What do Au Pair Community Counselors Want to Know?

by cv harquail on October 29, 2014

Community Counselors, LCCs and ARs, are the unsung heroes of the au pairing community. 

allyvests dogA fabulously great community counselor is rare, a good community counselor is often taken for granted, and an underperforming community counselor can sink an entire cluster of au pairs.

Given the importance of their roles, it’s kind of surprising how rarely any CCs, LCCs and ARs email us at AuPairMom.

I don’t think we’ve ever received an email asking for advice on working with a cranky Host Parent, or for advice on mediating between competing demands, or…. actually… anything.

[Maybe there is a secret AP CC blog, just for them?? ]

Au Pair Community Counselors are a bit of a mystery to me.

Which is a challenge, because in a few weeks I will have the chance to speak with a group of Community Counselors about AuPairMom.com as a community and as a blog. I’m not sure what to say.

Normally, when I plan a talk (or a workshop or a regular class) I like to think about what the participants or audience cares the most about, and try to anticipate what they want to know or learn or create. I’m not sure what CCs would ask, if they could ask anything about AuPairMom.

So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to toss a few questions out to CCs, LCCs, and ARs —

What would you like to know about the AuPairMom community and the people who convene here?
(e.g., favorite topics, most frequent questions, what host parents fear the most, what host parents love, etc.)

What would you like to know about how the AuPairMom blog works?
(e.g., what day of the year– every year– has the least visits, what kinds of comments never clear the spam filter, where I get the lovely photos, how my former au pairs feel about the blog, what my former LCC thinks about the blog).

I’ve got a half hour to spill the secrets of the AuPairMom blog– but just to LCCs. What would you most like to know?

 

Note: Clarifying here– I’m asking what LCCs would like to know about AuPairMom (—- what host parents would like to talk about w/ LCCs is a different conversation.) I’d like to hear from counselors and former counselors. ]

Add to the comments, or email me at mom at aupairmom dot com.

Many thanks in advance-

cv

p.s. This image *slays* me. It’s from @allyvest’s instagram. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it with you. I. Love. This. Dog.

{ 48 comments }

Repeataupair October 30, 2014 at 12:30 am

As for myself, I know I come here sometimes to get answers to questions I don’t dare asking my AD, for different reasons: don’t want to be judged, want to make sure it won’t go through her and right to the HF, or because for my new AD, because she is helpless and not listening to what I have to say. Also not every AD has been a Host mom before and therefore does not have the perspective on it. Some also have a tinted opinion, and take more the side of the HF (I am sure some take more the side of the AP, but in my position it has not been the case), so you want to be careful with what you ask sometimes.

Should be working October 30, 2014 at 1:40 am

Our dog is a larger, blonder version of this adorable dog! But the face and look are uncannily similar!

I want to hear what LCCs think of HFs. An LCC I once met and asked about rematch stats told me that it is mostly the same few HFs where lots of rematches happen. But I don’t think that is the situation with the HPs on here who have had more than their share of bad matches. I think it is more the case that there are clueless or unkind or poorly managing HFs out there and these are the ones the LCC meant.

In fact we are only about–how many?–maybe 20?–regulars on here, so a tiny sample of HPs. And we uniformly care about belong good HPs, maybe also not representative of the swath of HPs out there.

Tristatemom October 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

I am not sure exactly what CV is asking, but one gripe I have is about the monthly meetings. In our cluster, the LCC collected ideas from the APs but then did not implement a single one. Her ideas are way out of touch and budget for the APs. Then, she organized a day at the pool for HFs and APs. I, as a HM, enjoyed it but realized that the APs felt uncomfortable because they couldn’t relax.
Instead, I think the LCC should organize a monthly dinner at a super cheap restaurant to help the new APs be included into the group. This should not be the check-in event and LCC should not participate but she should organize it as for some reason new APs are really hesitant to contact other APs on their own. They tend to stick with the APs from orientation.
What I am trying to say is that the LCC needs to create more bonding expierences where APs can get to know each other. For example, one LCC organized a bus trip to the beach and that was so much fun for the APs.

cv harquail October 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Tristatemom,
I’m wanting to hear from the LCCs, CCs and ADs themselves. I’ll create a post for posting questions *to* them, for next week.
cv

Kiki October 30, 2014 at 9:22 am

Our LCC is great, and I think we’re lucky because that doesn’t seem to be typical from what I’ve heard from veteran host families in my area. She’s a former au pair, which is probably quite rare. She’s a great resource for the au pair perspective, but she’s an advocate for host families. She definitely doesn’t have sympathy for lazy au pairs who thought the year is about traveling and partying and not about doing an incredibly hard and important job.

My question for LCC’s is what kind of training they get prior to taking the position and what support they get from their agency. Again we’re lucky our LCC is good at what she does, because she’s had to tap so many skills- mediator, counselor, therapists, early childhood educator, driving instructor and so on. I have a sinking suspicion that she received no formal training or guidance. I also know the good LCC’s are under-paid in relation to the work they put in. Our LCC goes above and beyond in the time she spends with her families and au pairs when they need help and in planning cultural events every month for the au pairs.

Anonymous October 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

I’m going to post anonymous because well just in case….. Although our AD is very nice she is basically ineffective, she does the things she is supposed to but, when there is an issue she is really an avoider and I know really doesn’t get involved until she has to.

You know as a good host mom you sometimes learn or are told of other aupair situations which can be really bad sometimes. I heard some things that were really wrong so I notified our AD of the information In hopes that she would check on the family and talk with the aupair who seemed very fearful of telling the AD and was young and not at a point of really being assertive…….. The AD really didn’t do anything. This wasn’t the first time either…..

