Finding an Au Pair for a Situation That’s Not a Cakewalk

by cv harquail on August 13, 2015

Host Mom Dorsi writes what she claims is a rant… but what we know is simply the reality.

It can be hard to get responses from Au Pairs when the situation you’re offering doesn’t look relatively easy. 13744861463_a364243aec_m

We are in the early search for a new AP. I have contacted 8 candidates from one agency with my brief email:

– “Our lives are busy and exciting, our town is super cool, we have three kids, you have to work 45h, weekends, evenings, we love our APs and have had many successful matches.”

I am 0/8 – all have either not replied, or replied that they weren’t interested in our family.

It feels futile to be reading and screening applications.

I don’t want to be “selling” the job – it is a hard job. I also have exhausted the pool of candidates that meet my very minimal expectations – experience with two kids at once, driver’s license >6 months.

One next step might be to switch agencies — I am looking at interexchange instead. I know one poster here really promoted them, but then seemed to fall out of love. Have others had good experiences?

 What other strategies should Dorsi consider?

She’s a great Host Mom, so she needs to find a terrific Au Pair!


Midwest mom of 4 August 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Dorsi- I can relate to your problem. I had over 20 rejection emails from girls- 4 kids were more than they could handle. And I don’t blame them. If I was an AP, I’m much rather have 1-2 kids, than 3+ young kids. It is a TON of work, as we both know. I’m on my 2nd successful AP (we had 2 rematches.) It really takes a special kind of girl to handle 3+ kids. That’s why nannies make more for each child they watch.

I’ve tried to make it easier on my AP to compensate for watching my 4 kids. She only has to make lunch for the toddlers- no breakfast or dinner. We make the kids’ school lunches in the morning. No cleaning. She does do kid laundry. She works 45 hours, but we try to cut it early when we can, so it’s really only 40-43hrs. We give her an extra week of vacation. And we try to remember, she is a 20year old inexperienced caregiver being thrown into a tough situation. She tries hard, so I cut her slack if possible.

OP- My husband or I would take the kids to school in the morning, so that AP didn’t have to drag our baby twins out. Also, we arranged a carpool with other families to drive my preschooler home from school- several times. Actually when I send out an email to carpool and explain we have babies at home, 1 or 2 SAHMs often volunteer to bring home my kid(s) with no reciprocation. They are wonderful.

I do think it is harsh if you expect her to drive to and from school 4-5 days/week. Also, I just saw that you work from home. I presume you can stop for a half hour around lunch to either watch the baby or pick the kids up from school.

Your expectations are those for a veteran experienced nanny, not a 19yo AP.

Schnitzelpizza August 17, 2015 at 8:54 am

One of my friends was in a family with four children under 3 (3 months old twins, a 1 1/2 year old and the oldest turning 3 a few weeks after arrival). She thrived! She had an amazing year. She loved it. I have no idea how she managed to handle four little ones at home all day.

I had four but could never have done what she did – my four were 12, 10, 8 and 1 1/2 – I can get three out of the door and to school (or rather: onto the bus) on time but 45 hours a week with two infants and two toddlers? But of course I also wasn’t expected to actually take the school-aged kids to school by car which would have been possible but would have meant having everybody out of bed, dressed and fed by 6.45 am at the latest to leave at 7 am and baby and I wouldn’t have been back home before 9.30 am. That would have made for extremely stressfull mornings, especially as three of us (yes, me included) were not morning people and the baby usually slept until 8 am!

My hostmom had a similiar approach to yours “Cut the poor au pair some slack as long as she tries hard.” By 5 pm everybody was supposed to still be alive and happy (I know, I know… low expectations to being with). Bonus points if home work was done, everybody had lunch and an afternoon snack, and nobody was bleeding. And yes, on a normal day in addition to the bonus points the kitchen was clean, the laundry was done, and everybody was wearing decently clean clothes. On half the days we had started preparing dinner. On a few days, for unexplicable reasons, we had a snake sitting on the kitchen table in a bucket. Or somebody was grounded. Or the au pair had dirt in her hair. Or two had been left to fend for themselves (ie. dropped off at their best friends’ place after school). Or instead of four there were eight children running around in our basement. I worked 45 hours each week. I worked two late shifts (evening babysitting) that year. I worked exactly one weekend. My host dad did all the ironing. The kids did (most of) the cleaning. Child-care was team work in my host family. Who could contribute, did contribute. My hostmom was aware that I was an inexperienced 19 year old and that nobody is perfect. I am so so thankful for that.

I have to admit that I think it’s good to have applicants flake out early in the process. That means they know their limitations (or are special snowflakes – which is most likely not ideal either). Why would anyone want an au pair to match with them that doesn’t want to be with them or isn’t up for the job? I am aware that childcare needs to be covered and flexibility is limited but you cannot force anyone to take a job. Especially not if that person will be living with you. I would have been a horrible au pair for my friend’s family. While she was a ‘perfect’ match.

NoVA Twin Mom August 12, 2015 at 1:56 pm

I was having this problem a few months ago – I had to keep reminding myself that it meant that “my” au pair wasn’t in the system yet. Sure enough, I was patient and she showed up. We’ll find out in the next few days if I was right – she’s in APIA’s orientation now, taking the train to meet us tomorrow.

I haven’t had to change agencies, but I have had to remind myself to be patient. My starting criteria are a little more stringent than yours – driver somewhere where it snows, worked *somewhere* for eight hours a day, four to five days a week for a number of weeks in a row, worked with kids around my kids’ age, bonus points if the jobs intersect, and we have a highly preferred home country (though we’ll look beyond it).

I just want to remind you to not compromise, be patient, and keep looking because the “lid to your pot” is out there somewhere – even if they’re with another agency!

Julie August 12, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Dorsi, are you looking European? It appears to be tough right now. If you are with CCAP, send me an email and I’ll help you.–mentioning that the au pair works weekends might be an issue because they read it as all weekends. How can I help?

DowntownMom August 12, 2015 at 4:19 pm

We have been with Interexchange for years. It is often hard to get excited about the few candidates that match our country preference.

For roughly two years IE has made the host family fill in a lengthy work contract-like document, which the AP then signs. It reinforces her/his obligation to do a job and includes curfew (yes/no) and other details related to living together.

The IE matching platform works well: you can still review APs while they are exclusive to other families. We are in a similar situation as yours, resulting in more nos during the summer and only positive replies at all other times of the year.

hOstCDmom August 12, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Yes, I would suggest saying SOME weekends (or even 3 out of 4 weekends, if that is your situation), and perhaps adding a clarifying parenthetical, i.e.

“(While you will work X number of weekends/weekend days/weekend evenings (whatever is accurate re your situation), during any week when you work on a weekend you will have 2 weekdays off (again, whatever is accurate)”.

If you don’t, you might also say WHY your AP works weekends, so that the AP understands that it is because of your job (if that is the case) and not because you want to work an AP 24/7 — maybe:

“You will work some weekends because I am an ER nurse, and I sometimes work weekend shifts, and thus need you to be on duty on those days. However, during any week when you work on a weekend you will instead have 2 weekdays off ”

I think this probably sounds much less draconian, and gives the AP context for how and why you have the schedule you do.

