If the Au Pair Agency failed in their “due diligence”, what can Host Parent do?

by cv harquail on May 19, 2010

Parents, here’s an emergency plea from a First Time Host Mom, who needs advice on dealing with an unhelpful agency. LCCs and area directors, chime in too, please!

Hello! I have a problem w/ an au pair company (which shall remain nameless) and I am not sure how to handle it. We are a new host family in Charlotte, NC.olivier bataille beads.jpg

Just got an au pair last week from South America. She looked great on paper–and said all the right things on the phone in interviews. She arrived and we are sending her home after 6 days.

She misrepresented her driving experience–which is unsafe, at best; scratched my car–then lied about it; doesn’t interact w/ my kids (ages 2 and 5)–now claims that younger children are “too much for her”–then discovered that she lied on her application and interviews about her experience w/ 2 year olds; will not clean the kids’ rooms or pick up after them, do their dishes, their laundry–said that she did not expect this much work. Apparently she found a date on the fourth day when she left my kids alone at the park and walked across the street to meet an exterminator–verified by my five year old son.

So we found another au pair w/in the system who is in California. During the time in between au pairs we are expected to host this current au pair in our house–AND pay for her week of “work”–yet she never comes out of her room ($160). The au pair agency is going to send her back to her country since she clearly can not be placed anywhere else–she lied on her application, after all.

We feel as though the au pair agency did not do their due diligence in verifying references. It would have been uncovered that her driving record was not correct–and that she didn’t have any legit experience w/ younger kids. But that was never done.

The au pair agency wants us to pay for the NEW au pair’s transport from California to North Carolina. FYI–we certainly did pay for initial transport of the first au pair from South America–and are not being reimbursed.

Can they do this? We are so confused and hurt by all of this….and as all you parents can imagine, this has been such turmoil for our kids and our schedule.–

Thanks for any help with this…. GKS

Replies Host Mommy Dearest:

Not sure what agency you are with, but if the AP does not work during transition, you don’t have to pay her. Period.

I did not have my transitioning AP work, and I definetely would NOT if I were you – especially if she stays in her room anyway. BTW the stipend is $196, not $160 if you schedule her to work. If they are sending her home (I agree they should due to safety concerns) then it should not take them 2 weeks to book her flights. When I got a new AP in transition I did not pay any transport fee and she came from a different state.

Get on the horn with your LCC/AD and corporate to find out the plan and timeline.

TX Mom adds:
I agree with HMD. If your LCC doesn’t respond, corporate usually does. And, if the situation is really bad, have the agency find an alternative place for the AP to stay (like the LCC’s house.)

I think the transport fee depends upon the agency so you may have some negotiation strength. Agencies usually will accommodate a HF who is unhappy and threatening to switch to a different agency.

Of course, I think having a good relationship with an LCC goes a long way; the LCC’s are under considerable market pressure right now to keep families.

{ 24 comments }

PA AP mom May 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Having only had your AP for 6 days, I would say that you should not have to pay transportation fees from California to NC. It seems almost like a “punishment” to you.

NJMom May 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Sigh, this story is just too common for first time host families. I think, rightfully so, a family expects that the agency will have done their due diligence. Based on my friends’ experiences I went into the process knowing that you can’t count on it and I tried my best to do a very thorough interview. This is no guarantee but it can definitely eliminate a lot of the bad apples that make it through the agency screening. That being said, you should still jump up and down to corporate. (Forget the LCC IMHO.) They are not exactly swamped with host family applicants right now so they should be able to help you. I would make sure that you REALLY vet this next AP though. The last thing you need is another problem.

NJMom May 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Should have said … see all the great info on this site about how to really interview an AP well. Really helpful stuff!

JJ host mom May 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that agencies don’t do any kind of diligence in screening au pairs. Based on my first au pair, I’m pretty sure they’ll take just about anyone. It’s up to host families to interview and interview and interview and diligently check all references.

You are required to house the au pair during the 2 weeks of transition, unless there are mitigating factors (like, she’s being abusive, or you’ve hired another au pair and need the room.) You are not required to pay the au pair if she’s not working during transition. I’m not sure about the transport fee – check your contract to see what it says about that.