I often feel the AD is just their to make some extra income as ours has a different full time job…. She is out of touch, and recently organized our family event which was at a horrible place not good for young kids, very spread out etc….. I mean if she would talk with us host families and ask for some I out since we are the one with small kids often we could have a great family aupair event….. But she doesn’t. Anyway… She’s nice….

But I wish I could take over the role and BEcome our AD because I am vested personally in this and feel I can see both sides and understand two sides…. This person hasn’t had an aupair ever…. And not sure how she fell into this extra job.

Old China Hand October 30, 2014 at 1:12 pm

You could be describing my lcc!

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 11:49 am

I’m both a CC, for 4 years, and a host mom, for 6 years. I’ve hosted 6 APs and mentored over 40 APs. To answer your question, Kiki, we do receive training in my agency, but I can’t speak for other agencies. We have annual training, and I personally wish we received more, and more in-depth training. Our training has begun to focus on some of the more intricate, difficult issues of the au pair existence such as how to conduct a threeway before a rematch, and how to impress upon the APs that being an AP is not just being a babysitter (I tell my APs they are not physical child care providers/babysitters here just to make sure their host kids are physically safe, they are emotional/social/intellectual child care providers, here to be present, to actively engage their host kids, to be the parents’ eyes, ears, and hearts when they can’t be around, to love, to nurture, to grow their host kids in the best way possible, always maintaining their HPs’ views on discipline and guidance) or being here to travel the US, but involves so much more that is so much more important to the HF.

I, too, have played many roles as a CC: Mentor, Counselor, Early childhood development “specialist” (ha), Social mediator (between APs in my group, at times), Cultural liaison, Grammar instructor, Mediator, Life-skills builder, Local neighborhood navigator, Stand in for Mom back in Europe or other home country, all around Listener, Supporter, Cheerleader, Director of “maybe you could consider this other option” discussions, Stage manager to direct the AP to visualize future discussions with HF, Crisis counselor, Insurance provider advisor, etc. And I, too, expect the APs in my group to maintain professionalism, respect, empathy, confidentiality, and all around positive attitudes regarding their HFs. I just had a meeting with my entire group about that very thing, emphasizing what it really means to be an AP, how it’s a *job* and one of the most important jobs they’ll ever have, and a lot of trust and faith is put into them. One thing I told them is “never, ever make it sound as if caring for your host children is getting in the way of why you’re really here.”

I am a volunteer in my agency, so pay is not an issue for me. :) I do this for the love of most of what is expected of me and what I expect of myself. I love recruiting families and supporting the HFs throughout the year just as much as I love building up young women from other countries, and being a part in their personal growth and development. I get such a great rush when an AP sends me thank you cards or emails, tells me they love me, or tells me she is so lucky because she has a CC who listens, cares, and always expects great things from them. So yeah, it’s partly selfish why I do this volunteer gig!

hOstCDmom October 30, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Your agency has volunteer LCCs? They don’t get paid? How do they find enough people willing to do this? (serious q) Is there some other perq you get (such as no agency fees for an AP?) Why would someone choose to be an LCC with your agency vs doing the same job at another agency and getting paid …for the same work. Because while it is my understanding that LCCs are not compensated much, they do at least get paid something for doing the job..!

happyhostmom October 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

“I tell my APs they are not physical child care providers/babysitters here just to make sure their host kids are physically safe, they are emotional/social/intellectual child care providers, here to be present, to actively engage their host kids, to be the parents’ eyes, ears, and hearts when they can’t be around, to love, to nurture, to grow their host kids in the best way possible, always maintaining their HPs’ views on discipline and guidance” Love being a CC, this quote captures the true importance of an Au Pair in a family. Very well said You sound like a great CC and your HF’s and APs are lucky to have you.

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

thank you! happyhostmom! I really do love this “job.” It gives me such personal joy to be able to help families, to see all the host kids grow year after year, to meet new HFs, to meet new APs, almost everything about it! *I must give credit to a host mom for coming up with the phrase “eyes, ears, and heart….” she said it, but I have adopted it and taken it to heart to repeat as often as necessary — both to the AP in my own family, and the HFs and APs I mentor. But it’s not my original! :)

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 12:27 pm

To answer the original post — first let me say I am a very, very infrequent visitor to AuPairMom.com. It was actually a HM who recommended I give it another try, because she thought I could gain some great insight as a CC. I have to admit when I visited this site from the point of view of being a HM (maybe 2 years ago?), I realized I left feeling more negative than positive. Mostly I saw in the few posts I read (and again, I truly do understand I am talking about likely .001% of the posts on here because I didn’t stick around very long — I could be completely off-base, and would like to know if I am, and apologize for taking away a biased, wrong opinion!) HFs posting, and not APs. And there was just so much angst, complaining about the APs and the CCs or LCCs, horror stories, and what seemed to me to be HFs who were too hard and set in their ways that I feared it would lead to continual unhappy placements regardless of the AP in the home or the CC assigned. And then sometimes an AP would respond, in defense of all APs, and then HFs would respond defending the original HF poster. It was too acrimonious and it brought me down. True, there seemed to be some truly awful APs that were being talked about, and I have met a few truly awful APs in my time as a CC, but as a CC, I know there are two sides to every story, and all I seemed to be reading on here was the HF’s side. It’s amazing, sometimes, being a CC, and hearing about the same thing from the AP and the HF, and knowing that it seems impossible that both are talking about the same thing. I have a few examples I like to share with my HFs and APs about how it can be like night and day what I hear — but they’re too long to post.

