Advice Wanted: Damage Control for Possible Escape Artist

by cv harquail on December 10, 2009

Au Pair Host Mom “Not Smiling in Seattle” writes:

I am hoping you readers have some honest input for us.
200912101943.jpg My Au Pair last night announced her mother was ill and needs an operation.

My first impression was “oh my gosh, is your mom ok?” When I asked for more information, our au pair could not give me any type of illness or surgery that her mom requires. Our au pair says she needs to go home to take care of her siblings while her Mom recovers. Our LCC called me and said she thinks the situation sounds fishy.

What I am struggling with is — something isn’t right with this situation. And, regardless, I have to figure out what to do.

This is our 2nd Au Pair. Our au pair has been with us 5.5 months. She is 19 and from Australia, has lots of friends here in town (we live in a big city). She is not lacking friends what-so-ever. We liked her, thought she liked us, there was no warning that anything might be wrong.

We have had no issues with her other than last month she exceeded her cell phone minutes by over 2,000. She says she will pay us back. (I am not holding my breath).

I pride myself on being laid back and have been if anything too lax in managing her since I work full-time as well as my spouse. We both work in the home and I do travel for work.

Other than watching twin 3.5 year olds I am at a loss what the issue can be. I know it is cold here and summer in her country but to pull the plug on us right before the holidays and to do this to my kids is inexcusable. They are going to be crushed. This is what makes me the most upset.

I realize that the handwriting is on the wall. I am so furious right now I could scream. Since her mother’s illness/surgery has been announced she has been in a good mood, etc., not worried. She doesn’t even has a firm exit date back to her country. I can’t believe the timing! In addition to the holidays, this is the busy season at work for both me and my spouse.

Half of me wants to pull the plug on this Au Pair situation all the way around-I don’t want someone taking care of my kids that is not into 110%. Last night, before her announcement, I was a huge fan of the program. Now, after I spent all last night and today worrying and on the phone with my agency to do damage control… I can’t stand the fact that I am at the mercy of a teenager.

Any guidance you have would be fabulous. hanks and happy holidays!

Not Smiling in Seattle.

200912101948.jpgDear Seattle–

No wonder you’re not smiling. It is *never* easy to figure out how to manage the end game. Whether you’re going into rematch or even leaving the program, you have to figure out:
(1) what is best for your family,
(2) what is fair for your departing au pair, and
(3) how to manage your (justifiable) anger frustration.

Nothing adds insult to injury than watching your departing au pair blithely (words deleted) you over, with no visible remorse, while you scramble to fix the problem she created. So,

Clarify what you want. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want to go into rematch and get another au pair, or if you want to hold out for an out-of-country candidate, or if you want to leave the program. [If you decide to leave the program, ask your agency for a pro-rated refund of your annual fee.]

Make the dates work for you. Assuming you want to go into rematch, set it up so that it works for you. Probably at this time of year things are more complicated– who wants to take on a new au pair (or host family) the week of Christmas or Chanukah? And, I bet your au pair wants to be home in time for the holidays…. it would be convenient for her, but maybe not for you. Still, try to set a departure date for her that works for *you*.

Make sure you get the right rematch. There may be a great rematch candidate out there for you, so start scouring the countryside. Your LCC and your agency should be actively helping you. Take the time you need and don’t take a candidate just because you feel desperate.

Recognize it’s over, but don’t make it easy on her. Try to set a departure date for her that works for *you*. You may be irked at her and feel angry, and you may worry about her commitment, but she’s already packed her bags. Since she is already leaving, it does you no good to make things work out well for her at your expense. You don’t need to do her any favors.  Don’t lower your expectations of her.

Especially, don’t go out of your way to give her time off for holiday shopping, or extra holiday money, or anything else. Stay the course until you have a plan, and then permit her to set a departure day.

Don’t lower your standards. Put your kids’ needs and your family needs first. Don’t assume that because you and your husband work at home a lot, that you can balance childcare and work by trading off. It’s not that much of an emergency, and your departing au pair knows this.

Obviously her mom’s not dying. Heck, her mom might not even be ill. It does seem a little fishy, doesn’t it… So there is no need to rush your departing au pair out the door UNTIL you have a backup plan that you are HAPPY WITH in place.

