Au Pair Counselors (LCCs): Your #1 Defense Against Bad Host Parent Behavior

by cv harquail on November 5, 2011

It breaks my heart when we get emails and comments from au pairs who are being taken advantage of by their host parents. We know that the host parents’ behavior is out of line, and we’re happy to tell au pairs what host parent behavior is inappropriate or downright exploitative.

We tell au pairs to go straight to rematch if their host parents exploit them (e.g., asking them to do host parent laundry, working every weekend, cleaning the whole house, etc.) We also try to help when au pairs aren’t sure of their rights (easier for US au pairs than au pairs outside the US, since we know the US rules). 11310819_ab8a38d9d6_o.jpg

And, we recommend various strategies for talking with host parents and trying to resist specific kinds of bad behavior (e.g., never paying for any gas that the au pair uses to drive kids around).

But everyone’s biggest challenge, the Host Parents who behave badly, are hard for us to reach. Why? Pretty simple — they don’t care enough about their au pairs, or their relationships with their au pairs, to follow a blog that is essentially about being a better host parent.

Intentionally bad Host Parents don’t read AuPairMom.

So how do we reach Host Parents who are doing things wrong and mistreating their au pairs? We can’t, and that’s why the entire au pair community — host parents, au pairs, and agencies — depend on the Local Community Counselors (LCCS).

We depend on Local Community Counselors

We expect, hope and pray that LCCs have their ears to the ground, listening for tales of host parents that are behaving badly. We know, of course, that LCCs have to sort the drama from the reality. But, we also know that someone needs to be paying attention, looking for patterns of au pair complaints over time, because SOMEBODY has to weed these bad host families out of the system.

Au Pair Agencies do try to ‘screen’ host parents, to eliminate ones that clearly don’t get what the program is about. They ask host parents to sign legal agreements that confirm that the parents know the rules and will abide by them. And, LCCs visit with the host family two weeks after their new au pairs arrive, to check that the rules are being followed.

But then, what?

3524587052_779f529de0_o.jpgAsks ShouldBeWorking:

I would like to hear some LCCs chime in here.

Do you LCCs/ADs ASK your APs during your monthly meetings if they are getting properly paid, have appropriate responsibilities, etc.?

Aren’t the LCCs required to have monthly contact with the APs?

What do LCCs do when they hear of these kinds of abuses?

LCCs– we’d love to hear from you on this one!

—  What do you try, and what works best?

—  Are there any ways that we (other) Host Parents can help you?

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German Au-Pair November 6, 2011 at 12:32 am

I was the one with the troubled friend to whom SBW responded but I cannot find the thread anymore. Sorry for posting that hear.
Just wanted to say that I did talk to our AD about it and told the friend that I did and she was SO relieved. Turns out she hostmum even lied about conversations that she claims to have had with the AD that made my friend afraid that the AD was mad at her.
They will have a conversation about this and my AD obviously hat no clue what was going on. She hasn’t seen her in a while because she never gets to attend the cluster meetings because she has to work or get shipped out of state so when my AD talked to her on the phone just to check in, of course she always said “Everything’s fine.”
What she needed was to be FORCED to talk about the stuff that’s going on.

Maybe ADs might want to consider that there are people, you really have to sit down in front of you and REALLY ask if everything is going okay.

CO Host Mom November 6, 2011 at 9:56 am

I’m an LCC and also a host mom. This whole topic really presents a great opportunity to restate the value of communication in AP/HF relationships, but to also address the importance of communication between the AP and the LCC.

For me, the most frustrating thing I see is the AP wants to voice her concerns about her HF, but doesn’t want to do anything proactive to address those concerns. So sometimes as an LCC, it is hard to do anything but let the AP vent. I have APs that are adamant about not wanting to talk to their HF about their concerns, but are also adamant that I not talk to them either. And if an AP tells me not to tell their host family something, I’m not going to do it unless I see it as severe abuse of the program rules. So if I’ve been asked to not say anything to the HF, instead I’ll usually try and help the AP with constructive ways to work through the problem/concern.

More frustrating for me as an LCC, though, is when I have APs that tell me they are working too many hours, but when I ask them to spend a week documenting the hours they work, they refuse to do it. I try and explain that it is helpful to me to have actual times to talk about with the HF. Otherwise, it goes something like this:

Me to HF: AP says she worked 60 hours last week

HF: No she didn’t, she only worked 45

Compare that to if the AP has written down exactly what time she started and stopped work for those 60 hours, so I can take that to the HF and find out what is going on.