So, first I would say as a CC, what I would want to know about this site is this: is what I saw a fluke in that the discussions on here are not more often complaints about how awful the APs are, with other people adding to the complaints, but that this is really a community of support, bonding, assistance in how to help HFs make their placements the best placements they can be, how to work with the AP and CC, how to compromise, really listen to her and get her side of the story, (and how to help her to really listen to the HF, and get the HF’s side of the story) in order to come to some understanding with her? What is the sense of what the main purpose is for why people come to AuPairMom.com? Is this a place I would want to send the HFs in my group as a further support to the support I believe (I hope!) I give them, a place to feel a sense of community, understanding, support, affirmation, ways to make life as a HF a great, mutually beneficial experience, such that when the AP leaves after her program year, the family will actually miss her and always feel a sense of love for her, and she for them? Is this a place people complain about their CCs or APs or HFs more often then try to make it better? Because that is my goal as a CC for every placement: that the AP feel she grew as a person, learned some valuable life lessons, but also that she contributed to the health and well-being of the kids AND the HPs and that the HF feels they couldn’t have survived the last year without her.

With respect to who more often visits the site: Is it more APs or HFs? And is it more often happy APs and HFs who want to pass on wisdom, or unhappy APs or HFs who want validation that their life is as crappy as they think it is?

It appears from the post that often CCs don’t visit or they do, they don’t comment.

[note from cv: LCCs don’t email me/AuPairMom with questions or problems. Many L/CCs participate in the comments, and they sometimes but don’t always mention that they are L/CCs (since sometimes they are speaking as parents or as former au pairs)]

I can tell you from my point of view that from the little I read a long time ago on here, I feared if I posted with what I would say to my HFs in person, I wouldn’t be received well. It appeared to me that what would have been better received was a commiseration of what the HP was posting instead of a suggestion to make things better. And as a CC, I can’t let myself stop with my HFs at “yeah, I know, APs are awful, aren’t they?” That does no one any good, in my opinion. I would have wanted to post something like “I understand you’re upset, and I can understand why you think ___. I’d like to ask you to consider maybe _____ and what if _____. The AP may not realize she was being insensitive to your needs when she didn’t ____” and “APs don’t think about it the way we need them to, sometimes. They don’t think about the fact that as working parents, we are *always* on the clock with our kids. We sometimes absolutely NEED a holiday to ourselves because we work full-time, we then “work” every weekend with our kids, we never get a day off. So consider explaining to your AP that you understand she’s upset she has to work Labor Day/Columbus Day but remind her that holidays are not guaranteed in her contract, and you’re more than happy to give her off certain holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, maybe even the 4th of July because APs absolutely LOVE the 4th of July!”

And to any APs who had posted as original posters (although I didn’t see any), I would have wanted to say what I say to my APs in person. I would say “I understand you’re upset, and I can understand why you think ____. I’d like to ask you to consider that your HF might not even realize this was important to you. Sometimes HF are so busy with work, the kids, school schedules, dry cleaning, the maintenance man coming, lacrosse/soccer/girl scouts, they just don’t take the time to think about how this particular thing affects you. You need to speak up, you need to tell them, you need to communicate, explain why this matters to you. You might not get the answer you want, but you’ll have a better understanding of why. If you think you’re not being treated like an adult because of your curfew of 10 pm on weekends, maybe consider reminding the HF that the reason they told you they chose you is because you had lived on your own before, you had shown that you’re mature, responsible, and a real, live adult who can make good decisions. Maybe they’ll be willing to consider a later curfew, or maybe even no curfew at all on weekends.”

What is the very best thing CCs can gain and learn from being a regular visitor to AuPairMom.com? My HM who recommended I visit has found this to be a great support for her, and I’d love to hear how it can be a great support for all my HFs, too.

Sorry so long-winded, but as I said in a prior post, I love being a CC and I want to know that sending my HFs (or APs?) here will benefit them and be a great supplement to the support I strive to give them every day.

Should be working October 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Hm, I’m surprised to read that to you this looks like a blog for complaining and chiming in with more complaints. I feel like on every single thread the HMs (and occasional HDs) add in another possible reaction, a different interpretation, a suggestion, sometimes also telling the complaining HP that her/his expectations for the AP are off. There are anecdotes of things gone wrong, yes, but oftentimes the anecdote provides insight into an alternative solution or approach. Yes, HPs come here more than APs. It’s a blog mainly for HPs.

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm

oh, please do understand that I am completely aware my perception could be wrong! I know I only read a few posts, but I also know that the few I read gave me heartburn. :( I am here to look at AuPairMom fresh, at the request and suggestion of one of the HMs in my group.

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 5:07 pm

and, I’ll add in here, too, that this was years ago so things may have changed, or it was a really bad day here, or probably I chose really bad threads, I don’t know, to be honest. But my hope is that by coming back here and giving it another chance, it can only help my HFs. And I want to be able to recommend this site to my HFs (just as AuPairMom is trying to sell the site to us CCs!) :)

cv harquail October 30, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Hi LBCC- this question about ‘how AuPairMom might be useful to host parents’ is helpful. I hadn’t thought about that because I’m not really imagining trying to sell them on sharing the blog… but I should be. It’s an obvious point that I completely missed. !!

DowntownMom October 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm

CV, this blog likely made me stick with the au pair program and helped me become a seasoned HM faster (as well as a better manager of my employees!). During mismatches, it kept me going that there were host families with fantastic matches as well as in the same boat. Potentially LBCC mixed your blog up with one of the ones in the DC area, which is full of negative comments.