Recognize that, in this situation, Truth is irrelevant to Reality. Some of us might be tempted to call the mom in Australia, to see if this is for real or if it is a ruse…. but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Sure, if the mom were really ill and really needed help, you’d feel inconvenienced but not angry. It might help to know that the mom really did need her daughter… but… What you’ve got here is a conceptual question– is your au pair selfish, immature and irresponsible or is she really needed by her mom? However, the answer to that question only changes how you feel about her departure, not whether or not she’s leaving. She’s leaving.

Act like your best self. Do not let this mess with your life. It will pass. I think your best ‘posture’ is to act like — mom isn’t dying, daughter needs to go home, it’s not urgent so you all can make it work out for the kids, the kids’ care and safety is most important, and you are not angry.

Finally, don’t get stuck holding the bills. Make sure you set all financial and other accounts straight before she goes. Take that phone bill, take this current phone bill, check on any other outstanding expenses she might have, and tell her that you’d like to subtract these expenses from THIS WEEK’S pocket money, as well as next week’s. Don’t get extra-screwed– it’s alreeady bad enough!

Okay, those are my thoughts– Host Parents ( and *supportive* au pairs) weigh in, below.

Escape from DonnrMB o n FLickr
Quick Escape by dsb nola on Flickr


Darthastewart December 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm

We’ve had this happen twice in 11 years- and you’re right- in neither case was mom actually sick or whatever the family situation was. So, don’t feel guilty here. I’ve learned to smile and grit my teeth.
Do contact your LCC or AD or whatever your agency calls them, and have them put you on the emergency or crisis family list. If you can afford it, go after this in multiple dimensions:
1. Look at potential candidates both in and out of country for your agency. And ask about a temporary au-pair.
2. Look at multiple agencies at once. Other agencies also have candidates in the pool, and may be eager to please.
3. Look at local nanny candidates and weigh other local childcare options.

As for the au-pair, I would remove the cell phone from her now, and set my house phone so that long distance calls cannot be made from it (unless they’re free already), so she will be forced to use a calling card. You do NOT want to get stuck with a massive phone bill at the end.
Remove any credit cards, or blockbuster cards from her posession as well.
I would restrict all car usage to business use only… And that only with caution, as she’s likely to drive a LOT getting ready to leave.
Do NOT under any circumstances offer to pay for her plane ticket home.

I would also remind her that in leaving early, she is violating the contract she has with the au-pair agency. This may mean that she could experience difficulty in getting visas in the future. (My current au-pair tells me this, and in this day of computerized records and such, I can easily believe it)

Bruna December 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Darthastewart, there’s no violation of the contract if you justify why you’re leaving. I had a family member terminally ill when I decided to leave the US. I let my family know that I was leaving as soon as I decided to leave and I gave them two months to make arrangements. They flew the previous au pair (with a tourist visa, I might add) from her home country to spend sometime with them until they had time to look through other candidates – they decided not to do it while I was there. I just paid for my flight home and that was it. I stayed 6 months with them. No one took my phone or car during those 2 months they knew I was leaving.
Anyways, I left early and it wasn’t difficult for me to get another visa. I have a tourist visa now. The only thing that counts when you’re getting another visa is your financial condition. The consulate gets that I have no intentions whatsoever to go to the US to work illegally because my life is so much better in my country (they ask for pay check certificates or whatever you call that, work contracts and they want to know all about your possessions).
It does not help to try to scare the girl. If she’s lying to you about her mom being sick, that’s giving you a reason to be happy actually, she’s going home and you are free from someone that could do God knows what to your kids and not even tell you. It sucks that you need her during the Holidays and all, but it’s for the best. Just learn from it, I am sure you’ll scan your candidates better next time.

PA au pair mom December 10, 2009 at 10:32 pm

I don’t have much advice but I must say that this is something I always worry will happen to our family.

