Can this Au Pair relationship be saved? Lying, smoking, drinking, and the silent treatment

by cv harquail on March 3, 2010

Hi, AuPairMom Readers–

We are a host family in a metropolitan suburb with two young boys. This is our fourth year hosting. Over the years, we have had 3 very successful matches and 2 rematches – a mixed bag. The good matches were very good, and those au pairs continue to visit us, and we are going to Germany in the fall for the wedding of our first au pair.

So, as host parents, we have had success with the program. Our rematches were for reasons unrelated to the problems we are currently having. Both were quite young, very homesick and unable to make friends here – long story.

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Our current au pair is 20 years old and from Germany (all of our au pairs have been German). She arrived 4 weeks ago. I work part time outside the home and my husband works full time outside the home.

Our current problem is simple: Our au pair lied about smoking on her application and is drinking, possibly while using our car. During the interview process, we were clear – as we are every year – that smokers need not apply for the job. The agency listed her as a non-smoker and we interviewed her regarding the issue as well.

When she arrived, she reeked of cigarette smoke. The next day, I told her that I can tell that she smokes, and she told me it only on “special occasions” when out with friends, not regularly and that we will never smell it on her. However, every night after work she goes out for a half hour or hour drive and when she comes home, she smells strongly of smoke and so does the car, the bathroom, the laundry room where she leaves her clothes and of course her own room. I again confronted her and she said she would stop, but she has not.

I object not only to the disgusting smell, but also to the fact that she lied.

In addition, we were very clear that she should not drink while in the U.S. and if she is going to do so, to let us know and leave the car home. Today she admitted to me that she drives with her friend – another au pair who is 21 – to get beer regularly, but that only the friend drinks it, not her. K. says that when she wants to drink, she makes sure the friend drives her.

I do not believe for one minute that the au pair drives her friend to get beer and sits around while her friend drinks, not having any. She swears this is true, but since she lied about the smoking, I don’t buy it.

Aside from this, there are other issues with her (such as a 40 minute Skype video conference with her friends when she was supposed to be watching our 4 year old), but there are positives as well. She is an independent, energetic, happy person and the kids like her.

I confronted her this morning and am more or less getting the “silent treatment” right now.

How can I learn to trust her, or determine whether or not she is being truthful?

Am I making too much of this? Any suggestions welcome. Thanks very much. -Greenacres


Here are my two words of advice:

Rematch. Now.

Other parents? Other suggestions? Jump on in!

Unauthorised by Arty Smokes on Flickr

{ 66 comments }

Taking a computer lunch March 3, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I agree. It’s time to rematch. If this AP is so immature that she would smoke so that your house and car reek (even if she avoids smoking in them), then it calls into question other decision-making elements.

I must say, I have been extremely fortunate to date. None of my APs have smoked, although some of their friends have (and I’ve had to crack down on where they smoked – one kept smoking right below my daughter’s bedroom window). I’m extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke and DH’s mother died when he was a teenager, having been a 3-pack-a-day smoker..

I know for a fact that smokers don’t believe they reek (I was actually talking about this very subject with an ex-smoker this morning. He said it was months after he quit before he could actually smell cigarette smoke – he had thought it had no odor!)

You made it clear that you wanted a non-smoker. She may have had the best intentions to quit, but it’s nearly impossible to quit smoking in the stress of adjusting to a new country. If you’re not over-the-top on the rest of her qualities, then send her on her way. There are other energetic, enthusiastic women out there who won’t smoke or drink near your car or house.

JJ March 4, 2010 at 1:40 am

Rematch now. You know she’s lying about this; what else will she lie about? You know how good it can be. Why settle for less?

AnnaAuPair March 4, 2010 at 5:30 am

I agree!! The longer she stays, the harder it will be for your children to let go. And frankly, if you don’t trust her now, every time something goes wrong, you will question the truth behind what she said.
I know a lot of AuPairs who lie in their applications, just because otherwise it would be hard to get a family.
Seriously. She’s been here for 4 weeks and already broke your rules. I’d say that normally an AuPair tries to please the HF in the beginning as much as she can and not take your car to “help her friends get a beer” ^^
I wouldn’t believe her either. And if she doesn’t really make an effort to proof you wrong, then she’s not really willing to make this work!

nannyKelly March 4, 2010 at 7:04 am

If she’s telling you she’s drinking illegally, get rid of her! Maybe explain her to the US laws for drinking underage and what happens if you’re caught and to the person who buys the alcohol :O. It’s different laws than Germany, but its something you must get used to.