I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s so stressful. I hope your next au pair is a gem.

Calif Mom May 19, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I would hesitate to take an AP from another region of the states as a rematch in your situation. Is there someone you can interview in person who is closer? That would make you much more comfortable. It’s going to take awhile before you feel like you can relax and breathe again. I’m so sorry this happened to you! It stinks.

Take comfort in knowing that this happened to us on our very first au pair, too. I wanted her out of my sight on Day 3. You will be okay, but there is a lot of anxiety and a lot of work on your part in the near future. Hopefully your employers won’t think you’re an idiot for this happening, and will be flexible while you figure out coverage.

The counselor probably doesn’t want this loser in her house, either, and is hoping you’ll just keep her. But my understanding is that part of the requirement for being a counselor is that you have to have space for and be willing to take transition girls in your home.

Frankly, I’m surprised that they are sending her home and not just to another family! That’s actually a hopeful sign that the agency isn’t just protecting their short term financial interests on this one.

You do NOT want this AP to stay in your home a minute longer. You should not be paying her a red cent of stipend. I would consider having her pack her bag and you drop her off at the counselor’s house. Seriously, if she’s picking up exterminators across the street from the park, she is not someone you want in your house. Also go right now and take back that cell phone you probably already gave her, because she’ll be racking up text messages and international calls if they aren’t already blocked.

The agencies here subcontract with locals to do the reference checks and “interviews”. It can be a bit of a joke. Every Brazilian au pair we looked at last time had “Excellent” English, according to one of the agencies.

Our replacement au pair after the first one (known affectionately now as “Pointy Boots”) was a big compromise for us; we gave up some of our other criteria in order to get someone we could actually meet and be sure we clicked with. Her English was AWFUL, but she was a great driver (which was imperative) and we made do with my knowledge of French and a lot of sign language. I also worked from home then, which helped. But she extended with us a year later, so clearly these things can work out just fine. She was a bit of a wheeler-dealer, admitted she had help on the phone during her initial interviews, but was loving and reliable.

Even if the local counselor is saying the right things to you now, you need to call the agency HQ, too, because things can shift quickly. Keep a running log of contacts made, and issues you communicated to whom, and when, so you can pull it out of your back pocket if needed. The days can run together in these situations!

Best of luck!!!

JessicaLV May 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm

We have had the same problem. We sent back our first AP because she was smoking like a chimney, and the agency must have seen it during orientation (she said she smoked throughout orientation), but the agency did nothing. She also did not seem happy caring for a small child.

We had an interim AP for a couple of months who was great (she was ending her second year and had to return home). Then our next AP from overseas misrepresented her experience caring for small children. Had we known soon after her arrival she misrepresented herself in her application, we would have rematched right away. Instead, I worked with her on interacting with the baby – not chatting on Facebook while working, reading to him, talking with him, etc. etc. etc.

To my surprise the caregiving aspect of being an AP for my son worked out, but that’s only because the AP put effort into it – as did I. It would have been great if she had come with the experience she thought she had. (Months after her arrival, we learned she lived with a bf for a few months who had a small child for whom she was not the main caregiver. She thought this was AP experience. We don’t, and she doesn’t think so either anymore. In her application, she had a glowing letter from the former bf, but did not disclose he was an ex-bf.)

The screening failures by the agency, plus 6 months of having no LCC, has made our relationship with this agency irreparable. We are switching to a new agency, but that does not mean we trust the new agency’s screening process any more than the old one. We are trying to become more savvy about the interview and screening process.

VAhostmother May 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm

“I would consider having her pack her bag and you drop her off at the counselor’s house”

Califmom

what tipe of animal is this AP??? that’s ridiculous

Taking a computer lunch May 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I agree with Califmom. If the AP is doing nothing in the house, then she would be better off waiting out her flight home with the LCC rather than causing further expenditures to a HF for whom she was ill-prepared to work. This advice comes the caveat that the HM re-read her agency contract first. It’s not treating the former AP, now unwanted houseguest, like an animal. It’s merely saying that the young woman is an inappropriate resident for the house (and picking up men on the street should be enough).

