My Au Pair is Stealing Little Items: Should I rematch?

by cv harquail on December 16, 2010

This query was tucked away in a previous post: Tough Topic: When your au pair steals from you. I thought it deserved its own, up-to-the-minute conversation.

Flower FairyFolk etsy.jpeg From Host Mom Pippa:

I just last week caught our au pair stealing little items from us, confronted her, and then caught her the next day stealing more.

AP was preparing a package to send home for Christmas. The top of the box was open and I immediately recognized that she had taken an Amazon blue fabric gift bag to fill empty space in the box. It took a split second for me to recognize the item and AP to know I’d seen it. Before I said anything, she volunteered out of the blue that her mother had sent it to her. I was a little annoyed that she had just lied, but recognized that she was on the spot and her instinct might have been to lie to protect herself. Who hasn’t done that?

Later I went to her and explained that I regularly use (and reuse) the bag for oddly shaped presents that can’t be wrapped, said that I understood she probably didn’t know it was valuable to me, and that if she wanted to use something to ask me first. I emphasized I wasn’t upset, but wanted to be clear that she needed to ask before taking. She removed it from the box and returned it to me and then said she needed to ask about one other thing. She showed me a gift box she had taken to use for the au pair meeting gift exchange. It happened to be a family heirloom from my husband’s childhood. I thanked her for telling me, offered her three other options for packing the present, and reinforced that she can’t know what’s valuable or not and so should always ask first before taking something. I thought the issue was dealt with.

After work the next day I entered APs room to retrieve the ringing family phone. The package she was preparing to send home was wide open on her bed and I immediately recognized a number of other items that belonged to me–not high value items, but meaningful to me. A Christmas stocking my grandmother made me. A decorative box I’d placed in APs room to hold office supplies. An assortment of Christmas cards she’d taken from my collection. A selection the loveliest fabric ribbons from my ribbon box.

Since she was away for the evening at a basketball game with two other au pairs (using very pricy tickets we’d gladly given her) I left a note on the box stating she’d taken things that were valuable to me and we needed to talk. The next morning she returned the Christmas stocking, asking if that was what I’d meant, but not the box or cards or ribbons. She cried and apologized and said there was no excuse. I expressed my anger and frustration that she had stolen, had lied, and then had stolen again AFTER I talked to her about not taking things without asking. I demanded that she return everything she had not purchased with her own money, ribbons, cards and box included. She protested that since the box was in her room she thought it was ok to use. She asked if I wanted to see everything in the box. I declined and said I trusted her to fix the problem. AP said she understood that she had broken our trust, and felt awkward. I assured her that I was angry but in time I would calm down and that we clearly needed to improve our communication.

A week later, I don’t that I did the right thing. On the one hand, the items were not particularly valuable and might, in a stretch, be viewed as “consumables,” and I have made and forgiven greater mistakes. On the other hand, my trust has been violated, and I am now hyper-vigilant and somewhat uncomfortable leaving her alone in the house. I absolutely do not trust her judgment about what is community property and what is not. And I find myself being retrospectively annoyed about her purchasing personal items (mostly junk food) with family grocery money. Which just seems petty. And wondering if the toddler’s swimsuit disappearing the day AP didn’t get much sleep and then reappearing the next day in a place I had searched thoroughly was a coincidence or was deliberate. Which just seem paranoid. I thought I would forgive and forget, but so far I’m still fuming. Is the problem mine (I’m being petty and paranoid) or serious enough to send the AP packing?

First reply is from HRHM, who offers:

Having been burned on this in the worst possible way – I suggest you start the rematch now. She’s an adult who despite all possible cultural differences, knows what stealing is and knows that those things weren’t hers to take/give away. She knew what she was doing was wrong the first time and if there was any doubt, she REALLY knew it the 2nd time. It’s not kleptomania (since her thefts serve a purpose – no compulsion) but rather a sense that either a)you are rich and won’t miss what she takes or b) she deserves to take these things because of how hard she works and how little she reaps from being your AP.

In our case, my biggest mistake was not calling the police and filing charges when it came out what she was doing. If you can’t trust her not to violate your personal property, how can you trust her to be alone with your kids? (and by the way, after ours was sent home for stealing, our 5 year old told us how she was forcing them to overeat and making up stories to scare her into doing what she wanted – case in point).

{ 54 comments }

PA AP mom December 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

This is a HUGE red flag for me. If she is continuing to steal small items from you, despite your talk, what else would she be willing to take?

I know rematch can be awful, but do you really want to live the rest of your year wondering if your AP is stealing from you? Everytime something is missing or misplaced, won’t it be in the back of your mind that maybe she took it?

Good luck.

My 2 cents December 16, 2010 at 11:34 am

Were these items all in open areas where you could arguably consider them things that anyone could use? When I hear gift boxes, bags, and ribbons, no matter how fancy, that’s exactly what I think, and I know our au pairs have made good use of my paper products, gift bags, etc., that I’ve left out in the open.

What do you mean by “my christmas card collection?” Are these boxes of generic cards you were planning to use yourself for this year’s mailing? If something is sentimental or of high value or for whatever other reason is not for public consumption, I put it someplace where it obviously is not for that. Yes, she should have asked, but I can see someone dumb-witted and blissfully ignorant making this error.