Dee March 4, 2010 at 9:13 am

That she has resorted to the silent treatment speaks volumes in an of itself. Mature individuals discuss problems. If she is refusing to communicate with you now, where is this relationship headed?

Rematch!

Anonymous March 4, 2010 at 9:16 am

Fully agreed. It is definitely time to rematch.

My 2 cents March 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

The fact that this has all happened within a matter of weeks of her arrival says it all. She will only get worse. Don’t allow the kids to get any further attached to her.

I’m so sorry. Better luck with a rematch.

Calif Mom March 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

you’re done. Completely justifiable rematch. Don’t give it a second thought.

Host Mom NY March 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

We recently had to rematch after our aupair (also German) lied to us about a variety of events, including where our car had been taken for the weekend. She was frequently gone all night without letting us know and not being available to work when we were expecting her to be working. We also got the silent treatment after confronting her and were told that all of this was normal in Germany and that we were uptight Americans. Having had previous aupair experience (including an aupair from Germany) we know that this is not right. We had an awkward week waiting for a rematch, but we are doing very well with our new aupair. She came from a negative experience and is very happy to be with us, and we are happy to have her. As much as I feared a rematch, all of us are much happier and we have an aupair we can trust!
Rematch now!

StephinBoston March 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

The smoking is one of the things I couldn’t get over. And the lying. I willing to forgive and forget a lot and I have over the years with au pairs (cars totaled, texting with kids in the car, etc) because I trust that they understand the repercussions of their actions and why it was a big deal to us. Your au pair doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself which means it will just keep getting worse and worse. I’m sorry to tell you, it’s time to call the LCC and start the rematch process.

Southern Host Mom March 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

This situation is not going to get better. If you can’t trust her to tell the truth, she can’t be trusted. Cut your losses and move on. Good luck!

Hula Gal March 4, 2010 at 11:39 am

She smokes – that’s a dealbreaker for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to rematch. I love the au pair we have right now – but I can assure you that if she started up a smoking habit and I could smell it in the car she would be given one warning to quit and if I smelled it again we would rematch. I found a lighter in the car once but the car did not smell of smoke. So I made a mental note and filed it away but it never materialized into anything. In your case – this is clearly grounds for a rematch. And as an aside, it is nearly impossible to remove the smell of cigarette smoke if someone is smoking in your car regularly. It gets into the fabric and leather. It’s disgusting.

AnonHM-Europe March 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

To offer a different point of view: In many European countries drinking beer and smoking is allowed with the age of 16 – so your AP is used to this for about 4 years and probably feels strange about how american families treat their teenagers and young adults on these behalfes. As a matter of fact, alcohol (at least beer or wine) is not really considered a drug at all in many countries in Europe. Nevertheless it’s a law in your country and she – as a guest in your country and your family – has to follow the rules, no matter what.

I’m not sure whether you explained to her (and she unterstood) that it’s a matter of trusting her and relying on her or if she might think that you just don’t want her to drink/smoke because you care about her health. So I would suggest you to explain her exactly what your problems are. If she is willing to obey your rules I would give her a second chance: You say she is good with the kids, and an energetic and happy person. This is also quite important for being a good au-pair. It might really be a (cultural) misunderstanding and I would try to explain, that you will definitely catch her lying, if she does. Explain to her, that in you opinion she could also have been stealing money from you – it’s about the same kind of offence in your opinion. She most likely will not be aware of this, as I said before, in Europe drinking an driving is a different matter. It’s widely considered normal to “only drink one ore two beers” if you still need to drive.

And since she might not be aware of the trusting part, she will find it okay for lying. In german working-law, for example, it is allowed to lie to certain questions of your employer as he is not allowed to ask them in the first place. As a matter of fact, what you do in your free time (drinking alcohol, smoking) is one of these questions, you are – by german law – allowed to lie in a “normal” working-relationship. It is considered a part of you own personality and so nobody has any right to know unless you tell him. But again, she is in your country and your family, so she has to obey your rules.