Best wishes.

maleaupairmommy December 11, 2009 at 6:22 am

First try to calm yourself down. Been there done that. Trust me transition is not easy. My husband and I have no family support to help in emergencies and we work odd hours. Luckily Ihave made connections through the years that I can count on short term help that works. I have to do double daycare at times, beg, and even cry a little. Okay a lot but hey gotta relieve the stress somehow. Believe it or not there are au pairs in the same situation you are but opposite side. They are not in good family and are in transition also. Just try to think of the postive you get to start the new year with a fresh au pair ready to take the challenge on. Yeah after the big cell phone bill I would take her cell phone away right after that. BTW did you try calling the company and explain the situation and cultural difference might make a difference. Yeah she might feel if you are taking these things away she really never was part of the family but chalk it up to being young and naive. We both know that is not the case you gotta do what you gotta do. Hope you find what you are looking for and get a great au pair or perfect child care. It’s stressful and all your au pair moms will be thinkng of you and sending good thoughts your way.

Jeana December 11, 2009 at 7:44 am

I would take back the cell phone, make sure long distance calls are blocked so she’ll need to use an international calling card, and restrict use of the car for work, only. Our aupairs have paid money toward the program, and would lose that money if they don’t complete their time with us, according to our aupairs. Start looking at rematch candidates. There is a good match for almost any family, and I think that we can consider aupairs that are already in country. As an example, our current aupair, who is an absolute gem, will be going into rematch soon, as my children are both in school full-time, and another form of childcare will now work for our family. I’m in the process of completing the paperwork for our aupair, and am writing a letter of recommendation, as our year will end in a few months. Rematch doesn’t automatically mean an aupair with an experience that wasn’t successful. Stay focused on the needs of your family, and make all decisions from that position. I’ve been through two situations when aupairs were removed from the program, and I totally understand what you’re facing. I had immense support from AuPair in America both times, and have judged my experience with them based on three fantastic experiences, and two tough experiences that they moved in to handle, immediately. My LCC was in constant contact with me through e-mail and phone during both problem times, and helped in every way possible. You can have a successful match, and host an aupair for which you’ll thank your lucky stars! Yes, we had two tough times, but our agency provided total support, immediately, and I would say that we’ve had an amazingly positive experience, and I’m so thankful that we’ve had this opportunity. Even though we’ll be leaving the program in a few months, I’ll still be stopping by here, because I want to support families that are considering this as an option for childcare.

Sara Duke December 11, 2009 at 9:19 am

How about sitting down and talking with the au pair and confronting her? (You wouldn’t want your boss yanking away all your privileges without an explanation.) I would start a conversation with, “You must really miss your family now that Christmas is approaching and feel like going home. If you are making up a story about your mother being ill to go home, then you understand that I won’t trust you. I need you to be honest with me.”

Having celebrated Christmas in another country with another family, it can be both fun and lonely at the same time. (The year I lived abroad I ignored Thanksgiving Day altogether.) Imagine if you’re used to going to the beach and having long summer days how hard it is to be in someplace cold and dark.

Meanwhile – don’t wait for the au pair to repay you for excess cell phone use – start stripping it out of her salary (it’s not “pocket money” – it’s a salary no matter what your agency calls it) and either take the cell phone back or call your provider and see what you can do to curtail use from their end. Go online and see where she is calling, how long, and how frequently. Print it out and confront her (especially if she’s been making long calls when she’s supposed to be watching your kids).

And, if she does go home, drive her to the airport! I knew an au pair who made up a story, then moved to New York where her aunt lived. You want to see her go through security!

Most of all, don’t dress her down or confront her in front of your children. They love her unconditionally and if you vent your anger in front of them, they will be confused.

And, most of all, prepare to be flexible if she does take a powder. I work from 6:30-3:00 and my husband works from 8:30-5:00. When our au pair is on vacation, then we each take an hour of leave, me in the afternoon, he in the morning. Ask your cluster counselor (or whatever your agency calls it) for recommendations for immediate rematches. Christmas is a horrible time to rematch, but if you have to do it, you have to do it.

Calif Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:09 pm

My first thought on reading the initial post is that she is probably planning to stay in the States, given the friendships and the lack of homesickness. Glad someone else picked up on that too. I mean, it’s true that Reality and Truth are two different things, and it doesn’t really matter.

Love CV’s advice to be your best self. Don’t “go there” with her; it won’t help and you’ll only feel dirty afterward. Just keep things stable and get her GONE.

As for the 3.5 year olds–they WILL fall rapidly in love with a new au pair. This is much harder on parents than kids!

