Choosing an Au Pair Agency: Two questions that might make a difference

by cv harquail on July 28, 2010

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 —201007261920.jpg

  • 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.
  • 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

See also:
Agency Policies on Withholding Pay: What are they? Calling all LCCs …
Going “Off the Board” to find an Au Pair
Poll: Have you ever switched Au Pair agencies? If so, why?


Taking a Computer Lunch July 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

For us, it came down to which agency provided au pairs with explicit expertise in children with special needs. DH called several agencies when it came time for him to return to work and his salary didn’t even cover the cost of a special needs child and an infant in day care (even if we could get a day care provider to take the special needs child). One agency had an “Au Pair Extraordinaire” category, and while the stipend was significantly higher (it no longer is, just moderately higher), the Au Pairs still come with significantly more child care experience. I’ll be up front, now, the agency we use is Au Pair in America (which some have complained is too big, but it turns out we need that big pool of potential au pairs).

Our first Au Pair had been a pediatric intensive care nurse in her native country, and was perfect to care for that toddler and infant (both of whom had medical issues when she arrived). Subsequent au pairs have had training as teachers, child psychologists, and in children and recreation. Half have attended college and half have been Europeans who did special internship training programs in their special high schools. We’ve used extraordinnaires more than not, and the bottom line for us is finding that one person with whom we connect well. (We’ve also used Medicaid-subsidized nursing for one year – and while it was “free” the social and temporal costs were such that we would rather pay for childcare.)

We give a pass to au pairs who are “special needs willing,” (they’re earnest and casting their net widely to give themselves the best chance at coming to the U.S.) and only interview those with actual experience. The medical issues of our special needs child are such, that she weeds out those who really love children from those who enrolled in the au pair program with other goals in mind.

We’ve had two LCCs – one sided with host families to the point that even I, as a HM, found her unfair. My current LCC has a good balance, and perhaps she sides with HF a little, but she goes out of her way to connect with APs.

At this point now, we can see the day when our youngest ages us out of the Au Pair program, and quite frankly, I’m not sure what will happen next.

hOstCDmom July 28, 2010 at 10:43 am

TACL – you’ve mentioned the aging out issue a few times — is there an explicit rule on how old kids have to be for the HF to have an AP? Is this an agency rule or a State Dept. rule? (I know families who have had APs for their young teens (12-15 aged) who needed a companion/driver. These families didn’t have younger children also, so I’m curious if this is a new OR agency specific rule?

KM July 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm

The aging out is an agency policy, not a State Dept regulation. Age 12 seems to be a common policy. There are some agencies who will place au pairs with families who have teens.

HMinWI July 29, 2010 at 8:38 am

I don’t think “aging out” is really a policy, is it? (I’ve never actually looked, but assumed that the companies would take my money and help me find childcare as long as I thought I needed it.) I think it’s more a family decision.

KM July 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm

It’s a policy. I had a friend who wanted an au pair for her 13 year old and was told by the agency that her daughter was too old for an au pair. The agency did not place au pairs with families who had children over age 12 unless the child(ren) turned 13 during the au pair’s program year. I think some families get around this issue if they have younger children. They will state the au pair will care for the younger children, when in fact, the au pair is watching the teenager as well.

Should be working July 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

We started out with a smaller, local-only agency (one of the 12 agencies that can get the au pair visas). They were less expensive than the bigger agencies and really knew their au pairs–because they only had 150 of them. The LCC was great, had only 2 APs.

But when we needed a rematch and had a few specific criteria, they didn’t have any APs that fit the profile in rematch. And for timing reasons, we didn’t want to go to an out-of-country AP. So we ended up switching to a big agency (CCAP)–more fees, less personal knowledge of APs, huge cluster. And they had several candidates that fit our criteria, all ready to come to us right away.

So unfortunately (unfortunate because I prefer the small-agency costs and feel), I will stick with big agencies–because rematch happens often enough, and is already difficult enough, that I want to know that if I need a rematch I can get one easily. The sales-y approach of the big agency we used has a slippery feel, but they delivered candidates when we needed them.

ExAP July 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

With CCAP you mean Cultural Care?

StephinBoston July 28, 2010 at 11:01 am

Interesting subject… I’ve been with 2 agency’s and AP#4 is joining us next month. Never had a rematch, no mediation, so I can’t speak to those aspects. Our first au pair was from Au pair in America, there were several things I liked/disliked:
1. Archaic online system: Not up to today’s standards.
2. Terrible billing system: Took forever to figure out the billing issues they had with our fees.
3. Matching system: I know this one is up for debate but I really didn’t like “competing” with other families when it came to matching, the AP I chose told me she had 5 families calling her and offering different things. It ended up working for us because she really loved babies and chose us over everyone’s perks.. She was a fabulous au pair by the way.
4. VERY expensive compared to others and you don’t get more for your money in my opinion.
1. Good LCC, seemed to love her job, again never had any problems so hard to say how it could have gone.
2. They pay for up to $275 driving lessons, ours really needed it :-)
3. Installment billing was better, not as many up front costs.
4. Train ride from CT to MA when my AP arrives.

Since then I’ve switched to Cultural Care and it was mainly for the matching process. I much prefer one on one matching with no competition. The key to that is to have VERY well defined criteria so you can tell your placement manager EXACTLY what you want so you don’t get presented with candidates willy nilly, be ready early so you have time to weed out candidates if you don’t like the prematches. I’ve had 2 great APs out of this system, 3rd one is on the way and I have a great feeling about her. Others things:
1. GREAT online system, easy to use and always new features
2. LCC is good
3. Lots of local APs (CC is in Boston and so are we, lots of CC APs around here)
4. Matching system as I mentioned earlier
5. Lower fees, good discount for returning families
1. High up front cost even with the installment billing.
2. Rule about on duty driving, if AP is on duty and has a car accident, you can’t charge them the deductible, to me that’s ridiculous, if they are at fault, they should pay.
3. Bus ride for my AP from Long Island to MA with multiple stops that costs me $100, the train was cheaper and so much better for tired APs.

So I’d say, talk to the LCCs, see what they have to say and how you feel about them. Look at the costs, think about the matching process and what you are offering compared to other families in your area (so you don’t get in a “competition”) and what your needs are. In my case, I will have 3 kids 6 and under and that’s not super attractive for most au pairs so one on one matching is the way to go I think.

