On the heels of our conversation about whether or not we as host families prefer agencies or websites to find our au pairs , comes an email from a potential au pair on the same topic:
Next year I plan to get experience as an Aupair. I’m from Australia, and it has been very hard to decide whether to pay money and go through an agency, or to do it using public websites.
I know of 8 Australian Aupairs that are over in the UK and Netherlands at the moment and they ALL used the website www.aupair-world.net except for one who went through an agency.
I have also heard of other people www.greataupair.com as well. They all did very professionally. When they found a family, or a family found them, they wrote e-mails, spoke on the phone and on the webcam/skype. From what I have heard, they have all found lovely families!
So my main question is: Do most people go through agencies or are there host families out there that use websites like the ones above?
KR, thanks for bringing up the other side.
In the US, the vast majority of host families find their au pairs through agencies. (Maybe one of the LCCs or professional match-advisers has statistics?)
This is largely because many host families want the structure and legality that agencies provide. With an agency, there are formal reference checks, health checks, formal orientation, training in first aid, a Local Counselor to confirm that the family has met basic requirements, health insurance for the au pair, a community for the au pair, procedures in case of emergency (rematch, death in AP family, etc.) and a ticket back home. Both the AP and the host family sign contracts that commit them to acting legally and fairly. When it’s all said and done, the additional cost of using an agency (maybe $2,000?) seems worth it to many host families.
For both the host family and the au pair, the up front cost is higher with an agency than off-the-board. Many of the direct expenses of the au pair year, like airline tckerts, health insurance and training, are included in the Agency fee. And, there is also an administration component, to pay for LCCs and office staff in the US and abroad who do the interviewing, match assisting, and so on. So, with an agency, there is a bigger gap between what the family pays and what the au pair receives in pocket money.
Using an agency may also feel worth the extra cost to the au pair.
One thing that every au pair should keep in mind is that agencies actually screen host families. Sometimes, not well enough (we hear those stories too). Still, agencies even blacklist families that have been cruel and unfair to au pairs– sometimes within an agency, and sometimes they tell other agencies too. With an agency, an au pair can expect that host families have been told the rules, been visited by LCCs, and been educated a bit about what to expect (or not to expect) from an au pair.
On the other hand, it may be hard for an au pair to put up money at the start to find a position. Consider that Au Pair Agencies vary in their policies not only from agency to agency, but country to country. For au pairs from some countries, agencies ask for a commitment ‘payment’ or bond, that they return to the au pair after her year. But in some countries, they don’t ask for this. I didn’t realize that agencies actually ask candidates to pay a fee that is never refunded (how many do that, I wonder?) so I can see how that might be a deterrent for applicants.
There are terrific applicants available through every agency, and terrific applicants available on websites. With a website, both the applicant and the family need to do more to determine each other’s character, training, and commitment.
So let me also ask parents who have used websites:
Is there anything that you recommend for an au pair who plans to use a website? Or anything you recommend for families? If an applicant uses a website, how can she confirm the character of the potential host family? How do these options compare from the au pair’s point of view?
Also, any au pairs: Are there extra steps you’d recommend for potential au pairs who choose to use websites?