom decided that the plans have changed and since Sunday is the first day of the NEXT week, the au pair will have to work Sunday anyway.

Now, the family just wants to get rid of her.

Finally the family told her today that they don’t want her service anymore. They explain that because she doesn’t have her I-94, she can’t get SSN and can’t have Driver’s License yet. The family needs her to drive the child to school starting September.

On to a rematch, but…

She is suppose to work for them WITHOUT A BREAK untill August is over, then move to LCC out and rematch.

Forced to work to reimburse the fee

The family paid the $320 fee for USCIS I-102 form for replacement I-94. The au pair is suppose to pay them back by working constantly for two weeks straight until she moves out. Is this fair?

Is this family OK by kicking her out, because she lost her I-94? They told her “she costs them money and they don’t need her anymore”. But it’s not like she is not working! She works everyday, flexible hours, Saturdays, Sundays, whenever host mom says “I’m tired, take care of the kid”. Is this how the program should work? ARE THEY A GOOD FAMILY?

I really want to help her out. Calling to LCC won’t do much, because family informed LCC about THEIR plans, but no one asked the au pair how the situation looks like and what she thinks about it.

[[ Note: ApFriend, this is not fair. Although officially they are not allowed to dock her pay, many would find it reasonable to make her pay the fee back through work… but she could ‘pay them back’ by working two 45 hr weeks, each with a 1.5 day vacation. Being asked to work 14 days in total is unfair.]]

Temporary visitor drivers license

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{ 24 comments }

PA Mom August 19, 2009 at 9:33 am

Sad but not that unusual unfortunately. Last night a friend of our AP (also an AP with the same agency) left her HM’s house – where her HM threatened her, tried to steal the cell phone the AP had bought, the AP’s car (it’s her second year and she’d expected to stay longer with that women :( ) and her laptop – all to retaliate at an AP she can’t manipulate as well as she had to date. The “grandfather” even followed my AP (who had dropped off some things at the house as a favor) when the AP in the situation fled a particularly upsetting attack (in front of the LCC). Clearly the HM is a menace and should n’t be allowed another AP with this agency or any other – but is there a HM or HF blacklist. Crazy people so this AP who is in a bad situation – should go to the top of her agency. There is usually a program director or other person one level up from her LCC or the like. If that doesn’t work – a call further up for help should be made. Losing a form shouldn’t be a basis for an exile – but treating your AP like an indentured servant should be. Sorry but this week I’ve had to witness 2 independent families acting horribly and I’m a bit sick over it. I know there are bad APs out there – but what about the bad HFs.

They shouldn’t dock her pay and in fact for the number of days and hours she’s worked they owe her a few weeks in advance. They told her they DID N”T know – what planet and what a lie. Every agency makes it VERY clear about hour limits, days off, etc. So basically what they are saying is – gee we thought you’d let us walk all over you and since we can’t – we want to try and find another AP who will. Or maybe I’ll just venting but really – the behavior is just wrong. WOuld you want to see your teenage or young adult daughter treated this way in another country if she were there – I doubt it. As for the driving – in many states and with many insurance companies the AP does n’t need her local license to drive. So while it may be somewhat truthful, there are usually alternatives.

PA Mom August 19, 2009 at 9:41 am

I forgot – you wanted to help this AP, perhaps a phone call from you as a concerned HP and A CUSTOMER OF THEIRS would help get her placed into another home. The best thing for her is probably to transition out of that house as they seem unlikely to reform. And it’s much easier to rematch in the beginning of the year. From what the APs tell me, some agencies won’t really try much to rematch a girl if she’s in the last 4 months and that’s usually when the breaking point in a bad match occurs – after the 5 to 6 month mark.

I’ve called the main office of my agency before to let someone know an AP is in trouble and deserves a little help. Often the LCC is really over worked (and clearly underpaid) and doesn’t have the tools to do much for the AP other than process her into the folks who do rematches and hope for the best. As another Host Parent – offering her a shoulder and perhaps a fold out sofa while she rematches (if the LCC does not) can mean a lot. If nothing else it lets the APs in the group know that not all American families are nutters.