(Maybe you already do this — I obviously couldn’t tell from the limited info you posted above :))

TexasHM August 13, 2015 at 8:49 am

Hi Dorsi! I don’t know what agency you are looking with right now but I would highly encourage you to look at an agency with exclusive matching, it makes a huge difference. With open pool matching the host families end up pitted against each other for the seemingly great candidates and often “sell” and try and out perk each other so with 4 kiddos and a full schedule (we have 3 kids and full schedule and it took us FOREVER to match at APIA the rounds we did there) its really tough in that matching environment.

With exclusive matching I feel like the APs really read the HF profiles and think hard before declining (because they don’t know if another family will come along and no one else is talking to them at the same time). That has allowed us the time to really honestly explain our situation (unravel the myths about Texas, share references from previous APs, info about the area, etc) before they decline. It still happens sometimes but nowhere near as often as it did in open matching and my response rate in exclusive matching is much higher which is something I appreciate too!

I was the HM that was gung ho IE for awhile as they really helped us when we were in rematch getting us an awesome candidate and I liked that their policies were a little more AP fair. What made us fall “out of love” was when we went to match with a new OOC AP we really struggled due to the small pool of candidates. My search took literally 3 times as long and I think I got as TACL says – interview fatigue and settled on what I thought was a good enough candidate. That ended disastrously in large part because our LC was not only useless, but caused problems! She is no longer with IE. When we asked for rematch candidates they had ZERO drivers for 3 solid weeks in December. ZERO. I don’t know what your rematch tolerance is (sounds like you have had a couple) but if you can’t be without an AP for longer than 2 weeks then I would go to a larger agency. I called CCAP at the same time and they have over 3 dozen candidates in rematch that could drive, over two dozen also met my other criteria! IE had orientations once a month with about 20 APs or less end of last year, CCAP has orientations every week with 120+ APs to give you a reference point I saw personally.

I would do as others said and not highlight the weekends necessarily but have them in your profile docs (sample schedule) AND we point out that most APs can’t afford to travel every weekend anyway and instead plan a big trip one weekend per month and then use our ex-AP as a reference. A lot of the problem in matching is AP’s misguided expectations. We had a French rockstar rematch AP that said she would have turned down a family that needed weekends but then got here and came to us and offered to work weekends so we could have date nights when she wasn’t traveling and changed her tune about it being a big deal and said most other APs worked weekends too. Also, when I first read your description (you have to work 45h, weekends, evenings) I read it as they work 45 hours a week – full time on the weekends (20 hrs – 10 per day) and the rest evenings which I am guessing is not your schedule so in trying to be forthright you might actually be misrepresenting your schedule especially when you add in ESL factors! I would take it out entirely of the first email but include it in the profile or include a sample schedule in your email to clarify.

Lastly, I know this has been discussed ad nauseum before but I would eliminate experience with 2+ kids from your criteria. Our french ER nurse crushed this job (3 kids full time schedule) and barely had enough hours to get in the program and never watched more than 1 kiddo. In fact, out of our 4 successful APs 3 of the 4 didn’t have meaningful childcare experience. What they all did have was REAL full time job experience and a much younger sibling in the house. Yes, I had to give them tips but all didn’t find the job “hard” after working at real jobs full time. They just had to learn childcare tips which I can train. We hire for attitude, train for skill. And our first AP that DID have experience with more than 2 kids needed the same tips and training when she got here. ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2015 at 8:06 pm

I agree that real previous work experience (whether gained in a practicum or through a paying job) is really beneficial. As the parent of a child with special needs, however, I reject applicants who are looking to perfect English to meet job requirements in favor of women who have real experience with any person who has special needs – not necessarily needs like my child has – or even a child (caring for the elderly counts in my book!). However, having had the responsibility of showing up for work prior to working as an AP makes a big difference in expectations of having a job during an AP year (as opposed to a long vacation during a gap year).

NJ Mama August 14, 2015 at 2:54 pm

I also look for something in the application that shows the applicant overcame a challenge. I may read 20 applications before I stumble upon something that makes me want to email an au pair. One applicant described the first time she dealt with a child who had a seizure. Another talked about the challenges of growing up with a single mom. Even someone who discusses how they calmed down a child who was having a tantrum or how they reacted when caring for a kid who spiked a fever – all good things to look for. These types of candidates may not be put off by multiple kids or kids with challenges. My 11 year old has anxiety disorder and ADHD. Although we have come a long way she can be challenging, especially at the beginning. So I don’t necessarily look for special needs experience – but I do look for characteristics that show a candidate would not be put off by her behavior.

I also like candidates with at least some real babysitting experience. It doesn’t have to be a lot. But there is a big difference between someone who has only classroom, camp or daycare experience — where there are a lot of activities planned and a lot of support — and someone who has been with kids overnight or had a regularly weekly babysitting job for six months at four hours a pop. The reason is that I got burned more than once by candidates who had mostly camp, school or daycare experience – even though they had held regular jobs doing other things too. I found they just couldn’t handle the kids for long stretches. They’d get offended if the kids didn’t want to do what they suggested and couldn’t come up with alternatives. They were used to telling the class or group what they would do next and have the class follow their instructions. Or they’d get really stressed if one of the kids cried or both fought. I wonder now that my kids are 9 and 11 if that matters as much, but it definitely did when they were younger.

And definitely get the agency to suggest candidates. The one good thing about the smaller agencies like CCAP and especially IE is they really seemed to know their pool of applicants and were really good at suggesting people to contact. They also followed up when the applicants didn’t respond. I do you hope you find a good one!

Kristy-Go Au Pair August 13, 2015 at 10:53 am

Dorsi, I think the brief email description you are sending to the Au Pairs is perfect. It’s realistic and it lets them know what to expect. I always advise my Host Families, when they are searching for an Au Pair, to be truthful about their situation and not to sugar coat anything. I know, as parents, we want to say our children are angels and our household is perfectly managed, but realistically that is not the case most of the time. If you are honest upfront, you are going to find the right Au Pair for your family. You may have 8 who don’t reply but you will eventually have “the one” reply who really does feel that your family will be “the one.”
While we do allow Au Pairs to talk with as many families as they like and we don’t “hold” an Au Pair candidate for any specific family, we find that this helps both the family and Au Pair find the right match. Not only does the family choose the Au Pair, but the Au Pair chooses the family too.
I think you are doing the right thing with your email and being honest about your situation and your expectations. I know it’s hard to be patient and wait for the right Au Pair. I would suggest continuing to do what you are doing but maybe in the brief email you are sending, also tell the Au Pairs what benefits they can expect if they place with your family. Tell them why your have had successful matches in the past. If you have an Au Pair you are still in touch and who would be willing to talk with potential Au Pairs, let the potential Au Pairs know that you past Au Pair(s) would be happy to speak with them as well to share their experiences with your family.
Give them the truth, give them your expectations, but also give them all the great reasons your family would be worth it!

Dorsi August 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

Thanks for all the words of wisdom. To clarify, my initial email is a bit longer than the summary and I do clearly state that we follow all of the program rules. What galls is that of the 8 I have contacted, a free don’t even respond to the initial email, a few respond that we are not for them and a few say that they are interested, only to read my dear AP letter and then reject us without further dialogue.