Very often, what is going on is a major miscommunication. For example, the HF took the AP with them out to dinner. During dinner, the AP helped one of the kids with her food, took her to the bathroom, etc…. AP counts all that time as working hours because she did “work”. HF considered her to be off work, and just doing things to help out as any other family member would. Miscommunication.

So yes, LCCs need to be talking to their APs, meeting with them once a month, and addressing concerns. But at the same time, the APs have to help out in the problem resolution by communicating, following through with your LCC’s suggestions, and being willing to do something proactive to address problems.

German Au-Pair November 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I get your frustration with APs who won’t talk to the HPs. But in this particular AP has tried talking to her HM before and ended up being personally attacked and crying the whole night! I totally get why she wouldn’t want to give it another try. And our AD does agree with her that having HER talk to the HM would make the HM feel betrayed.
Tricky situation. They’ll meet as soon as possible and I hope they’ll find something that helps.

As a sidenote: Yes, I do think that somehow it is her own fault that she didn’t rematch but it appears as if the problems all occured during the second half of her stay and it’s hard to rematch when you have less than six months left, right? Our AD was totally unaware about all that was going on -lying, threatening, making her feel guilty for things that weren’t her fault, pressuring her into working more than she should, doing HM’s laundry etc.
And no, I do not think that this is just venting and maybe exaggerated.
There are some truely horrible people out there.

Jill November 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I am an LCC as well. I agree with the above post that it is very important for the HF & AP to communicate with each other. I will check in with the AP’s at our monthly meetings. If an AP brings a concern to me, I also ask if they have discussed it with their HF. If they are too uncomfortable to approach them, I will ask permission to talk with their HF. Many times the AP doesn’t want to “cause problems”. So what I often do is send out a group e-mail to all HF/AP’s in the group addressing the problem (as a general program rule). That way the AP doesn’t feel singled out and it then gives her an opportunity to start the dialogue. If they still can’t talk with the HF at that point, I ask them to contact me and I will then talk to the HF. Usually, the AP will approach the HF after getting the group e-mail.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 7, 2011 at 8:18 am

This comes down to a previous thread we had – that the success of an AP’s year often comes down to the quality of the LCC when the AP is having a tough time, whether it is the HF’s fault or not. When an AP denies that anything is wrong, there is nothing the LCC can do.

APs are adults. While they might be their own parents’ children, here in the United States, they are adults. They need to stand up for their rights, and when they cannot, to enlist the help of the LCC. Over the years, my APs have had several friends who were either happy or sad about their living situation, and some tolerated imperfect AP/HF relations because they had built a life for themselves and didn’t want to upend it. If I hear about abuse, I report it to my LCC (even if the AP lives in another cluster), so she can talk with the appropriate LCC.

Tristatemom November 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

I totally agree with CV that ‘bad’ hostfamilies do not read this blog. I also feel that the ‘bad’ hostfamily sometimes seems like a myth. These days, APs are very much informed about their rights and talk to each other constantly and compare.
I also see very little ability in the APs to see the situation from the view of the HF. CO hostmom gave a good example: the family probably thought they were doing something nice by taking the AP out to dinner and the AP cannot help out like a real family member would? We see that all the time and it is frustrating. And the AP counts that as working time?
I always try to emphasize that we (AP and HF) built a ‘good will’ account, meaning you do things that you are not required to do but it creates good will to overlook other issues, give more incentives etc. My success rate with this is mediocre :(

EmmieJane November 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I think there are host families who do not follow the program rules and take advantage of their au pairs or who forget their birthdays, aren’t kind, don’t say good morning and so forth. However, I agree that identifying “bad families” is not easy. Oftentimes when my au pair is telling me stories in which she clearly thinks the au pair got the short end of the stick, I find myself suggesting an alternative viewpoint. For instance, my au pair had a friend who crashed her host family’s car 2 times in 2 weeks, and they put her into rematch. My au pair thinks this girl is a great au pair and defends, it wasn’t her fault etc… I feel the need to point out doesn’t see the full array of insurance and financail issues, safety issues, anxiety that would come from having an au pair, who crashed a car 2x. Or another friend, who was put into rematch after having some friends over, including my au au pair. My au pair was really upset about this. I was like there must be something more, how many people? was anyone drunk? were there men? did she have permission? Well, a couple people were drunk, and men were there just to use the bathroom, and it was like 6-8 girls spending the night… and there were other issues, and the au pair had only been with the family like a month. I love my au pair, but when she reports on these “terrible” host family situations, many times I raise my eyebrows and try to suggest there is more to the story, and most times eventually I find out there was a lot more. I’m not saying host families are perfect, but I do find myself needing to balance au pair reporting of the situations. My au pair is young and is not always able to step back and view the situation in a balanced way. I think this is a challenge that an LCC faces, and I would think it is a lot of listening to two sides of the story and trying to figure out what’s the truth of the situation. The dinner story is another great example.

