Should you get involved in another Host Parent’s Au Pair issue?

by cv harquail on September 24, 2010

I promised you that there was a part 2 to the story of the au pair and host parents who were struggling with responsibility for damage to a car. That issue was shared with us by a host mom with a personal connection to the au pair. In addition to hoping for some ideas on how the problem could be resolved, this host mom wonders:

201009241614.jpgShould I get involved in the Au Pair – Host Parent situation?

Should I do something more than offer my advice to this Au Pair?

The au pair is a sister of one of our prior au pairs, and she’s kind of like ‘family”.

I could offer to talk to the counselor, for example, and try to put some pressure on them finding a rematch. I get so upset with au pair agencies (at least mine) who don’t seem to want to step in to help au pairs who are pretty powerless. Yet I don’t know if I’m projecting, because it is hard to know the facts.

My gut tells me to stay out of it, yet I feel really bad for the Au Pair. It sounds like she’s living in a toxic environment, and she’s not scheduled to go back to home until February, so maybe intervening now might help?

What do you readers advise?

See also:
When fault is contested, who pays for damage to the car?
Advice Wanted: Should I intervene in another Au Pair-Host Family situation?
When your Au Pair confides in you … about something awful

Image: The Mediator (cartoon) from crimfants


Gianna September 24, 2010 at 5:52 pm

This sort of situation comes up alot, I think, among nice people who want to help out.
My instinct would be to call the counselor and talk about it. My experience, on the other hand , is that it is always best to stay out of it. That is why I originally advised reading the actual contract. Since this young lady is the sister of your aupair and you feel like she is family, you can offer her an emotional refuge. I agree that sometimes these agencies do seem to lack moral courage and the LCCs seem incompetent but if you get involved, it might make it worse for the aupair. Having said that, I would probably act against my own advise and give in to the urge to help. I might call the LCC and advocate for the aupair but I would be prepared for the LCC to give me a non-commital answer. There are some very decent and competant LCCs out there and she might note your issues for further reference. It might not succeed this time, but if another aupair with that family has similiar issues, the family might have to explain themselves. I know the economy is awful but I am often really shocked that these agencies take back families with a poor history over and over. In my locale, there is a family who has been with several agencies over the years and had a series of LCCs
with one agency. I think they count on rapid turnover among the agency administrators. So, call the LCC if you feel it is the right thing to do. But don’t count on a satisfying answer in the short term. Count on karma

A September 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

My first piece of advice- ask the au pair. Simply ask her if she would like your help or not. She might want another HF to advocate for her by going to the LCC, but at the same time, who knows what doing that could do to her (already toxic) relationship with HF. I wouldn’t want to step on anyone’s toes with such a touchy issue.

calif mom September 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

Good point! Ask the AP herself…

Of course, I also think the HF may be heading down a road that ends up with her hosting two APs….unofficially!

Momof4 September 24, 2010 at 8:42 pm

My advice would be to stay out of it. Even though you have good intentions, it really doesn’t involve you. I think if you got involved, the other family may resent you for that and tension may arise and make it worse for the au pair.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Our house seems to be the place that APs come when they are kicked out of their HF’s home. Is it because we’re pushovers? or that we also hire APs who are pushovers? Over the past nine years over a dozen APs from other HF have stayed with us for one or two weeks — and most have gone home. We do not try to get involved in most of the cases. Often, DH and I feel that the young women involved are rather sullen, inflexible, or outright liars (like the one we didn’t trust, but couldn’t say anything bad about her to our AP until her new digital camera and $80 in cash went missing. Sharing our own youthful stories of misplaced trust set the right tone with a grieving and angry AP).

And here is what we do. We are not alternative references for HF relationships gone wrong. If an AP chooses to give us as a contact rather than her own HF, then we are honest. 1) She’s not our AP. 2) We don’t really know her, just who she is at our dinner table – and whether she pitches in to help our AP or not. 3) We see ourselves as a way station to the trip home.