I get that the situation sounds intimidating. However, I am feeling more than a whiff of entitlement if they can’t even be bothered to reply with a few pertinent questions. They would find out that all two children go to school every day. I will happily forward them 4 weeks of actual schedule – they can see that we have worked around an oddly timed class that was important to our AP, she has worked two weekend days, and slept in more than 50% of her days on (started after 10a). Perhaps it is not what they had in mind, but it is surprising that we can’t even get to that conversation.

To update, I am having much better luck with IE. I have two candidates answering my questions and reading my letter. I have always worried about the small rematch pool, but after having gone through rematch with APIA, I am less concerned. We had to go out of country – 16 APs in the pool, 8 IQ, 4 unwilling to leave their area, 2 in rematch because of irregular scheduling. That left two to choose from – one who was not interested in us, one on her second rematch that the LCC said she wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. So, despite big agency support, we went OOC – I am prepared to do that again.

Kristy-Go Au Pair August 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Good luck in your quest to find the right Au Pair. I have been helping families in their search for the right Au Pair for over 5 years, so I understand how time consuming, frustrating and disappointing it can be sometimes. I hope you find “the one” and you continue in your success with the Au Pair program!

TexasHM August 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Dorsi, have you looked at CCAP? We were at APIA, then IE, now CCAP and I am hoping that we are done switching. All the agencies have their pros and cons but with 3 kids in a secondary geo and less tolerance for long rematch periods CCAP has proven to be a great fit for us (tons of candidates, more thorough profiles save me time in contacting only the ones that I think will be rockstars, more consideration from APs because it is exclusive matching, very large agency pool – thus rematch pool – many of my HM friends have ended up with CCAP because when they went into rematch they couldn’t find candidates elsewhere).

I also like that they have home offices in all the countries they host from. Meaning no recruiters. I feel like it makes a huge difference in the quality of the pool but maybe that has just been my impression. I had an AP on hold in my account last round and they removed her – when I called to ask why they said she had talked to several families and turned them down without giving cause so they didn’t think she was serious about the program and thus removing her from the program! Their policies are a little more AP favorable than the other agencies but I am actually ok with that.

Definitely wasn’t saying to sugar coat anything, just to be sure your message isn’t being misinterpreted. For example, WarmStateMomma told me awhile back that I might consider using “Protestant” instead of “Evangelical Christian” in my profile and letter because that has a very negative stereotype in parts of the world, particularly Europe (I had mentioned that we can’t get a German to consider us). It was excellent feedback. It doesn’t change our family or lifestyle, it just avoids a stereotype and gives us the opportunity to explain in more detail rather than stake a claim on limited info/assumption. As others have said, you will find candidates but I am with you – it is SUPER frustrating to not get any response and to not even get consideration. Good luck, take breaks if you get frustrated and no doubt you will have continued success! :)

Julie August 13, 2015 at 4:44 pm

We have been having the issue with no response this time around as well. Our program manager (CCAP) told me that there are issues with spam filters. She suggested I cc her on the email as they have typically added the agency to their safe senders list. That has helped a little. If I don’t hear anything after that, she emails them and cc’s me. I hate to let a good one slip through the cracks when they haven’t even seen my email. Might be something to look into!

Good luck.

Returning HM August 13, 2015 at 10:48 pm

My initial intro email has ended up in the spam folders of every AP we have ended up matching with in the past four years. If I don’t hear back from someone within 24 hours, I email again from a different email address, and if I don’t hear back from that, I ask the agency to contact him or her. Our incoming AP (arriving 2 weeks from tomorrow) was typical….it was 5 days between my first email and when he finally wrote back, and in the interim I wrote a second time from another account and had CCAP contact him to tell him to look in his spam folder (my two emails were in there). Good luck, Dorsi!

SingleHM August 14, 2015 at 10:31 am

I find that I go to their profile after I email and check when “Last logged in” was. If it was after I emailed, then I know they probably have checked it. If it hasn’t been a while, then maybe they didn’t see the email or it went to junk. When they log in, they will obviously know that a family has matched with them.


Emerald City HM August 14, 2015 at 5:14 pm

When I’m first looking for candidates I do try to cast a wide net. The matching process with IE was weird to me, even though we did choose a candidate from that agency. Plus after our experience earlier this year I am super glad that we happened to switch agencies anyway.

I’m happy with IE right now, but would be nervous if we were in a rematch situation, but I’m willing to forgo some agency fees and argue with them later in a bind, so I don’t feel totally stuck as it is anyway.

Anon. Au Pair August 16, 2015 at 12:54 am

I don’t think it’s entitled for an au pair to know what schedule she’d be happy with. You know what you want in an au pair and she has every right to know what she wants in a host family.

Better to get a rejection then for someone to come only to be unhappy working weekends and evenings.

ILHostMom August 13, 2015 at 2:21 pm

I can see why an Au Pair might shy away from “you have to work 45h, weekends, evenings” as part of the opening line. Possibly its too blunt too quickly? In my intro email I talk some about our situation (2 young kids – one with ADHD, 3 pets, travelling husband). I talk about our area. And then I finish with “We may not be the easiest family out there, but we make up for it with our warmth, joy, openness, and truly including the Au Pair in the family”. I promise you there are many families out there who use the Au Pairs 45 hours including weekends (we are one of them), so I don’t feel like you have to make that one of the very first things to be aware of.

WarmStateMomma August 13, 2015 at 2:57 pm

We say we use 45 hours and require 2 weekends a month (in our host family letter). No one has suggested that’s too demanding but we are only looking at APs from a country with a low match rate.

WestMom August 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Hi Dorsi,
I am another fan of IE. We have been with them for 7yrs. Excellent, experienced LCC, and I find the home office pretty responsive. I also found the rematch process and rules very fair to families (refunds if leaving program, or for advance payment of tuition, etc.). They do exclusive matching. It is also a non-profit, which I appreciate.

The drawbacks… the website is somewhat rudimentary (APIA-like). My two drawbacks are that unfortunately they don’t have rematch and extension APs on the Web site. These are personally matched by the transition coordinators. The pool of rematch candidates/family is small, so you may not have as much choice if things go south. We rematched last year, and fortunately we found a fantastic extension AP as a replacement. Our rematch AP could not find a family in time and was sent home.

In your position, would strongly recommend posting your profile on Great AP and AP World. It costs a little bit of money to do so, but APs who have read your profile and are interested will contact you directly. You don’t have to apologize about your legitimate requirements when making an introduction… Many girls on these sites are already registered with an agency, and if they aren’t, you can direct them to the agency of your preference (I mention in my profile that we only go through an agency and strongly prefer candidates who are already registered). 75% of the applications I receive are crap (don’t fit the requirements, or don’t provide enough details for me to bother), but I have found a handful of strong candidates in the last month that have directed me to their profiles on agency Web sites.

I have pre matched with 5APs this way: 3 were APC, 1 was CCAP, and one was not yet registered… Once we match, I have them re-register with IE and reimburse for their original application fee.

It’s worth a try!

American Host Mom in Europe August 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

FWIW, I’m finding the same problem as the OP on Great Au Pair — non-responsiveness at a rate I haven’t see before.