JBLV July 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I’ve had the same trajectory, StephinBoston. We are in the process of switching from Au Pair in America to Cultural Care Au Pair in the next couple of weeks. We started the switch initially because Au Pair in America left us without a local coordinator for about 5-6 months (we were a brand new cluster in Las Vegas, and the first LCC left abruptly). Leaving us without an LCC for that long was stressful as we were having issues with the AP that needed attention from an LCC. To add to the feeling of abandonment, the regional coordinator for APIA didn’t make time to meet with us while she was here, though she met with other families. (One caveat: after we decided to switch to Cultural Care Au Pair, Au Pair in America hired a very, very good LCC who we have come to like very much). CCAP is the largest agency in our city, and thus has a big cluster which is a benefit to the AP who will try to make friends when she arrives. But sorry, I digress…

I agree completely with Stephin’s general assessment.

1. I initially chose APIA because I thought their “cluster” (for lack of a better word) matching process was a good one. But I’ve since come to the conclusion that one-on-one matching the way it is done by CCAP is superior. With APIA the host parents are pressured to sign up fast lest they lose a good AP. In fact, we lost a few matches because we wanted to be thorough, and we “waited too long.” By the end of the process, we were so frazzled by the AP emotional roller coaster that we “snatched up” someone too soon and found out only later that her application had gross exaggerations.

2. With regards to car use and wrecks, I had no idea that APIA pays up to $275 for driving lessons. This was not advertised to us. Also, I agree that the CCAP rule about not having the AP pay the deductible for a wreck she caused while on duty is ridiculous. But for us right now, these are not big enough reasons to leave CCAP.

3. The only other problem I have so far with CCAP are the hidden fees. They charged us $150 for a “phone fee.” This was to “connect you for free” during the matching process. I would have spent at most $5 making the same calls using a Nobelcom calling card. Additionally, CCAP charges you an outrageous amount for travel – far more than the going rate for flights. And last, they tack on things like gift baskets for the APs when they arrive to training school. CCAP makes it seem like we should shell out $75-$150 for gift baskets with misc items like CCAP t-shirts and starbucks gift cards. I’m sending a smaller, less expensive, welcome package instead (after all, who knows if this AP will work out, and will I be expected to pay the same thing in a month?).

With that said about the hidden fees, CCAP was still less expensive than AIPA because we had the “switching agencies” discount.

StephinBoston July 28, 2010 at 7:13 pm

JBLV: You’ll get the “Connect” for free next time and some good discounts if you stick around Connect was handy this time because I matched with an Estonian and calls to Estonia mobile phones (that’s all she has there) are $0.24 cents per minute, even with calling cards.. I’m really hoping all her family and friends are ready and willing to use Skype :-)

JBLV July 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm
Taking a Computer Lunch July 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I don’t mind the “competition”, personally, and I know that many of you would think I am not an “ideal” HP for an AP, giving that I have an older special needs child who is medically fragile. I interview several candidates, and make it clear to them that it takes about one month for HD and I to make a decision. We know APs have to work hard for us, and we, too, want them to hear from multiple families and to consider what is important to them. One AP refused to be interviewed by us until she had spoken with 3 other HF. We had exchanged several emails, and she had communicated with previous APs, but she wanted to be sure. She was a great match (but then most of them have been great matches). This time, two good candidates passed us over, but then we still had our choice of 3 other good candidates. If I were only presented with candidates that only I could see, I would be really frustrated.

We probably send out 100 emails for every 5 candidates we interview, but that’s okay. The Camel weeds out those who really love children from those who have other goals, are too small to pick her up, or are not really up to the challenge of caring for her. We’ve had 5 APs who were excellent at caring for her (4 of whom did a brilliant job with her typically developing brother), and are looking forward to the arrival of our 6th AP soon.

Those of you who have read enough of my posts know that I’m fairly lenient when it comes to rules, but believe me, no one is going to select caring for The Camel and her brother just because we don’t have curfew, we let boys stay over, and welcome foreign guests. Not a one. They pick us because they don’t mind the work, look forward to the challenge, want more experience with special needs children … AND they like the fringe benefits.

JBLV July 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Comp Lunch, I think what you are doing is great. In fact, you make me feel a little guilty that I’m not as diligent as you, and I don’t even have a medically fragile child. Your energy is amazing.

maleaupairmommy July 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I have found most of my matches on my own. With a little work you can find most candidates on facebook and I write them a message telling them I’m a HF and interested in them. With CC they don’t show their last names but if you watch their au pair videos you can get their last names and what city they live in thus making facebook search much easier. This way I get to talk with them for as long as I want not feeling pressure to decide in a week. Getting their personality. The one time I matched with CC it was a pure diaster. I get male au pairs so not as much selection. I’m excited just matched with my 4th male au pair 5th au pair total and I’m excited. He had over 11,000 hours of child care experience and he was willing to wait six months for me. His attitude is great and postive just like my past male au pairs. I have a very mild special needs child and an intense set of 3 kids. They are all close in age 6,5, and 4 so with my oldest being behind emotional and the 4 year old being ahead it is like raising 5 year old triplets. I’m picky and very upfront of my needs so not everyone wants to come so there is a weeding out process for this too.

BBBG July 31, 2010 at 9:44 am

ALERT! ALERT! We were with Au Pair in America during 2009 and they were no longer offering any $$ for driving lessons, unless you called national and the au pair had grossly understated her driving experience. We had actually heard about the great perk of getting a few lessons paid for, but when we found ourselves in that bind we were told “nope, not doing that anymore” by the LCC. We were pretty frustrated. We ended up paying about $150 for a lesson, and then when the au pair failed 2 more driving tests, we asked her to pay. And she found a way to make it work (paying out of pocket). It was that or re-match immediately. Oh, how I hated that situation.

Mom23 July 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

We have used two agencies, the first big, the second small (though not as small as the one SBW used). The first agency we went with because we knew another family with them and there were lots of au pairs in the area. In retrospect this was not the best way to choose an agency. We were not happy with their one file at a time approach. We were in rematch and the au pair that they kept insisting we take didn’t feel right to us (turns out she was in rematch because her host mother thought she was not safe with the 3 year old — exactly the age of my daughter at the time!). The agency seemed reluctant to send out files and rarely returned phone calls. Every time we matched we felt the need to join to see who else was out there (we still used the agency, just widened our pool of applicants).

Because of our frustrations with the first agency we searched for another agency. This time I spoke both with the corporate offices and with the LCCs in my neighborhood. We went with a very small agency. I loved that they gave me lots of files to review, I like that the corporate office called me back within two business hours whenever I called (even after I was a client!). For the first match, they did not even charge me an application fee. So I didn’t have to make a financial commitment until I matched. We were with them for several years. I also found overall their fees were slightly lower (not enough for it to be a huge factor, but nevertheless a nice bonus).