AuPairCA November 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

I don’t know what point we leave “being part of the family” and in what point we start being strangers being a housekeeper/nanny. I think that helping the HF in occasions like, washing the dishes, or helping vacuuming some common places like a living room, or the kitchen, it’s more than fine. If we do those stuff in our home country, why don’t we consider that we are living in another person’s house, and the least we can do it help with little stuff, because it’s become our house too (BE SURE THAT I’M NOT SAYING TO WASH THE WHOLE HOUSE FROM ROOF TO FLOOR, OR CLEANING EVERYBODY BEDROOM AND CLOTHES). But normally theses BAD host families only uses the part of the family policy when it’s for their own pleasure. I’ve heard cases about AP that didn’t dinner and the host family bought a pizza, and didn’t let her eat a bite of it. Or, HF that counted the bread slices that the AP was eating, because they thought that the AP was eating too much. The Au Pair passes for a long selective process to be online for the HF. Including, psychological tests, interviews, English tests, psychological evaluation. Does the HF have this kind of evaluation? Or anyone that pays are accepted? I wish that all APs give their HF the APMOM link, so them can check it out.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm

This post has got me thinking – what is the biggest bone of contention between APs and HFs? Is it the chores? the hours? the food? or the HF traveling without including the AP? invasion of privacy? something else?

What pushes APs past telling LCCs “nothing is wrong” and into rematch?

Dorsi November 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm

One of the things my current AP says when she tells me about some of the “terrible” families out there — they require their APs to work extra hours without extra pay. I have heard this over and over from her, which makes me think it is the most terrible thing she thinks a host family can do. (For the record, she works overtime on a semi-regular, fully optional basis and is paid extra for it).

Gianna November 8, 2011 at 9:22 am

I think that there are a couple of problems. APs need to realize that the must work at a good relationship with their LCCs. Even if they do not trust her immediately , they need to cooperate by attending meetings, returning phone calls and telling the truth. This builds credibility with the LCC. If she knows you, she it is easier for her to help you. I think this is also true for host parents. It is just easier to resolve problems with someone with whom you have a nice history. From what I hear, many host parents enter the process with the idea that the LCC is the enemy. They don’t return calls, resent questions, and try to get over. Of course, many LCCs seem to be incompetant. I have heard stories of LCCs and Area Directors making things worse instead of better. Most of that, in my opinion , is a result of inexperience. So many LCCs are brand new with little experience and they haven’t a clue as to how to handle problems.

CO Host Mom November 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

Again, as both a host mom and LCC, I’ll add a couple more thoughts. First, as far as the biggest bone of contention, if I had to pick one thing, I’d say it is the hours. And I would also say that almost always, it is a matter of miscommunication about what is “work” rather than the HF intentionally trying to break the rules of the program. Yes, HFs do break the rules, but usually those are as mentioned above where both parties have agreed to have the AP work extra hours for extra pay. I don’t hear complaints from those APs (in my personal experience). I do hear complaints from APs that believe they are working too much, but when you sit down with them and count hours, or talk to the HF, it usually is more miscommunication than abuse of the rules. If the AP, on her day off, sits and plays Wii with her host kids all afternoon without being asked to do so – that’s not typically going to be considered “work” but rather, being a fun big sister to the kids. I could go on an on with examples of times the AP considers what she’s doing to be on the clock “work” where the HF never even considered that to be the case.

As far as LCCs sometimes being incompetent – absolutely. We left an agency because the LCC was terrible. But in my own capacity as an LCC, I can also say that often you get accused of being incompetent because either APs or HFs are looking for someone to blame. I’ve had both say to the agency and to other APs/HFs “Our LCC didn’t do ANYTHING” when in fact I’d been working hard to help the parties resolve problems. Sometimes when emotions get involved, though, it is hard to help the parties see that you really are doing everything you can, but you can’t work miracles, and sometimes you can’t make anyone happy (much less everyone).