But also make sure that she has only this last chance.

AnnaAuPair March 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I agree with you, that in Germany those things are different. But from my point of view it only shows how little she has prepared herself for her year.
The agencies tell you more than once, that lying is NOT ok and that you are NOT allowed to drink. So either, she didn’t want to follow that (which I guess is the case) or she is pretty naive ^^

ArwenAuPair March 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm

I am from Germany, and, excuse me?!, I do not consider it ok to “drink one or two beers” and still drive!!! Also, smoking is not allowed until 18 in Germany, and I personally consider it a flaw in our society that smoking is regarded acceptable! I think when one chooses to be an au pair, one should be willing to not smoke or drink!!! She is under 21 and drinking?! NOT ACCEPTABLE!!! Although drinking is allowed at 18 in Germany, it is NOT in the U.S. and I would expect any visitor to obey to these rules. I think I can say of myself that I was a very responsible au pair (I didn’t drink or smoke in Germany, and, of course, I also didn’t in the U.S.) – and honestly, I was annoyed by au pairs who just seemed to be interested in drinking and partying (and fake IDs – oh my!). If you only want to party, being an au pair is definitely not the right job for you! One has to take over LOTS of responsibility when being an au pair, and I think one should be willing to do so, including personal behavior!

Darthastewart March 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I’ve heard these exact sentiments from many of my German au-pairs. They do NOT drink and drive, and are very sensitive about the topic, in fact.

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Thanks so much for all these replies. We did rematch, and it was very ugly. I should add that none of our previous German au pairs smoked or drank (not even those who were of age). In general, the German au pairs seemed to me to be very into healthy living, sports, nutrition and not the hard-drinking, smoking kind.

K. presented herself as an outdoorsy girl who loved horses, but it was all pretend: we’ve now learned that she’s a wild girl.

We’re in rematch right now, not yet sure what to do.

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Anonymous March 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I disagree, it is not about what is acceptable in her hime country, but what she agreed to with her host family when she came here. The fact that she lied is, imo, enough to get rid of her- period.

CA Host Mom March 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Rematch! We’ve had 6 au pairs – and 2 rematches. This should be the time when everything is going well – not when you’re dealing with issues. Everytime I’ve not gone with my instincts or delayed on a rematch, I’ve regretted it.

NoCAMom March 4, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Rematch!

Should be working March 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm

The skype while watching children is also a biggie. Do you have a handbook?

I myself am less concerned about whether she smokes than whether you can TELL that she smokes. In my case I told the AP that I didn’t want to see it, smell it, or know about it, and since then things have been fine.

The drinking worry is a big one as well. How can she say that only the friend drinks the beer but then say that when she drinks, the friend drives? And WHERE are they doing this drinking–in your car?

If you have been totally clear on your expectations, and things have not changed, rematch now. Don’t wait, it only gets harder. A problematic au pair who is ‘good with the kids’ is hard to get rid of, but those problems will only get worse, or at least get more on your nerves than they already are.

Should be working March 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

And let me add this: If your AP is drinking and the other AP is driving, then doesn’t that mean the other AP is driving YOUR CAR?

And is the other AP having even one drink and then driving YOUR CAR or any car?

I agree with the above poster who said that she has always regretted delaying rematch. Again, ‘good with the kids’ is not enough if there are drinking/driving issues (and the skype!).

Calif Mom March 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm

RIGHT! “Good with the kids” is not enough. “Good with the kids” is not that hard to find.

Darthastewart March 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Do your states also have “open container” laws? If there is an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment, even if it’s being drunk by someone else, the driver can face massive charges?

MommyMia March 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Yep, this is serious. We saw a photo one of our previous (went into rematch) APs posted on her Facebook page of her & a friend with an open beer bottle with cup inverted on top in our car, when they were dressed to “go out with the girls” (which we later learned was her way of saying she was on her way to a night of debauchery!).

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:16 pm

HM here. They were drinking on the beach near our house, which is illegal as our state has an open container law. This is in our handbook and was explained in detail. K. claimed that she only drank when the other au pair was driving her host mom’s car – on those nights, the other au pair would buy beer for K. and watch while K. drank instead of the other way around. I know – ridiculous, right?