NoVA Host Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:16 am

I agree with everyone about removing the cell phone (we use Verizon Wireless, and I was able to put a block on the number of paid minutes used unless the call is to or from my phone or my husband’s phone, as well as a block on text messages – for the next time), the car, etc.

Also, you now get to set the date. Tell her that her final date is XXX and stick to it. Work with your LCC and advise them that should she not have her ticket home by that date, she will need to stay with the LCC until she leaves. Yes, it will be very tricky to find a new AP, but sometimes the in country ones are great (ours was found in a rematch and we adore her – she is extending with us!). Also, look at the APs wanting to extend another year. They have been here a while, and know the routine/duties.

And most definately, dock her pay. Our LCC made sure I did that (and that I checked the phone bills, etc, before AP1 left) so that we would not be out any money. We did the final bill/receipt with the LCC sitting with us at the table so there would be no misunderstandings or arguments about what she was getting and why.

And yes, if someone’s mom was “so sick” and having surgery, she would know what was wrong with mom. She would also be in a hurry to get home. She’s lying and is using a very old trick. Don’t bother calling her on it. Just play by your own rules, instead of letting her call the shots for the time that is left. Make sure YOU give her the exit date. Hey, she asked for one, so oblige!

PA Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

Call the shots on the departure. She can complain but she’s leaving early (not you) and it’s your way or the highway at this point. Be fair but firm and hopefully she’ll come around. Somethings amiss and regardless of what it is – it’s probably best to wrap things up. I like the advice about the credit and other charge cards. Explain that it’s just what happens normally towards the end, it’s just a few months earlier because of her decision to go home. Then try and be cheerful – there are tons of wonderful au pairs out there – we’ve had several after an early departure with our first teenage babysitter. Give her a schedule for her last few weeks and remind her that if she wants to see her local friends before she leaves, it will have to be on her off time as you will be very busy with the upcoming holidays and finding her replacement and doing your own work. All said calmly – maybe she’s found another family locally to work for and is afraid to tell you – who knows. Whatever the reason – maybe her family DOES need her – perhaps the best is yet to be. Our au pairs from Sweden, South Africa and Brazil have all been a wonderful addition to our family over the years and the transition home is always hard for us. The kids however quickly warm to the new au pair and sometimes the new one is even better than the one we hated to see leave. Good luck from PA

PA aupair mom December 11, 2009 at 11:49 am

what part of PA are you in? I am in southern PA, near Gettysburg.

My 2 cents December 11, 2009 at 11:12 am

This is just horrible, no way getting around it. She needs to go and you need a solid replacement. Don’t spend anymore energy beating yourself up or trying to get into her head. It no longer matters. Pack up all that anger and frustration and point it toward getting a new au pair and writing this girl out of your life. If you can take her to the airport, great, if not, they have shuttles. Call your agency five times a day if you have too about a new au pair– advice from my own LCC. The greasy wheel does get that grease!!

Let her worry about how she’s getting home. Do dock her pay on the bills. If you think at all she may have been taking things from you, since people that lie also seem to have a habit of permanently borrowing things, check her room and her things (something NEVER to be done, but if you’ve got a thief in your home, that’s what you do in my book). Take the cell and the car keys. Give her notice of the date when she must be out.

Tell the kids her mom is sick and she has to go home. To the extent you can, redirect them onto the excitement of getting a new big sister, or what have you.

And, if it’s any consolation, this happens in the domestic nanny world. My good friend just had it happen.

Best of luck.

Calif Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for the reminder! I had to send a regular nanny into “rematch” once, too, and all the same issues–and strategic approaches to them–apply. People do tend to be nervous or worried about au pairs, but ANY childcare arrangement can blow up on you.

Former Au Pair December 11, 2009 at 11:41 am

This is exactly what happened to my hostmother’s friend.. I was the only one who knew that the Au Pair is lying. The only difference was that she had only been in the states for a week and was homesick, so she made up a story saying her aunt had cancer and she needed to be with her family. I actually ended up telling the hostmom the truth because she was SO sad and felt so sorry for her Au Pair (this was also her first au pair). She rematched right away and got a new au pair who was a way better match and who loved being there and stayed the whole year.
My tip to you: Start looking for a new person immidetially.