As another sidenote, I’d caution all APs and HFs to always remember there are two sides to the story in a HF/AP disagreement. You may be hearing one side from one party, but I would say 99% of the time, you’re not getting the whole/true story.

Gianna November 8, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I think this post makes a good point about hearing the whole story. Even on this site, we are only hearing one side of the story ( most of the time ). I had to learn the hard way to bite my tongue and mind my own business sometimes. I think that offering a different worldview is a great gift we can offer aupairs. And yes, I absolutely agree that it is very easy to blame an LCC for doing nothing or screwing things up. The aupairs come here prepared not to trust the LCC and the families assume that the LCCs are there to 1. protect their interests or 2. serve as toadies for the agency. I find that aupairs are a great deal more sophisticated nowadays in terms of networking and social technology makes it easy. It is easy to get advise from someone other than the LCC. But to tell the truth, I don’t the agencies have much respect for the LCCs. I think the agencies have no interest in training people well and I think that they are not particular about who they hire. I think if you get a great LCC it is a matter of luck. The poster above sounds wonderful !

HRHM November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm

In my experience, there was little to no follow up with the HF after that 2 week visit to see how things were going. Our Lcc “monthly contact” was a group email and that was it. So unless the HF called the LCC directly, there was no opportunity for the LCC to reinforce the program rules/requirements, or to have an early catch when things seemed to be sliding in the wrong direction. And in our case, the AP meetings (per the AP, so no first hand knowledge on my part) involved them meeting at the mall food court, her having them sign in and then leaving them to socialize amongst themselves. In my opinion, in was a monthly missed chance to educate. I assumed prior to becoming a HP that these meetings would cover topics like child development, common safety topics, how to be a great AP, craft and activity ideas with you HC, how to use common appliances or how to properly clean a kids room/bathroom – you know, stuff that would actually help an AP do a better job. Nope.

Caveat – I realize that some LCCs are great, just not the 4 I’ve had so far.

German Au-Pair November 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You have to view that from the point of view of the au pairs! At least in my agency you don’t HAVE to attend the meetings. Would anyone show up if they knew they’d get taught about how to clean a bathroom? Hardly.
Would I want to hear for the 72th time about not drinking and driving and not letting the kids burn down the house? Not so much.
Would I want to hear about children development when I find that totally irrelevant for my kids’ age?…etc
So I guess if they followed your advice here, no one would ever show up.

Au Pair in Deutschland November 8, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I am currently an au pair in Germany. I am American and 23 years old, and wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to travel and experience European culture while I’m young. This doesn’t really have much to do with commenting on the topic, but I need some advice desperately and I came across your blog by chance.

I have been here in Germany since August 2nd, and am really unhappy here. I have tried to adjust/conform to the family for the year because I want to make it work. But I just can’t anymore. The past few weeks I’ve just realized that I have more bad, unhappy days than good, happy days and that is not how I want to spend the next 9 months of my life. I really just want some opinions on whether I am justified in my complaints because my Au-Pair director does not seem very willing to help me.

The family has only 1 child: a 3-year-old boy that I just adore. He’s sweet, funny, and very outgoing. The parents both work at the same company and go to work very early…they leave at about 5:15am. So my job is to wake the boy up around 8, dress him, brush his teeth, and take him to preschool. No problem – very easy. Well, that’s my only “duty” concerning the child. The rest of my duties include cleaning the entire house from top to bottom every week. That’s it. At first, I thought it was just “light cleaning” and of course, cleaning up after myself. The said the last au-pair cleaned for about 1 hour/day. Well, I don’t see how. Today I was informed that I was also supposed to vaccuum/clean/dust the steps as well. I did not know this. But I got in trouble for not doing it before. The parents don’t ever clean anything… so basically I feel like I am their maid, not their au-pair. They NEVER leave the house without the child, so I never have any other baby-sitting type duties. They’ve gone somewhere twice in the whole 3 months I’ve been here. Once to meet friends, but wouldn’t leave until after the boy had already gone to sleep, so I just sat with him baby-phone, and the other time they left, the boy was sleeping over at his grandparents. So my only child-caring duty is to wake him up in the morning and take him to preschool which takes all of about 1 hour/day. This is why I feel a little like a maid and not an au-pair. But that’s not really my biggest problem…