As someone who has taken in more than my fair share of young women in rematch, because they were best friends of one of my APs (I think I’m above 7 at this point – every AP has asked that we house a friend sooner or later), I’ll tell you some where better houseguests than others (my favorite was the one who stole $80 and a new digital camera from my AP then had the chutzpah to ring her from Chicago three days later and ask for a loan of money so she could fly home to her country. As if.) Most were okay as guests, but in the future we will demand that their residence in our house come at the cost of assisting our au pair in her duties, which start at 6:00 am. (Because eating food, using our phone for potential rematch families, and having a safe and warm place to stay should come at a price – but not necessarily one that hits the wallet. And our goal, in the future, is to convince them that somewhere else is better than our place without being rude.)

Tashina Hartley May 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

Absolutely! I think you and I have the same agency, I am in Winston Salem. I have had a few wrinkles in our first time experience as well, and in my relentless digging and calling everyone from my LCC to corporate I found that unfortunately, you will only get as much as you demand from these people. The LCC can, has and should house au pairs who are not working and whose match has been broken. I know they can, they did here for one we looked at. They just don’t want to. Also, as is often the case you have to throw a fit to get what you think is right. If you demand financial adjustments from corporate, they will most likely give them to you. And don’t you dare pay this girl for eating your food and violating your trust for a week! Good luck!

Host Mom NY May 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Sorry for your stress. It will get better. When we rematched (painful, but we survived). The agency took detailed info about which days the leaving au pair worked and then we were credited for the days that she did not work. We did have to pay the transportation for the new aupair, which was annoying, but I think that is standard. We lucked out and found a cheap flight for her. Regarding the leaving aupair, we did house her, she had no childcare responsibilities, but our family treated her with courtesy and we expected the same from her. She ate meals with the family and helped clear the table after dinner. It was painful at the time, but in retrospect it was a good lesson for her and our children about how to behave when you are ending a work relationship.

Nicole May 20, 2010 at 6:42 am

I’ve been in you exact same situation and reading here that I wasn’t the only one really helped! I agree with everything that’s been said. In our situation, the AP went to the LCCs house on day 6, then to another family! Send her to the LCCs house!
For your next AP, make sure she really understands the job. I now take the approach of actively trying to scare candidates away with stories of laundry and tantrums! I also had a nearby AP who knew our family dynamics talk to her. This ap just extended for a second year (after 3 APs in a year who didn’t work), and I now joke that all my APs will be chosen by APs! Good luck and it really can work out.

Taking a computer lunch May 20, 2010 at 7:10 am

I agree that this is essential – and perhaps something that parents of typically developing children take for granted – that someone with 200 or so hours of babysitting experience knows how to raise children, and for those coming to the US – that they’re going to work 45 hours per week.

As I parent of a special needs child, I am explicit in my pre-telephone call email that my AP must be willing to lift a 54-pound child, change her adult-sized diapers, feed her, dress her, and be prepared to drive her between school and her doctors’ offices. I provide the schedule for the typical day (6:00-8:30 am and 3:00-5:30 pm but warn them that when she is sick or on school holidays it is a full-time job) so that no one is surprised. For every 5 emails I send (and I can only look at special needs willing applications and usually only really look at those with some sort of special needs experience), I often only receive 1 reply from a candidate who wants to proceed to the telephone interview. That is acceptable to me, because The Camel is self-selecting – and we have had absolutely fantastic au pairs who know they have to work hard, but that they don’t have to work as many hours as their friends — most of the time.

For those of you with infants, toddlers and preschoolers, perhaps a leading question that requires more than a yes-or-no answer, like, “Please describe what you consider a typical day with a 2-year-old, from morning to evening, is like.” You can follow up their answer with further questions to suss out whether or not their experience is real or they are trying to put their best foot forward to maximize their chances of matching.

JJ host mom May 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

Great interview question, TACL!