The things you most need agency support for is 1) LCC if you have problems and 2) agency support in a rematch situation. So I think the most important question is what kind of support can you expect from the agency (LCC and corporate).

Mom23 July 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

One other thing — I think that the questionnaire that the agency uses can be important. The second agency we were with has a great questionnaire. I like the question “Would you be willing to be placed in a family that is a different religion than you are?” I could eliminate a number of potential au pairs based on this question alone. I also like that they ask a number of questions about driving — not how long the au pair has had a license, but also about conditions, number of times per week, access to a car, etc. It doesn’t prevent an au pair from misrepresenting her ability, but it does get at how experienced she/he is.

Crazylady July 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm

We have been with the same agency since August 2005. We initially chose it because it was recommended to us by a co-worker of mine. I think the only reason we are still with them is because we have had 4 amazing au pairs (#5 will be here in 2 weeks), and I’m too lazy to look at the other agencies when I’m getting the high quality childcare we want and need.

That said- I really don’t like our agency. Out of 5 au pairs, I have found 2 on Great Au Pair because the agency didn’t have what I was looking for (even though I usually gave them about a month of searching before going to GAP- they all came through the agency, though- as someone else said GAP was a bigger pool of candidates). We have had 2 ADs (I think that terminology gives away who we are with) and they both royally sucked. We have never had any issues with any of our au pairs, but we have gone to the AD to help with some things regarding education and some other procedural/ policy things, dealing with the agency and got almost no support. It took an average of 3 or so emails from our au pair followed by 1 or 2 from me to get any sort of response at all and most of the time, it was entirely inadequate and we either had to go to corporate to get an answer or we just had to keep searching the internet and try to find the answer.

Our au pairs and I laugh about it because nothing was life or death or anything but it was like we really weren’t important because we didn’t have issues (and I pay a lot of $ for them to at least pretend that we are important enough to get answers to our questions). I have told the agency about this and many other things, yet they don’t follow up and really don’t seem to care. We just moved again and will be on AD #3. I emailed her before we moved and got no response. I emailed her again last week, since we’re now here and our au pair is coming in two weeks. I was just looking for the local roster and any up coming events. I have heard nothing back. I’m so sick of crappy ADs. And I’m sick of the fees going up.

I’m actually driving from VA to NJ to pick up our au pair because they wanted $380 to fly her down here. Really? The day they said that, I looked it up and without trying easily found a ticket for $180. If you want to rip me off, please be more subtle about it. Like I said, I put up with it because I just don’t have the time or energy to do anything about it right now and the bottom line is that we have had great au pairs. I’m so sorry for that novel (and there’s so much more to say) but I feel much better now that I have vented.

HMinWI July 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

I could have written your first paragraph almost exactly word for word! We use our agency because it’s worked for us. Our LCC is awesome, and we’ve been really happy with our APs. I did find 2 of them on greataupair, but that was because I was looking on GAP before I renewed my application with our agency.

Anna July 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I switched back and forth between two agencies.

I started out with a smaller one (not too small though), after two years switched to the bigger one (the same one CrazyLady is with, I know because they also wanted me to pay $380 to fly my au pair from NJ to VA, and they wouldn’t let me arrange the travel myself! I found one way ticket from their designated airport to my airport for $67 at the time).
After one year with the big agency, I am back to my first one.

Here is what worked for me and what didn’t.
The reason I switched to the second big agency in the first place was twofold: I was ending a bad year with two rematches. I blamed myself for that, because when matching I settled for a candidate because I felt rushed. The first agency’s matching process was exclusive (no, it was not CCAP); they sent me bunches of applications at a time fitting my criteria, I was the only one who saw them, I was the one who set my criteria, but I felt that I didn’t know when the right candidate would be in my inbox, and I was pressed for time… I started the process a bit late. So for the next year I registered with two agencies, and the perfect candidate came sooner from the second agency, that is how I switched. The second agency allowed us to see the whole database, but several families could talk to an au pair at the time (not exclusive matching). Also, my last rematch during that bad year deserved to go home and my counselor said she will be sent home and recommended that she is; she was even given a date for leaving – but managed to sweettalk the agency into letting her find another (a third!) family for the year… I felt that was wrong.

The second bigger agency I started disliking right away. First, I realized there were more hidden charges. The money for domestic transportation that the agency charges the family a greatly exaggerated flat fee for without an opportunity to arrange it yourself – and it is not part of their advertised costs (my first agency let me arrange it myself and I just paid $30 for a bus ticket from New York City to VA); the Sevis fee was separate; if the au pair wrecked the car while on duty, she paid zero on the deductible; no discounts for repeat families off the application fee at all! No discount off the application fee for switching families either (switching from another agency).
Customer service – bad. The customer service manager I tried to talk to about the unreasonable plane ticket charge was rude and condescending. If I needed to talk to somebody at the office and they were on vacation, I had to wait for them to get back (in the first smaller agency, somebody else would always help immediately).
Local representative was not good. She liked to play the role of a psychologist, and she was a bad amateur – she inserted herself into the smallest of conflicts – she loved “mediating” – and made them worse. She was pushing rematch with my great au pair for something very insignificant, and she was unethical, telling me things like “I think that your au pair thinks that…” which was untrue and made everything seem worse. Then she left and a new unexperienced counselor took her place. I don’t know how good she is because I switched to my first agency where the counselor is very experienced and I feel is on my side (in a good sense of the word, for you au pairs and nannies reading this blog)
Their website and online matching system were great though, very well executed technically. But, au pair dossiers were less detailed than in my first (and now current) agency and didn’t give such a full impression of the candidate. If this is the only agency you know you will find it hard to believe because there is a lot of information there, but yes, there are even better application forms out there.

The second year I did try to give my second agency a fair chance again before switching back to my first. Even though I would save almost $1000 by switching back (a generous returning/switching family discount plus no ridiculous domestic transportation charge). But that time their “search the whole database” system worked against me. I was expecting a baby soon, and every au pair I liked refused me on that basis (too much work – an infant and two small kids) – I am sure great au pairs had many choices since all the families could see their application. After I went through all my choices, I couldn’t wait any longer for a new great candidate to appear in the database, with chances that she will again prefer somebody else over me; and I didn’t want to settle for somebody who didn’t impress me that much. In my first agency, exclusive matching worked great for me this year – I was very specific about my criteria, and when rejecting applications, gave detailed reasons to the placement manager. She found us a perfect candidate very shortly. I feel for more “undesirable” families this system works better, because candidates who will be able to deal well with many kids, are shown to families with many kids – and they can only talk to one family at a time… the agency is interested in matching all the families.
And, I like their main office staff. Very reachable, reasonable, and I feel willing to accomodate me.