E2 December 11, 2009 at 1:27 pm

We had a similar situation with an au pair from “down under.” She just never committed to being here. I think she was planning on going home early, but we ended up terminating her employment earlier than she wanted b/c of things she was doing. She then told the agency that she wanted to rematch, even though she had already bought her ticket home. What an awkward time for our family. I was so angry that she was lying, but wanted her transition out of our home to be as smooth as possible for the sake of the kids. At the time, I thought putting her up in a hotel would be too expensive, but had I to do it over again, I would have put her in a hotel until she left (the two weeks she was in “rematch”). Her grumpy personality became hostile and she stayed in her room and didn’t talk when she was outsider her room — the kids were so mystified with why she was acting this way towards them.
One tip on rematch…our LCC suggested looking at extension au pairs that were already in the country. We found a wonderful girl that was extending for 9 months…and she had already had a successful year in the states. She was available earlier than some of the other candidates in the pool.
Good luck – I know this is tough around the holidays!!

Darthastewart December 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

If you have an au-pair you cannot trust in your house any longer, the LCC is supposed to take them. That is part of their job. If they balk, call the national office. I’ve never had to do that, but I’ve seen plenty of au-pairs housed at the AD’s house.

JJ December 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Oh, how frustrating. Finding childcare on short notice is next-to-impossible anyway, but around the holidays it’s especially hard. I would be feel so frustrated and hurt and betrayed if I were you.

All the advice you’ve gotten so far sounds great. I would add that someone here recommended for short-term childcare. I never ended up using them since I was able to cobble together care from grandparents and my husband and I taking time off work. But some of the babysitters and nannies advertised there look really good. I would get online and contact some, and see if any can come out this weekend for interviews. If you can get backup care set up, that will give you some breathing room to get everything else worked out.

Kate December 11, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that somebody seems to fake that the own mother is ill and to use it as an excuse to go. At least she owe you the truth – she lived with you almost a half year.
I know it is hard when suddenly the last months you spent together and get to know and to love her reveals as a fishy lie.
I am in the same situation – my host parents are going to quit the program and don’t want me to have in their house. The story is much more complicated, but the worst is the feeling that you lived with somebody who hoodwinks (I don’t know if it is the right word, I just looked it up on the dictionary) you in a very selfish and impertinent way.
I hope you don’T give up to host new au pairs because there are also gorgeous au pairs out there!
By the way, I am looking for a new host family! Feel free to contact me!

Calif Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Kate–hoodwinks is a wonderful word and you used it perfectly. (“gorgeous au pairs out there” makes us think that beauty is more important than other traits, so maybe you meant ‘wonderful’ or something like that!) English class is over now.

And I’m sorry that your family is leaving the program and leaving you ‘in the lurch’ (okay, maybe one more idiom for you to look up!). I hope you find a great new family.

franzi December 11, 2009 at 2:51 pm

first off, i’m sorry you are apparently being lied to.

though i would be curious to find out her motivation for this lie, it’s nothing you need to worry about now. your family and your kids needs go first!

make a timeline of how you will be able to cover child care in a transition. once you have figured that out, you know when her last day is and that means you can tell her that this is when you expect her to leave.

be prepared that she is potentially so mad she would leave right away/asap.

be in constant touch with your agency to find a new AP (if this is what you want). try other agencies, though i don’t think much will happen during the holiday season. i wanted to rematch in december and was told that it’s impossible to find a family. not true for both sides but it is certainly a time with less APs to choose from.

make sure your agency is terminating her AP visa. do not allow her to rematch into another family. if she doesn’t have the guts to tell you what’s really going on, she doesn’t have the maturity level needed to be an AP.
i actually find the idea of seeing her walk through security at the airport quite funny (because i suspect she will stay in the US) but i don’t think it’s any of your concern. focus your energy on your family and kids and on finding someone new.

tell your kids she needed to go home because her mom is sick. keep it at that. tell your AP when she says her goodbyes to stick to that story (unless you know she is rematching or something) to at least make it easy for the kids. they will believe it.
i had to tell my kids i was flying home when i rematched so imagine their confusion when they saw me 2 weeks later with “new kids”. all because the parents did not want me to say “my time with you was great but another family needs me”.

be prepared to be pushed into the “mean host family is throwing AP out on the street at christmas time” category. don’t take this to your heart. you know the truth of the matter. let the others talk and gossip.

good luck, keep us posted!