NoVA Twin Mom October 30, 2014 at 10:59 pm

That’s what I was about to write – the DC blog is bad, particularly before they separated the au pair discussions from the nanny blogs and one or two particularly vocal anti-aupair commenters would chime in on every single discussion. Now they only seem to chime in when particularly bored :) I think, if nothing else, the voluntary use of usernames here keeps some semblance of order – that might be something to bring up during the discussion as well :)

NoVA Twin Mom October 30, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Of course, that doesn’t keep me from checking the “other” blog for its entertainment value, and I even chime in there when there’s a serious discussion going on. But sometimes it’s like watching a train wreck about to happen…

WarmStateMomma November 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

I’m late to this discussion, but I found the blog when I was having trouble dealing with AP#1 and needed advice. Many of the posts involve HPs asking for advice. We don’t need advice when everything is going great, so much of the discussion will naturally fall around solving and preventing problems. We very well may have stopped hosting APs altogether without the advice on this blog. It’s also where I’ve told prospective HPs to look when they ask about hosting an AP since the agency websites have so little practical info.

Julie October 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Disclaimer–I’m a 7 time host mom and a CCAP LCC. I’ll answer some questions and perhaps pose a few myself. I really, really care about my job and I’m good at it, so that might make me a little different from some LCCs/coordinators/ADs. I won’t say that all CCAP LCCs are excellent, but I can tell you we certainly try to get the less effective ones out–sometimes it just takes a while because we need a back up plan in place. We want really good LCCs–it’s better for all of us, trust me! Being an LCC is not a long-term job if someone just wants to make money. It’s a position that requires someone care a lot to be good at the role–you have to deal with a lot of drama, young people with sometimes significant cultural and languages differences, and high demands from families often expecting Mary Poppins. You need to be available at a moment’s notice, house au pairs in transition and provide therapy to nearly everyone you work with. It’s not for the faint of heart and there can be turnover because it can be a lot of stress for often little pay. That said, many of my colleagues absolutely love their jobs and several have worked with CCAP 25 years. That is impressive. I’ve never been happier working with an organization because the level of integrity and ethical behavior is really high. I work daily with so many people who are passionate about their job and I love that.

In terms of training–every agency is different. We have some online training, a great deal of conference calls, required in-person conference for new LCCs (with a trainer) and an annual training conference to keep everyone up to date with regulations, how to be successful in the role, provide advice, etc. We also have online groups for LCCs with many conversations happening daily. Because we recruit through our own offices worldwide, we do have a lot of connectivity through the overseas offices. They want to know what works for us as LCCs and we get to hear from them, which is excellent and only makes us better. It’s a lot of time–but there is also a lot to know to be good at this job: not just how to answer questions on every State Department regulation and organization rule, but on local education, how to advise families and au pairs on nearly every topic that comes up–food, hours, scheduling, children, activities, managing expectations…it’s not a job for everyone and it’s hard to be great from the start with such a big learning curve.

How I feel about host families: I love working with my host families. I really enjoy that relationship and as we often survey our families (and our pay is based on how we are rated), I know I’m valued by my families. I do think that many families expect more from their au pair than they do from themselves–I can’t have a clean house when I’ve spent a day with my children and yet we often expect our au pairs to do that. Families don’t always recognize how hard it is at the beginning to have a new home, language, family, food, activities, support group and hard job working with children. Adjustment can take time and every family really is different. What goes in one family can be so different from another. I’ve had families really have a tough time with their au pairs and the au pairs end up with another family and it’s an incredible experience. It’s hard to manage all of those differences and expectations.

Regarding meetings–again, this is different with every agency. The State Department requires monthly contact, but how agencies interpret that is different. Some count emails and phone calls as contact. I am required by CCAP to have face-to-face monthly meetings. These meetings are so important to my group. I know that because au pairs from 4 different agencies attend my meetings because they do not find support through their own agency so they come to mine and join us. We do many fun things–feedback is not always plentiful and we are required to do 3 safety meetings a year (which luckily my au pairs like because they meet firefighters at one meeting and a stellar police detective comes to another). We do everything from a campfire, scavenger hunt, halloween party, bucket lists, dinner, hiking, etc. I know of one LCC who does unbelievable overnights with her au pairs. She plans them for months in advance. We are advised that no event should be very expensive (though I have heard of some LCCs who often do things that are $20 or $30, which is a lot). We try to make our meetings free or very cheap. Regarding dinner–I have worked with restaurants to throw us amazing meals with endless food for $10 and nearly every time, I’ve had complaints from au pairs about spending $10. Some want to spend nothing, even if it’s fun or “typical American.” It’s also hard to do something like a baseball game because often au pairs will RSVP yes and then not show and the LCC is then out her own money. There is always some au pair complaining about a meeting and some are hard to please. We just try our best. I do also have an optional coffee meet up within the week that any new au pair arrives–they love this and I feel it makes my group closer and life easier for the host families. I tend to be very close to my au pairs. Some LCCs don’t try at all, which is sad, but many try very, very hard. One of my colleagues even had one of the au pairs in her group name her daughter after the LCC–that says something!

CCAP is also different in that we do have quite a lot of former au pairs as LCCs. It’s great for both au pairs and host families. Of the 4 LCCs in my town, 2 are former au pairs and that makes us more interesting. I love going to our conference each year because it’s so international.

I guess my one request for families is to provide feedback–we can’t meet your needs if you don’t let us know. If your agency requests feedback on your LCC, please provide it–sometimes it effects our pay, but it most certainly makes us better if we know what we are doing well, and where we could improve. Hope this helps!