This Friend of AP August 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I am this friend of an AP, who is concerned and trying to help.
I spoke with her last night and she is just scared of helping herself out. She is shy to call an office and tell the story (shy because of her English). She wasn’t even sure if asking for a schedule (after a few weeks working every day flexible hours) is OK and she was affraid to be punished for that. She thinks that the HF is treating her like that because of asking for a schedule… This girl just seems lost, she has a low self-esteem. She even asked me “Is it OK to leave the house on Sunday, since it’s my day off”? Yes, it’s OK!
The schedule is just a disaster, starting 8AM to 6PM usually, Friday 11AM to 6PM, Sat 5PM to 10PM, Sunday 6AM to 10AM. This is just this week. She can’t go to school, because she works every day and flexible hours! She can’t leave the house, because she can’t drive! She is told that the schedule with vary from week to week depending on HM needs. On Sunday she has to work, because… they will have a party the night before and they’ll be too tired to take care of their OWN children. So she has to get up and be ready to work at 6AM.
Is it just me, or is it really unfair?
I know – we would have to hear the HF story, too, to know for sure what is the problem there. I know the situation like that has two sides. But hey – even an au pair deserves some time off!
Now she is scared how much she would have to pay to LCC for boarding at her house and that she won’t find a new family to stay with. She doesn’t have enough money to pay for the plane ticket to get back home. Funny part – LCC and HM are friends…
I gave her phone numbers to call the agency, she has to help herself. I told her to show the HM the rules, responsibilities, rights and a contract she got from the agency. And to write down how many hours she worked every day as a proof that she has been used. She still has emails from HM before the match about getting two days off every week.
Starting September HM was suppose to work 7AM to 7PM, which is 12h. How many hours would have the AP works? The same.

PA Mom –> Thank you for your response. You mean I should call her HP and pretend I am a concerned HP who is trying to help?

A August 19, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Friend of AP, the au pair needs to (1) call and email her LCC, *and* (2) call and email the agency directly. She needs to do this herself, because those people aren’t going to take your word for it if you haven’t seen any of these things happen in person. The langauge barrier problem is no excuse because au pair agencies deal with people with limited English all the time–it’s their job. And I know your friend can email them if she can email you.
This may sound harsh, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t try to help herself. The host family is horribly taking advantage of her, but I don’t get the sense that the au pair is in any danger–so she really needs to do what she can to help herself. The host parents are violating the rules and federal regulations, and the advantage of going through an agency is that there are people to help APs in this situation.

Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm

The problem with this situation is that no one reading this blog , including me, has any idea of what is going on. I am not questioning the account of the aupair in trouble but we have not even heard from her directly.
The young lady in who is in this situation should call her
LCC immediately. Her friend can call the LCC but at some point, the aupair who is in trouble is going to have to speak directly to her own LCC.
She can also call her national headquarters and tell them that she is too scared to go to the counselor. She can write a letter to the corporate office and say that she needs help. She could also call her embassy.
I am not quite sure why this family helped the aupair with her form. Why didn’t the agency do that ? I seems to me that if the
State Dept issued another form , the agency would have been advised of it. If you lose your passport, it is covered by insurance. Would this form have been covered. Surely there is some contingency for such things happening.
No, I do not think any host parent should call another host family and start questioning them. I do think it is fine to call the LCC , even if she is with another agency and tell her everything you have heard. Keep in mind , though, that the LCC may not be able to tell you everything that she or her agency is doing to resolve the problem. We all want our own counselors to be discreet.

NewAP Mom August 19, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that there are bad host families and bad au pairs. It’s really a shame when a good HF or AP gets a bad match, which sounds like the case in this situation.

The US federal rules are clear. Au pairs:

(2) Do not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day, or more than 45 hours of child care in any one week. EduCare participants may not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day or more than 30 hours of child care in any one week;

(3) Receive a minimum of one and one half days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month;

(Source: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=c329fb110ea15b0bf4b16f4d88cb4d16&rgn=div5&view=text&node=22:1.0.1.7.37&idno=22#22:1.0.1.7.37.2.1.12)

Beyond that, the reality is that HF do have the right to give AP an unpredictable schedule, as long as they leave some time for the AP to attend a class. That’s one of the reasons my family has an au pair vs a nanny. We do try to maintain a basically consistent schedule, but sometimes we just can’t, for various reasons. (That said, we always post the schedule a week in advance so the AP can plan, and her time off is hers to do whatever she wants.)