She has rematched now – I was astonished that the agency placed her, but she denied it all and they believed her. She remained here during rematch and it was brutal – she would corner my husband and sob that the agency made her lie about smoking. Then she would confront me and yell that I am wrong, she is not a smoker, she only smokes very occasionally etc. etc. It was totally insane. I am not even sure we want another au pair!

Anna March 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm

In my opinion, lying is a deal-breaker. I have worked with a very so-so au pair for 8 months, until I caught her lying. I rematched immediately (in retrospect, it wasn’t working before and I should’ve rematched sooner). If I cannot trust her to tell the truth, I cannot trust her with my kids. Who knows what is going on during the day when I am not home and she is not telling (or lying to me) about?

MTR March 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Rematch!

Lying is not acceptable! Silent treatment is not acceptable! Drinking and driving is not acceptable! And it has only been 4 weeks. Just imagine what she will do in the remaining 48 weeks.

Dorsi March 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

I think this question from the HM shows why communities like APMom are so important. It can be very lonely dealing with AP-HP issues like this. Often, the only thing you are hearing (other than your side of the story) is from the AP who is saying, “stop being so crazy, I am not doing anything wrong.”

I love that there are 19 responses quickly to this questions, almost all of them saying “Rematch!” I also love that the HM closed her questions with “Am I making too much of this?” It can be hard to know how wrong things are in your home without some outside voices.

Does anyone participate in real HM communities? I would love to meet some of the other HF around the area, but we have one event in our cluster per year and few families come.

Taking a computer lunch March 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

With my first AP we did things with other HF, becuase my AP had befriended other APs and nannies from her country. Their kids came to birthday parties and mine went to theirs. We had a few dinners together. However, it wasn’t strong enough for us to maintain the relationship when we switch APs. We encourage our AP to invite other APs to share dinner with us, especially when we’re doing a big dinner with neighbors and the AP would otherwise be left out of the chitchat. While we get to know other APs, we rarely get to know HF. Some of those friends have visited us on their return to the US. Because Make-A-Wish gave my daughter an above-ground pool, our home tends to be the hang-out place in the summer, which I don’t mind at all, so I also get to meet some other HF children (but not the parents).

My current AP is so quiet, I’m not even sure she has friends. She only invites people over if we are out-of-town (I’ve warned her that she needs to ask permission first – sometimes we cancel travel plans because DD gets too sick to travel, and if she’s in crisis, we don’t want a household full of people.)

Our LCC organizes a picnic once a year, but it’s too brief to really get to know other HF. People with APs from the same country tend to bond at those events because they already know of each other.

CV March 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Dorsi,
I’ve often wondered why there wasn’t even a host parent community, in real life. I’d have thought that it was lack of imitative on the LCC’s part, but we have had difft LCCs in two difft states, and over 11 years only the annual get togethers, which, as someone mentioned, just have not been set up to mingle and really meet people. Put on top of that any jockeying for who has the best family/ap/car/ garage appointment, and there is not much connecting.
It really drove me crazy not to have people to talk over the especially petty stuff…sometimes venting just made all the difference. And, especially to new host parents, hearing other people’s experiences helps you make sense of things.
Opps going on here…
cv

Calif Mom March 4, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Yep. I actually avoid talking host mom issues with others nearby because I’m tired of hearing “oh, you’re the ones who let your AP use the car on the weekend. Our AP just hates that we don’t!”

My 2 cents March 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

I love this site for that very reason too. And we have the world’s best LCC to boot!

FWIW, we also suffered from a lost sense of reality when our first au pair swore up and down that her parents allowed her to stay out all night and to sleep over at a man’s house (and this were men, but college guys) and it was no big deal. So my dh suggested he talk directly to her father to verify all of this, which low and behold, never happened.

Soccer Mom March 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

HA! Way to go dh for calling her bluff!

Euromom March 4, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I agree – she is not right for your family – nor would she be for mine!

I would rematch but I would explain to her the why! And one of the major Whys is the smoking. Try to explain that she should not feel rejected by you because if you had known about the smoking you would never have accepted her in the first place and that by rematching now – before a negative situation arises – you can both exit, move on and take a positive experience with you.

You can, at this stage see her good merits (happy, bubbly personality) and would be able to recommend her honestly to another host family and perhaps at this stage it – she might make a better start with a new family having learnt from her mistakes with yours.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and then sometimes you just have to be kind to yourself.