And, to be honest, I could see how something you put in her room for her use could be interpreted as your gift to her that she could “regift” as awful and insulting as that is to the average person. For future reference, I guess make more clear what is part of the room and stays.

Overall, however, given the number of conversations you’ve had she doesn’t have much of an excuse. I don’t understand how in the world a hand sewn christmas stocking could be considered anything other than a personal item! She clearly doesn’t understand boundaries and, worse yet, cannot seem to comprehend that she’s clearly exceeded them and should think to always ask before just taking. This lady has problems. And you are clearly at the point where mentally you cannot go on. You need to trust her. You cannot. She goes.

Anna December 16, 2010 at 11:35 am

Of course rematch now! And make sure that you have an LCC come in and have her pack in her and your presence (if she is stealing, how can you tell she won’t lie to LCC later?), to make sure she leaves everything that doesn’t belong to her in your house, and doesn’t “accidentally” slip in into her luggage. I would also not have her stay with you during the rematch period.

Lying is something I cannot tolerate; stealing would be another thing

Remember, the ten commandments, how it goes? Don’t steal, don’t kill….
It is something an adult should’ve gotten down by now.

I would not trust her in your house. It is clear that she is not remorseful for taking the items; she is remorseful for being caught! Next time she’ll just do it better, or get things out of the house before you notice. She is learning, but not what you want her to learn.

And she had the guts to argue with you about stealing the box from “her” room? Following that logic, she can feel free to ship “her” furniture, mattress, bedlinens, computer (if you have it in her room), phone set, alarm clock home too? Maybe also take the window shades and curtains while she is at it?

Anna December 16, 2010 at 11:40 am

And I am suprised that you are still looking for excuses for her behavior. From what you described, she clearly knows what she is doing (like her lying to you that the amazon gift back was given to her by her mother….)

Ladygaga December 16, 2010 at 2:55 pm

I’d totally rematch. Even if she changes you will never trust her again. Tolerance has limits. Although gift boxes are kinda okay to take…I was an au pair and always used those small little things when I needed and they did not seem to care and even showed me some more stuff I could take advantage of (since they had lots of that stuff) I think the biggest issue is trusting her which you cant anymore.
Good luck

Should be working December 16, 2010 at 4:54 pm

It definitely doesn’t look good from this post, and if you don’t trust her you have to go to rematch.

On the other hand, I must add that I think the HF showed some poor judgment in storing things that they care about at all in the AP’s room. I would not put anything in the AP’s room (apart from furniture, sheets and towels) that she wouldn’t be able to presume is hers to use and even re-gift.

HRHM December 17, 2010 at 2:54 am

The only thing that OP mentioned as “being in the APs room” was a decorative box. Correct me if I’m wrong OP, but it sounded to me as if AP “scavengened” the rest of the stuff from around the house. And really, if I hang a cork board/white board in her room and put a tv/dvd player in there, who in their right mind would think those were ok to send to others as gifts? I hardley think it’s fair to blame the victim.

Should be working December 17, 2010 at 5:59 am

I do not mean to blame the victim; giving the AP the most generous possible read of the situation, I think the AP showed bad judgment and unacceptable flakiness in not explicitly asking what she might use or send home especially given the fact that the HM had a talk with her after the first incident. That alone would be a big red flag for me. A less generous, and more likely, read of the AP’s behavior would suggest that she is filching things that she think won’t be missed and the tears were a big show. I myself would feel uncomfortable enough and suspicious enough after this situation to initiate rematch.

On the other hand I still think it is every HP’s job to make clear what belongs to the AP, what is ‘consumable’ by her, and what not. Different cultures and different families may have different ideas of how strict the notion of ‘belonging’ is and what ‘things around the house’ may be used for. Perhaps I misunderstood but I thought the ribbons and packing materials, including the Amazon bag, were together with the ‘office supplies’ in the decorative box in the AP’s room. If they were in her room, she would get my most-generous read (but I would be suspicious) and if they weren’t she would get the less-generous read.

I certainly did not mean to suggest that electronics and wall-hanging items were meant to be kept by the AP. But ribbons and gift boxes, if kept in an AP’s room, are in my view more ambiguous–although of course APs should ask in every case.

momof4 December 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

If she stole anything – regardless of the price – get rid of her!

Yossi Pinkas December 16, 2010 at 6:26 pm

If an Au Pair steals from you, you should definitely rematch. And to minimize the risk of the same thing happening with your next Au Pair, consider using a personality and risk assessment tool such as NannyTest to improve the screening process.

honey white December 16, 2010 at 10:13 pm

You are NOT being petty and your trust HAS been violated. You have been more than generous. Your au pair knows exactly what she’s doing, and this is bad news. You need to rematch, and better luck next time!

Taking a Computer Lunch December 16, 2010 at 10:15 pm

It’s not clear to me from your description of your AP’s comments whether or not her bedroom is also a storage room. While we hang works of art that friends and family have made in our AP’s room as decoration, we do not store items there (we provide APs with some items of clothing – cleaned – that past APs have left behind – Polartec jackets, raincoats, winter coats, etc.)