Should be working May 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm

:: Adding question to my list::

Lisa, PA HM May 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Know that rematch can make things better! We went into transition after 4 months with our first au pair (we kept trying to work it out, but the personality conflict did not go away – luckily our AP did do a reasonable job with the kids) and we did not have to pay for airfare for the new AP (she came from 1/2 way across the country). Worked out well with AP2 (she stayed with us for a 2nd year and I think understood the job better as she was coming from rematch because of a personality conflict, as well) and are keeping our fingers crossed about AP3 who is arriving this summer.
As far as the 1st AP goes, send her to the LCC and DO NOT PAY HER – she is not working! Good luck.

Calif Mom May 20, 2010 at 7:50 pm

au pair in america doesn’t make you pay for a rematch airfare, but I noticed some other agencies do. Fine by me; APIA has jacked up their rates so high I”m happy to take the risk.

Calif Mom May 20, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Totally agree that rematch au pairs have an idea of how miserable they could be, and look at your family’s situation with a different lens. Our two au pairs who extended were both from rematch. )One rematch didn’t work out at all–we were her third family–red alert! red alert! Silly, optimistic me!)

north cali May 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

My previous 2 AP. They came from Japan and Taiwan. They paid the oversea agencies around $3k each to made up their resumes. They felt like… they are the “customers”. AP are all here for reasons. They are not here to be an AP. Keep that in mind and best of luck.

Deb Schwarz May 20, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I hate hearing these stories!!…….we have had difficult situations over the past 16 au pairs but not on our first au pair. I might have run the other way, but we have also had such great experiences, so we know how good it can be so we trudge on even after a negative one.

So – here are some tips for you….before I was an LCC (and even now), I go overboard on interviewing anyone I can about the au pair. I tell references that they need to be my ears and my eyes (like the blind man and the elephant) as I really need to know if they are a good fit for me as I want to make sure that the au pair has a good year, too. As they say …”for every pot there is a lid” so one au pair nightmare might be the perfect match for another family. I also don’t let any reference get off the phone without giving me at least one negative…..I then multiply this negative by a factor of 10 and ask myself if I can put up with that for a year. Of course, there are some au pairs who should not be an au pair for anyone (sounds like yours is one of them). Sorry to hear that your local coordinator didn’t mention that if the au pair doesn’t do any work, that you are obligated to pay them – as that would just add kerosene to the fire.

I hate to say this, as I know that we all wish it’s wasn’t true….but the agency can only do so much on the interview front. If the au pair presents their experience and the references confirm that (both in writing and verbally), then the agency has done their due diligence. Just as with nannies in the U.S. through expensive agencies, sometimes people portray themselves in a way that isn’t truthful. Agnecies can’t give the au pair a lie detector test to see if they are being truthful. Police checks are done, medical exams completed and English evaluations done, and some agencies do psychological profiles.

It’s great that you found another au pair – but before she gets on a plane, I would encourage you to make sure that you have spoken to everyone that you can about the au pair is like. Have you done a Skype call with her? Have you talked to her current LCC? (you should ask your current LCC to talk to her current LCC as she might have an easier time of hearing the positives and the negatives). Have you talked to her current host mom? (even if she happens to have not a great host mom – they are out there – you can usually sense that). If she happens to be near San Francisco, I would be glad to meet with her if you’d like (seriously!) – as I really would like for you to have a good experience with your next au pair……it really can be a great thing.

Deb Schwarz
DebSchwarz@mac.com

As a mom to four children (including triplets), market researcher, realtor, and host mom to 16 au pairs, Deb has a passion for helping families navigate the au pair process and find the right fit for their family. Read my matching tips at: http://www.marinmommies.com/node/1157

DM May 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

We had a Brazilian au pair….that at interview time & email process she said she drove 500km per week in her home country and had a good driving & experience record.

She got to the states…..and her driving was so BAD! I mean so bad, she couldn’t stay in the lines of the highway and was weaving. She turned corners at 4 way stops so fast that I had to hold on without being thrown. Lets say her highway experiences were frightening. In other words, she could not drive with basic maneuvering and drove worse than a 14 year old getting their learners permit. Needless to say after 8 attempts at the driving license station, we GAVE UP! She did not get use of the car after that except to drive herself to church once a week.