The reason I can’t stay here any longer is because of their attitude. They are seriously unhappy people. They fight with each other ALL the time. Screaming fighting. And the sad part is that their son can hear them. But it just makes me really uncomfortable. I know that’s not my business since I’m just their au pair, but it stresses me out. They’re fighting in German, obviously, and I can speak german fairly well, but I still can’t understand everything they say and I feel like they are fighting about me. Also, they are always getting mad at me about something. I can’t go through one day without them saying something to me. And it’s not anything important. If I don’t load the dishwasher “their” way, or if I accidentally leave a light on when I’m not in the room for 10 minutes, I get in trouble. And when I do something that they get mad about, they make little comments about it all the time for weeks. It makes me so stressed out. Every time I’m around them, I’m just waiting for them to say something to me that I did “wrong”. I never want to be around them because when I am, they are just so awkward. The dad is mad and grumpy most of the time, the child is scared of him sometimes. He never goes to his dad because you never know when he’s going to get mad about something. The mom is never happy because I can’t do everything her exact way. I even go out of my way to do things for them that they don’t ask, like organizing their tupperware cabinet after they were complaining about how disorganized it was, or doing some ironing for them (she said if I have time, I can, but don’t have to). All they do is say thanks without even smiling or anything. And when I say that I want to go somewhere, like Belgium, the dad always makes a face and says “Why would you want to go there? It’s so boring”… and he says that about nearly EVERY place I’ve said I wanted to go. I mean, that’s part of the reason I came here, to travel, yet they make me feel like I’m stupid for wanting to go there.

I’ve emailed my au-pair manager about it, and she just said to talk to them and I don’t need to leave now and really wasn’t any help. I emailed her back and still haven’t received a response. That was over a week ago. Now I’m just trying to figure out what to do before I email her again. Sorry, I know this is really long. I’ve talked to them about a couple of things and defended myself sometimes, but they just get mad at me and don’t listen, then they make comments about it for weeks still. I’m just really confused!! Thanks for any help and reading this LONG post. :)

kat November 8, 2011 at 7:27 pm

that is awful environment to be in and i dont think any talking will make any difference. i would certainly look for a new familyin your situation.

Europhile November 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Hi AP in Deutschland — my first suggestion would be that you do not rely on the agency. I too am a HM (outside of the US, with program “rules” that are closer to Germany’s than they are to the US) and I have used agencies in the past. The agencies see their involvement mostly in the matching process. Once the AP arrives, they are pretty much out of the picture, and there is very little interest in rematching candidates that they have already matched (in fact, most agencies will only rematch you during a certain time period, which you are probably already past).

My second suggestion would be that you sit down with your HP and explain to them how you feel. I would think that they have no idea and it’s only fair that you loop them in. See how they react — you have nothing to lose at this stage. Tell them that you are interested in watching the child, not cleaning up after them 90% of your time and that the balance of duties is too skewed for you. (Did they tell you before matching what your duties would be?) Take it from there.

My third suggestion would be that if they don’t “hear” you, to move on to a new family. English-speaking APs are coveted in Germany, and you should have no problem whatsoever to find a new family very quickly; use to connect with people and make sure to point out exactly what you’re after.

Don’t throw your AP year away, make it work for you, and learn from this experience. You still have lots of time, but you have to move quickly! Good luck.

Au Pair in Deutschland November 9, 2011 at 7:26 am

Thanks, Europhile. That’s good to know about the agencies over here. Looks like I’ll just handle it on my own…I have tried talking to them some, but it doesn’t help. A lot of it just has to do with their personalities and attitudes, which I don’t think are going to change just because I want them to. And I know it isn’t any of my business how they raise their child, but some things are hard for me to listen to and be an indirect part in it, like the mother telling him that men are stronger than women, emotionally and physically. I can’t believe people still say those kind of things in 2011. But again, none of my business. It just bothers me that I have to hear it and I feel like in a way, just because I’m with them when they say things like that, that I’m supporting that theory.

They did tell me when we were first talking to each other that I would be doing some light cleaning, and that their last au pair cleaned for about 1 hour a day, which I have no problem with… just picking up and dusting, cleaning the kitchen… I don’t mind. But some of the stuff are things that, in my opinion, should be their job because it’s more of a “spring cleaning” type deal. Today alone I cleaned for 2.5 hours, and that wasn’t even half the house.

I am going to visit a friend this weekend… her HF is awesome and hates the situation that I’m in. They have a friend that is interested in an au pair, so I’m going to meet them this weekend and see if we like each other. Then I’ll talk to my HF and try to decide what to do. I really don’t want this to ruin my whole plan… I’m trying to work it out so that I can find a new, happy family.

Europhile November 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

AP in Deutschland — I wish you the best of luck. Don’t get discouraged, you and your HF might just not be a good fit, that doesn’t mean you’re not a good AP.