My advice to this au pair would be to keep track of any hours she’s working outside of the guidelines: more than 45 hours a week, 10 hours a day, or 5 1/2 days per week. Figure out what the going rate is for a babysitter. $10 an hour might be a good start, depending on where you’re located. And then figure out what it’s going to take to work off the $320 she owes them. Sit down with them and give them the guidelines, and give them her plan.

That said, in this particular situation, she might do best to just get through the remaining days and concentrate on finding a better host family next time. We’re not all like that, I promise!

Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I have heard stories of host parents threatening aupairs with deportation and being dropped from the program just because the AP complained about unfair conditions. Very few people seem to want their aupair to do well in rematch. They must feel that it is a poor reflection on them.
These ” discussions ” with LCC, family and aupair can be very intimidating to any aupair. Granted their are aupairs with a lot of presence of mind.
I have found, however, that families can be very critical of each other. Assuming that you have a responsible and competant LCC , she is the only one who has access to the whole picture.
I wonder where that blacklist is located ? I have heard of families who go from agency to agency. One agency insists that they tow the line and they are off on their merry way.

Darthastewart August 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

This is a clear abuse of the au-pair. I’ve heard this kind of story over and over again. I’d suggest that she should go over the LCC’s head. She needs to talk to the agency and let them know what is going on. She needs to document the hours she’s been asked to work.

If this is the Agency I think it is from the fact that you refer to an LCC, your friend needs to be very aware that they make only minimal efforts to rematch au-pairs. If your friend has additional time to find a job (like a place to stay that is NOT the LCC’s house), then she may stand a better chance of finding a HF. Is she able to stay with you after she leaves the HF?

Also, remember that there are two sides to this story. I agree that she has every right to time off. … However it is not unreasonable to ask the AP to watch the kids when HF isn’t working. … But that’s another discussion for another time.

This Friend of AP August 19, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I think I should tell a little about myself, too. I am not a HP, neither an AP. I used to work as an AP years ago, now I live on my own legally, got married. Since I finished the program, I help APs by giving advice, helping with paperwork. I feel like it’s my duty, since I know how it feels and sometimes is not as great as the agency told us. I’ve been there before.
About USCIS – I don’t know if the agency was informed about loosing this I-94. I don’t think it would be covered by an insurance – USCIS is very strict about fees and it’s basically AP’s fault. She lost it, so she needs to pay for it, very simple. Her HF helped her out with filling the form out, sending it, etc. They got a NOA from USCIS, but the AP haven’t seen it at all, HF is keeping it in their files. NOA has a tracking number and you can check your application online.
The family is looking for a new AP (or will be soon).
Both parents work – he works during the day, she works at night and comes home early morning. Also, they have a teenage girl at home, who is getting prepared to go to college this year. So why do they need an AP?
She could stay at my place, I live 30 miles away from her. But I haven’t met her in person and my husband is affraid to let a stranger to live at our apartment. And he is the only one who works, I am looking for a job and so far no luck.
I’ll try to convince the girl to tell us more details and write some on this website. She promised me to call the agency tonight. We’ll see.
Thank you for help! I know Host Families can be wonderful. I worked for two great families myself as an AP, we never had problems (of course, there are some bad days, but we could work it out), I miss the kids till this very day.
I know the big problem with solving the problems is the language barrier. An AP can’t find the words, can’t speak up and stand for herself. When I was an AP many times I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to go through trying to make a sentence and feel humiliated, because I couldn’y say what I wanted and I felt misunderstood.
That’s why I want to show her, that she doesn’t have to deal with it. She can be happy! I want to give her courage to help herself out.

anon August 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Our AP lost her I-94 form and the agency got her a duplicate. I don’t think she paid anything. This story sounds fishy…she hasn’t asked you for money or anything has she? I’d be cautious about inviting her into my house to stay…

Dorsi August 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I think part of this story sounds fishy, too. However, I did check with USCIS website and the replacement fee for a lost I-94 is $320.

First of all, it is perfectly reasonable for the AP to expect to work 45 hours a week, and not more. I want to address the indignation at having the AP work at 6am on Sunday :

—On Sunday she has to work, because… they will have a party the night before and they’ll be too tired to take care of their OWN children.