NJ Mama August 13, 2015 at 9:57 pm

FWIW I had a great matching experience with IE and also found a wonderful au pair. The reason I switched to Cultural Care was because IE has a TINY cluster near me – 3-4 girls total spread over two counties. I think the closest IE cluster meeting was 25 miles away – which doesn’t sound far but I live in a hugely populated area of the country! I never thought that would have been a big deal before matching, because my previous au pairs had all found and made friends with au pairs from other agencies. But it was more of a factor than I realized.

My other problem with IE was that the LC they had was very new – and just not very strong. Thankfully things went very smoothly with my IE au pair for the vast majority of the year. I don’t know what I would have done if we had problems. So I think before you switch to any agency you should find out where your LC is located, how long she’s been on the job and the size of your cluster.

this last time I interviewed APs from both IE and Cultural Care. We found two amazingly strong candidates – one from each agency. It was so weird b/c I had never gotten to the wire with two candidates that were so strong. In the end, the fact that IE had a very small cluster and a weak LC was the reason we went with CC. the IE au pair I was interviewing was very young (although mature beyond her years) and from South Africa. And I just couldn’t justify bringing her so far from her home without a lot of nearby support. My IE au pair was very religious (even though my family isn’t) and found tons of friends through her church. So she didn’t need au pair agency support. But if she had? I don’t even want to think about it.

I agree with TexasHM that interviewing exclusively helps tremendously, and you can do that with both IE and CCAP. The other thing you may consider is this. All of the au pairs can see your profile, so I’m assuming they can see how many kids you have and what a typical weekly schedule is. How about your first email to them is “Hi XXX. I’m Dorsi, and my family is looking for a new au pair. I’d like to start by asking you some questions.” Then list a bunch of random questions. What kind of family are you looking for? Do you have a location preference? Do you smoke? (even if they say on the application that they don’t, you’d be surprised by how many “yes” responses you get, which for me is a big deal b/c I have two kids with asthma). Are you religious (I actually don’t care whether or not they’re religious, but it may matter to you. And even if it doesn’t it may open up great follow up questions). What is your driving experience like – how many days a week do you drive? Do you own your own car? What is the most difficult situation you’ve ever had as a childcare provider, and how did you handle it? Where do you plan to travel while you’re in the U.S? Why do you want to become an au pair? etc etc Even obvious questions they’ve already addressed in their profiles can often give you interesting answers.

I should disclose here that I borrowed much of this from TexasHM :). But I found it brilliant because you can really get a sense of who they are in how they answer your random questions. Then you can see what questions they have for you. And it really gets the convo going. As the conversation gets going, and you seem like you’re getting along with the candidate, then you can bring up the fact that your au pair works a solid 45 hours a week, and would that be a problem? and then throw out the challenges of your particular situation. This can be hard. I had times when I really was starting to love a candidate, only to have them get all flaky. In fact one time my oldest child was emailing the candidate and she was going on about how much she liked her – and then she flaked out! But it’s soooo much better that it happens during the interviews and before they’re in your home. Honestly I think most – if not all – of us have our own challenges unique to our families. For me, I have a very sarcastic 11 year old (my oldest) who can be difficult for some au pairs – in fact she was the reason four au pairs in a row said they wanted rematch – they all said my then 9 year old hurt their feelings. I also live in a small house but in an area near humungous houses, where it is not uncommon for an au pair to drive the “old Mercedes” and live in their own suite in the house. My au pair is driving a car that’s more than 10 years old. We all share a bathroom. I have a curfew. Etc. So we’re certainly not the “dream” family.

I like this approach even though I have the opposite problem. My kids are older and more independent, so my job looks “easy” on the surface. I live in a small town with lots of things to do nearby (short drive or bike ride to the beach, can walk to Starbucks, etc), but it’s close enough to NYC that a lot of APs find it attractive. So I had problems for awhile with APs who wanted to match b/c they thought the job would be easy and they could spend all their time in NYC. Then they met my older daughter :)

I would also suggest using more than one agency. Yes it can be hard to go back and forth, but it may broaden your applicant pool.

Personally I liked the search mechanisms for IE better than CCAP. Maybe it’s b/c they had au pairs from a larger variety of countries? I like that. I also felt that a lot of the CCAP applications seemed the same after awhile (like every German 19 year old sounded the same). But I ended up going with CCAP b/c of the experience of the local LC and the size of the cluster. They’re huge in my area. I had been with APC before IE and now I’m with CCAP. I also liked that you could really see how CCAP verified the AP’s experience (something APC should do. One of my APC au pairs even told me that the APs all inflated their babysitting experience so they could match more quickly).

Good luck to you. I know it can be so frustrating. And I really hope it works out.

Anna August 20, 2015 at 5:49 am

I don’t place much trust in verifying the experience. If a candidate asks a neighbor to say she babysat for her (wink wink ) and sighn the reference form, that same neighbor will also confirm on the phone this ‘experience’ as part of the favor. I grew up in the country where this is commomplace. Even official daycare practice certificates can be had if you know somebody, or for a price…

HRHM August 20, 2015 at 8:00 am

Totally agree here. I’ve talked to 5 of my 7 APs about this and ALL have made up most (if not all) of their childcare experience.

I’ve stopped even looking at childcare experience in deciding who I hire. It’s more important to me that they’ve worked a real job. Even the younger ones need to have had a crappy job for 8 hour straight. One cleaned houses in a foreign country, one spent evenings and weekends serving and bussing in a catering hall. They were definitely my two best APs (my last two) and it was mainly because (unlike the others) they knew what a full day of hard work looked like and were prepared for it.

Host Mom in the City August 20, 2015 at 8:18 am

Wow!!! That’s crazy. Is it a particular country they’re coming from? All four of my au pairs have had extensive, legitimate experience. Or at least – they were able to keep up the ruse for the year! Three of the four went on to child-related jobs after (though all with older children than mine).

Mimi August 20, 2015 at 8:31 am

Every one of my APs had inflated experience. A German AP even told me that unless their hours were at a school or center they were likely inflated because their maternity leave is so much better that mothers stay home longer. This is why I also look for other work experience and I screen for attitude over experience.

WarmStateMomma August 20, 2015 at 8:58 am

Most applications I look at from China have fake experience and the agencies sometimes send the candidates to “friendly” child care centers to take photos. There is a fair number with Go Au Pair who have legit experience at an orphanage run by an American woman.

Host Mom in the City August 20, 2015 at 10:58 am

Good to know. Mine have all been German and have all worked at schools or centers.

Should be working August 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Yeah, but those German experiences are usually 2-week internships required by the agency, from what I understand. It is not usually the case that the AP has sought out a kindergarten and worked there over a longer time before ever applying to be an AP. So I don’t place much confidence in those either.

Host Mom in the City August 20, 2015 at 3:19 pm

I should be clear that we host extraordinaires, so it’s always been a year plus of working in a center or school. I see those little two weeks working in a center things and I just know it’s to quickly gain some experience for the program where they just followed explicit directions and did very little. Agree that I would take no stock in those.

It’s actually one of the reasons we host extraordinaires, although they’re not a panacea in many ways. Childcare experience and interest in children in general is really important to me, and I’ve found that extraordinaires have been the only way I’ve found that in a way that can be confirmed.