So, it appears that you may have left the impression to your young AP that some items in your household are expendable. That doesn’t make what she did right. It absolutely does not. No one should be sending items home unless they have been purposely given. (I think there have been discussions elsewhere about APs who have removed absolutely everything from their rooms when they left.)

I think you will be worrying what else she might remove from your home, so call your LCC and sit down at the table with her. Explain, calmly, that you feel that you need to go into rematch because she was preparing to ship a box full of items that had not been given to her and that this is not appropriate behavior in your home.

After you announce you are going into rematch, you need to decide if you will be able to leave this AP alone in your home. If you cannot, then you and the LCC need to work out an exit strategy before you make this announcement. And I agree with the other poster, both you and the LCC need to watch her pack, as she may have more items from your household squirreled away.

(We once housed a liar and a thief who attempted to go into rematch after she was kicked out of her home. While DH and I didn’t like or trust this woman, she was a friend of a beloved AP. While I don’t think she stole from us, she did manage to take a brand new digital camera, cash, and some nail clippers from our AP, who sadly had to learn a lesson about trust.)

azmom December 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm

It sounds like the bigger issue is respect for what is a family item, versus shared iteems, versus extras. For example, packaging items, I’d assume that she would think they’re for anyone to use – I know when I go to my grandmothers for some holidays I use her wrapping materials and as an adult never thought to ask her whether or not some could/could not be used, but then again, things are also unwrapped in her house so if it were a bow she could reuse it. But the other items, yes she should have asked.
I don’t know that it is a full rematch situation but it is a situation where you should have a stern talk with the LCC around. You can then see her reaction – if she’s apologetic it is one thing, if she blames you it is another… then if she’s an actress about it you’ll know what to do next. Good luck

Anna December 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

What about the stocking? What about doing it AFTER being specifically told to ask first?
I think this situation is beyond the initial benefit of the doubt that we all are inclined to extend to our au pairs.

Jeana December 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

Rematch. My perspective is that your aupair showed poor judgement and then lied. An aupair, who is caring for your children, makes many decisions each day. I would not feel confident leaving my children with an aupair that has shown poor judgement and lies.

Ronnie December 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

I think you may be overreacting to the situation. Because of the way your wrote you post it seems as if you are definitely not “down playing” the situation. But if she really did lie to you that would be a problem.

HRHM December 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

“The top of the box was open and I immediately recognized that she had taken an Amazon blue fabric gift bag to fill empty space in the box. It took a split second for me to recognize the item and AP to know I’d seen it. Before I said anything, she volunteered out of the blue that her mother had sent it to her.”

She gave the HM an UNSOLICITED LIE about the origins of the blue bag – this was not a misunderstanding. And then, proceeded to prepare to send more of the families belongings (handmade stocking?) the following day AFTER being told that she needed to ask to take things.

You all are either WAY more forgiving than I or way more naive…

Gianna December 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

This is my concern: suppose she jumps turnstiles in bus/subway areas , parks in illegal spots, shoplifts, borrows a library book without checking it out, or leaves a restaurant or hops out of a taxi without paying. This could be quite awful for her and very expensive and messy for you. Downloads programs by accident ( we have another thread ). I know that language can be misleading in terms of ownership ( “that’s my Ipod ” doesn’t necessarily mean ” you may not use it “) and I also know that some people come from desperately poor areas of the world. But ignorance is not a defense under the law. This could turn into an awful mess. I cannot imagine what you or the agency will tell the rematch families but I would let the agency worry about that. What can truthfully be said that isn’t very damning ? I do think the point about using the aupair’s room as storage is a very fine point. But it is off putting to think that you cannot hang a nice picture on the wall or put a vase in the room without fear of it being cleaned out. I think that stealing happens so infrequently that when it does happen , it could be a dealbreaker.

HRHM December 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

With regard to rematch for the AP, my understanding is that theft would be a reason for removal from the program. In our case it was so egregious and blatant, she was removed to the LCC same day (at our insistance, but the LCC totally understood) and was back on a plane home in 2 days.

Tahoe Mom 2 Twins December 17, 2010 at 6:08 pm

After just having dealt with an AP who kept breaking the same house rule over and over again, with several of my precious and rare free time hours spent explaining, and then her apologizing/saying she understood, yet going out an hour later to do the exact same thing agin, we came to the decision to Exit. Not even Rematch. We just exited the program. There is clearly more than just a miscommunication problem going on in your household, as there was with mine. (Heck, even my Brazilian housekeepers would ask politely if they could take something that I had put in the trash, for goodness sake!) Personally, I think you might have a kleptomaniac on your hands. At the very least, you have someone who is incredibly disrespectful. In either case, rematch. Now. And I would ask your LCC to monitor her packing, so you might need to have the LCC come over to reveal the “rematch” decision, and have the LCC take AP home with her right then and there. I had given our AP a bunch of things I no longer needed, such as clothes, books, a travel bag for her laptop, and she either gave them all to her friends after our Exit meeting or left them behind; yet the beautiful silver plated picture frames I used to make her room more inviting upon arrival, with photos I printed from her application, all ended up back in Norway. I never specifically said they were decor and not gifts, but I didn’t say that about the tv, bed, or carpet either, and for some reason, she left those behind. ;) And we never had any thievery going on. Lastly, for what it’s worth, I probably would have declined looking in the box too, but after reading what you’ve gone through, I would now like to look! :) Good luck.