In terms of being ineffective, again I can only speak on CCAP–transparency is important, which is why when an au pair is in transition, you receive notes on what happened and get the contact information for the previous host family and LCC. There is some information we couldn’t divulge in those notes–like if there was a situation of alcohol abuse or domestic issues. But in general, we want families to know about the au pair. We do not want an unsuccessful au pair going to a new family because that helps no one. But there really are two sides to every story. A family once told me their daughter got out of the house and walked down the street while the au pair was on duty. Completely unacceptable, right? But then I talked to the au pair and it turned out the host parent had come home unexpectly, unlocked the door, and left the door ajar when they walked back out. Au pair thought it was locked–again, two sides to every story. I would be very skeptical of any situation where I was not allowed to speak with the former family or get information as to why they are in transition–and I’ve had 5 transition au pairs join my family. I’ve seen hundreds of transitions and it’s a family said/au pair said 2/3 of the time–you’ve got to get the whole story and wade through the drama.

Anonymous, let me know if you do really want to become an LCC (or anyone else for that matter). We are always open to having people who are passionate about this program. I love what I do.

If anyone ever wants advice on an issue and you want an LCC perspective, even if you aren’t with my agency, feel free to reach out: julie.dye at lcc.culturalcare.com. I want everyone to be successful with their experience.

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I had to scan through this as I run off to a meeting, but I love this — I got a great idea from you, to do informal coffee meet ups for the group when new APs arrive! But as a practical matter, how do you make that work? Most new APs can’t drive yet and so when I do my orientation (with just the new APs, not the whole group, where we go over rules, expectations, philosophies, I do my “you’re the parents eyes, ears, and hearts, and this is a very important job but you’re also here to have fun, with the kids and in your off time!” speech, etc) I carpool them. Do you drive them to the informal coffee meet-ups, and to their orientation, or does CCAP not have a mandatory orientation for the new APs? I am trying to figure out how to manage that, with the monthly meeting for the whole group each month, too, and working F/T with twins at home! :)

Julie October 30, 2014 at 2:48 pm

We have a mandatory orientation with au pairs and families when the au pair arrives to the family, but that’s after the au pairs have been to a week of training school, so they know the basics and have had recent training. Do your au pairs not have training school upon arrival to the US?

You do meet with each host family and au pair upon arrival, yes? That is mandatory for us as well. It’s important to get everyone on the same page.

For the welcome coffee, I usually have an au pair who lives nearby pick up the new au pair. It’s a great way to get them engaged with the group, fight homesickness and get them up and going for the family quicker. Win-win all around!

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Hi Julie,

We do have a mandatory orientation with the APs within 2 weeks of arrival and with the HF within 2 weeks before the AP arrival (I believe that’s State Department rules, actually, now that I think about it). And the au pairs do attend a week worth of training before arriving to the HF. They go through the basic training, but I like to give them more training — not that it’s different, but it’s more one on one. I talk about things they say they haven’t heard (or listened to…) at training, not just about Shaken Baby Syndrome and not leaving a child alone in a car, or child development, etc, but that showing respect to their HF is of vital importance, and not sharing family confidences is also extremely important, and that their HF might not discipline in ways they would choose to do themselves, but their job is to discipline/redirect/educate how the HF wants, not how they think is right. I also like to remind them that there are very few actual State Department rules and requirements and everything else is up to the family — whether they have access to a car, and how often, and what restrictions that car might have, whether they get an I-Phone 6 or just a flip phone, whether they have a curfew or not, whether they are allowed to have guests of either sex spend the night, etc, etc, etc.

I don’t meet with the HF and the AP together, no, but I do explain to both of them that I have explained to the other the same things. I tell HFs that showing respect to the AP is very important, and trying to understand that she is coming in from an entirely different culture might be hard for her, that they need to be patient with her about some things, but that they certainly have the right to expect her to follow their rules. I say if it seems she doesn’t follow the rules because she doesn’t understand them or doesn’t understand the reason behind them, they might want to consider discussing that with her.

As for the welcome coffee, yes, that makes sense: if other APs are attending (and as I read your post, this is voluntary, not considered the monthly meeting) they can pick up the new APs. How large is your group, and about what percent would you guess attend the informal coffee meet-ups?

It sounds like you and I have a similar philosophy and approach to this program, and I am glad you posted!

IEXLC November 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I too love being a LC. I am with InterExchange Au Pair USA and we are referred to as LC’s (local coordinators), We are a non profit mid-sized agency with outstanding customer service. LC’s get tons of training including new hire training, 2 annual conferences and quarterly check-ins with Regional Supervisors in the field. IEXLC’s are required to host face to face meetings monthly with their cluster! It is a hard job that requires many hats! I have never met an IEXLC in the past 6 years I have been with the company that doesn’t hold the health well-being and safety of the AP in the highest regard!

Long Island Host Mom October 30, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Julie – I only wish you were the LCC in our area. Having been with CC for six years – I would say we have had 6 LCC’s during that time. Only one was effective and relatable to both AP’s and HF’s. Currently we have an LCC that our small group does not like. She is foreign born and very difficult to understand. She comes off rude and strict and really has not endeared any of the AP’s to want to attend the monthly meetings. She has put no effort across to help the group grow and I have even made suggestions to her/ What can be done about this ? My AP even said if she had a problem – she would never go to her and mentioned the other AP’s in the group feel the same way… I am not thrilled with the revolving door we have had and I am finally considering moving to another agency. I think that they just get any “body” to fill this slot and yet I think it takes a special kind of person. What would you do ?? Should I speak to the PD or go higher up as I have a contact at CC. ? Thanks !