German Au-Pair August 20, 2015 at 8:46 pm

I’ve said this multiple times before and I’ll say it again (as always speaking for the German experience ;) ): the agencies coach you and they are very lenient. One agency never varified my (or any of the other AP’s I knew) childcare experience. I’m not sure anymore about the other.
While all my childcare experience was real, one was from a tutoring job I had years ago and I couldn’t remember their names. I was told to write “Schmidt and hope no one asks”. Had I made this up, the agency would have supported it.
I also had a situation in which I was employed by an external source but worked in a school. My contract was for almost double the hours I actually did (still a year so plenty of hours either way) and I brought this to both agencies’ attention. One asked me to write down the real amount and make my reference someone from the school who had actually seen me perform. The other said they didn’t care and I should just put what’s in my contract.
The same agency who didn’t care about the hours or the name was the one who also pressured more than one AP I know to say they are willing to work with special needs children even though theys stated they were afraid to do that. The agency told them they were much more likely to find a family if they said yes. The very same agency also didn’t care a bit when we alerted them to the fact that one AP had copied an entire application video (down to misspeaking and correcting and -I’m not kidding- pointing out the nice leaves even though the fake one was shot in spring instead of fall…). We told the agency and they said it didn’t matter because what are the chances the HFs will see both of them.

On the other hand agencies also let APs go into less than ideal situations. I personally know one AP who had no door to her room and another who lived in what can only be described as a better wooden crate in the garage. How often to families who clearly should get kicked out for constantly abusing the AP-HF relationship stay in the program.
I know that there a great, hard working people working for thise agencies and I’m sure that many if not most genuinly care for the wellbeing of HF and AP but one should always remember that we are talking about companies who want money and sometimes rules are bent.
I would advise HF to focus their matching effort on trying to get a personal feel for the AP instead of looking into experience too much. The real job criteria is a good one regarding knowing what a 8-hour shift means. But “childcare experience” hardly ever is what it seems. Even if you actually HAVE babysitted a lot and worked in kindergartens before -the situation will be totally different anyway.
And yes, Germans are really encouraged to do that random internship. As I said, I had a year long experience working in a school, had tutored many children, had worked with immigrant children and had a younger sibling and STILL I was strongly encouraged to do an internship in a kindergarten. There, I ended up hot glueing lanterns in a seperate room for three consecutive days and then got to stand around and play games with some of the kids if I was lucky. I can honestly say I learned nothing except how to treat burned flesh in that weird, totally useless internship.

TexasHM August 20, 2015 at 11:02 pm

German AP would you mind sharing which agencies did this?

German Au-Pair August 21, 2015 at 7:43 am

The German part of APC. The other one I applied to was APIA and they were much more interested in the truth than APC.
I would like to emphasize again that I know there are great people working at APC but what I am describing is my experience and at the time the group of summer arrival APs was very active online and so asked questions like “have your records been checked” and some posted online about the special needs issue. (In my case I had said I didn’t want to do it and they asked me to write a statement why and left it at that, yet somehow I ended up being visible to family with special needs -even though I’m quite happy about that in retrospective.)
That was 4-5 years ago though (Oo really?! that long?! ), I’m not sure if they have changed.

Host Mom in the City August 21, 2015 at 8:27 am

Thanks for sharing, GermanAP. I think I still believe my au pairs’ experience, especially since you could really tell they were not only educated on how to manage kids and typical development and such, but also you could tell they were experienced with it. They also told consistent stories about their experiences and such, and as I mentioned, continued in child-related careers.

I know many others don’t look for childcare experience, but we personally strongly value it and have had the most success with those who wanted to work with children long-term. It seems like they probably check out the APIA extraordinaire’s experience a little better too since the host parents pay more to the agency for them. So I feel good about that.

Of course, we did have a flame out extraordinaire, who just wasn’t suited to the program, but even she was excellent with the kids for the short time we had her. So it’s not a panacea. And if you don’t value childcare experience anyway because you’ve found another formula that works for you, then of course, it wouldn’t be worth the extra $4-5k anyway. But it’s worked for us :)

NJmama August 21, 2015 at 8:45 am

My experience w APC from 3-5 yrs ago mirrors what GermanAP said from a HF perspective.

I think i found two amazing APs through APC through pure luck.

I heard of terrible stories about how APs were treated by families. And I certainly had APs who inflated their experience and was told by one that all the girls inflated their hours so they could match more quickly and the agency never checked.

I also had terrible experience in rematch. I know there are people who say they love rematch APs bc they try hard and what not. But in my experience w APC the agency would just keep putting APs into rematch and would only send them home when an AP couldn’t get a match. You also couldn’t interview a rematch AP host family and while I interviewed area directors I was not given an honest assessment in some cases.

I will agree with GermanAP in that there were some great people who work at the agency but the agency itself was not great. I had two of my best area directors w APC. Did not have a great LC exp w IE and I’m too new w CC to comment.

When I talk about real babysitting experience what I mean is that I need someone who understands that you have to earn respect from kids. I need someone who isn’t going to fall apart when an 8 or 9 yr old challenges their authority. I need someone who can handle the kids when they fight, who doesn’t always pick one side. I need someone who isn’t going to flake out if one kid wants to go to the park while the other doesn’t and the one who wants to stay home isn’t old enough to do that on her own. I need someone who can make sure when it’s time for bed the kids are in bed, etc. I need someone who doesn’t sink to the level of a 9 year old and then complain that the 9 year old hurts her feelings.

Having real work experience is great in that an AP will understand she has to “show up” for work on time. And things like changing diapers are easy enough to teach. But in my experience the ones that never had to stay with kids alone for 8 hrs at a stretch didn’t know what to do when they got here. Perhaps this would be different if I had two kids with the demeanor of my younger daughter who is extremely easy going. But my older one is a challenge. She questions authority and can be defiant and has ADHD. So after my bad experiences I only look for people who have at least some babysitting experience and I talk to them about that experience at great length before matching. My first AP was 24, had extensive coaching experience and a degree in teaching. She fell apart the first time she had to spend all day w my school-aged children. Same w APs who had mostly camp experience w a few internships at kindergartens and schools. I’ve had best luck w APs who had steady babysitting jobs and/or looked after younger siblings or family members. These APs were excited to be with my kids, were great at getting them to compromise or finding things they both liked to do. They weren’t ruffled by a challenging kid and established a great bond with her. And they never picked sides. I’m not sure how to screen for that kind of demeanor from someone who hasn’t had babysitting experience.

Host Mom in the City August 21, 2015 at 8:59 am

NJMama, you summarize exactly why I look only for those with long-term childcare experience (and again, why it works best for us – YMMV). Spending full days with kids – even easy ones – will involve lots of challenges. I’m a terrible coach, I’ve found, so I want an au pair who already knows this and loves spending time with kids anyway. The APIA extraordinaire program is the only way I’ve been able to find the level of experience I want that works for our family.