Au pair December 18, 2010 at 6:18 am

Can an au pair speak her mind too?
Tahoe mom: If you put pictures of HER family in the frames, it is really not that strange that she thinks the frames and pictures were for her. Maybe those were the only things she wanted out of all your gifts to her.

HRHM:
Are you seriously saying that you now believe your 5 year old about this? After hearing their parents complain about the AP (and I am assuming you did, because anyone would) of course your kid would want to contribute with some complaining. “Forcing them to over eat” Seriously? EVERYONE tells kids to “eat up, so that you get big and strong” and kids never want to eat much at all. You can’t always trust your kid either, that’s all I’m saying.

HRHM December 18, 2010 at 9:11 am

Au Pair, you don’t know me, my DD or my VERY prior AP. Let me start out by saying that she had a severe eating disorder and I CAUGHT her on several ocassions trying to force the baby to keep eating when she had obviously lost interest. Needless to say, we had several discussions about that. I also KNOW that she overfilled DD5s plate BUT when I was present, I was the one who DD would tell “I’m full, can I be excused?” and I don’t ever do the plate-cleaning thing (it’s totally unhealthy, children’s bodies know how much they need to survive) But when I wasn’t there, she would make DD finish before she was allowed to leave the table. Yes, I do believe DD. And no, DH and I don’t talk about the AP EVER in a negative way in front of our kids (past present or future ones) just as we don’t talk about how crazy my MIL is front of them. :) She volunteered the information when I asked her if she was ok after AP left and was she missing her – she said no and then proceeded to explain why. While AP was here I knew she and DD butted heads and that she favored the baby over the 5 year old (it was obvious to EVERYONE). But I got a whole new perspective once she was gone.

Sandra Newman December 24, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Here’s a thing i always see, the overeating situation. As an ex au pair i need to say that this is a cultural difference more than anything. Im brazilian and where I come from we’re taught we MUST eat everything out of our plates and we CANNOT leave the table before eat eveything and/or everyody else finish. that is what we learn since we born. accordling to our culture the kid that doesnt eat eveything is not going to have full energy to grow or it has a eating problem. most of the parents give us supplements and vitamins to make us eat more. my husband has a 6 yo girl who doesnt eat nothing but trash, and when she sits to eat she NEVER finishes her plate. he’s ok with it. IM NOT and we had a serie of issues with that that resulted in long conversations about eating and health.
maybe hm sould talk and GUIDE the au pair to – it’s ok if the kid doesnt eat reggardless what you think its right or not.

tnks

HRHM December 25, 2010 at 2:42 am

Of course I told the AP how I wanted the food situation handled with our children. I learned before I even got an AP (and relearn it with each one) that I never assume they know what I know (like how to use a dishwasher) or think like I think (colds come from viruses, not from going outside with wet hair!). Which is why I have a 21 page Handbook! Include in the handbook is the statement: “3. They are not required to “clean their plates”; they don’t have to finish all their food. The only thing I require is that they eat their vegetables before they can have more bread or a treat” (cut and pasted verbatim). And as I said above, when I CAUGHT her trying to get the baby to continue eating twice, each time I sat her down and we seriously talked about how the baby didn’t need to finish in order to be ok and how forcing her would set her up for a life of wierd food attitudes and behaviors that weren’t healthy (all this to an AP with a SERIOUS eating disorder).
The problem (and unfortunately this is often the case now with several of my APs) is that no matter what I said ( and I have 21 years of education, am a doctor and have birthed 2 children) is that the APs think they know better, I am wrong and with the current one, all Americans are stupid (not sure why you’d come here if you felt that way, but whatever). So to all the APs out there, even if you KNOW something to be true from your Mom and your country and your school, if your educated and gainfully employed HM TELLS you that it isn’t, maybe she knows something you don’t. Before you discount her as wrong or stupid, try looking it up (books, google, wikipedia). And even if you ‘re sure she’s wrong, they’re her kids and it’s her house. Just do what she asked unless it’s a threat to their lives. Stepping off my soapbox now. :)

Aupairgal December 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

You see it goes both ways though. Maybe your aupair knows something that you don’t. The thing that is very hurtful by this post and what is terribly hard about be an aupair is exactly what you have stated in this post: “And even if you ‘re sure she’s wrong, they’re her kids and it’s her house”. This to me sounds like the aupair simply does not even get an opinion and should just keep her mouth shut. What makes it more difficult is that the aupair lives there and is subject to “her house” rules all the time. Everything is dicated by the host parents even down to the simple things such as how and when to clean your bathroom. While I am sure this particular situation with this particular aupair might be a difficult, it is this attitude towards aupairs in general that concerns me. It is excruciatingly painfull to be treated as you know nothing on the basis that you are 15 years younger and havn’t given birth to children. It also makes it impossible to hold a dialogue when one party assumes superiority.
I do however want to be clear that I am NOT critizing this particular situation, but rather the general attitude.