Check out this German forum for some info on what is important for German families (I have linked to the Familienforum); this should help you, too.

Happy Au Pair November 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I’ve been an Au Pair for a little more than three month now and I’m having a great time here and really love my host family!
When I met another Au Pair who lives close to me she complained about her host family and the kids (she just arrived some weeks ago). She told me: “I don’t like child 1 because she’s so grumpy to me, I LOVE child 2, he’s sooo nice and cute, but I don’t really now what to do with child 3, he’s not very cute, he’s boring,…” – I really don’t know how handle that. I mean, it’s not my business, but I feel sorry for the children. But then I don’t know if she really means it or just said it because she had a bad day… Her host family is really nice and their last Au Pair just left after about two months because she missed her family so much and thought she couldn’t handle this year. I’m not sure if I should tell my AD. She is really nice and I’m sure she would treat it confidentially…
Another friend went back to her home country because she felt like “wasting her time”. She said that she doesn’t feel homesick but simply found out that taking care of children is not the right thing for her… She said that after three weeks!
There are many girls who don’t have a clue what being responsible for children really means…

Europhile November 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm

It’s true that many girls are clueless what it means to take care of kids. But as a HM, I don’t begrudge them that — neither did I when I first had kids (well, kind of). And there is no use of hanging on to something that you are clearly falling short of. I for one wouldn’t hang on to a job where I was a poor fit.

I’d rather have an AP tell me she’s not cut out to do the job and offers to leave (and not rematch with other families) than one that’s trying very hard over a very long time and doesn’t really succeed. There is work involved for HP, in both scenarios, but that’s just how it is.

Returning HM November 9, 2011 at 8:54 pm

When I read the query by SBW on the other thread, I asked our AP about her monthly calls with our LCC and whether LCC asks her questions about our compliance with the program. Turns out, AP has never had a monthly call with the LCC. I had noticed that our LCC had never called us once after that first two-week check-in, but I had assumed – eroneously, it seems – that LCC had figured we were fine and would call if we needed her but that she was checking in regularly with AP.

Although we are an experienced HF, this is our first time with this agency. LCC does not know us at all, so has no reason to assume that we are kind or even fair to AP. She has seen AP, presumably, at the monthly meetings, but since our cluster has over 75 APs, there is no way that the LCC is getting any sense of the experiences of the APs in those forums.

In our last agency, the AD was phenomenal – and why we stayed with that agency even through some terrible experiences of recycled APs who clearly had had problems in their previous families that their own ADs had not disclosed during rematch (driving accidents, mental health issues). Our AD was so proactive in her monthly calls. Each month she would ask very specific questions – what was the AP’s schedule last week? How many hours did she work? What chores did she do? She would ask of both us and the AP – and then raise if there were any discrepancies. She asked to see the weekly schedule we gave and talked to both AP and me about whether things were clear. She prompted us to have conversations about awkward things (one AP who didn’t flush the things we flush, for example – something I would not have brought up but AD pressed so I did and was glad I did). This AD was so proactive, and the APs felt so supported, as did we.

I’m very glad for current AP’s sake that we have a good relationship and that both of us are committed to making things work, because I fear that if she needed LCC, LCC would be nowhere in sight. If we were the typical new HF, AP would really be out of luck as there would be no one to guide us the way our AD did when we were a new and sort of clueless HF.

Have others experienced an LCC who is missing in action? If so, did you do anything about it? Our AP is fine and doesn’t really need her, but I am sure there are others in our 75+ cluster who could use some support…I also have to say that I don’t think I could recommend a new family to this cluster, as I think a new family might really flounder without any LCC support.

NonCoast HostMom November 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm

This post piqued my curiosity as to what valuable guidance you feel you received from your previous AD when you were a “new and clueless” HF. We are a first-time HF. I like our LCC (or whichever term our agency uses). She is responsive and does what she is required to do in terms of checking in and having meetings. She did review my written schedule at AP’s orientation and asked AP’s understanding as to chores and ruels for car use, discpline, etc. We have not, however, had much in-depth discussion with her about anything since matching.