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I have been told by my agency that December is a good time for families and aupairs to rematch. Franzi, you are right it is a slow period but there isn’t much competition either. I think it should be pretty easy to find a transition aupair if that is what this host mother wants. I think you are right that it is hard for aupairs to find a rematch at this time of year but this aupair put herself in that postion. Anyway, the aupair isn’t interested in rematching. I wish this host mother good luck !

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I completely understand the pain for the host family her and I also think this aupair is very young and doesn’t know what else to say. That is , assuming that she is going home. I don’t think anyone of us would want to hear an aupair say ” I’m just sick of this and it really isn’t much fun anymore “.

HOWEVER, if she is jumping ship because she found a better deal, that is completely different. I agree that you should not waste your valuable time on getting poetic justice. I would , however, check the open websites of all the independent aupair
organizations just to see if she is out there. I once found one of my aupairs on an aupair website with a letter saying she wanted a nicer family with fewer children and less work. I told my agency that I did not want to have someone working with my children who was planning to leave me and go off the books. She had never complained to the agency and she could not give them a strong reason why she wanted to leave – just wanted an easier gig ( 2 kids in school with working mother instead of 3 kids and mother at home ). Well, I found a local sitter and then called my agency. The aupair in question had not gotten responses she liked so she told me that she had changed her mind and wanted to stay. I told her that I was very sorry. She cried and carried on alot and told me that she didn’t have the money for a ticket home or cabfare to the airport. I suggested that she send home for the money.
After a lot of hullaballoo, the agency put her into rematch but I didn’t really care. People have the right to change jobs and bottom line is that my children are my responsibility.

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Our first AP showed up on Saturday, went out on the town with friends until2 am, then Sunday morning told me that she needed to go back to Brazil because her dad was sick – although she hadn’t used the phone or computer so I’m not sure how she found out or when (2am via smoke signals???) She then hastily bought a plane ticket (to FLORIDA where her boyfriend lived!) and told the LCC that I would drive her to the airport 4 hours away (I don’t think so). While it is very painful and inconvenient, look at it as a blessing in disquise. Move forward and try to let it go. There are plenty of great APs out there, she just isn’t one of them.

Hula Gal December 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I experienced similar feelings of not understanding why we had two au pairs bail on us and wondering if we should stick with the program (see Au Pair Appreciation: Setting a High Standard for my story in the comments). But we decided to stick with it and have been very happy with our 3rd au pair from Thailand who is wonderful. She was an extension au pair. I’d say stick with it – we did and are now finally reaping the rewards of what a great au pair can provide a family. I think what others have suggested above are all very good ideas.

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I had an aupair whose friend had to suddenly return home because her boyfriend needed a kidney transplant. She gave two weeks notice which was better than nothing for the family I suppose but it seems to undercut her whole story. For something like that, wouldn’t you have to go home immediately ? What can you say when someone tells you a tale like this ?

Deb Schwarz December 11, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Hello – I feel your pain – it’s happened to us several times – and I have learned to just move on – no point getting angry, or screaming at her – this generation sadly tends to be much more self-absorbed than previous ones…….”what is – is”. Definitely take the phone away, set rules (as others have stated). The GREAT news is that over the holidays there will be lots of transitions (this time of the year with emotions flaring, tends to bring them out of the woodwork) so get very close to your transitional matcher – even if you get a “temp” (someone with little time left on their visa), which btw, I’ve had several short term au pairs that were real gems – give yourself time to take a breath and find a wonderful au pair – they are out there, but you have to be in a good frame of mind to find and attract them (the laws of attraction).

Take Care – and remember – this girl isn’t worth your anger. Save it for your husband who doesn’t help you wrap the presents at 2am on Christmas eve…..LOL.

Deb in CA
Host mom to 15 au pairs over the years, and LCC for Cultural Care
Mill Valley, CA

Calif Mom December 12, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I agree–not so bad to rematch at holidays. We’ve done it, and found excellent rematch APs. Try to find one who’s local so you can meet/interview them in person. Makes a huge difference in your comfort level moving forward. You’ll know right away whether they are right or not.