HRHM December 28, 2010 at 3:19 am

AuPairGirl,

In every relationship there are going to be times when two parties will not be able to agree on a decision, course of action, etc. Someone has to be the one to have the final say. At my work, I will sometimes disagree with something my employer wants me to do and I will make my readoned argument to try to help him see it my way. But, in the end, if he says it has to be his way, no matter how wrong I think he is, I do it the way he wants (unless it will cause harm to a patient) because, after all he’s the boss. It’s the same with my Au Pair. I want to hear her opinions, and I’ve certainly benefitted from all of my Au Pairs different view points. Some have had great suggestions and ideas. BUT, when all is said and done, at the end of the year, you move on and I am left with my children to raise. So, if I don’t want them to watch TV every day, or eat outside of meal/snack times or drink soda, that is MY RIGHT as a parent, even if you think I’m crazy, don’t know what I’m talking about, think it won’t harm them, etc. And I want you to feel at home in our house but if I want you to clean the room in my house that you are using for the year a certain way or with a certain frequency, out of respect for me, my family and my home, you should do so. At the end of the year, will you pay to put in new carpets because you (and the 3 APs before you) thought I was crazy to insist that you vaccuum every week? I don’t think so.
So while I am happy to hear my APs opinions and consider any and all input, once I make a decision with regard to my kids, my house, my car… the right thing for the AP to do is abide by it to the best of her ability. And when you have to worry about raising your own kids without f***ing them up, maintaining a $400,000 house and keeping a car running despite multiple fender-benders from a stream of lovely, but not-so-great-driver girls, you will hopefully understand.

Calif Mom December 28, 2010 at 11:36 am

Sandra,

I was raised that way, too, to clean my plate. So was my husband. We have read several books about nutrition, behavior, and the various risk factors that can lead to eating disorders. We read peer-reviewed scientific research as it is published.

My husband and I do NOT insist that children clean their plates, even though that is how we were raised. So while I understand that this is “cultural”, I also know that people can be curious about new ideas, reflect on them, choose the ones that make sense, and live their own lives — not to mention raise their children — differently than they were raised.

We have had two, lovely, wonderful Brazilian au pairs. They never insisted on plates being finished, either. So either they followed our lead, or they were raised differently, or they understood what we explained to them about the bad long-term effects of ‘cleaning your plate’. (They also noticed the obesity epidemic, and maybe they were able to connect the dots?)

I suggest not using “it’s a cultural difference” as a valid reason for willfully not following the host parents’ wishes, especially not on something as emotionally powerful for all families–no matter their cultural background–as food.

Should be working December 28, 2010 at 11:53 am

This item is just in time: I’m adding lines to our handbook that children should not be forced to finish their food–before I send the handbook out to a prospective AP TODAY.

I also note that my in-laws disagree with our no-plate-cleaning-required rules. In the interests of avoiding family conflicts in the past few fraught family-visit days, and in response to desperate, stuffed, begging looks from my kids, I’ve surreptitiously been snagging the last bites off their plates, despite also being full myself. Oy.

dclover December 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Dear Au Pair,

I am a former au pair and if there is stuff in my au pair room, even with photos of my family, I would NOT automaticly assume, that I can take them. It’s not only politeness to ask before I take something.
As much as it is your room, while you there, it is still in your HPs house and I would say everything whats in the room on your arrival should be there when you leave, exept when your HP say that you may take it.

What you said about kids, I think everyone has days, when you are really craving for food and others when you do not like to eat anything – so do kids. I know everyones saying “You need to eat up to grow” (even I was told it, when I used to be a kid), but just because everyone is saying it, it is not right, I think. I mean if a kid looses weight that it’s getting unhealthy…okay, but you should not force or forbid someone to eat. You have to figure it out, what kind of kid you caring for, but that needs some time. There is a medium between eat nothing and eat evrything.
just my cents

Sandra Newman December 26, 2010 at 1:27 am

I agree with both. I think, not saying that this is the case here, that there’re many families who consider us as young dumb third world ladies. we’re not. i’m very happy with the person I work for now that sees me as an adult and professional, plus im more experienced with taking care of american kids – yes, it is very different, and she respects my opinion and listen what i have to say.

HRHM – you re absolutly right about how u guide and raise your kids, and if u lead ap to how it was supposed to be so dnt feel any regrets for rematching. anyway i would like to say that most of us really like the kids we take care, and we want the best fo them, but for many of us – and i was like that when i got here – its very difficult to put apart what we think its gonna be the best and the rules we have from the hf.