German Au-Pair August 21, 2015 at 10:52 am

To be clear, the AP who lived in the family’s garage was not with APC but I don’t know which one it was. One of the smaller ones.
I also cannot say anything about actually faked experience. My tutoring experience had been a pretty long while ago and therefore didn’t count into m official hours. Maybe that’s why they didn’t care about the real name? I’m not trying to say APC is a bad agency. I ended up going with them and had a wonderful experience. What I did find terrible was that right at the time when I was in their matching pool they changed the privacy settings. I had told the families of the children I had in my video that it would only be seen by registered HF and got permission based on that. Suddenly, without any warning, APC made the videos and pictures public on their website. I was lucky I matched JUST before they did this. I just think this is a strange practice for a childcare provider but I know other agencies have the videos public as well. I just know I probably wouldn’t have gotten permission had I said “your child’s pictures will be publicly on the internet”.
I think you’ll always have some bad apples in the mix within every agency (I had a wonderful and a terrible LCC within the ame cluster during my stay) but my experience is that APIA cares more about the actual amount of hours. I actually had to count them and write them down instead of just looking what’s on my contract.

Returning HM August 21, 2015 at 11:09 am

NJ Mama wrote: “In my experience w APC the agency would just keep putting APs into rematch and would only send them home when an AP couldn’t get a match. You also couldn’t interview a rematch AP host family and while I interviewed area directors I was not given an honest assessment in some cases.”

This was our experience in APC (also the same time period being discussed). Twice we matched with an AP from out of country through APC, only to find that the AP had lied (and been TOLD to lie, according to each) on something important on her application. So we would go into rematch. In rematch, we would find an AP, would not be told by the AD we interviewed something major about why she was in rematch, and then would discover it ourselves (in one case it was that the AP literally could not drive; in the other, it was severe psychiatric problems). So then we would find ourselves in rematch AGAIN. We went through two years of having three APs each….with the first two of each year lasting barely 1-2 weeks each, at most. Fortunately our children are resilient, but it wasn’t easy on us as FT working parents, and it sure wasn’t easy on our household in general.

My feeling is that APC expanded too rapidly during that period and lost all sense of quality control. The home office policy of not allowing HFs to talk to each other didn’t help either. We had a very good AD during this period, thankfully, but even she wasn’t able to help us get the truth about rematch candidates.

Once we left APC and started working with CCAP and APIA, we never had the level of issues with applicants lying again (we understand that everyone exaggerates, but that is different from outright lying). I don’t think it’s an accident that all of our matches since we switched agencies have been positive ones. We learned to interview more thoroughly, yes, but I also think that an agency that doesn’t check things and encourages lying will attract a lesser quality of applicant.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 21, 2015 at 11:51 am

Ditto on the APC experience. I found my 2 best au pairs there, but I really have a low opinion of the agency. My au pairs have had exaggerated or incorrect information. In fact, current au pair said there were portions of his profile that the agency filled in on his behalf!

I don’t necessarily care what type of experience is listed– whatever it is, I’m going to ask lots of detailed questions about it and possibly follow up with a call to references, so I feel like I’m sorting through the fluff (no guarantee of course). I also try to ask questions that get to the issues NJ Mama raised, seeking specific examples of difficult situations with a kid, how did you handle, who made the decision , etc. I couldn’t tell you how much experience my APs had, even my extraordinaire (when we were with APIA) because I was more interested in what they did during the experience, and what they learned–things not necessarily measured in hours. Generally speaking though, I am unimpressed by camp or classroom experiences, because the AP typically would not have had to take charge? *, think creatively, solve problems, etc. They also are seeing kids when they are “on”, influenced by the setting and by peer pressure to behave in a certain way– they’re not seeing the “after a long day of school, needing a snack, sad because I didn’t get to sit with my best friend at lunchtime and then the teacher didn’t pick my drawing to display on the picture-of-the-day board and I need to vent to someone, but I don’t know how to vent” child. I’m far more impressed by someone who has handled that– even if the child is her little sister, and she hasn’t had much other experience.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 21, 2015 at 12:05 pm

FYI– APC allows family to family contact now. They don’t necessarily encourage it– in fact, you have to go through other steps first– but I contacted families and ADs for every AP I considered in rematch.

TexasHM August 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm

I think it is important to note that unless you are using CCAP, you are actually dealing with two companies!!!! The recruiting agency and the US agency here (APC or APIA or whatever). We had a situation at IE (our only burnout rematch) where the AP lied/misrepresented and while IE was apologetic and said they tracked all the burnouts and if the recruiting agency had enough they wouldn’t use them anymore that didn’t make me feel any better. Plus burnout AP was desperate over having to buy a plane ticket home which led her to additional lies/drama/damage.

We are only a few months into CCAP so I can’t make a judgment call yet but I did see very big differences between CCAP, APIA and IE and a lot of it was on the AP side that we HFs would normally never see. I got this insight because our incoming AP sent me screenshots and told me all about the things CCAP required her to do before she matched, before she came and during orientation. Compared notes with our APIA and IE APs and it was night and day. Not to say that this would ever prevent you from getting an unqualified candidate or bad fit, but as my current AP puts it “if an AP ever says they thought this was going to be a fun/travel/leisure gap year experience then I know they aren’t with CCAP”.

CCAP really touts that they have direct offices in all the countries they recruit from (which means there are some countries that they don’t bring APs from that other agencies do) and are very vocal that it makes a huge difference because you have “one throat to choke” and accountability to the same organization from the start of screening to program finish. My current AP said she saw several APs turned down by CCAP go to other agencies and soar through. One of which had failed a psych exam! I am sure there is still variance and probably some office locations that still dial it in but a part of me would like to believe it makes a difference…we shall see!

SKNY August 21, 2015 at 2:12 pm

The only thing I have negative to say about CCAP is thar I know that they have a couple standard English tests, and a former ap who works for them now I’m Brazil, leaked those tests on the au pair group.
As a result we have Brazilian au pairs with no to very little English who are getting great English scores… they mask it on skype with the excuse of bad connection, and go. Recently they caught a couple at the training and sent them back home, but still happens

NJ Mama August 21, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Just wanna say, again, that I wish I had found this blog while I was going through my bad stretch and not after. But even so, just glad to have a place to compare notes. I think a lot of the time I was with APC I thought I was going insane!

HRHM August 21, 2015 at 4:23 pm

As a f/u answer to HMiTC – all different countries, 3 agencies.

Bosnia, Serbia, Czech, 2 German, Brazilian & Polish. CCAP, APC and APIA. Only my Polish APIA didn’t make up her experience (she had very little!) but I hired her for her other work and educational experience and she has been the best by far and away. Hire for attitude, train for skill.

Host Mom in the City August 21, 2015 at 6:49 pm

hahaha. At first I read f/u as something much more crass than follow up. I was like woah what did I say to deserve that??? :)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm

As the parent of a teenager who is severely retarded (functions at the high infant/low toddler level – sort of) who has hosted APs for the last 14 1/2 years, I have always had a high rejection rate. While the AP whom DH and I thought was “it” often has rejected us, most of the time (with a couple of notable exceptions) the woman we selected was perfect for our family.

In my “dare to match” email, I state up front why I am sending an interview request to the candidate – the skills she has acquired or the experiences she has had that make her qualified to care for my kids – and then I admit, up front, that we’re not the “ideal” family she imagines. I also give her permission up front to reject my interview request – I don’t want to force anyone to care for my kids – we went into rematch after 6 weeks with the AP we pressured to come live with us because we had application fatigue. This year I am being patient. It took a few weeks, but I know have some bites and one interview scheduled.