Another big difference – rematch policies. Of course we hope we are never going to use them.. The big agency is very rigid in their rules, and will not bend them even for a deserving situation. They give only one “free” rematch in the first 6 months. So if it is 6 months and 1 day into the year, or if it is only 3 months but you already had a rematch, you will lose money. The smaller agency I returned to is very generous in the rematch policy (unlimited number and the families don’t start losing money until 10 months into the year), and I feel if the situation warranted it, they would even make exception to this policy for a family.

Also, something I only noticed this year.. My first and current agency is a nonprofit organization dedicated to international exchange… Maybe this is the reason they are nicer to the families, and less rigid on the “rules” that work in their monetary interest. They do come out cheaper too; they have discounts off their program fee often (not the free application fee which is usually only $200-$300 and all agencies have it at some point; but the larger program fee). The large agency I was with never has a discount off the program fee for everybody, and when they do it is very specific and hard to get (like for the families of multiples) and is very small compared to my older agency.

Jan July 28, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I have no idea how to determine the best agency. I have been with the current agency for 6 years and went with them initially because they were the first to respond. The LCC (or AD) came to our house within a day of my request for information.

I am with APC, and I’d rate them just okay. I have had three au pair’s who couldn’t get their visa, and the last time through I felt I didn’t receive much help from the agency. I don’t think they do a good job of either a.) screening their candidates or b.) coaching their candidates on how to get their visa’s. I also felt that they left me fluttering in the wind while I tried to match with an in country au pair and then I finally decided to stop wasting my time and switched to an out of country au pair which meant I had to figure out alternative childcare for three weeks. The matching process is also very emotionally draining for me. I will probably apply with another agency – possibly CC because my cousin is friends with the LCC.

Dorsi July 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm

We are with APC, but I am considering switching to CC next year. Other than matching we have had very little contact with the agency (we are on AP #2, no rematches).

I am thinking about switching because we are planning to add a baby next year and APC’s infant specialized program annoys me — the added expense, the minimally useful added day at the academy.

CC, from what I understand, does not charge extra for infant qualified APs, which makes them significantly cheaper (otherwise, they are about even, in my calculations).

darthastewart July 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm

You don’t have to pay extra for the infant qualified au-pairs. It’s just an extra class that they go to. FYI. We had an infant qualified AP until recently, and the cost was the same as the non-infant qualified AP we got this year.

Dorsi July 29, 2010 at 12:02 am

From the APC website: yearly fees for regular–$7,195, for “infant specialized”– $8,445. They segregate out all of the APs with experience with babies (in my experience) and call them “infant specialized.” My last AP said she went with the infant specialized program because it cost less to apply. APC did not require that I have a specialized AP#2 — when baby was 16 mos old. I also was much more willing to take an AP without infant experience.

EX APC AP July 29, 2010 at 6:31 am

There is a difference between “infant qualified” and “infant specialized”. An au pair is listed as infant qualified when she has at least 200h of childcare experience with children under 2 years. To take part in APC’s infant specialized program, you need at least 400h, I think, and you need to take part in the extra class at the orientation.
I don’t want to say that it is always worth the $1000, but maybe you weren’t aware of the difference between APC’s “infant specialized” and other agencies’ “infant qualified”.

Anna July 29, 2010 at 10:34 am

Ok, I am the one who left APC this year for my old agency – and once we are naming names, my first (and present) agency is AuPairUSA, also known as Interexchange.

This is another point about APC I forgot to add to my mile-long post.

True, not all infant qualified au pairs are in the “infant-specialized” pool that we have to shell out more money for. But, the girls in the special pool don’t have any extra qualifications to begin with – they are no different from regular under-two-qualified au pairs. And I spoke with the agency asking if I can match with an “infant-specialized” au pair and have her come as a regular one with a regular orientation (avoiding extra cost) – they said no. And to what differentiates more expensive au pairs in the “infant-specialized” category from regular under-two qualified is “their special desire to work with babies”, according to APC, which I think is nonsense.

To me it looks like another way to make families pay; by forcing families with babies to choose more expensive option – which really doesn’t add any value IMHO. I have older kids two, not just one newborn; I need somebody who can deal with them all. But by segregating half of under-two qualified au pairs into a more expensive pool, they are narrowing my options.

JJ Host Mom July 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

We had an APC infant-qualified pair and she was decidedly not qualified. Meaning, she had the requisite experience, but was not capable of doing her job.

PA AP mom July 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I am with CCAP. Quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t be if I had other choices. Geographically only GoAuPair and CCAP service my small rural community. I have reached out to APC and APIA and both turned me down due to location and distance from an LCC with their program.

We are leaving the AP program next Thursday when our AP completes her year. We feel like it is no longer in the best interest of our family to continue to give a hefty sum of money to a company that cares very little about our family, or our AP for that matter.

Childcare arrangements will definitely be tricky with HD working out of the country during the week and my patient schedule being very “non 9 to 5” but we are in the process of working it out.

That being said, if I had my choice of agencies, I would look for one with an LCC that I felt comfortable with. That person can make or break the experience for a family.

Jeana July 29, 2010 at 7:58 am

I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and AuPair in America has the most aupairs in this area, compared to other agencies. I didn’t have AuPair Mom when I began, and was hungry for the type of information we discuss here. I contacted several different agencies. I ended up choosing AuPair in America for several reasons. They had the most girls in the area, and provided planned activities for the girls each month. I wanted to make sure our aupairs had an opportunity to make friends and go places I wasn’t in a position to make happen. The biggest reason that I chose the agency had to do with the local community counselor. She teaches college classes in child development, was able to help me understand a lot that I didn’t know about being a host family, was willing to share family books with me, that more experienced families had created, helped me get in contact with other host families in my area, and I knew that if there was a problem, she would be there to help our family. A question that our LCC asked me, “What concerns you about having an aupair?” gave me a chance to communicate how terrified I was to have an aupair drive my young daughter. Our LCC is bright, articulate, has a great sense of humor, understands the aupairs, and understands the needs of families. She handled two very difficult circumstances when the agency removed two of our previous aupairs from the program, with no opportunity for them to rematch. Through those two experiences, our LCC was in constant contact with me, and I was amazed at the speed with each e-mail was responded to. I knew that AuPair in America’s priority was the safety of my children, and that if there was a concern, they would not place an aupair in another family’s home, hoping for the best. They sent the girls home. It is very easy to judge an agency when things are great, which they were for our family, 99% of the time. Their professionalism will really shine through, when there is a problem, and their choice is to put an aupair in rematch and send her/him to another family, or send the aupair back to their home country, and provide another aupair to the host family.