When it comes to some of the more in-depth issues, I feel I get more guidance on this site than from LCC. That may be because I end up not needing her much given all of the helpful advice experienced HFs offer here. I have also found, though, that I am better able to find some answers on my own. When it came to finding a meaningful AND affordable education option, LCC gave pat answers and did not seem to research options. I spent a great deal of time researching and actually found a solution when a desperate google search led me to another agency’s materials and I followed up with a school listed there that I had forgotten about and that was not on our LCC’s list. That experience sort of annoyed me as a consumer paying hefty agency fees. I also felt the LCC was interested in getting a requirement checked off rather than helping an AP who is genuinely interested in having an American education experience and who does not need ESL classes but does not have thousands of her own dollars to spend on a class here. But I digress.

I guess your post made me wonder if I am a clueless HM and just don’t know it! I will say we have been very fortunate to have a really good match and I did find this site before we matched, which may make me less clueless than some…

Returning HM November 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

If you’re on this site, then my guess is that you’re not a clueless HF. But my guess is also that the vast majority of HFs are not on this site and don’t have access to the kind of support, suggestions, guidance, gentle correction, etc that those who visit this site do, and so many of them learn about being a HF either by trial and error or by guidance from their LCCs. And if the LCCs are MIA, then it’s all by trial and error.

I just found this site this past winter, when we decided after a two year hiatus to go back to hosting APs. But for the first four years we hosted APs, I had as support only our LCC and a handful of friends who lived in another city who also hosted. I didn’t know a single family where we lived who were HFs and so I ran into many situations where I had no one except the LCC to bounce things off of. My guess is that this is a fairly common experience in hosting, and that it’s far less common to have this site to turn to for every question and dilemma. This is why the LCC is such an important role and why it’s very problematic for both HFs and APs when the LCC is as hands-off as our current one is.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 9, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I have been with APIA for nearly 11 years, thanks to the combination of their offering the extraordinnaire category of APs and The Camel, my beautiful teenage special needs child. Our first LCC clearly sided with families, offered meetings that weren’t enticing to older APs, and my AP stopped attending (with the encouragement of friends) after a month or two.

With AP #2 we found ourselves in another cluster, with a dynamic LCC who offers 2 meetings nearly every month (and a combat homesickness special meeting at the end of summer when our cluster has tons of new APs). We could be more pleased with her (and so have our APs – many of whom have enticed their friends from other clusters to attend her meetings). When we had a problematic relationship with an AP, we emailed her constantly – and asked her to draw the AP out and see how she felt she was doing (to us the culture shock had caused her to retreat emotionally).

We receive a weekly email, albeit not a personalized one, but having been through the wall of fire (both personally on behalf of APs who stayed with us when their HF kicked them out) I know she’s fair and will call when needed. I know she’s special, and I feel fortunate. I’d say her relationship with us has gone a long way with our sticking with APIA (that and the expensive but-oh-so-worth-it-to-us extraordinnaire category).

Calif Mom November 11, 2011 at 9:16 am

I think our first counselor was yours, TACL! But then the program got so popular they split us off into a new region, and our current counselor is definitely not as great. Neither the host families I know who deal with her nor the APs I have asked respect her very much — though she does try to set up interesting meetings, she is not very good about letting people know when they are, and the meetings are always near her house, which isn’t central to the cluster. The “service” projects she encourages the girls to work on are always sales pitches for APIA or fund raising for her pet charity. None of this is terrible/awful, but it’s kind of lame, and transparent in a not-classy way.

NonCoast mom, I think you don’t really learn about your counselor until you really need her! So glad to hear that reading the blog helped you choose well your first time. A little skill, a little luck goes a long way. I was not lucky enough to have found the blog before hosting — would have saved us a lot of turmoil through the years. (Cheers yet again for CV for cramming this into her personal time!)

There is a LOT of box checking that goes along with being a counselor. They have to meet standards, spend a lot of their time with families/au pairs in crisis at any given time, and also recruit new families. I’m sure they don’t get paid much for this juggling, so I do have empathy. But we do write big checks to the agencies, so I wish they would reduce the cluster sizes a bit, so the counselors could provide better service to more than just the segment of her cluster having problems at any given time.

NonCoastHostMom November 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

I don’t live in an au pair dense area so maybe I am lucky in that respect. We have only 20 or so families in our group. Still a lot of work for an LCC – we are very spread out – and I know the pay is commensurately less than for the larger groups. Can’t say we get any more personal attention despite the smaller size. LCC did put some current APs in touch with our AP before she arrived. Had they not clicked and branched out to meet others, AP would have had a far harder time establishing a social network when she arrived because LCC was not very proactive about this. Heck, without “the social network” they all would have had a harder time making friends! I am not complaining at all – just observing. Based on the comments here, I chose the agency I am with precisely because I found LCC to be the most responsive of those from all of the agencies with a presence in our area and I did find her easy to work with while registering and matching.