There is nothing wrong with that!! The AP deserves her scheduled time off (1.5 days/week) but if the family wants to schedule her for early Sunday morning (for ANY reason!) that is well within their rights.

Love, Dorsi
(who is often too tired to take care of her OWN child!)

This Friend of AP August 19, 2009 at 4:19 pm

I’ve counted how many hours she’ve worked so far:
since Monday till Saturday will be exactly 45 hours (if this schedule won’t change). So why she has to work Sunday? Where is this 1,5 days off in a week?
I know an AP is just an employee and it’s AP’s responsibility to be ready to help 24/7. In the same time HF should respect AP’s schedule and let the girl take a break.
She is not suppose to work on Sunday, this is what I think. If this happened to me, I would cry for the rest of the day feeling unfairly treated, but I would work. Because that’s the AP’s job, isn’t it?
At the same time – do we work 7 days a week? No, we would not let anyone to walk all over us.
I’m sorry, I didn’t want to sound offensive, when I wrote “too tired to take care of her own child”. But I think a mother should take care of her own baby once in a while, at least during the weekend. What gives a parent more joy than hanging out with own child and watch him grow?

anon August 19, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Do we work 7 days a week? Absolutely! I love how childcare is considered work for the au pair…but not for the parent! While this sounds like a bad situation for the AP (if it is real), I think some of the indignation is a little misplaced.

PA au pair mom August 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I can not believe that families would actually do that. All the HF I know respect the rules and the AP’s…even when the AP’s are not the best of the bunch. I get upset with our AP but I would never threaten her, take advantage of her, or take away her privileges. that’s just wrong.

I would say she needs to contact her LCC and if that doesn’t work, contact the agency directly.

Theresa August 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Anon,
I know this is a little off topic here, sorry. But it is different for us as au pairs to take care of your kids than it is for you. We have to do what you think is best for the kids, we have to follow your rules regarding the kids, even if we don’t always agree with them, and the kids also have a different relationship with au pairs than with kids. You can just say, I will go and lie down for 30 minutes, we cannot do that, we always have to be there, present for the kids and play with them. I LOVED being an au pair, don’t get me wrong, and I do know that it is work for you as parents, too, but this is still not an excuse for making your au pair work 7 days a week.

Calif Mom August 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm

No one here is saying the AP should work 7 days a week. That’s illegal, immoral, and abusive.

And I do believe there are exploitive host families out there. And that’s why the counselors have regular check ins with the APs, too.

AP in this situation needs to call her counselor and the agency and “yelp for help” as I tell my kids. Some families DO get kicked out of the program.

My AP often says that the most important thing to get right about being an AP is the relationship with the parents, not the kids.

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 11:25 am

I think it is very nice that this young lady wants to help her friend and I get the impression that the friend does know a bit about procedures.
The problem here is that an independent ” friend ” does not know the family and does not have access to the family’s side of the story. An independent friend has no acess to the agency either.
If she calls the agency, they will most likely look into it by calling the counselor or her supervisor. The agency ( and the counselor ) can not reasonable look act on what is essentially gossip and perhaps very dangerous gossip.
My aupairs have asked me to make calls on behalf of friends of theirs from time to time and as much as I want to do so, I do not get involved. I tell my aupairs to tell their friends to call the
LCCs.
Sometimes boyfriends get involved and no one can say that they are objective even if they are very well intentioned. Sometimes I’ve heard of neighbors interfering and sometimes the neighbors are right and sometimes they are not. I once had a foreign exchange student who called his mother in Europe and said that he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor. In fact, he was sleeping in a beautiful captain’s bed in a beautiful room. When the agency asked me about this, I invited them to come and see ( which they did not ) and they assured me that I should not take this persoanlly. They said they were delighted to have us as a host family. I said that I was no longer interested in having this young man as a guest and that the agency could find another family for him . His father called to apologize and I told him that he could call the Hotel Pierre and see if they had something good enough for their son. The agency found another family. That was a long time ago and I was very sensitive then. I am older and wiser now. This young man had a girlfriend in another town and he was angling to move closer to her. His parents were quite well to do and the agency was able to accomodate them.
One thing I have not heard about much ( and I am not an expert ) is lost paperwork. So I am wondering why this friend has so many requests for help from aupairs. This is the responsibility of the agency. It would be better , I think, to call a local congressman than to do this sort of thing off the books.