:D

Long Island Host Mom December 18, 2010 at 7:14 am

Rematch. She is not just a thief but a liar as well. Once is an error in judgement. Twice is a crime…These are small things. What happens when she lies about big things? And your children are involved. I dont tolerate lies. Trust that is broken is difficult if not impossible sometimes to recoup. She is replaceable. Why go thru the angst and concern…Be careful though. Speak to your LLC. She needs to be out of the house during rematch as you dont want to risk retribution and see more things missing. Your are an employer as well as a HP – I wouldnt tolerate an employee in a business that lies and steals – why accept it in your home?

au-pair opinion December 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Dear Host Mom Pippa,
as an au-pair, I would never take anything that belongs to the host family without asking permission and only if I really need it and I can’t buy it at the moment. I have small things in my room like frames, candles, a box for jewelry left there by the former au-pair. I didn’t touch them. If I want something that’s not host family’s responsibility, I buy it with my own money. A good and respectful behavior comes with a good education. You can consider two options: she is slick and tries to trick,lie, steal because she is used to that or maybe she thinks you don’t give her enough, maybe the money, maybe the food, maybe days off…I don’t know her but is possible for her to think that you don’t give her enough and so she gets it by her own way. Anyway, there is no excuse…It’s not yours, it’s not given to you as a gift, don’t take it. I don’t think an au-pair needs to be told by host parents what to take and what not to touch, she should be responsible enough to know that what’s in the house stays in the house.You should rematch as soon as possible, don’t even think that she will be with another family; if she did it once she’ll do it again, and again; just send her home and make sure she won’t be au-pair again.

Good luck!

NoVA Host Mom December 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

REMATCH!! Immediately!

This is someone you have to be able to trust, as you are bringing a stranger into your home, allowing access to your personal items and more importantly, you are entrusting with your children! She has violated the most basic of boundries and stolen. Not “scavenged”, not “misunderstood”, but STOLEN.

I learned only after our first (failed) AP left (we terminated her for serious trust issues, but I did not even know the half of it then), that she had “re-allocated” many of our things to include wedding portraits of us and our niece and nephew (purchased to be framed and presented to them as a later gift). No idea why, but they are gone. I discovered the remains of many of our things discarded in the recycling (I was sorting and imagine my surprise).

If you cannot trust her with the small things, there is no reason to trust her with the big things. I would also advise her (and your LCC) that the only way you will not prosecute is if she is removed from the program entirely. She is someone who should not be foisted onto another unsuspecting family. Her character is more than questionable. Make no excuses for her, and don’t buy into the tears and heartfelt apologies. Just hand her a tissue and tell her to get over herself and pack, while you watch to make sure nothing else is pilfered.

NoVA Host Mom December 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Sorry, I think I forgot a blurb in there: with regards to the prosecution thing, it might be very helpful to ensure she is aware that theft is serious and would impact her visa and chances of future visits to the US for a time. I don’t mean to actually prosecute, as I know it is highly impractical, but I would not be shy about making sure this thief is not put into the rematch circulation for “personality conflicts with current HF”. I say that only because I have been here a while and noticed that this sort of thing has happened to many readers and posters here. It’s a shame, but since we know it happens, either inadvertently or not, let’s put it out in the open.

HM Pippamaus December 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm

(To clarify, all things but the decorative box were scavenged from around the house and from the christmas storage boxes I’d dumped in the dining room in preparation for the holidays. The decorative box held pencils, tape, paper clips and post-its in AP’s desk drawer)

The update: More than a week after LCC talked with AP, AP was finally able to find time to talk to us about “what happened.” (Although she had found plenty of time to ask about taking the car 150 miles to the coast through rain and snow and mountains, and then to ask about what else there could possibly be to do around town when we nixed the trip to the beach.)

We let AP say her piece, and then asked her to remind us what I had said the first time when I caught her taking the bag and lying. It was very telling. She remembered I said 1) It’s not a big deal and 2) put the item back. She did not remember me saying “Always ask before you take something.” She didn’t even remember with a hint. She commented that she feels so at home, she didn’t realize there were boundaries.

Then we asked if she had returned everything she had taken without asking. She said yes. We asked if she was sure. Yes again, and she added that we could look if we wanted. We followed her to her room and inspected the boxes and found (much to her shock and horror) another small christmas stocking and two gift boxes holding a variety of my teas, a box of Annie’s mac n cheese. Now, I think sending her mom and grandma an assortment of American teas along with a variety of Christmas cookies we’d baked is a nifty idea. But, she helped herself to two or three of every kind of tea in the pantry (I’d guess over 30 bags, in all) and it never occurred to her to ask if she could take it. Now, she did ask if she could send her mom the cookies, so when I am standing in front of her while she wants something, she knows to ask.

There was also a state license plate in the box. Cute gift. Very Americana. I am afraid to ask her where she got it. It doesn’t belong to us, but I really hope she didn’t take it off some parked car.

We’re her second family this year (first HM yelled too much). She’s our second AP this year (the first flamed out after 2 weeks spent shopping Abercrombie ’til she dropped and taking NO interest in caring for the kids). She says she’s reaaaally happy and doesn’t want to leave and wants to rebuild trust. I reaaallly don’t want to be dealing with rematch at the holidays (or ever). My sympathy (and laziness) says give her (yet another) chance. My gut says even if it’s just ignorance and poor judgement, time to cut my losses before the poor judgement has more dire consequences. But the hassle…

Taking a Computer Lunch December 21, 2010 at 12:00 am

And how is this lovely young woman spending her money so that she can’t afford to send her mom a box of teas for Christmas? Really!

She’s sweet but you’re going to have to sweep her room every couple of weeks to see that she hasn’t pocketed more “little” things around the house. And what if this habit of pocketing items also includes stores with security guards? As for the license plate – you could call your state’s DMV to ask if it is an active plate. If it is, then you know you have a bigger problem on your hands.