Something else that stands out to me about AuPair in America, is that they were aware that we are an adoptive family, and they contacted me, asking how they could better meet the needs of families like mine. I did not initiate this; they did. My daughters were both born in China, and our last two (wonderful) aupairs were Chinese. I had the opportunity to share information about childcare needs that are different, for children who have lived in institutionalized care, with multiple care-givers.

I didn’t have any friends with aupairs when I began, but I hope that our experience has encouraged others that we know, to consider being a host family. My friends have had many questions, especially my friends who are adoptive parents.

Love, love, love AuPair in America! Also love AuPair Mom! I desperately needed the type of info we share, and I think we’ll all be better host families due to this forum.

Mumsy July 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I also live in the Chicago suburbs and have received the same excellent service and level of caring from Au Pair in America as Jeana. We were with CC for 3 years and their service just does not compare to APIA (although our CC LCC was fabulous, the main office and the matching process were just dismal). We have had only positive experiences with APIA (including the swift removal of an AP from our home).

HRHM July 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

We started with CC and after 3 TERRIBLE AP experiences that I can tell you were related to poor vetting by the agency, we switched. I liked that CC had large clusters in the area that we lived but that was all I really liked about them. When we switched to APC, my main reasons were: liked their matching process (I felt like I was talking to a wall with the PD at CC, she kept pre-matching me with the exact opposite of what I wanted.) And the AD here was new but had a great attitude and a backround in teen social work. Fast forward 10 months, the AD has quit and moved on, and the new AD has never been an AD, had an AP or had any other experience that relates to this process. She seems nice – but clueless. I too am mystified by the ridiculous flight charges from APC ($430 from NJ to VA for a $198 roundtrip ticket????) and was treated VERY poorly when I questioned it.

My new policy is going to be apply to any agency that services my area, meet their AD/LCC and go with whichever agency has the girl I end up picking. Right now at least, no seems to be charging app fees for repeat families or ones switching agencies, so this is doable.

StephinBoston July 29, 2010 at 8:41 am

Signing up with 3 agencies the second time I was looking for an au pair is how I ended up switching, that worked out well for me. I match 6 months early now, so if in a month or so I couldn’t find a candidate with my current agency, I’d probably switch. Although I’m still turned off by the high cost of some of the agency, since I’ve never rematched or had issues, I think it really makes me feel like the agency cost is WAY too high for what I get from them…

anonmom July 29, 2010 at 9:58 am

Thankfully, I have never needed the LCC for any issues with any of our au pairs, nor have I needed to re-match (although have come awfully close with one au pair). That being said, I have familiarity with 3 agencies, and using I like AuPairCare the best out of them for the following reasons: first and foremost Matching process. I like the ability to search and look at numerous applicants when it is convenient to me, not having to wait until the agency tells me who they feel is approrpriate. My experience matching with AuPairIn America and Cultural Care have not been positive. While I felt that the candidates shown to me with CC were better caliber than APIA, CC was extremely pushy about matching. I had one conversation with an au pair that they facilitated, and they called me 5 minutes after it to see if I were ready to match!! To me, that is incredulous. I take my time, and if there is competition, so be it! I do not want my AP to ONLY speak with me as a host family before deciding where to go for a year. Just like I want to feel comfortable, the AP should also fee comfortable that the decision she makes is a good fit. WHen I have been the first HF to speak with an au pair, I tell them that they should speak with other HF, to make sure that this is where they want to be.

My experience with APIA matching was awful. At the time, they would only allow you to see the info on 2 AP’s at a time. The second I looked at them, I knew they were not for me, and I had to wait. I also don’t like having to put the AP on hold- they make you decide yes or no, before moving on to see other applicants. I do not make a decision that quickly, ansd prefer to correspond with the au pair to get to know her., while not an agency is a great resource- I have had 3 phemomenal au pairs that I pre-matched with. While there are many people on it that may not be ideal candidates- you get a huge range of who is available. When I asked my awesome Danish au pair why she posted on greataupair (after she was here a while), she told me because she wanted to have more control over what family she matched with. I thought that was very responsible, and clever. She in fact changed agencies to match with me and my preferred agency. There are a lot of people who may not be serious au pair candidates on it, there are also tons who are already with certain agencies and it is a nice way to see who else is out there. Pre-matching does not save any money- and the au pair still has to go through the agency process, etc, but it is an awesome resource if you have the time to search it. Another awesome au pair I prematched with from that site, found me! She specifically emailed me with interest in MY family- as she wanted to be matched with a family with more than 2 children.

regarding the LCC-there are good and bad ones with every agency. I may not have liked all the LCC’s with aupaircare (been with them for 6 au pairs) but I also know they have a good corporate office and I can call them. They are easily accessible to me, and have been helpful in matching issues- like when the au pair I matched with suddenly was not medically cleared to come, and I needed to find someone with special needs ASAP! I generally would not pick an agency based on the LCC- since sometimes they change. I would want to know more about there rematch policies, and how responsive the agency is above the LCC level.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

APIA now lets you hold up to 7 candidates at a time. The database system improves every year (in the days when we first started hosting in 2001 it was FEDEXed envelopes and no computer system, no chance to email an AP prior to that first phone call). The database system offers several options – this time I could pull down potential candidates, but so could my coordinator in Stamford and my LCC here. We start about four months out and spend 4-6 weeks looking and interviewing before we match.

If it weren’t for the really expensive — but to me totally worth it — extraordinnaire program, I wouldn’t necessarily be wedded to APIA.

calif mom July 29, 2010 at 10:57 am


As noted above, there is an important regional environment you need to discover and then take into account as you decide on an agency.

We went with APIA at first because the local counselor was very supportive. I had called several agencies and she called back right away, and from then on she was terrific. Au pairs and hosts were all basically happy with her, and the au pairs felt supported, too. (Then they switched counselors when her cluster got too large and we got stuck with a lame-o.)

Rematch pool: we appreciate that APIA has a huge volume of families and au pairs. When you need a rematch, you need someone right away, and sadly (because APIA has LOUSY vetting and screening of candidates) we have needed replacements more than once. The small rematch pool is a huge potential risk in using a smaller agency. Unless…. (with a nod to The Lorax here)

Unless YOU the host are good at vetting, interviewing, selecting and orienting a great candidate who matches your family’s *actual* *specific* needs. This is the key to overcoming the larger potential risk of matching with a lousy AP in one of the bigger agencies with poorer vetting and screening in place.