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I think a lot of aupairs think that the host mom and the LCC are friends. But from what I’ve read on this blog, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. I can see why it is natural for the aupairs to think that, though, after all, we are all here.
Does anyone out there know of a situation where the LCC and the host mother are personal friends. I , myself, would not want to have an LCC who was a friend of mine. I think it would be awful if there was a problem. I would like to have a good working relationship with someone I trusted. And, if a friend recruited me to an agency, I would ask if I could have a different counselor.

Darthastewart August 20, 2009 at 7:19 pm

My current AD is a personal friend of mine. – I knew her before she was the AD here (she was an AD in another area). I haven’t found it to be an issue one way or the other. I’m pretty sure she would stomp my toes pretty hard if I ever got out of line.

This Friend of AP August 21, 2009 at 7:27 pm

All right, so this is the end of the story:
the girl and the family are officialy rematching; their profiles are back in the system since yesterday.
LCC said that the schedule seems fine, because she gets one weekend off in a month. Question about 1,5 day per week left unanswered.
The girl doesn’t want to fight. She just want to finish what she’ve started, rematch and have only good memories. She doesn’t like to argue, she is a sensitive person – this is what she’ve told me and I understand completely, although I am heartbroken and upset. I can’t help somebody who doesn’t want to be helped.
Thank you for responses. You all have been very helpful. Even though s. like that happens, I believe there are good families out there – I had two great HF myself.
Have a nice weekend, ya’ll!

Calif Mom August 22, 2009 at 10:04 am

This Friend — You are a good friend indeed! And thank you for letting us know what happened. I’m glad she is now searching for a family who will treat her fairly.

My 2 cents August 31, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Katarina, check out the “groceries: how much can AP ask you to spend” thread that came up last month. There was an AP on there with big issues about what the host mom was cooking and a bunch of people responded with suggestions.

IMHO, if your host family is reasonable they will want to make concessions to keep you happy and healthy. Of course, both sides need to be willing to work together and give a little each way for this to work, perhaps with them conceding to offering more meat proteins in more meals, but you expecting less in the quantity department at those meals.

But if you are at all thinking of leaving your job or this family, or thinking you are really physically hurting due to this, then you must do the uncomfortable and talk about it with your host family in a direct, but constructive, manner.

Franzi August 31, 2009 at 4:05 pm

just my 2ct

have you openly told them that there are spices you don’t like?try asking the family to put a serving aside for you without the spices added you don’t like.
ask them if they would mind if you would buy your own meat (that only you eat eg on a sandwich for lunch). i say this because i do not see why meat in this case is any different from other people’s cravings for chocolate, or veggies, or coke, or candy, or milk/jogurt, or anything else the AP might be used to but the HF doesn’t buy.

you might be too stuck on thinking that only meat will give you the power. like said before, beans or soy might seal the deal as well.

please, i don’t mean to be rude. i understand your craving (i need carbs) and the fact that all you can think about is meat. but couldn’t this just be an adjustment to different eating habits?

i think that in the end it will boil down to either you buying your craved food (again, i don’t see much of a difference in buying meat than in buying coke or coffee to function), your family adjusting their shopping/eating habits or you going into rematch.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I’m actually not a big meat eater at all, I don’t eat vast quantities. It’s just that this host family eats almost none, and it’s making me hungry all the time, pasta and bread just digest so quickly and i really don’t think it’s healthy to have an almot vegetarian diet, I don’t see how it’s any way comparable with having a craving for junk food. It’s not just that they’re adding spices to the food, it’s that the food they make is sometimes a total concoction of all kinds of mashed up random ingredients, it’s just not real food. The food portions we do get are also very small, everyone even the parents gets young child’s portions. So even when it’s something edible, I’m still left hungry. when it’s something i can’t bring myself to eat the mother notices but she never says anything, like asking me why i’m not eating it. well, i think that at lunchtimes i will eat some of the frozen fish that’s in the freezer. I’m not meant to but if my HM asks about it, i’ll explain again that i can’t function on only pasta bread and weird mixtures. I’ll ask them on shopping day to get a bit of extra meat for me. If they won’t I don’t think I can spend a year like this. I’m always hungry and their solution is just to eat porridge before bed.

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