Julie October 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Long Island Host Mom, you are welcome to write me offline and tell me about your experience and I can certainly pass it on. You’re also welcome to contact me with any questions or send your au pair my direction. I’m happy to help. The management team really, really does pay attention to feedback and what you say can be critical. I’ve seen a lot of changes based on feedback. Please reach out to me!

IEXLC November 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Long Island Host Mom
I am an LC with InterExchange Au Pair USA we have amazing LC’s! Our Regional Contact on LI is Ellen Hogan. I am sure she would be happy to help you or even have your AP come to one of our cluster meetings for the support she needs.
ehogan@lc.interexchange.org

AlwaysHopeful HM October 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Julie, your post confirms the experience I’ve had with CCAP. The AD at my previous agency was very hands off, and really didn’t provide support to either the APs or the HFs. In fact, my AP at the time joined activities hosted by his CCAP friends’ LCC, and went to her with questions he couldn’t get answered by our AD. I had always held a negative view of CCAP (too commercial, too aggressive), but I saw through my AP and his friends what a difference an involved, experienced LCC can make. When my family ended up going into rematch, I was utterly dismayed by the complete lack of support the AD offered, particularly to our AP, who received little to no communication. The tremendous support I received from the CCAP LCC at that time, and that my AP received from her throughout the year really helped change my mind about the agency. Of course, I ended up selecting my agency based on the AP, but I was happy it ended up being CCAP.

Love being a CC, I would agree with you that most of the posters here are HMs (although we have a welcome share of AP regulars), and that we support each other, but I actually think that is the beauty of the blog. We also challenge each other and work to keep the focus on having the best experience both for us and our APs. From my pov, this blog is really critical for folks like me, who don’t know a lot of other HFs, and want to sometimes talk to someone who has been there/done that. I’ve gotten great tips and ideas, received much appreciated “tough love”, and learned enough about myself to know what advice will work for my family or won’t. I would urge you to give a blog another look!

LoveBeingaCC October 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I absolutely am, AlwaysHopeful, and am grateful to the HM in my group for suggesting it to me again. I really do appreciate your feedback, both as a HM myself and as a CC. I am also part of a nanny group on facebook that I joined to get some perspective from professional child care providers, not the exact same as APs, but some young just like APs, and I find the more I read on there the more I get heartburn, too. I’m seeing a lot of “your family wants what? Eye roll, that is so ridiculous, that makes no sense …. I would do it because that’s what the family wants unless you think the family won’t find out …” and it pains me that the attitude is “whatever, it’s what the family wants so I guess you have to do it, but it is soooo stupid.” And if I read an AP blog, I’d likely see the same things, and if I hear one of the APs in my group say something like that, she gets a word from me! :)

Dawn Middleton October 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I would like to do something different and answer the question you posted!.I have been an LC for almost 20 years. I have also been a host mom.My role has stayed the same for all of this time even though the regulations,program guidelines, expectations and competition has grown and changed. I love my role as an LC which is obvious with the amount of time I have been doing this. I am passionate about the aupair program and I am dedicated to the agency that I work for. I do have one of the largest clusters in the agency and I feel I am a successful LC however I am always looking for ideas on how to do more, how to grow our numbers and how to spread the word on this life changing childcare option.Blogging has intrigued me. So here goes:
1 – About how many different people comment regularly on your blog?
2 -Do you know if your readers and followers are active Host Families and AuPairs?
3 -Why do you continue your blog if you are not an active HF or LC?
4 – Is there income in blogging?
5 – Do you personally know the people that are posting and commenting on your blog?
6 – Do you feel that blogging can hurt a business when there is too much negativity?
Thank you and I do look forward to hearing you speak at our conference!

cv harquail October 31, 2014 at 9:47 am

Hi Dawn! Thanks for these questions– they are a real help. Now I’m just wondering… if I answer them here on the blog, will my eventual talk feel boring and put you to sleep? ;-)

I spent about an hour this morning, curled up in a chair and a blanket, sipping my coffee, just writing freehand to try and capture some of my reflections over time about the history of the blog, and one of the *weird* things I realize is:

I do not know a SINGLE one of the co-mentors on the blog personally. I’ve interacted with TaCL, SBW, Dorsi, CalifMom, and some of the other long-time and most active contributors via email, and of course the women who’ve written guest posts, but never met them in person. Or for that matter, even talked with them on the phone.

Isn’t that weird?

Early on, the commenters were people I knew– my best friend, one of my favorite guy friends from college, my neighbor who I convinced to get an au pair — but other than that, everyone is an irl mystery to me. Which is weird, if you knew how much I love and admire these women.

I’ll have to figure out the number of commenters vs. visitors….I can count the actual # of comments (32,491 so far, not including this one) but I’ll have to find a tool to help with identifying the # of people.

If you think of any more questions– let me know. I’m really looking forward to finally meeting more of the people in the AP community, especially you and your colleagues. – cv

TexasHM October 31, 2014 at 3:47 pm

CV this is too funny, I was thinking the same thing a few days ago! I talk about this blog all the time as if I know my fellow contributors (and have exchanged emails with some offline) but haven’t actually met anyone yourself included and that seems really strange when you think about how much we feel like we get to know each other here! I am happy to host the first ever APMom community event here in DFW… ;) or if I knew where you were I would totally find an excuse to swing by (which is probably why you made the blog anonymous LOL!) ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 30, 2014 at 8:00 pm

This has been an interesting thread. I love, love, love my LCC (she is one who draws APs in from other clusters and agencies). She organizes 2 meetings most months – one free (or low cost) and the other an event (sometimes APIA seems to give her a subvention – or she’s really good at finding bargains). She always days a “Beat Homesickness event in late August or early September when most of the APs in the cluster have recently arrived.