Anna March 4, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Dorsi,
We also have one mandatory host family event a year (as per regulations), and it is not really conducive to meeting other hostparents. I also get an impression that agencies encourage au pair friendships and discourage host family friendships (maybe so that host parents don’t “organize” and make their voices heard if there are systematic problems?)
The only host parents I “know” personally is a family from my son’s preschool, they are from a different agency and when I meet the mom we can talk about our host mom experiences. :) This is locally; otherwise my sister and my best friend started hosting shortly after me, so we can share by phone or email.

NJMom March 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Rematch! Things generally do get worse, not better, and this is very early days.

Anonymous March 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I have a slightly different point of view. I am not so much concerned that the aupair is a smoker or even that she lied in order to place . Look at how many US families cite smoking as a dealbreaker! What concerns me is that cannot stop smoking . I see that as the real problem. It seems to me that if this were a casual habit, she could give it up for a year ; apparantly she cannot stop.
So no matter how many promises she makes, they are not reliable promises. Maybe, rematch will be enough of a wake up call to cause her to stop smoking. Most families are going to ask about this.
Some won’t mind. I , myself, hate the smell of cigarette smoke and would not want it in my house , my car or anywhere else. Lots of Americans have had to adjust their habits now that more and more workplaces and restaurants forbid smoking. I would suggest that she attend a smoking cessation program at her own expense and on her own time if you like her for other reasons but frankly, I would not want to live with someone who was going through nicotine withdrawal. I once had an aupair who smoked and she found a very nice host mother who was a reformed smoker and didn’t care if this girl smoked outside. The drinking, now , for me, that is another ballgame and I would have much less tolerance.

Calif Mom March 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm

I totally think she needs to rematch. It IS about the smoking itself. It IS about the lying about it and thinking the host mom is stupid or something.

That said, smoking is a biological addiction, and you can’t just tell someone to stop and have it stop the next day. That’s completely unrealistic and not at all understanding. Nevertheless, smoking is an absolute deal-killer for us. No apologies here for that.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs March 5, 2010 at 1:40 am

I would rematch before the children get more attached to her! The longer you wait the harder it will be for your children to see XXX leave your home. I also had a German Au-pair that smoked and was drinking and driving while under age. When I ask her about it she lied and said it was water in the glass. ( pictures were posted on Facebook) and she was the driver that evening. After lying to us several times we checked up on her one evening ,she said her AP friend was driving to a neighboring city and later that evening my husband and I went to her AP friends HP home to see who actually drove, my AP drove not the friend. Again when I spoke to her she try to lie and say the AP host parents weren’t home so her AP friend couldnt use the car, that is why she had to drive. This was a lie to cover a lie to get her out of trouble. I knock on her AP freind> host parents door and spoke to both the HP. They were home that evening and said my AP drove. When they start lying they will continue to lie to you. It’s time for her to move on and time for you to start looking for a replacement.

Deb Goetz March 5, 2010 at 8:05 am

I am an Area Director (LCC) in San Jose (working since 1997 for AuPairCare). I love this website and am thankful for the community it provides to host families! It is a great resource for host families, au pairs – and even field staff like myself. Thanks Au Pair Mom! Regarding the smoking, drinking, lying au pair – I agree with the other posters about the need to rematch and would advise any of my host families dealing with this situation to make a change – the sooner the better. Almost always a rematch results in a much better situation. Regarding the annual host family event which is required by the Department of State, I have found that families are soooo busy these days that they are often reluctant to come even to one planned event per year – usually only about half of my families attend. I always plan casual, outdoor events with the goal for families to be able to meet and mingle – which they do, but of course it’s not like life long relationships are being established at these annual get togethers. As the meetings include children of all ages this somewhat hinders more in depth “connecting” as the parents are often preoccupied with their little ones during the event. After reading a few of these posts I will survey my group of host families about how the Host Family Day can better accommodate their needs.

