Au Pair Asks: Can I make a quick trip home if there is a family emergency?

by cv harquail on August 13, 2012

Rm2028 writes:

So I just found out that my only grandfather is very, very ill. He is almost 100 and has had declining health for a while, but apparently the past 5 days it has gotten much much worse. I am my mother’s only child, and she and her sister do not talk.

Would it be okay for me to go home to be with my mother? I’m not sure what the protocol for this thing is…

talk to me.jpgDear Rm2028–

Talk about this with your host family & LCC right away.

Most host parents will do their best to make it possible for you to go home for an emergency, but remember that there are several concerns that you have to consider.

  • The biggest issue is that your host parents will need a firm commitment from you that you will, in fact, return.
  • Your host parents will need a firm date by which you will return. You may find that your grandfather recovers, or that you want to stay longer if he passes away after several days and you want to attend the funeral.
  • Your host parents will need time to find alternative childcare. This may be difficult for them to do quickly OR for more than a few days. And, it can be really expensive.

I’ve seen it go both ways — sometimes an au pair leaves for a funeral or wedding and then comes back, happy to finish her year. Other times the au pair just disappears, leaving an angry and upset host family in the lurch. I’ve also heard stories of host parents being asked to ship their departed au pair’s things to her, and also being asked to just give them away.

Consider that, if there is any chance that you might not come back if you go home, you might just want to jointly agree to terminate your contract and let your host parents find another family.

What else should Rm2028 consider?


NoVA Twin Mom August 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

Sorry to hear about your grandfather!

The biggest thing I would say is TALK to your hostfamily. It’s tempting to retreat into yourself and become quiet when you get bad news. If you’re upfront and honest with them, they’re much more likely to work with you to find a way for you to be able to go home for a short while. If your hostfamily is concerned you have become uncommunicative and therefore unhappy – then you want to go home – they’ll be more concerned about letting you go.

But also talk to your LCC. I don’t know the form number, but there is a piece of paper you need signed by your au pair company to have in your passport before you leave the country – get that straightened out before you leave. I don’t know all the details, but I think it is necessary for you to get back into the US, so you want to have that taken care of.

Also, our past au pairs have had friends with family deaths during their au pair year, and I think at least APIA has some kind of insurance that could help pay for your flight home *if your family circumstances fit exactly into their program.* I don’t know, for instance, if the illness of a grandparent would “count”, or if there has to be a death, or if it has to be “closer” than a grandparent (I don’t mean to say that you’re not close to your grandfather, but American insurance policies are very “picky” about what they’ll cover). I think the au pairs had to pay for their flights up front, then were reimbursed *once they returned to the US.*

Your host family’s biggest concerns, as CV said, are (1) your feelings, but (2) that you’ll come back, and (3) that they can cover child care while you’re gone. Be sure to cover all three with both your host family and LCC.

NoVA Twin Mom August 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Me again – I found an earlier discussion about the “paper” I was thinking about. Check out this discussion here on aupairmom from a little over a year ago – and make sure you have an unexpired passport, your I-94 AND your (signed/approved by your company) DS-2019 before you leave the US so you’ll have it on the way back in.

Also, there may be some issues depending on how long you have left on your J-1 visa, what country you’re from, or if you’re in your extension year – see this discussion from a couple of months before the other article:

Just a few more things to think about at a time when you already have a ton on your mind!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2012 at 10:46 pm

As I recall the OP is an American in Europe and off to a rocky start with her current HF, although NoVA Twin Mom, your comments work for an AP in almost any situation.

Rm2028, you admitted that you wanted and yet felt guilty about leaving your current HF early. If this is just another signal to bail on them, then please be up front. As a HM, nothing would anger me more than an AP who returned home, even for a legitimate reason like a funeral, with no intention of returning. If you’re not going to return, then admit it, pack your bags and go. Yes, you’ve left the family in the lurch. No, you may not ask them for a reference.

As an American who lived abroad in the days of the quest for a broken pay phone – that is before phone cards, before email, before Skype, I had nightmares about family members dying and my not being able to return. Almost all of my APs have experienced the illness of a family member from afar. One of my APs had a cousin and uncle gunned down (she chose not to return despite our offers to assist in paying for her flight) while another had a sibling who attempted suicide (she chose to return but gave us enough notice that the scrambling was minimal).

You don’t have an easy decision, but be open and honest with your HF.

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