Jennc October 30, 2014 at 8:26 pm

I found aupairmom when we were getting ready to welcome our first aupair. I read through lots of posts, lots of different topics and really utilized it to help me plan a successful year. The experiences I read about helped me think through possible situations, and also helped me avoid others.

For me this site was invaluable in preparing myself not only to welcome an aupair but to also be the best host mom that I could be, thinking outside of the box and truly understanding how important the development of this relationship would be.

I read the rules, I indoctrined them into my household, upheld my schedules and respected my aupairs personal time…. I made adjustments because of my aupair going above and beyond… I developed friendships with my aupairs, bonds like family. If I hadn’t happened on this site maybe I would have still been successful, but very possibly not, when you make a huge decision to bring someone from another country into your family you must make a commitment to do your best as a host parent, and that means researching and planning.

I have come to this site with questions concerns and gotten good honest answers… Yes sometimes what one person has to say isn’t always what you expect, but you get different ways to think about a situation and different ways to handle, great advice too! I have even advices my aupairs to read this site because they also get a different perspective beyond their own or other aupairs… Maybe a secret look into how the host parents may think. Things to do to avoid issues etc. I luv the site.

Summer B November 1, 2014 at 2:26 am

I have found this blog to be a tremendous resource for understanding common issues HPs have and how they resolve them. I really like AuPairMom! The LCCs perspective is defnitely missing, which is a shame. I have talked to/interviewed a number of area directors and LCC’s/LARs- who have provided me with some great insight into the program.

I also noticed what LovedbeingaCC did– the posts seemed to be more negative back a couple years ago, but with more structure the last year it seems like there is more balanced perspectives with more Au Pairs commenting and less “AP bashing.”

I agree getting more LCCs/LARs to comment would be helpful- maybe add a section on AuPairMom to address their common concerns (ideas for AP activities, interpertation of AP rules, dealing with breakdowns, rematching, AP traveling, AP education credits, etc…) – would draw more of the LCC crowd to the blog. I would be happy to connect you to a number of our stellar LAR bloggers with GAP…

Summer B November 1, 2014 at 2:30 am

If LAR’s or LCC’s did guest blogs here it would help get more of their perspective and more of the community counselor readership… Just some thoughts :)

cv harquail November 1, 2014 at 11:02 am

Summer, thanks for this suggestion.

You’re right that the LCC/LAR perspective — as a discrete section or voice — is generally missing from the blog. People do pop in and out in their formal roles, but that’s not the same as thinking of LCC/LARs as a group whose interests should or could be served by AuPairMom.

I think that this idea has been outside my field of vision because (especially when the blog was younger) I was concerned about it becoming a place where people either complained about agencies or attempted to sell host parents on their particular agency.
Maybe if we have some expectations about focusing on what any counselor might need, and about not using a guest post to selly-sell ones agency, we could create a space for counselors to share their wisdom while keeping a focus on improving relationships for everyone.

I’m open to ideas about how to do this–
cv

mom210 November 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

I would be happy to

mom210 November 2, 2014 at 12:16 am

I am an AD and I have been for 13+ years. I am also a HM hosting my 16th au pair. I love this program. I enjoy meeting and helping families. I enjoy the au pairs. I do this job as I care about the people, not for the money. I have worked for more than one au pair agency and I have hosted au pairs from several agencies too. I don’t read too often on aupairmom but I do enjoy it when I do. I think it is a very helpful tool to families and au pairs.

Chris Sherman November 7, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Hi – I have been a community counselor for close to 10 years. Although I have no questions about your page, I do think it’s a good blend of host family and au pair questions and comments.

Chris Sherman November 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have without a sales pitch.

Bekki Buenviaje November 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Hello – I am an LCC and I am a HM of an au pair. I read your blog a couple times a month. I enjoy reading your site and find it informative in both of my roles. As an LCC, I have recommended it or spoken about it to others in my agency. I think many in the industry are aware of your blog and do read it, but they just don’t comment on it, perhaps for professional reasons. We turn to our training, supervisors who have a lot more experience and years in the business, and speak to each other on company social networking sites to discuss the issues you mentioned. It would be unprofessional to discuss on an open blog how to deal with a cranky host family, etc.. However, your blogs and advice and ideas are read and well taken!

APCNGT December 9, 2014 at 9:32 am

As a fairly new hands-on Au Pair Coordinator (APC), I read this blog quite often and thoroughly enjoy it. I have found some very interesting information on a variety of topics. I also send the link to my new host families so that they can find a community to learn from and partake, if they choose. I was an au pair myself in Europe where I had a wonderful experience years ago and would like to give back to this community. I am very selective in choosing families so that I can provide both sides with a good experience. I would like more information from everyone involved about the type of families we should be looking for in order to provide the best climate for our host families and au pairs. I have found good host families, but also have found host families that interviewed very well and turned out to only want an au pair to do their job very well and did not embrace themselves as an integral part in the cultural exchange. Shouldn’t this be a major part of the au pair program?

InvolvedOrImposing June 26, 2015 at 11:19 am

I know this post is old, and perhaps my response won’t be seen but I wanted to share/reply anyway! :)

I would like to know the best way to develop a relationship with my host families without feeling like my calls, emails, and overall interest is imposing.