Last year, because DH made it clear his preference was to keep the hard-working yet indescribably distant AP with zero self-motivation to get a US driver’s license, he got to listen to me moan and groan as I chafed. Sure she was great with The Camel, but at the end of the day, my life is much more peaceful. In fact, I was recently moved to write an email to my LCC and remind her how different life was in my house this year.

I think your little klepto has had three chances already, and interprets your giving her another chance to indifference. Are your children old enough to learn to pocket items at a store from her? Her love and attention may not be enough…

2boys2girls December 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Don’t ignore your “gut.” I did this to avoid the “hassle” of rematch and it was a real mistake.
If I remember correctly, there is a very helpful thread about the costs of avoiding rematch on this site!

2boys2girls December 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm
Should be working December 21, 2010 at 4:45 am

I really like the idea, during a repeat conflict, of asking the AP to recall what you said last time. In fact I think this is something I need to do with my children, instead of repeating myself over and over. She has a selective memory and either doesn’t get it with boundaries or has a problem. Your life will be easier, after transition, knowing that your possessions are not going to be squirrelled away. Choosing rematch is hard. But you’ll be happy you did it.

Anna December 21, 2010 at 11:50 am

Even if you can interpret away her slipups to innocence, not knowing, etc., the problem is so deep that you cannot reform her behavior in a short period of time.
Either because she is so clueless that learning american expectations will take years, or because she is sick – the cure will also take time

And her behavior currently is incompatible with your values, and is not something you want your children to see, and to see forgiven time and time again.

I think you have no choice.

And you have to do it fast before she gets into real trouble with the law.

Anna December 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

And I recently received an email from my LCC about a nice au pair in our cluster looking for a family right now. So there are au pairs looking…. or you might be able to arrange backup care to choose somebody new out of country.

We went through rematch just recently and we did that; we had a 3-week break in childcare (my friend watched the kids), and now our new out-of-country au pair is in her second week with us.

Eurogirl December 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I agree that you should change au pairs because you are not happy with this girl and the problem is recurring but I just wonder about the ribbon as people have said before – I would not have used it as I would find it cheeky but it could have been seen as a household supply – I mean she probably is allowed to use other items (example – paper in the house). And the teabags bothered me because I assume she is allowed to drink tea in your house – perhaps also a misunderstanding? I mean I would never take thirty teabags and post them to my mother but if I am allowed to drink the tea then taking a bag or two would not seem like stealing to me…?

Anyway, no matter that is not the question. Your trust with her is gone so you are no longer happy, so I think yes, you need to look for a new au pair.

CAmom22 December 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

But I think there is a very clear distinction here. AP is certainly allowed (even expected) to take household supplies and food items for personal use in my house (for example, helping herself to ribbons to wrap a gift for a friend’s birthday or preparing herself even multiple cups of tea if that’s what she likes to drink). I suspect most if not all of us view this as perfectly acceptable. But taking those items in bulk to send to friends and family as gifts is quite simply stealing. HF did not buy ribbons and 30 bags of tea one day so the AP could give those away to her family. Those items were purchased for personal and reasonable use by the entire family (including the au pair). HF is not the source of funds for AP’s gifts to her family and friends at home. If AP wants to send her mom 30 bags of tea, she needs to use her own funds to pay for that. In this situation I would rematch immediately. I could not work with the lost trust and dishonest behaviour.

Melissa December 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I agree. While I don’t think it is a huge deal to find and use some household items and I see it differently than stealing money out of my purse or taking a still-in-the-box DVD or something, it is very odd that she is taking these things with the express intent of giving them away. At best, it’s very poor judgment on her part, but especially problematic after you’ve already talked with her about it and had it come up again. Unless things miraculously turn around, I would have a rematch conversation right after the new year. Also, it sounds like some other resentment/frustration issues are starting to surface as well (not making it a priority to talk with you about this, driving 150 miles, etc).

Eurogirl December 22, 2010 at 10:23 am

I’m asking not because I think it’s right to take these things – I think this girl is more taking advantage of her family’s generosity. Stealing is a strong word and for some of the items listed I bet the girl doesn’t see it that way. I try to see both points of view when I’m reading. Obviously the more personal or expensive items are a “deal breaker” issue here, the tea or ribbons a smaller issue that just makes things worse.

I don’t condone it, I am just wondering about “consumer” items and how much of that an au pair would be allowed to take/use. There are different ways to see that. Personally when working as an au pair I always bought my own tea or had it sent from home because I am very picky about what teas I drink – and also I drink A LOT OF TEA! :-)

HRHM December 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Eurogirl,

I can only tell you my particular feeling on this: How much tea can my AP take from the cupboard to drink? As much as she wants, but please let me know when you need more. Now, How much of my tea can my AP put in a box to send home as Christmas presents from her? None. Go buy tea for your Mom if you want to give it to her as a present. It’s one thing to consume shared items as part of day to day living, and an entirely other thing to go through my cupboards and send things off to family and friends. I’d feel the same way about soap, lotion, food, etc. If you want to give someone a present, it should be from you, not from my pantry. And even if (for example) you wanted to make cookies to send to your Mom, would it bankrupt you to pick up the 7 dollars worth of ingredients? If so, then perhaps addressing the APs spending habits is in order. Most importantly though, if an AP ASKS, I am likely to say yes to most reasonable things (can I make some cookies for my Mom with stuff from the cupboard – oh sure) or at least if I say no, I can explain why and offer some alternative options.