JJ Host Mom November 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I recently found out what my (great) LCC makes and find it appallingly low. Seriously, she probably would make much more money serving cappuccinos at Starbucks. As far as I’m concerned, an LCC is probably the most valuable resource I pay for with my agency fees, and she should be earning a MUCH bigger chunk of my fees than she is.

I would very much like to see agencies compensating LCCs much better than they are. That would give LCCs a much better incentive for spending the time to be helpful. As it is, being an LCC is very much a labor of love.

former ap November 15, 2011 at 4:00 am

I’m so glad this post was written…
I was an au pair through an agency that failed miserably on providing support and a LCC. I lived one entire year with my host family, and our local coordinator would barely call me and the host parents once every two months for a 3 minutes conversation. No meetings. No space to talk about any possible problems or ask any questions.

Honestly, I’ve had a great year with a great family, and all of our problems were solved with conversations that did not need the mediation of an LCC. But I do know girls who were not as lucky and accepted to work 60+h/week with no extras compensation, fearing that they would be sent home if they didn’t do so, since the agency is pretty small, and so is the availability of new families. They have no one to complain to, no support, nothing. Of course one could say that it would be better to go back home instead of becoming a kind of slave, but I guess it may be hard to realize that without the moral support of an adult who is used to deal with (mostly) young international girls.

I’ve always found it really curious that this agency is one of the 12 authorized by the US government to bring au pairs, but yet it doesn’t abide to the rules, such as a monthly meetings. I’m not sure whether I should mention the name of the agency or not. I’m not an au pair anymore, so I don’t know if it matters or not, but I feel like something should/ could be done to have this agency follow the rules of the program…

Melissa November 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I wonder if we used the same agency! We’ve used multiple agencies over the past few years, for one reason or another, and switched over to Expert Au Pair because of an arrival date issue with the other agency that we had been using. We had already pre-matched with an applicant that we found on GreatAuPair and even though Expert Au Pair was small, I thought more personalized service would be nice and they also had lower fees, which made a difference to me particularly because we already prematched. Although our LCC was a very nice person, she did not hold one single AP meeting during our entire time with the agency. I made multiple suggestions about holding meetings and forwarded a copy of our prior agencies local AP Newsletter to both our LCC and the corporate office, hoping they would do something similar. I even offered to host a holiday party! I don’t recall for sure, but I think I even questioned whether they had to have monthly meetings and was told that only the annual family/AP cultural event was required. I tried to find something about monthly meetings on the State Dept site, but couldn’t. Funny thing was, they were very strict with following the letter of the law when it came to educational requirements (my AP wanted to do a weekend course and it was denied). Although the office staff were nice and very casual, they were too casual and somewhat unprofessional for my taste. I would never, ever use them again.

former ap November 16, 2011 at 3:52 am

Yep, you said it. They were great to me on the pre-matching process and during the training week, but after that I was pretty much on my own. My LCC visited the house a few weeks after my arrival, and I asked her very clearly for help regarding the educational component, since I had no idea what a credit was and where to start looking for classes. She took notes of my questions and never answered them. My host family and I spent hours in front of the computer to find my classes and everything worked ok, but seriously, wasn’t the LCC supposed to help me out in that situation?

Whenever I had a question I used to email the CEO of the agency and forward the message to the LCC. 101% of the times I got the CEO answering me right away, and a short note from the coordinator a week later. I had friends from other agencies who would complain all the time about having to attend the monthly meetings, and I was always complaining about not having any to attend. It all seemed so nice – getting to know new girls from all over the world each month, having fun dinners together, discussing different cultures or even complaining about potty training…

Anyway, thanks AuPairMom for letting me vent it out here :)

Love the Dog November 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm

First and formost, when a LCC has another fulltime job, then he/she is not fully engaged with the AP and HF. Expert Aupair is the worst agency listed on the State Approved Agencies. There are so many reasons why Aupair Care, Aupair in America, and Cultural Care are so much better, than this dinky Mom & Pop Shop.

cv harquail November 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

LTD- The LCC job is designed to be part-time, and in many cases the per-week work expectation is ten hours or less… so technically someone can hold an LCC position as well as a full-time (40 hr/wk) job. I think that the bigger issue here is whether LCCs are trained, supported and supervised appropriately, so that Agencies make sure they are not only doing their jobs, but doing them well. A good LCC makes all the difference.

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