I am a relatively new LCC and understand there is plenty I still have to learn. But since joining the program, I definitely feel I am consistently in better communication with my Au pairs than the families (perhaps because of similarity in our age and their love of messaging on social media/texting?), and therefore I have more of an understanding of how THEY are doing but have no idea if my families are LOVING their au pair or are just okay with the au pair because of lack of in-depth communication. It would truly be nice to change that – I would like to get to know my host families just as well as my au pairs. But here’s where my hesitation lies – With some of the families when I mention/remind them at the interview that I will be phoning monthly to check-in, they asked if it HAD to be a phone call and that their “previous LCC would email to check in” and email was their preferred method of contact. This makes me feel as if my phone calls, emails, and overall presence is more of an inconvenience to them, and is somewhat unwanted….until an issue arises of course. For this reason, I am hesitant to phone for the monthly check ins and have reverted to emails. When I do phone, I feel somewhat at a loss for what to say, aside from the basic “check-in questions” because I feel like I am interrupting or bothering someone who isn’t really interested in talking, and this is truly discouraging for me as an LCC who wants to get to know my families more closely. For me – it seems that some of the host families are the ones who answer just so they can get the boxes checked and then carry on with their day…

Sometimes when I do email, I send other information – reminders, event details, updated blog links with photos from the AP meetings, etc… in addition to the check-in questions, and I get the most minimal replies such as the most common: “yes to all” which tells me they didn’t even read the email, especially when not all of the questions were yes/no questions.

I wonder if this is due to previously having a minimally involved LCC, or because some have been with the program for years? Maybe because I am new? I truly don’t know…. I would like for my families to feel interested in sharing more about what their au pairs are doing during their time with the children, or how they are spending time together as a family even…Maybe share with me about something cultural they have taught the family, or something funny that happened..awesome photos of them in action with the kids…anything! Really, I know that my families are AWESOME and do some really cool things, and have plenty to share. I am one of the LCC’s that WANTS to be as involved and informed as possible with my families but I’m not sure how to do this without feeling like I’m being a nuisance. I WANT to develop a relationship with them, but I don’t want to “impose” per say…when I get the feeling that they aren’t really interested in talking…

I would LOVE to read suggestions and thoughts from Au Pair Moms about this! Any suggestions as to how to turn this around? Any thoughts on what I could do differently?

WarmStateMomma June 26, 2015 at 7:24 pm

If our LCC asked me specifically for stories, photos, etc., I’d share them. If she sent them to a blast email, I wouldn’t because it wouldn’t feel that sincere. I don’t really like the phone chats with LCCs because it just feels awkward. We had an LCC that talked forever on the phone but I enjoyed texting with. She would do little things like text me a photo of my kid and AP at a play date she hosted. Simple but thoughtful.

HPs at different ages are going to have different communication styles. I like texts or emails but generally dislike phone calls. Others will prefer phone calls. In-person conversations are best but it’s hard to make that happen when people are busy and don’t live especially close.

Suggestion – when you make your monthly contact, ask how the family prefers to communicate. Then use that method to follow up with what you really want to know – how the family spends time with the AP, funny stories, etc. I shared a lot more when it felt like the LCC really wanted to know instead of that she was following a script or checking a box.

Anonymous in CA June 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Agreed with WSM, and would add that if the phone calls feel awkward because you’re just asking the required questions, try posing some open ended questions that might elicit something from the HF that they might not have otherwise shared that will bring more substance and meaning to the call….I think the point is that you’d rather know of a budding issue that you can assist with before it becomes a full blown rematch situation. And you don’t want to waste the HF’s time with a call that just asks the “check the box questions.” And while the “this was funny,” or “AP had a blast with the children doing that,” stories are uplifting, I think to develop trust, the interaction has to be real-world, not just the Facebook post of au pair hosting. So, by asking an open ended question, or a question that builds on something the HF might have said in the last call, you can start to develop a relationship (take notes from each call so you remember the next month that so and so was having a hard time with X).

But I wouldn’t expect an HF to start sharing things if they don’t feel there’s a genuine relationship of trust. You might look at the interview questions that have been suggested on a recent post to get some ideas and adapt them to what you’d really like to know about…like, “what do you find hardest about hosting an au pair?” or “describe a situation where you au pair had a difficult time with the children / how did you manage that / do you feel the au pair needs more support in learning how to address such situations?” or “is the au pair feeding the children the things you want her / him to feed them?”.

FWIW, I actually thought the call was required…that the LCC HAS to make verbal contact once a month, but maybe that varies by agency.

TexasHM June 27, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I agree with WSM that I would ask your HFs what method of communication they prefer and try to accommodate that as best you can. That in itself will show them that you know they are busy and you want to make their lives easier which they should appreciate.

Couple of things – first off I think you are just going to have to accept that you aren’t likely going to be as close to the HFs as you are to the APs and that is ok. The APs are a half a world away from their support system so they really need an advocate here. I would love for my AP to feel like she could tell the LC anything and be supported. Myself on the other hand, being a tenured family and juggling 3 kids a full time job husband and AP I really don’t have the bandwidth to chat up the LC all the time.

Now, with that having been said, when there is an issue – be there! I don’t need my LC the vast majority of the time but if I get in a bind I need her 300%. If your concern truly is that you aren’t sure if the families are satisfied with their APs then a few easy questions could casually tease that out. Things like “on a scale of 1-10 how is AP performing her job duties?” Do you feel like you got what you expected from the AP program (newer families)? Why/why not? Do you think you will host again? Why/why not? Is there anything I can do to help improve your experience? Are there any topics you would like me to bring up at the next cluster meeting to coach the APs on? (Great LCs are masters at this.) Do you have any concerns? Etc

I would keep it short and sweet and professional. You asking great questions and being considerate of the HFs time I think will go a long way toward building a relationship with you and seeking out feedback (here and from your families) will help you go far. Good luck!

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