I have never ever called the HF that kicked them out (or from whom they walked out the door). It is not my role to repair damage that has been done, but rather to serve as a way station to the next step.

Don’t get involved, other than to be willing to offer to listen to the AP. Even if her sister worked for you, she’s got to make her own way in this country and win the trust and respect of her HF on her own terms. And quite frankly, as a HM, it would be easier for me to turn down payment from an AP who said, “I parked in that spot innocently, but the car was in my possession. Let me pay the deductible,” than it would be for an AP who whined, “But I didn’t do anything. It’s not my fault.”

Host Mommy Dearest September 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Yes, exactly.

momto2 September 27, 2010 at 6:59 am

I do not know the AP or the Host Family, but as someone who has been in a similar situation with a previous AP, I would discourage getting involved. Our first AP was a good kid, but we found her incessant partying to be a clash with our family’s lifestyle. She did her job well enough, and the kids loved her, but we found that with our own jobs, it was not working well to have to call off every now and again b/c the AP was hung over, or too tired to get out of bed, or didn’t get back from a weekend excursion in time for work. It only happened a handful of times, but that was enough for us to decide we were not going to offer an extension. We never bad mouthed our AP to other Host Families, and we just dealt with these issues at home. Unfortunately, our AP was counting on extending with us for a second year, b/c she had many friends in the area, courses she wanted to sign up for, and a pretty cushy schedule. When we did not offer to extend, her youth and immaturity caused her to become very childish and nasty. She was friends with the AP of one of our neighbors and the AP of one of our co-workers. The AP made many negative comments about our family to these other Host Families, and I guess we were confident that these people knew us better and would just take the rantings of a 22 year old with a grain of salt. This didn’t happen. We were surprised that these host parents felt sorry for our AP for being “thrown out” and they actually stopped speaking to us, and wouldn’t let their kids play with our children anymore. We never tried to defend ourselves, since it all seemed kinda high-schoolish, but we were horribly disappointed by the actions of these other adults. I guess what I am saying is, there are always two sides, no matter how close you are with another AP.

calif mom September 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

What a turn of affairs, momto2! How miserable to have au pair issues spill over into friends and worse still, the work place! (That’s why APIA will never see me referring a new family for $500! Too too risky!)

In way, this could be also seen as a cautionary tale to those of us who prefer to defer direct confrontations…here’s a case where it might have worked out better for everyone if the host parents had dealt with the performance issues as they popped up, and let the AP know that if she didn’t prove herself super reliable, her extension year would be in jeopardy. She might have improved. Of course, given her eventual display of maturity, she might not have, either, but talk about unintended consequences! We should indeed be able to count on other parents and alleged adults to seek information before judging.

But, as in all things, it might be a good thing to learn that the adults you had counted on being reasonable aren’t exactly 100 percent reliable, either!

How disappointing and painful for you. Stories like these make prospective host parents afraid to start, and the rest of us wary of continuing as the kids get older…

Taking a Computer Lunch September 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

I must say, that out of all the stray APs we’ve hosted in their transition days, there were only a couple with whom we sympathized. More often, all it took was a day at our table for us to see why they were ill-matched to be APs. However, a few of my APs have had to put up with bad-mouthing of their friends on the part of the AP who succeeded them (and obviously had heard all the dirt from the HF’s side). My APs quickly learned to say, “There’s two sides to every story,” and to cut negative gossip off. Too bad the adults hosting your AP’s friends didn’t learn the same.

My 2 cents September 27, 2010 at 9:53 am

Absent something criminal I would steer clear. You could give her advice if she asks for it, if she complains suggest she think about transitioning or leaving the program (if it’s that bad the answer is obvious), but otherwise leave it alone. In my experience, au pairs do not infrequently exaggerate and add a level of drama to their host parents’ “wrongs”. You never really know the whole story and, even if you did, people have very different ideas of what is toxic and what is not, and it’s really a MYOB situation in the end no matter how much you care and how much you want to change her environment.

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