We just switched from APIA (due to that lousy counselor, the lack of real discounts even though I’m a repeat customer, the refusal to match fees of other agencies, and the laughable screening of their admittedly extensive pool of candidates) to a much smaller, friendlier non-profit. Yes, it’s cheaper, but that really isn’t what pushed me away from APIA.

We have a fantastic new au pair who is much better prepared for her role than any au pair I’ve ever oriented. The training they did at orientation was excellent, and has made a huge difference in how easy her transition to our family has been (even with jet lag). The documentation they provide and require actually covers most of the topics that we here at APMom suggest including in your family handbook. They require this document to be signed by AP and hosts, and it covers all those tricky areas like curfews, car usage, and cell phone minutes. Does this mean I had to do more annoying paperwork than the big agency? Yes, but can you imagine a big agency being that concerned about these issues? Yet these are the issues that send families in to rematch when they aren’t handled well–and fairly–up front.

Downside to small agency: there really are fewer au pairs from the same agency, and they really do build a sort of agency alliance or identity during orientation. The au pairs in the same agency are much farther away from our house, so meetings are more of a pain, and potential friends are farther away, too. It has been hard to convince our AP to make friends with APs in the neighborhood who are with different agencies. I’m sure this won’t last, though. So it has taken more work on my part as host to help her find potential AP friends.

So far so good with the smaller agency. Is it because I did a better job identifying our family’s *real* needs and preferences? Because they did a better job screening candidates? I did a better job preparing for AP to arrive? Probably all three, but I do think the selection process–and the hugely important pre-work–takes a huge amount of emotional work as well as just plain time to get it right.

For example: we never really selected for someone who wanted to be tightly knit into our family. I thought driving or other factors were more important. And I was okay with our (otherwise wonderful) AP who rarely joined us for dinner (and it certainly cost less)–but now that we have someone who really does want to hang with us at dinner and watch TV afterward, and talk about the news of the day or whatever, it’s a huge difference in mood and I’m really happy. It’s a little more work, but I’m a lot more at ease, and getting a lot more out of the AP relationship and program. She just plain does more things that help me, frankly. So identifying where your family fits on this spectrum is a key step that you shouldn’t neglect just because you really want to get the ball rolling. Have those conversations with your spouse!

StephinBoston July 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Califmom: You sound so happy with your new match! I think I am looking for the same type relationship you have, especially with #3 on the way. It will be interesting to see if I get what I wish for :-)

hOstCDmom July 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

May I ask the name of your (seemingly great!) new agency?

hOstCDmom July 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm

This q was for Calif Mom – :)

Calif Mom July 30, 2010 at 10:49 am

[Sorry, I was offline for awhile.]

It’s Cultural Homestay International, based in San Anselmo, CA.

Anna July 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I am not CaliforniaMom, but there is only one nonprofit agency I know about – it is the agency I am currently with too (switched back to it from AuPairCare).
AuPairUSA or Interexchange. Sounds like them. They have a great orientation and it is one day longer than other agencies’ (for ALL au pairs)

Mom23 July 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

What do other host parents think of the orientation? My current agency doesn’t require that au pairs attend. Previously, when we were with a bigger agency and it was mandatory we had mixed feelings about it. One au pair told us that the rooms were horrible and she felt terribly depressed there. On the other hand, it is a great place for au pairs to connect with other au pairs from all over the country.

PA AP mom July 29, 2010 at 3:20 pm

My AP said she didn’t learn much new information at AP orientation week, but she made some really great friends whom she has corresponded with, and even visited, throughout the year.

It’s a nice transition from their home to ours.

Mom23 July 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm

There is also the cost (not a huge amount in the scheme of things). About $150 in agency fees (you get the au pair for 52 instead of 51 weeks) and the cost of transportation from the school to our city about another $100.

Gianna July 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I am really taken back to hear that any agency can do without the orientation-
I thought it was required by the federal government. I personally think it never hurts to have as much training as possible when it comes to childcare.
I’ve heard complaints about accomodations but I guess if the agencies classed up the accommodations they would just pass the cost along to host families. Who would want that ? I have read the training materials my agency distributes and I think they are quite good.

Michigan Mom July 29, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I can’t imagine they get much out of the training, no matter how good the materials are. They’re jet-lagged, exhausted, keyed up, and eager to get to their host family. And many of them don’t even know English that well.

Should be working July 29, 2010 at 9:33 pm

FWIW, my AP says she thought the orientation was pretty good (CCAP). She said she felt like she learned a lot about American culture and expectations, and about childcare. I was surprised but pleased to find out she felt this way.

cv harquail July 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

Readers, some kind of orientation is required by US Law:

(g) Au pair training. Sponsors shall provide the au pair participant with child development and child safety instruction, as follows:

(1) Prior to placement with the host family, the au pair participant shall receive not less than eight hours of child safety instruction no less than 4 of which shall be infant-related; and

(2) Prior to placement with the American host family, the au pair participant shall receive not less than twenty-four hours of child development instruction of which no less than 4 shall be devoted to specific training for children under the age of two.

I’d be interested to hear if/how agencies doe something other than a resident orientation to meet this requirement.

Do you ever wonder why there are no folks who officially represent agencies who comment here? Usually I don’t miss them, but with questions like this one (and posts like this one) I wonder….. cv

KM July 30, 2010 at 10:42 am

Training is a regulatory requirement. When we reviewed and interviewed au pair agencies, we found that some agencies have live workshops with au pair attendance, others had 32 hours of online or DVD training that occurred prior to the arrival of the au pair. Some agencies had 90 plus au pairs in a class, others had smaller groups.

West Coast Mom July 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Our first (and so far only) AP ended in rematch. Ended badly in rematch. And our LCC and agency were unexpectedly awesome throughout the entire negative experience. It is because of this – and especially because of the outstanding LCC – that we will stay with APIA for our second soon-to-arrive AP, despite all the downsides many have mentioned here.

For us the negatives are: high fees compared to other agencies; competing with other families in match process.

Positives (in addition to above): large local cluster for our AP to make friends; online matching tool that lets me select up to 7 candidates, plus more that the agency puts in my profile; huge pool of applicants from all over the world. ALso you can (in fact, are required to) make your own travel arrangements from training to your home, so there is no price gouging on travel expenses, as others have mentioned.