Some advice – your fees pays the salaries of the people who work for your agency. Remind them of that. Remind them of how many years you’ve been with them, and the number of APs you have hosted. I ask for new applications up front – and am now seeing applications for women who interviewed in July!

I suggest in your dare-to-match letter that you list all the reasons why they’re qualified to work with your large family. Remind them that others have successfully done it – and offer to send the email addresses for 2-3 of the most recent APs.

And I’ve said it before – don’t rush and don’t settle!

German Au-Pair August 14, 2015 at 7:58 pm

I have always wondered how you do it. From what I’ve read from you it sounds like the AP job is very demanding (especially physically) and so very non-typical.

I’m really curious what personality types your APs are. I had experience with a special needs child before I applied and actually stated I wouldn’t take children with special needs. I had an amazing time with that little girl and loved her to death but I was afraid of a situation in which I would be the only adult in charge (instead of the school situation I was used to).
To what is extent is the camel able and your teenage son willing to form a relationship with an an AP?
How much information do you give in your inital email? Especially with your dare to match approach, where I understand you don’t highlight the positive things, I have always marvelled at your success rate.
I hope this doesn’t come off wrong -I’m sure you are a great family! I’m just really curious how ysou get potential APs to stick around long enough to figure that iut -especially with your dtm-approach.

German Au-Pair August 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm

BTW, sidenote: I ended up matching with a family with two children with special needs, both not the age I had always wanted and loved it. But even with an open mind your dare to match approach probably would have weeded me out.

Ano9ther side note: to this day I think the agency must have adjusted my application. I ahd clearly stated I didn’t want to be in the special needs pool and they even inquired about it and asked me to write a statement why (which was similar to what I said above). Still, one of the first families that contacted me was my HF with two children that officially had special needs. I just keep wondering what the agency did that they were even able to see me. In retrospective I’m super glad they did it because I could not have had a better time, but it’s still fishy.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 14, 2015 at 10:26 pm

I put it all out there. I’ve been with APIA for 14 1/2 years, so between my initial dare-to-match email and my application, AP candidates get to see way too much information. Just day we asked AP #11 why she consented to an interview. Her reply, “I want to work with special needs children.” For her, I think, it has been a positive experience – The Camel is healthy – she is not sick (she has only been hospitalized once — for 12 hours — since 2011). When people ask “What’s wrong with her,” my response is, “Nothing is wrong with her – but what’s different about her is that her brain tells her that she’s a baby.”

My LCC describes our schedule as “light” because it’s between 25-35 hours a week most of the year. That being said, when my APs are working, they are working – the same as any AP caring for an infant/toddler would be (the difference – my child can play with toys in her room independently – and everyone can walk away from the tub and let her splash while they prepare her breakfast.

The big difference? Women who know that they want to work as therapists, social workers, and educators know that they will have real hands-on, independent experiences that will prepare them for a career in a way that supervised practical experiences will not (plus they get to travel). When an AP successfully completes her year in my house she is armed with a letter that I write (in the third person) for my LCC to sign and put on APIA letterhead. Just today AP #9 told me that she finally has her dream job in working with children like my daughter. AP #2 just finished her masters in public health policy, AP #3 works as a psychologist, and AP # 4 is about to have her first child (right after finishing her degree as a social worker). All of my former APs have gone on to make the work a better place – each in her own way.

Why am I successful? I believe in treating everyone respectfully, justly, and honestly. I make a schedule, do my best to keep to it, and apologize when everything goes to hell in a handbasket (mostly it’s about The Camel tanking, but sometimes it’s child #2). A good AP gets extra time off and DH and I bend over backward for a great AP. I understand that no one comes to the U.S. to care for my child, but if they do a great job – I make sure they have the travel, concert, sporting event, etc. experience they want. That’s a long way of saying, that my current AP(s) and her immediate predecessors must do a great job in selling life with my family. Has it been perfect every time? Absolutely not! But one rematch in 14 1/2 years? It’s a good record.

The saddest thing for me, is that it’s coming to an end. The Camel is a teenager, and already it’s harder to find candidates – everyone wants “little” kids. We’ll have to go back to nursing soon, and quite frankly, I’m not looking forward to it. I come home at some point, and almost every single AP has been sitting in “the comfy chair” cuddling with The Camel, because she was fussy, because she needed to be held, because she wanted to know she was loved. I have never ever had a nurse do that. (And quite frankly, the second reason why I’m not looking forward to nursing is that right now DH and I get to have a date night once in a blue moon as part of the AP package – and that will come to an end with nursing, which will be strictly so we may stay employed.)

There is someone for everyone! The candidate might not be “perfect,” but with patience and flexibility on everyone’s part – we’ll do for each other.

German Au-Pair August 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Thanks so much for elaborating! The way you put it now I absolutely understand how you could find your perfect fit.
I also had a very light schedule and I was happy about it and on the outside I had a relatively easy gig. But especially that one hour spent doing homework was really hard, nervewrecking work. When my HP hired a babysitter for when I was sick she broke down crying on her last night and told me she could never do this job an entire year. The one thing that would keep me from taking on teenagers again is the fear of not having a relationship with them. Luckily I had my little girl, who was a pre-teen and still valued our relationship.

I wish you good luck for finding a couple more good matches before you have to give up on the AP thing.

Peachtree Mom August 14, 2015 at 8:50 am

I agree with above posters….the right one will come along. I overemphasize how crazy our house is and all the activities that are going on. I also stress that I need one weekend day to myself to catch up on laundry, shopping and get a few meals cooked. Say what is supercool about your town….with 8 successful matches you”ve got something great going on. I did not see that in the note. While I state the hours may vary week to week, the needed weekend day (except for the one weekend off per month of course) and the 14 year old pet who is often sick, I also state the good things about our family: we are flexible, fair, humorous and want our au pair to have a great year. Some pass us up because the of the weekend day and variability of the hours but like you, we’ve had 3 great matches (2 extensions). Be candid about the job responsibilities but also your family’s good qualities

Multitasking Host Mom August 14, 2015 at 12:05 pm

OP, I feel your pain! We also have a less than ideal situation…while we have school age children which means the AP normally works only about 35hrs a week, the draw backs are: since I have to be at work at my hospital early the AP starts work at 6am, I have a child that has anxieties about many things and really requires patience, and we live in a city that APs have never heard of even though it is one of the largest in the country.
Doris, like you probably do, I also get frustrated in the matching process for many reasons. It might be the lack of response to my initial emails. (I hate the complete silence…did they even get my message…drives my batty.) And then lack of candidates that meet my criteria that is admittedly picky (special needs willing, must of had some job that lasted all day for at least a few days a week, experience with being solely in charge of children, at least a year driving experience.) Then I might find a great candidate and they even interview with us, but then I contact them the next day, and they tell us they already matched with someone else. Gosh, I am feeling myself getting into a tizzy just thinking about it!
But every year, I have to fight the feeling to just give up and pick the next person who comes along. Eventually, I do find the perfect AP for our family, and they agree to match with us. Yeah! And luckily I can forget about the matching process…for at least a year.