CV March 5, 2010 at 10:27 am

Hi Deb– let us know what you learn from your host families! You’re so right, there are a lot of things going on at any event that ultimately keep parents from making real connections with each other. And, I never know if it’s “just us” here on the blog, or host families in general, that want to swap insights and support. It will be interesting to learn if this is more widespread… cv

Anonymous March 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Rematch! I do not tolerate lying of any kind, and if it were me, smoking is cause for dismissal. End of story- without addressing the other issues, the fact that you had to mention them and ask, is enough to warrant rematch. Since you have had problems matching in the -past, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your interview process and call the references yourself. As an aside, to help with rematch, you can check out greataupair.com, this can provide a bigger pool of possible candidates. I have had success pre-matching that way, and some other candidates post there for rematch purposes. Good luck.

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Thank you for the website suggestion. I did call her references myself, and the ones that spoke only German were checked by my first au pair, who now is a business exec. I think K. had an incredible ability to BS people and can be very charming. We were taken in, unfortunately.

Calif Mom March 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm

This is EXACTLY my “Pointy Boots” experience. She too had an incredible ability to BS people. Just no morals.

To give you hope about the AP program in general–we found a replacement in our area, interviewed her in person at a park, tested her driving skills, etc. She was wonderful. Completely reliable and my kids loved her so much that we still talk. She extended with us, too. So don’t give up on the whole tricky business. Go look at the list of questions to use when interviewing APs on this site. Gems there, and you can pick according to your family’s situation. I know this sucks, but there are wonderful APs out there. They aren’t all con artists.

Jeana March 6, 2010 at 7:33 am

Stop reading our responses, and contact your cluster leader. Your aupair has lied about smoking and drinking? It is likely she’s been out drinking and then driving YOUR car? She’s on YOUR insurance policy? I think it is possible your aupair will not even go into rematch, but might be told to go home. There are a few deal breakers for agencies, and I think under-age drinking is one of them. Still reading? Call or e-mail your cluster leader right now to get the ball rolling so that you can have an aupair that has the maturity to tell you the truth, abide by our laws, and be wise enough not to ever drive YOUR car after a single drink. There are many lovely aupairs waiting for a great host family.

'sota gal March 7, 2010 at 12:59 am

Yes, it does seem to be with the agencies, at least ours. One of our AP’s made MANY poor judgement calls over one weekend, enough for the main office to stop me mid story to tell me that they were breaking the match immediately (surprise, surprise my AD wasn’t returning my panicked phone calls). I later found out that not only was our former AP allowed to stay in the US, she was placed temporarily with another HF who was in need of emergency short term care. She also got to stay for her travel month and they paid for her flight home. I only found out because our credit for her last month never showed up on the statement with our new AP. In the end, I know that AD got in trouble over this as she was also trying to get us to bend the rules and not break the match “officially” with the agency, just with our former AP. She was trying to get our AP to pay us the credit we were due so that she could stay in the US and get her airfare home paid. I was furious as we were assured that she would be sent home for her irresponsible actions immediately.

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Original poster here: FYI, Aupaircare allowed her to rematch. The Regional Director said: “well, K says she only really drank one time and won’t do it again, and she will stop smoking.”

I was previously very happy with APC, but based on this, I am now not sure we even want to host again.

Calif Mom March 14, 2010 at 11:18 pm

APIA sent “Pointy Boots” to another family. When our current contract runs out we’re probably going to look at using one of the smaller, non-profit agencies next time. I like the idea of working with people who are a little closer to their roots in cultural exchange programs and actually screen the candidates themselves. One of my concerns with going with a smaller agency is the smaller rematch pool and fewer potential friends for a new AP, but there are so many APs in our area that even without being part of a particular network, any AP we host will be able to find others to hang out with if the agency-based group is a bit small. And if the candidates are higher quality to start with, the chances of rematch are greatly reduced.