If you can swing it, it’s kind of nice to have a breather in between when something like this happens. Mom may need to “re-set”. Take the oppty to tweak your guidelines and plan how to train.

soon to be AUSTRALIAN AP December 11, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Just wanting to point out that this shouldn’t look badly on us Australian au pairs. Or au pairs in general. Things that I read that au pairs do actually shock me. Over the cell phone limit, partying, drinking, refusing to work weekends, leaving when the kids are asleep, not eating with the family even…. I would never do any of these things.. I thought asking to take my 2 week break all at once was bad.

CV December 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Not to worry-
most of us (all of us?) host parents know that it has little to do with your nationality, and a lot more to do with ones maturity.

Busy Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Sorry that you’re going through this! Another resource similar to is I found out about it from a former nanny who now lives in a different state and found part-time nany jobs through it. I’m in NJ and there are tons of young women listed who live within 5 miles of my house.

I agree with what everyone else has said about the phone and think the advice would apply even if she weren’t leaving! If my au pair went over her limit by that amount, I’d certainly take away the phone or limit it to calls with my husband and I as someone else suggeste. She’d get back full phon privileges once she’d paid us back.

Mom23 December 11, 2009 at 10:58 pm

I am so sorry. That is a horrible situation to be in, especially with the holidays. I can empathize as we have been left in the lurch a couple of times. However, two of our best au pairs were rematch au pairs, where things did not work out with their first host families. I think in a situation like this, you cannot change the persons mind, but need to move on.

I agree with what others have said about the phone. My agency also advised me to not give our last au pair her check until all bills cleared. Still, I was just on the phone this evening with a debt collection company. It seems our last au pair left some personal unpaid bills when she left. I have been forwarding bills to the agency (the au pair left without a forwarding address) and I presume that they have been forwarding them on to her.

Darthastewart December 12, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Some agencies let you withold their paycheck until bills are paid, but some do not allow that. You’re not allowed to every withold any of their paycheck, for any reason- even if they owe you money.

Anonymous December 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Well, I have been told that it looks bad for the agency if an aupair drops out of her J1 program – the State Department doesn’t like that.
So I am just wondering how agressively the agency would go after you if you withheld the pay of someone dropping out before year end.
How credible would the aupair be and who would she complain to.
If she is going into rematch, that is a different story. My girlfriend had an aupair who sued her former family in civil court for wrongfully stopping a check and she won !

Darthastewart December 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm

I think the agency could go after the host family pretty hard for witholding money from an au-pair who drops out before year-end. In fact, they’d probably make you pay that money, or take it out of your agency fee/any refund.
There are different policies from each agency on how you can withold money, and how much. CC and APC have very different policies on this, as does Eur-Au-Pair (theirs is closer to APC). But CC specifically forbids host families from witholding the stipend under any circumstances. Even if the au-pair owes you money. (for a cell phone bill or something)
I’ve actually seen this played out both ways- au-pairs who leave while owing a great deal of money from CC, and au-pairs who had months of paychecks withheld for expenses incurred under APC. I’m not sure which one is better, honestly.

PA aupair mom December 14, 2009 at 11:44 am

Our last AP had 3 car accidents in our car. The first 2 she was working so we had to cover the deductible. the last was on her own time and she hit “her” car into my mother’s car. We told her she needed to pay the $500 deductible. She kept saying, “i will pay in a few weeks”. By the time she was down to less than a month”s time left (3 months after the accident) she still hadn’t paid. I started withholding a fourth of it out of her last 4 checks. I’m sorry, but her contract states that if the accident is her fault on non-work time, then she has to pay the deductible.

Anonymous December 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Quite a few of these agencies do not give refunds ; they say they will give you another aupair if you haven’t broken any rules.
If they won’t give you a refund and collecting outstanding personal bills is our responsibility, I am wondering how the heck we can possibly recover monies owed ? The lack of refund is the biggest problem I see with these programs.

Mom23 December 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Our last au pair left a few days before she was supposed to. As I noted above my agency advised me to wait two weeks to send the final payment, which I did. There was money missing (not a lot) from the envelope that we keep for the au pair to use and I did not feel I should pay the au pair for the full week since she left before her week was up. The au pair complained to the agency. The agency sided with the au pair on the missing money saying that since we could not prove money was missing, we could not subtract it. Also, the agency split the disputed days, so we had to pay for two days (out of four) that the au pair was not with us. It was not a lot of money in the scheme of things, but I did feel that it was very unfair.