MommyMia December 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I can certainly see sending a couple of teabags to her mom or someone with things she is sending anyway, saying “Try these new teas.” Then if they enjoyed them, she could purchase some as a gift for them. As others posters have mentioned, some tea drinkers are picky about the types they enjoy, and sampling some new teas would be perfectly acceptable, although I would have asked my HM first, were I the AP in question!

Anna December 22, 2010 at 11:32 am

I think you are right, it is hard to make a strong judgement in this case, where it is “little things” and the situation is not clear cut… Even after repeated offenses, it is easy to make excuses for the au pair.

I was thinking about a comparison that will make a situation clear…
Here is an example: at my workplace, there are notebooks, pens, pencils, post-it notes for me to use. It is there for me to use, for work, and belongs to my employer. But if around the start of the school year I take 10 notebooks, a pack of pencils, a pack of pens, a few new binders, and bring it to my daughter’s school instead of buying this stuff from her supply list, this is stealing. And if my employer would catch me doing it, I will be in trouble.

But also, I think she is doing it precisely because this is not clear-cut — I think it will go to bigger things, but then she will be in real trouble if caught.

NoVA Host Mom December 23, 2010 at 2:21 am

Actually, it is very easy to make a judgement in this case. It is absolutely clear cut. The items did not belong to her. They belongs to the HF. And this is not a “mine is yours” scenario. This is a “you are welcome to USE the household items as a part of the household” thing, not a “pilfer whatever you want and become an exporter of US teabags” scenario.

The AP was stealing. Flat out. These items were the property of someone else. She does not have the maturity to simply say, “can I send a few of these things home so my mom can try them” or “I really like your knick-knacks so I want to take some and send them home to share with family and friends.”

And as for the items being “little” or “old”, where is the line drawn? Is it only stealing if you can put a price tag on it for $25? Or maybe $50? Is it only for things less than 5 years old? Maybe only those that are 2 years old? If it is not yours to begin with, it is stealing, regardless of the dollar value or age or origin. This is why children are not allowed to steal a candy bar or piece of bubble gum from the 7-11. It is not theirs to start with. And if you are not going to enforce this with the person who is helping to raise and mold and provide an example for your children, you will have your work cut out for you later. She goes. TODAY.

And yes, I refuse to munch grapes in the grocery store before I paid for them. They are sold by the weight, and thus by eating what I have not accounted for, I have stolen those monies and profits from the seller. It doesn’t matter how hungry I might be or how good they look. My children will be taught the same.

Gianna December 25, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Tea, stockings, ribbons, we could discuss this all day and night and have lots of different opinions. The license plate is an entirely different matter. In my state, I believe that license plates must be surrendered to the DMV when they are out of use.
Or did it fall off a car ? This is a potentially big problem. Suppose customs or postal officials randomly go throught that parcel and find that license plate. Is your home address listed as the return address ? The license plate can be traced to its owner.
You may not miss the tea but I’ll bet someone is missing that license plate. Maybe they reported it to their DMV. If it fell off a car, imagine the aggravation someone is going through trying to have it replaced ! And by the by, does it belong to one of your neighbors or did it come from God knows where ? What does your LCC say ? You know, I could understand , if not condone, taking food or clothes to send home but these things are souvenirs , not necessities. Good luck to you on sorting this out.

OP February 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

This will come as no surprise, but after 2 months we’ve decided to terminate our contract with the AP who stole and lied.

We gave her every opportunity to redeem herself and rebuild trust, which she did not take advantage of. Instead she increasingly hid in her room, stopped eating meals with us, and disappeared every evening and weekend hour. The final straw was two separate reports of the AP being visibly frustrated and physical (yanking arms, pushing away) with our two year old. So I told her she’s done.

Now that she needs to get the details of her departure worked out, she has found the wherewithal to come out of her room to speak with me. She volunteered that she’s been homesick, that she’s glad to leave, and that her best AP friend is jealous that she gets to go back home. In fact, we had a long and friendly conversation about her departure, immigration and cultural assimilation, national pride and national guilt, news and politics. She went to bed smiling.

She’s glad to go back to her friends and Mama, and I am left to pick up the pieces of a strained marriage, a feral two year old, patched together back-up childcare, a car accident caused while fretting about my AP situation, and serious doubts about whether my job is really worth all this. Sadly, we’re done with the AP program. This experience has been a real stinker. :-(

E2 February 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm

my goodness, you are not in the best town in the PacificNW, are you? If so, I may need to talk with your AP’s best AP friend (please tell me no!).

OP February 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Yep, I sure am.

Anna February 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

OP,

I am so sorry…..

I am starting to think that some host parent personalities are more suited for the program than others…. Being tough and being able to forget bad things fast come to mind… Kind of like an optimistic drill seargant, a personality I aspire to be, LOL

Comments on this entry are closed.