Anna March 15, 2010 at 8:16 am

I have been with a smaller agency, switched to a large leading one, this year looking into switching back. Having “dipped” into both pools, IMHO the quality of the candidates is not agency-dependent. Both agencies used local agents to recruit au pairs (they have to, those ppl call to check local references and speak the language). The set of documents the candidates submit is the same. Those girls who are determined to come to USA no matter what and are good at deception will slip through any process.
The differences for me has been:
1. the price (the smaller agency is a bit cheaper to begin with, offers MUCH more generous discounts to repeat or switching families, lets us arrange our au pair’s travel from orientation and pay for it ourselves, saving another $300 surcharge)
2. Selection process. Here the larger agency wins because they let me search the whole database, instead of sending me bunches of applications, but the smaller agency has more detailed dossiers and it is a bit easier to get a full impression of the candidate.
3. Rematch policy. This can become a biggie. The smaller agency has a very generous one for families, no limit on number of rematches, and you don’t lose any money until there are just a few months left on the program (2 I think!)
The larger agency is more full of itself. They only allow one “free” rematch within the first 6 months only. If you got a dud a second time but its still under 6 months, or if things changed 6 months and 1 day after her arrival, you are stuck paying penalties. You can still rematch, but lose money. The justification for such a policy is “our candidates are so great and a head above those from other agencies, this is sufficient to solve all the problems”. As I said in #1, this is not true. And if they believe the candidates are truly so great, shouldn’t there be a satisfaction guarantee for the families, no limit on the number and no extra cost for rematch?
4. The larger agency will almost never bend the rules if your situation is special in some way. Like a rematch 6 1/2 months in…. But the smaller agency will be very open to considering your individual circumstances.

Taking a computer lunch March 15, 2010 at 7:12 pm

We have always used a big agency, and picked one that offers an “Extraordinnaire” program when my husband was doing the research (he was trying to go back to work after 21 months with our daughter and trying to figure out how to make childcare work with his meager salary – he was making less than it would have cost to put our special needs daughter into daycare).

Because we have stuck with the big agency for 9 years and 5 APs, we have been able to win some concessions that we might not have won from the agency if we had switched. 3 out of the 5 APs we have hosted have been extraordinnaires. It was a must when our daughter was 26 months and our son was 5 months. We were able to retain some of our program fees when an AP left early in her extension year and we could not rematch immediately (they kept it until we took our next AP, but did credit us in full).

We resisted rematch when we should have not, but were able to win some financial concessions because we stuck it out a fine AP who lacked some of our required skills, and we did not want to be the only ones saddled with the costs of having her acquire them.

We are extremely picky about APs. First, we can only see applications from women (or men) who state they are “special needs willing” and from there we go ripping through application after application. I only ask to contact APs who have done something relating to childcare or education in their lives (I’m not interested in business majors who want to improve their English, I want someone that knows when the Camel spits on them it doesn’t means she’s angry, just worried that she’ll choke on her dinner.)

We’ve been extremely happy with the quality of our APs. One even made it beyond our cluster for an “Au Pair of the Year” competition. All have enthusiastically embraced the education component. Most of enthusiastically embraced the cluster meetings and networking with other.

I think it is possible to find a good match if you read between the lines in an application. My advice is to take your time and to interview up to 4 candidates before you make your selection. (One of my favorite APs said she didn’t want a telephone interview from us until she had interviewed with 3 other host families. She liked our email exchange, but she wanted to talk and see what other families had to offer before she made her decision.)

Michigan Mom March 15, 2010 at 6:43 am

We had a similar, equally insane experience with our first au pair. She left after six months and at that point I didn’t want to host again. However, the realization of the amount of money that we would lose if we just quit the program convinced me to give it another shot. We have had three other au pairs and they have all been good or great, so we are really happy that we gave the program another shot.

I will say that Cultural Care refused to rematch our au pair. (Among other things, she lied about having money stolen from her while she was watching the kids in an attempt to have us “reimburse” her for the lost money and got into a fender-bender with our car while driving the kids and then asked the kids to lie to us about it.)

Should be working March 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

About small vs. large agencies: We first used a small agency–it was good service, they knew their au pairs, it cost less, and were not at all slimy. But when we needed a rematch, they didn’t have much to offer. We switched to a big agency, where it cost more, was a big ‘sell’ with less concern for quality, BUT they had lots of au pairs to choose from. I wish we could have stayed with the smaller agency, but in rematch, quantity matters.

Jane June 21, 2010 at 10:39 am

Greenacres,

AuPairCare may be redeeming itself. This week they sent my au pair home right away for underage drinking and lying about it. They also sent an e-mail about the issue to all the au pairs and their host families.

Are you still hosting now? We’re done, but were already going to end this year anyway. I found Au Pair Care to be a great agency and will still recommend them.

