If host families could change the au pair ‘system’, there are many things we would improve.
Chief among these would be how au pairing is advertised, how au pairs are recruited and interviewed, how au pairs fulfill education requirements, and most of all, how au pair rematches are handled.
Rematch and transition processes are the opposite of transparency. The process is shrouded in secrecy, filled with half-truths, and designed so that nothing gets ‘fixed’ . Instead, problems are just moved around, in the hopes that somehow (sheer luck?) au pairs and host families will end up with a better match. Speaking as both a host mom and a business school professor, this a truly bad business strategy
Instead of being so opaque, rematch and transition processes should be made more transparent.
“Transparency” is one of the biggest trends in customer relationship management (e.g., sales and customer service). When a process is transparent, people can see exactly how the process works, they know what criteria are being used to make decisions, and they know what they can expect. Transparency in a business process offers us the ability to know what we’re getting and to make good choices. And, transparency lets us build trust, because we can see whether (or not) an organization’s process is working fairly.
When you think about what we know about the rematch process from each other’s comments, we can see many problems that could be resolved (to some degree) by more transparency..
Here’s what I know, from reading your comments:
- Host parents and au pairs rarely tell the truth, much less the whole truth, about why the rematch is being initiated.
- Au Pairs (and host families) strategically present themselves as rematch candidates as though they were not responsible for the failure of the initial relationship.
- Prospective host parents have little to no accurate information about the rematch candidates in the system.
- Former host families offer generic, bland information about the au pair who is leaving them.
- Agencies (when they know the truth) keep information to themselves, often seeming more interested in placing an inappropriate candidate somewhere – anywhere- rather than sending her or him home.
- Agencies make it virtually impossible for prospective host parents to check the recent references of the rematch candidate.
- Au pairs are under tremendous pressure to find and accept a new posting, while families have to house au pairs who have rejected or severely disappointed them.
- Au pairs rarely learn to change or improve their behavior.
- Host families rarely learn to change or improve their behavior.
- Families don’t feel confident that the agencies are working in their best interest.
- Au pairs don’t feel confident that agencies are working in their best interests.
- Rematch is emotionally and financially costly to everyone.
And the list goes on.
Except for the information that passes informally among LCCs and online networks of au pairs, no one really knows the truth. Thus, no one can really make a good decision. So we’re afraid to ask for a rematch when we really should end a relationship, we keep on in bad relationships, and no one is happy.
Infrequently, but often enough that we hold out hope, someone we know gets a rematch au pair who is fabulous. And, occasionally, a family who deserves a great au pair gets an au pair who deserves a great family.
Agencies should manage the rematch/transition process differently, and better.
They should hold au pairs and host families accountable for their behavior, they should require more accurate and verified information about the rematch reasons, and they should share this information with prospective families and au pairs.
Yes, there will be confidentiality issues to be concerned about. And, yes, there will always be an element of ‘They said, s/he said’ and difficulty about discovering the ‘whole’ and objective truth. But I suspect that families, au pairs and LCCs would rather deal with these issues than with the opacity, distrust, and riskiness that are literally built in to the current system.
But that’s just my opinion.
Here’s the email that prompted my rant:
Dear Au Pair Mom —
I am in the middle of rematching and having a hard time getting cooperation from my agency. Apparently, the previous HF of both of the only two available in-country AP’s have been “very difficult families” (in the words of the agency rep) and have “refused” to serve as references.
I’m also concerned that, of the 3 families that my current (rematching) AP has spoken to, none have requested a reference from us. This seems like too much of a coincidence and more like the agency doesn’t want the HF’s to talk to each other.
The reason my AP gave for a rematch was that she “didn’t have access to a car”. But this is such a partial truth it’s almost a lie. The real reason she didn’t have access to our car was that she failed her driver’s test and was denied a US driver’s license. Now she tells me she is rematching with an all school-age family and her primary job will be to drive the children to after-school activities. A dream for her–most likely a nightmare for the new HF.
I’m seeing the potential disaster in her new HF’s rematch and how they don’t know what they are getting in to. It’s making me very nervous about my new rematch. I feel like I’m going in to a rematch with blinders on and no other choice. Do I have any recourse here?
No Faith in the System
Comments are open.
Image: Matches from Arria Belli, on Flickr