We haven’t talked in much detail about how to choose an agency — I’ve steered clear of that topic because I haven’t wanted anyone to think that I’m some kind of au pair agency secret agent, sent out to lure unsuspecting host families onto the rosters of agencies for an unspecified but generous kickback.
Also, I’ve wanted to maintain a community here where it’s not about complaining about agencies but is really more focused on relationships. And, frankly, having had experience with just the one agency and been reasonably happy with them, I’ve never done any serious comparison shopping myself.
There is a lot of comparison shopping you can do on your own when you’re choosing an agency.
Much of the decision comes down to very local information–
- Which agencies cover your geographic area?
- Which agencies have well-respected local counselors (LCCs) in your area?
- Which agencies have big enough clusters that your au pair might find some friends?
- Which agencies do your friends recommend?
- Which agencies have kosher/male/piano-playing/Mandarin-speaking/culinarily-talented candidates, etc.?
Other info you can find on your own, by googling, to catch up-to-the-minute data —
- What are the current agency fees?
- Are there any active discounts?
Sometimes, you’ll just get a sense of an agency you like.
- You might get an response to an online inquiry from a counselor/agency rep who really ‘gets it’, and is there to help.
- You might realize that you really prefer a certain kind of candidate selection option — a recommendation just for you, a handful, or full-on full-access — that perhaps only one agency has.
- And, you might discover that some agencies have a terrific online presence with lots of resources, both local and national.
But is there anything else to think about?
A “Potential Host Mom” writes:
I work out of my home 3 days a week. We have two boys ages 2 ¾ and 11 months. Currently, we have a part-time American nanny. DH and I are feeling pushed to the max and have been considering how to make some changes in our lives in order to reduce stress. After much thought, we’ve come to the conclusion that more flexible childcare would be a big help to us, as DH’s job is very demanding, and I have to travel a fair amount.
We’ve decided to go in the direction of getting an au pair. We like the idea of exposing our children to a second language, the greater flexibility, and are open to participating in cultural exchange. Additionally, we have plenty of space in our home. (Our first nanny lived with us for awhile, so we have a little experience with the live in aspect of things). I’ve been scouring your blog for advice and have found it very helpful.
I’ve searched the blog, but haven’t found extensive information on the following: What are the factors we should consider when choosing which agency to use? In reading the responses, obviously the LCC is going to be important, and we should probably try to speak with those people before making a decision. [YES] Also, it looks like the match system is important-although it is a little unclear to me on which system is best. I’m guessing that is a matter of preference. [YES]
What are the other factors that we should be thinking about?
Potential Host Mom has so many of the right questions that I’d like to offer her some answers to questions that we in this community might be have some scoop on:
1. Are there policy differences between agencies that host parents should be aware of?
2. How can we evaluate customer service prior to working with an agency?
Take it away, experts!
Image: Iron Flower from bitzcelt