SotaGal June 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I wish they would have been so diligent with our AP last year… Underage drinking, lying and denying it all. We gave her the boot immediately and we were told she would be sent home. Instead, our AD placed her with a family in a nearby large city for her last 3 weeks. In the end, AD got in trouble when we questioned why we hadn’t received our credit for those last weeks.

VA HMom March 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

REMATCH!!! Not even a close call! And to all the other comments I would add that the skyping during work time is a VERY big deal. She may be doing this a lot while you are not around. (I had this problem with a prior au pair.) Move on!

franzi March 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm

time to move on before you and your kids get too invested in her. no smoking and no drinking are among your ground rules. these should not be bent. period. there’s your answer.
the fact that she gives you the silent treatment doesn’t seem mature (especially after only 4 weeks with you when everything is still a learning process).

HRHM March 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Rematch now! Take this advice from a HM who is breathing deep sighs of relief now that her lying, drinking pouting AP is 1 week from moving on. When she first arrived it became rapidly apparent that her entire app was a lie. She didn’t know the brake from the accelerator (so much for “daily” driver) and didn’t know how to hold the baby bottle. It turns out that her moral compass is a bit screwed up and I believe it’s a cultural thing. In her country, the best cheater/liar wins. So it was never a problem. But I worked hard to teach her to function at the level of a high schooler with regard to living in our house. She was always “good with the kids” and I kept telling myself that was the most important part. But it isn’t – that is a skill that must be present but is easy to come by. Now, after spending a year of being her Mom, cleaning up after her, dealing with the sullen sulking (and intermittent lying, mainly by omission) all I can say is yep, I should’ve rematched in that first week when I realized that she lied on her application – I think it’s an important marker for maturity and integrity that will come to bear in the year ahead.

Good luck!

HRHM March 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Oh, and by the way, her personal driving would be suspended immediately, parental controls set on the cell and the internet blocked during working hours. If she’s going to act like a child, she needs to be dealt with like one.

Juliana March 7, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Hello! I found your blog today, and I got really surprised! Why? because I’m going to be au pair in USA and I’ve never found a blog from a host family, only from currently au pairs.
I send my application to APC on march 03rd and I’m waiting for them to aprove it… well, I’m from Brazil (by the way, sorry for my bad english) and I think your blog will be very good for me, because now I can see the host family’s point of view. And about your au pair smoking and drinking, I think she deserves the rematch, because she lied! It’s not fair with you and with the kids!!!

good luck on your au pair search! ;)

HRHM March 10, 2010 at 12:07 pm

CV & Greenacres – Any update as to what happened with this AP and HF?

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm

HM here – AP went into rematch and was placed with a new family.

LH March 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I’d be po’d about the ‘silent treatment’. We had an au pair who gave it to us all the time.. other things were ok .. .finally after 5 mo I thought about living another 7 mo and I couldn’t do it. We rematched and its been the best thing ever. Also – I do think most au pairs say things to get the job but they need to be mature enough to live with their agreements. Nearly all the au pairs are good with kids. The hard part is finding a girl you want to live in your house.

Pa mom of two au-pair March 13, 2010 at 12:53 am

This is my response to Jenna posting above: The au-pair agency that we are currently with rematch our au-pair with another family, and in deed she was caught drinking a driving. The AP and AP friend had pictures posted on her facebook account with both of them drinking on several ocassions.( she was the driver on those evenings and to boot it under age ) It wasn’t a deal breaker for Cultural Care. In fact, I can’t believe the new HP didn’t ask to speak with us. I also thought she would have a hard time finding a family with the drinking and driving and the lying. But NOPE she found a another family within 1 week. That was my deal breaker to never use their agency again! I switched agency to Au-pair care for the rematch. The agency told me that the new host parents have full disclosure of her transition, somehow I find that very hard to believe. If heard one word of an AP drinking and driving on the exit interview form she wouldn’t be caring for my children bottom line.
Currently I have 2 Au-pairs from two different agencies.

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Original poster/HM here. I love APC and have been with them for years. But they did allow K. to rematch and she found a new family within days. They claimed they disclosed the drinking and smoking on her transition application, but who knows? Isn’t it amazing that someone hired this girl, either not knowing the real story, or reading the story and not speaking to us about it?

Greenacres March 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Thank you so much, everyone, for the helpful replies. It’s great to come here and get support. I hope I can return the favor some day.

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