So how in the WORLD could she claim good driving!!!! Do Brazilians really drive that bad as “normal” like that? I really do think she lied & the agency missed it.

I think agencies verify the references etc. But don’t maintain the accuracy of them. Plain & simple.

DM

Former Aupair from Brazil May 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Dear Families,

I love this blog for two reasons. First because I’m a former aupair (2006), and second because I will sooner be a host mom (1st Child). YES, I found my true love here in USA, and NO, I wasn’t looking for one, It just happened because I spend 3 years in College here.
Back to the topic, I can say that Aupair Agencies are not very good verifying any information the aupair put on her application. In fact, if agencies start being too hard on candidates, their will end up with no customers with mean no money, right? And of course this should be unacceptable since this is a caregiver business (for my perspective it is scary just like if you had a nurse that is not a real nurse). My agency for example, called two of my references for about 10 minutes each. Well, I have to be honest here, one of my references was just a friend that I use to help, but I needed to impressed on my profile, right?? Who would know that, right??? How about drive experience?? For example, aupair from South America, just like me, are usually middle-class/low-class financially speaking. NOOO, we don’t have our own car!! Are you kidding me? Cars are very expensive sown here!! And nooo, our parents does not allow us to drive their care everywhere because it is dangerous and their spend 5 years paying for a car that should last for at least 10 years! So, your “future” aupair does not have a lot of experience driving! And the biggest car in Brazil is just like the smallest care in US.

So, my point is that because I’m a future host mom, and because I was an aupair, I know every single trick aupairs play and I will not trust only what is on the aupair profile.

But honestly, I still believe that the South American aupair are the best one :)

KM May 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Our current agency does screen au pair applicants, but screening can only go so far. We notice that all references are verified with comments. We have contact information for the references and are allowed to call them to confirm the references or legitimize them. As for the driving, we realize driving skills vary among countries and au pairs access to vehicles.

I liken the au pair applications to domestic resumes here. Everyone puts their best foot forward to get a job. Young adults often have idealist expectations and think they can do anything. It is only when faced with reality that some realize they got themselves in a situation they cannot handle.

The way I handle an incompetent au pair is to think how I would want my daughter treated by a family in a foreign country. If an au pair needs to return to her home country and the time till departure is short-term, I can bite my lip and set an example for my children. Au pairs are human, make mistakes and bring their cultural “norms” with them (i.e. a little misrepresentation).

Have also had our au pairs’ wayward friends land in my home. It’s kind of funny to watch our au pairs grow weary of some of their rescued friends. Two of our re-match au pairs were outstanding. One definitely needed to return home (another agency). We always are allowed to speak to the previous family when in re-match. What may be one family’s issue may not be our family’s issue. One family wanted their au pair out because she would not bathe the English Sheep dog. Well, we would never expect our au pair to bathe our dog. And hey, the host father said that to me when I talked to him about the au pair.

Bottom line, it’s how the agency manages the situation that is important. I view the relationship with our LCC and agency as a team. It works better this way. Our agency sends an au pair home if necessary. They do not intentionally move unqualified au pairs from family to family. So that’s good.

Good luck with your new au pair. Hope it works out.

lexus February 14, 2011 at 1:09 am

Brazil Au Pair, you are kinda wrong.
I was an AuPair like 3 years ago, I had a lot of experience driving, Im not middle class, im high class, yes, I have a car and Ive had one since I was 15 almost 16. I live in the city so I am a very strong driver. Some aupairs will say they do drive and blah blah but as soon as they hop in the car you realize their experience is null. But families realize once they see their lack of skills when driving.
As of experience, yeap….everyone lies!, I had a friend from germany whose experience was taking care of his 3 years younger brother! she used to watch him when they were little lol…

I have a friend who was the worst AuPair ever! and she went to 4 families!!! she kept having problems and being a pain in the ass! until she finished the 12 months program and left.

SM February 14, 2011 at 1:59 am

Just for the record, AuPairs from South America (Mexico, Colombia, Peru, etc) Pay for their own transportation, they pay to join the program, admin fees, and two ways FLIGHT. So no, you shouldnt.

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