The things I have found that help me through the process are:
-“Don’t rush and don’t settle.” TACL was totally right when she said this. (I am writing this on a note and taping it to my computer screen next time I am in matching, so I won’t forget it.) As frustrating as it all is, it would be even worse if you ended up with an AP in your house that was not a good fit.
-Make sure you know a good AP for your family when you see them. I actually write out on paper my criteria for the right AP for our family. I list both must haves and skills that would be a great bonus. That way when I get bogged down by all the applications, I can keep my focus.
-If you have a very specific criteria or a hard to match situation, switch to an agency that has exclusive matching. I do have mixed feelings about this. I actually like when an AP has spoken to other families. I think it gives them a good feel for what families are really like and helps them know that we truly are the right fit for them. That being said, with exclusive matching the AP has to focus on my family’s application more, and hopefully take the time to look past the not so great and see the good. Plus, it gives me time to take a few days to ask questions back and forth, and even Skype a couple times, so both the AP and my family are sure if this is a good match or not. During this time the AP is not being distracted by other families.
-Don’t be afraid to tell the AP both the good and the bad. I do tend to lean towards a “dare to match” letter with our family application. This can be hard to do since this is the reason that I get rejected a lot by APs. But, once again, worse would be an AP in my house who didn’t know what they were getting into. I do temper this with the good, but still I lay it all out there…For instance, I start out our letter talking about us as a family and what activates we include our AP in (holidays, family trips, sightseeing around town, etc.) and by the third paragraph I talk about my child’s special needs. Then, I include a short summary of a somewhat typical weekly schedule which does include evenings and a couple weekends a month. I then end with a comment about how we look forward to including the AP as part of our family and mention our successful years of hosting APs.
-Give yourself time to make your match. I have found that starting out looking for our next AP four months before I need the AP to be at my home works for me. Too early and there are so few APs to pick from. Too late and I start feeling the pressure that I won’t find someone in time. You have to find your comfort level though.

In the end it really is all worth it. The past few APs we have hosted have been great matches for our family, Good Luck, OP! Your perfect AP is out there.

TexasHM August 15, 2015 at 9:00 am

A note about exclusive matching: we insist our AP talk to other families. So far our serious candidates had already spoken with several (for our current AP we were family #5) so it hasn’t been a factor. The only candidate I spoke to where we were the first family we interviewed and then agreed to cut loose and I would check back in a week or two and if interested pick her profile back up. I had concerns she was just excited to come to the U.S. with any family and sure enough she matched a day later!!! How do families match with candidates after one conversation?!?! I digress… Anyway just a sidenote that I too was concerned about exclusive matching preventing an AP from getting a feel for what is out there and figuring out what they are really looking for in a family but so far, have not found that to be the case or an issue.

Anna August 14, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Dorsi, i have been with and liked IE, but haven’t liked yheir selecton of camdidates.
Also try GAP. i have tougher situation than yours. 4 kids, 45 hrs, special diet, a work at home spouse, English as our second language, and my minimum requirements are tougher than yours. I find enough girls to talk to me with GAP.

old au pair mom August 14, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Dorsi, What is a true positive about your family? Are you fun? Do you play board games? Do you frequently order in dinner? I am sure there are lovely things that make yours a special gang that you are not including. I am not suggesting untruths, but lead with your strengths. ALL and I mean ALL au pair jobs have their difficult moments. At least you acknowledge your AP is not getting the easiest gig.

We tend to think we have a super easy AP job now with only one lower school darling to care for and an AP car in a desired locale. However, as we are recently in rematch, no one is matching with us! Is it because her clothes need to be ironed? Is it because the AP will not be busy enough! Is my house too quiet? I want the two of us to think positive thoughts. Hang in there and the best of luck to both of us.

Texas6TimeHostMom August 14, 2015 at 10:21 pm

Lots of great thoughts were shared here. We just welcomed our 6th au pair, first European. I’m surprised nobody else is with AuPairCare or it hasn’t been mentioned. No exclusive interviewing so there is the competition that has been discussed, especially for those of us in second tier locations, however, they have a huge pool of Brazilian au pairs (we hosted 3) along with Columbia and Mexico if you’re interested in those. We were ready for a change but have had a generally good/normal experience. I really like that APC has a summary of driving skills and other more detailed info in the profiles that I couldn’t find with other agencies. It’s pretty much the main reason why I have stayed with them.

Seattle Mom August 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Dorsi, in addition to a lot of the great advice above, if you’re still not finding candidates who are interested in your situation (which doesn’t sound all that bad!) I would sign up with as many agencies as you can stomach, and just go with the one that has the AP you end up matching with. For my last go-round I had this approach, but only signed up with 2 agencies: CCAP and IEX. I hosted 3 APs through CCAP in the past and now I’m with IEX. Next time I might add APC and/or APIA to the mix. The only issue is that filling out those darned applications takes time, and then you have to meet all the LCCs, and learn all the different matching/recruiting systems. Also, you probably know this but as a successful HF you shouldn’t ever have to pay application fees again- they should be waived from every agency.

As for my experience with IEX, it is a good agency but there are things about them that have irked me. It’s not a cure-all. My biggest peeve about them at the moment is how stingy they are about approving classes for APs credit. They don’t allow a lot of things that CCAP easily allowed. I had to fight tooth and nail to get them to accept a music class my AP is taking- they generally do not allow art or anything that doesn’t seem “academic” enough, which is RIDICULOUS. Especially since many of these APs do not have the English skills to get much out of a heavy duty academic class. My LC is great and has been helpful, but she still has to follow the company line, which I have a hard time agreeing with in many cases.

Also, I didn’t love the matching system on IEX. The AP profiles are not as useful to me as CCAP’s. But at least the website is much faster. I thought I would find the APs to be better than they were. In the end I did find the one I liked through IEX (and she is great), but there were many in CCAP that interested me as well- there were just different reasons why they wouldn’t work out (mainly timing). And yes, IEX has a small rematch pool. I think their refund policies are better than CCAP (from what I can tell- haven’t actually needed a refund) but they also make APs pay their airfare back home if they are sent home after an unsuccessful rematch. There are some exceptions to this rule, perhaps, but I find it a bit unfair.

Dorsi August 17, 2015 at 4:24 pm

An update: emailed 3 candidates from IE. One responded positively but then dropped away after I asked a few questions, had productive email exchanges with two candidates. Interviewed both, one seems to be a very good fit and we will likely match with her in the next few days.


Anonamomma August 18, 2015 at 3:59 am

Thanks for the update Dorsi.. hope it all works out..

3girls1boy August 19, 2015 at 12:00 am


I feel your pain. My husband and I both work rotating schedules including nights and weekends. I can’t offer an AP a predictable schedule, but we do follow all the rules and give her a schedule a week in advance. Oh-we also have four children and live in Minnesota where it seems to be cold ten months out of the year:) We get rejection upon rejection during matching time.

We navigate usually two or three agencies at a time. Yes, it is a pain-but the pool of candidates is that much larger. I also indicate in my initial email that I would like a response even if our family isn’t of interest. I generally have received responses back citing lack of interest-but hey, at least I know and am not sitting around waiting.

I feel like I do settle. I will never get that ‘rockstar’ who looks awesome on paper. We are only coming into our second year-but I’m trying the ‘hire for attitude, train for skill’ this go round.

Good luck!

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