In the end, I think you can tell more about the agency and LCC in bad times, then in good, so my experience is likely to keep me with APIA for as long as I am hosting APs. Meet your prospective LCCs before choosing.

Pa Host mom of Two Au-Pairs July 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm

HRHM… I am with you on this one we also have a LCC in which is never hosted an au-pair and flat out has no experience with au-pairs, but she does have 5 kids! I can say with her not having any experience and no clue she has been here for us everytime we call or email and that is important. She has been one of the better LCC in our group.

I think flying from NJ to Phila being charged $435.00 for flight is absurd, plus we the HP have to travel another 1.5 hours to get to the airport to pick the au-pair up. I bet the agencies are all sitting fat and happy with flight charges that we the HP pay since you know they get a huge discount for buying bulk tickets.

Eli's Mom July 31, 2010 at 9:56 am

This is a great discussion. Like PA Mom I live in a Rural area so originally there was one and only one agency that would service us. There are about 2 au pairs in the cluster who live probably an hour away from us. The CC for the agency is also about an hour away and she mainly works with exchange students. So our au pairs monthly meetings were held with the exchange students ( not ideal). We had an issue with our first au pair who we thought had migranes. I took her to numerous drs appointments etc and to the emergency room 3x until she was admitted. I was conveying all of this to our CC. When she was admitted to the hospital it was me, the host mom visiting and making all of the arrangements with the doctors, her family and getting her med flighted home. While we were getting phone support from this agency, it would have been nice for the CC to come and handle some of this so that I could spend time with my children. Basically I was on my own and of course since we liked this girl I was willing to take care of her. I ended up getting another au pair from this agency -out of country. While it has been fine…I am so grateful that another agency ( the biggest) is now servicing my area. Imagine my surprise to find everything in one place on line… there are policies etc that they actually follow and the pool of candidates is far larger than before. My new au pair arrives next week and I am hopeful that I will have more support than the previous agency… it can only improve>

HERBERT MWANDEMBE. November 11, 2010 at 6:50 am

What if a familiy is intrested with an au-pair in a sence that, the familiy wants to make him or her a member of the familiy what normally happens?

NoVA Host Mom January 15, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I’ll bite (I’m bored). Um, since the APs are adults and have their own families (they are not foster children) the families become good friends with their APs and when the APs return home or move on with their lives, the HFs maintain contact and the friendship grows.

That’s what happens. “Family” does not have to be a legal designator. People can create their own with good friendships and close ties across great distances.

vicky January 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I am an au pair and I am interested in learning more about Expert au pair agency for the time being please. That is if anyone knows much about it.
Thank you


Love the Dog February 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Stay away from this agency. They are only interested in the bottom line and will not care about you at all. They are too small to have a good cluster in the area, hence no one for you to connect with, no friends. No monthly meeting, no activities like other agencies. Their office in Florida and training facility is lousy, very unorganized. The local rep is useless. Not worth your time.

MommyMia February 12, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Interesting response, Love the Dog. I hope you’re basing your opinion on personal experience rather than heresay. Vicky, take a look at the site which rates and compares Au Pair agencies based upon research and host family input. There is also a forum where people may respond to queries.

Anna February 12, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Now the site charges a hefty fee for access to any sort of meaningful content including ratings; I am not even sure that you can post on forums anymore being an unpaid member (when I tried a couple of days ago, I couldn’t).

Carlos April 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

If you’re interested in an au pair’s point of view about the agency that they’re with I can provide you with the information of mine…
I’m currently in the matching process with CulturalCare Au Pair, I’m a male au pair from Mexico, and for what I know there are some agencies here that actually tell their au pairs to lie to the families about the hours of experience that they have, hence you have your AP that is only thinking about how big the city where they’re going is or if it’s a wealthy family…

CulturalCare made me start from scratch with my hours of experience, I volunteered at a Kinder Garten, for 2 months and got 200 hours of experience with kids, and I was accepted in the program but they told me to keep on going, now I have around 500 hours of experience with adult supervision and alone with kids, but what I’m trying to say is that you can trust on culturalcare au pair’s experience forms because they actually make us fulfill a certain number of hours in order to apply to the program. For what I know they’re having a hard time trying to find me a match because I’m one of the less experienced au pairs, and they keep telling me to complete more hours to find me a match, so that’s what I’m currently doing…

Just summarizing: CulturalCare is, for what I know as an au pair, an agency that actually ensures that their au pairs have the best experience with kids that a host family would like to have with their kids. I haven’t had any other problem than that as an AP. I just keep helping kids to study and with their homework to get more hours of experience, so next time that you see that an AP has 10,000 hours of experience you can be sure that if it’s with CulturalCare they’re 100% true.

calif mom April 26, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Thanks Carlos! This is heartening to hear.

It also points out an important thing new host families should know — all this volunteering in childcare centers that au pairs do is sometimes at the direction of the agency.

Personally I think these kinds of experiences in organized settings are fabulous because it shows the au pair the variety of personalities, the way you have to plan activities in order to have success, how much is too much for some kids, etc.. But I didn’t realize that it wasn’t an activity the au pairs had done on their own, because they love kids (I know I know, I was so naive!). Our best-skilled au pair was one who had been volunteering for youth groups and childcare centers FOR YEARS, long before she decided to become an au pair. She could really handle elementary school kids of different ages.

Just a little food for thought for new families running their searches this spring…

AnnonaMom OP April 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I’m sorry to do this, but I’m becoming a little suspicious. Carlos’ English is very, very good. There have also been critical statements made recently about Cultural Care’s practices, and it seems as though CC has taken notice. 2+2=?

Carlos April 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Well that’s actually a compliment for me AnoonaMom OP, because I’m mexican and english is not my first language, although I’ve worked at a call center very near and took care of american customers and I guess that’s when I’ve developed my english skills, but still I have a lot of trouble writing it… It takes me too long to make sentences and that, I’m a true person, if you have any questions here’s my e-mail, I can show you my au pair profile

Taking a Computer Lunch April 27, 2011 at 7:08 am

For me, it’s not the number of hours an AP has worked with children, but the variety in experience. I’ve turned down APs who had hundreds of hours working in a drop-off center in a shopping mall. Why? Because they don’t get to “know” the children in the couple of hours that their kids are dropped off. I want to see a commitment to children that extends more than 6 months before I see the application that is reflected in education choices, volunteer experiences, work, and recreation.

I suffer no delusions that childcare is not my AP’s primary motivation for coming to the US to care for my children. However, I feel that APs that don’t come with a commitment to children have a steeper learning curve once they realize what the true meaning of being an AP is. Many do learn to be excellent caregivers, but I’ve watched several of my AP’s friends cry and complain on Mondays for weeks into their year, and I’ve seen a few flameouts.