PA aupair mom December 14, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Our last AP used all her vacation days and then some (17 days total) but then claimed to the agency that she was still owed for 4 days. The agency sided with her and threatened to withhold our new AP until the dispute was resolved. We were upset but were glad to just pay up and get her out of there and get a new AP, who really wanted to do the job and be part of the family, in.

Euromom December 15, 2009 at 10:35 am

Going back to the original post – all anger/frustration aside, the best thing for both you and your family right now is to move on. Who cares where she’s going and why – she’s going. Your number 1 concern right now is making the transition as painless as possible for your family. You mention that you hate being at the mercy of a teenager so, be positive and take back control in doing so; be fair but also be VERY firm.

No. 1 – Her Departure. Make a departure plan (for her and you). If she has not done so yet then you set the date of departure. Do a work schedule for the last few days that she is with you and impress on her the importance of her assistance at this time of the year – that essentially she has left you in childcare crisis and while you understand that she has to leave – you still need her to put in 110% while she is still here and on duty – especially for the children’s sake. Explain again that this is always a very stressful time for HM & HD with work and the added pressure of finding a replacement for her is a complication that you really did not need. Remind her that you have had a great five months thus far with her – and want it to end as amicable as possible.

No 2. Dealing with the Debt
With the phone/car, yes, I agree – limit her privileges but be fair. When it comes to the debt owed to you, do you really need to collect it – or is the principle of the matter – do not let anger/resentment/frustration cloud you judgement here. There is no point in raising hell in your home for the sake of a few dollars. Don’t misunderstand me – I agree you are completely entitled to any debt owed but ask yourself – Is it worth it? If you decide it is then here’s a trick I picked up from this very site: quite simply pay her BUT with HD beside you, explain to her that she owes you $? (showing her the bill itself is a nice touch – no arguments over amounts) and that you are going to pay her in cash (get her to sign a receipt that she has received same) and then she is going to repay you the debt (or part thereof). I have used this method and it worked like a dream – no breaking of rules as she was paid (signed receipt to prove same!) and she just repaid you what was owed. Simples!

And here is where the Is It Worth It? question comes into play – be prepared for a tantrum or just a bad mood for a few days – stay calm and be honest with her – ask her if she has a better solution to deal with the debt. If she says that she will send the money once she returns home, turn the question around and ask her if she were you, would she accept this solution? Ask her to make that (i.e. if she were you) the criteria of the solution – what would she accept?

And lastly – be honest and proud of yourself and your judgement. You did everything right, you picked a good au pair, five good months are testimony to that fact and whatever situation caused your au pair to change her mind has nothing to do with you. And you can move forward from this. She can only go back.

CaliHostMom December 20, 2009 at 1:09 am

My 7th (of 9) APs left early. It’s hard not to wonder “what’s wrong with us?” “how could she leave–aren’t we a great family?” I had those worries even though I’d had 6 good and great matches prior. But really, as others have said, try to just move on and don’t overanalyze. Focus on the logistics of the situation. Put your energy into getting the new AP as soon as possible and be optimistic. My 8th AP was SOO much better than the 7th and within weeks of her arrival, all the anger over the 7th one leaving us in the lurch was gone b/c the 8th was such a breath of fresh air. In general, many APs tend to be warm, loving, patient and accommodating people. Aggressive, ambitious girls who are career driven don’t become APs b/c taking care of someone else’s kids just doesn’t appeal to them. For many APs, the thought of telling someone that for whatever reason you are unhappy and want to leave them and need to break a contractual promise you made is illness inducing. They can’t bear to be the cause of disharmony and they are also suffering b/c they are unhappy. Solution: make up a story of a sick relative. This saves ‘face’ for the host family and spares the AP having to deal with any sort of confrontation. In 10 years of having APs, I’ve known many, many APs since all my APs had friends. And guess what another solution is for this “I want out” dilemma? The runner. That’s then the AP leaves in the middle of night or packs up and leaves while you’re away for a weekend. I personally know of 2 cases of this happening. So, count your blessings that at least your AP is giving you some notice.

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