I’ve just matched with an AP who did a post-high school apprenticeship program that required her to work part-time in a variety of settings, but also volunteered to work with children at her church, and whose future goals involve working with children. She will have an adjustment period with my family, but she has already worked and volunteered to be with children when she wasn’t working. Not every candidate with whom we had a telephone interview had that breadth of experience, but all had a commitment to children that included volunteer or paid work outside their education and babysitting. (And most, but not all, had hands-on work with people with a variety of special needs.)

TiredDad January 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm

When we started all this almost 3 years ago, we initially decided to go the nanny route. We extended am offer for a nanny, who accepted verbally, and then about a week later, she reneged on her agreement. As both HM and HD work, we had to figure out something quickly, as HM’s maternity leave window was rapidly closing. We started talking to both APC and CCAP. Both organizations seemed responsive, but one was able to almost immediately recommend an in-country candidate. One one hand, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, as we really hadn’t researched APs thoroughly, and on the other, we were very much aware that we could be getting damaged goods. Why was this person available? What was wrong with her, etc…

It turns out that the AP that was recommended was exactly what we wanted. Older, college educated in child development. We got here for the remainder of her first year (six months) and renewed her for a year. The rematch issue revolved around her driving skills, and since we live in urban area, that was not an issue.

When it came time to find a new AP we started looking 4 months in advance, which seems to me, to be about 6-8 weeks earlier than the agencies expect HFs to start looking.

At the time, a year ago, we preferred APC’s matching to CCAP’s. We appreciated we could look to our heart’s content with APC, as opposed to the more “match-maker” approach that CCAP seems to push. There seems to be a great deal of reliance upon the Matching Specialists at CCAP, and the recommendations they made, for the most part, weren’t that spectacular.

I should probably add that HM and I met via an internet dating service several years back, and that we were pretty familiar with how dating sites work. I’m struck at the similarities, but maybe it’s just me.

We did, in fact select a CCAP candidate who stated she’d be available on day X, only to find that we’d have to wait two months additional for her availability. We passed on the opportunity, and were refunded whatever fees we had been charged.

I attributed the lack of success in this particular case with the individual involved, and we moved on, looking at both CCAP and ACP candidates. We eventually selected an ACP candidate, and now her year is almost up, she has to go back (grad school obligations) and we’re looking again.

That all being said, a lot of it will depend upon your needs and preferences. For grins, I attempted to try to start a matrix that listed the major costs/programs of each of the 14 approved agencies. Some of them have words like “professional” AP thrown about, and I took that to imply that their premium candidates were best suited to special needs situations. Luckily, we aren’t aware of a need for that, and it seems that those pools would be a lot smaller.

At ACP, our current agency’s infant specialized program appears to add one whole day of material to the training regimen. I don’t know if it’s one additional day of material, or if the entire orientation is different. That would be nice to know. As my youngest will be 9 month old when we get AP #3, I’m not as concerned about the designation, but the au pair will have to had worked with 6-12 month age range, and probably 1000+ hours with those under 2 years old.

We’re still talking to both ACP and CCAP, and while CCAP has made strides to improve their self-matching capabilities, it is still lacking, in my opinion. We’re considering taking a six-month in-country AP to get on a September schedule, but the systems don’t really support people looking this far in advance for an extension AP. We won’t likely see any extending APs that fit for us until at least 4-6 weeks from now. To be honest, we like the idea of having everything finalized by then, and feel we may miss out on some good candidates if we wait that long.

JJ Host Mom January 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm

With our last match, we considered taking a 6-month in-country AP to get on a better matching schedule. We decided not to because, like you, I wanted to have things finalized earlier than that would allow.

As it turned out, a series of rematches got us into a September matching window anyway. I could never have planned that.

You never know what the scheduling will be like. Unless that perfect candidate pops up and works out great, might as well just stay where you are and hope for the best.

My 2 cents.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Extension APs don’t usually know that they need to find a family until their extension paperwork arrives (usually 4 months out from their departure date) and their HF indicates that they don’t want the AP to extend with them — unless the AP chooses to extend with another family (although I don’t think they get to jump the gun on extension paperwork).

One time I had an AP who chose to extend, but we decided that we would look elsewhere. We had paperwork to fill out for potential HF to see and the AP did as well. I know we did ours promptly and sent it directly to the agency. After a few weeks, I began to check the agency’s Web site to if I was right about which of my quotes would appear on their Web site, and it took about 6 weeks (my guess is that she must have taken some time, but that the agency also may have vet her paperwork – they never called us, but we had been in constant contact with our LCC).

Now, the agency let the appear on their Web site past deadline by about 3 weeks. If you know that you would prefer an extension AP, then I suggest soliciting help from your LCC or your contact in the home office – they see applications before they land on the Web site and should be able to fasttrack them to you.

But don’t expect to see extensions now for September! September arrivals are only what, 4 or 5 months in to their year – they won’t know until the end of April or early May whether or not they are looking for a new extension family!

Should be working January 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

CCAP has changed a lot with matching in the last 2 years. Now you can see a very truncated profile for many AP applicants, and then request up to 3 full applications at a time. I find this is far less overwhelming than the whole-database approach. Also, those applicants ONLY see your family once you have requested the application, so they are not able to comparison-shop while you, the HF, are able to decide among 3 at a time.

Honestly, that little photo on the website tells me part of what I need to know, and if they make a video (which all HFs can see) that tells me a whole lot more and excludes about 80% from further consideration. Is this because I’m superficial? But I know I don’t want an AP who imagines herself a glamor-model (especially because role-modeling smart, non-slutty behavior is important for my 10-yr-old).

sleepytime January 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

We will be entering rematch with an au pair who was part of the APC infant specialized program. If I had to do it over again (which I do!) I would look for candidates who are willing to go to an infant massage class and a sign language class with the host family baby. (and attend an infant cpr class- you can never have too much experience with that.) I think our au pair would have enjoyed those classes with our infant too. I can’t see what screening there was for the infant specialized au pairs- I’m suspecting it was a check off box. We have recommended that when she rematches it is with with a family with older kids- she’s a good driver and can engage older kids well. We matched with this au pair because we had wanted to match with her, and just bit the bullet and paid the surcharge of the infant specialized program. Basically, all parties (LCC, HP, AP) an infant match would not be best- so what did the specialized infant care screen for? and how is one day of training 1500 (besides hotel room and board?)
I think Anna’s comments below are on the mark.

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