Things Your LCC Wish Host Families Knew (guest post)

by Julie Dye on June 23, 2015

Many thanks to Julie Dye, an LCC with Cultural Care, for putting together this comprehensive overview from the Counselor’s point of view. We’re all in this together. When we understand the perspectives of folks who hold different roles in the AuPairing Community, we’re more able to learn from them and appreciate their wisdom. ~ cvh

As a host family with an au pair, there are a lot of things you need to know—State Department regulations, your agency’s rules, and how to help your au pair get everything from a driver’s license to affordable class options, to a winter coat or even that special cheese for her mom’s recipes. There are many other things that we, as LCCs, wish you knew (but we can’t always tell you) that will make your experience in the au pair program better.J.Dye

I’m going to share some of those LCC secrets with you.

FULL DISCLOSURE: We’ve had 8 au pairs in my family, of which 5 were transition au pairs who were with other families before us. They’ve stayed from 2 months to 1 ½ years—my husband calls us the “home for wayward au pairs”. I’ve worked with Cultural Care Au Pair as an LCC for nearly 5 years. I am VERY passionate about my job and therefore my perspective is one of working with and hosting through this organization only, though I’ve supported families who found au pairs through (and then switched from) several other agencies.

We wish you knew this:

1) When in matching, tell the whole truth (and nothing but the truth):

Absolute honesty would make my job so much easier. When interviewing my own au pairs, I tell them something like, “Here’s the good about our family—we eat dinner together, we live in a cool city, we will treat and feed you well we will never ask you to do something you shouldn’t be doing. Here’s the reality—I’m not your mom. I’m not going to ask how you are all the time. You are an adult in this home and we expect you to act like one. When you have a bad day, tell us and we’ll help. But if you don’t tell me, it’s your own fault that we can’t fix it.”

Brutal honesty contributes to a successful year. If you’re nervous about your car and aren’t sure how much they’ll be able to use it, say it. If you like your home a certain way, write it. If you have children with special needs or you are experiencing extraordinary circumstances like sickness or separation, include that information in both your application and during your interview. Believe it or not, it is not rare for an au pair to arrive to a family to find children with very specific needs that were never discussed or a family facing a divorce or illness that they knew nothing about. This isn’t fair to an au pair, and is unlikely to work out for your family in the end.

You might find a candidate who will say yes prior to arrival, but they are far more likely to leave shortly thereafter—and you may have missed a really fantastic candidate who would have selected your family for who you are. I have au pairs that are drawn to children with autism or Down syndrome, who love unique families or who thrive in challenging situations. Your honesty helps us find you the right candidate.

2) We wish you asked harder questions and used all resources during the matching process:

Every au pair has rehearsed her perfect answer to certain questions 100 times: “Why do you want to be an au pair?” “What do you like about children?” “What do you do in your free time?” You’ve got to dig to get to know your au pair. You must ask really unique questions to truly understand the limitations of her English, how often she’ll go out and what she’ll do when she does, if she’s messy or if she will feel anxious in a cluttered home, and if she’s the type to step up with a willing and positive attitude.

Cultural Care Au Pair has a great blog post about unique questions that I encourage all host families to use.  If you ask an au pair what is her favorite room in her home and why, that’s going to give you more context to feel a connection and make a decision—plus, it shows some of their limitations of language, creativity and humor. We also encourage you to discuss anything you see in an application appears worrisome—never been away from home, not enough driving, excessive focus on education or travel, a difficult situation they have endured, limited day-to-day experience with children.    

If you are uncomfortable being really direct, I tell families to say “This is the kind of au pair who will be successful in our home… [and provide several examples]. If you aren’t these things, that’s okay, but please don’t tell us you are when you’re not or we will not survive a year.”

When matched with an in-country au pair (extension or transition), talk with everyone who can give you meaningful feedback about the candidate. (Some agencies do not provide contact information for the current host family and LCC though they should and you should demand to speak with them—how can you know you are getting a thorough answer as to why the au pair is available?) Call the au pair’s LCC and get the story; ask all the questions. The LCC is the most unbiased party, so they are usually pretty good at telling both sides of the story. I would consider calling the host family, though in my experience as a host mom of five transition au pairs, I do not usually get any feedback worth a grain of salt.

3) We can’t pick your au pair for you.

No really, please don’t ask us. I’ve gotten pretty good at finding au pairs to present, particularly for some of my repeat families who I get to know really well. But here’s the thing: I’m not you. No one but you knows how your household runs and the priorities, beliefs and routines of your family. While it always feels like a leap of faith in selecting your au pair, it’s also a decision based on gut instinct, one that I can’t make for you.

4) We REALLY don’t want to stalk you each month, but we will if you don’t answer our calls.

I understand this is going to highlight an agency difference because some organizations require LCCs to call each month and some do not. To do my job, I need to hear from you every month. It’s not enough for me to send an email or leave a voicemail. I am required to make actual contact to find out how it’s going and confirm the au pair has been paid and did not work more than 45 hours a week.

Not only does my agency require this contact, but it’s during these monthly conversations that I really learn what is important to a family, that I connect with them and find ways to provide better support and service.

I’m like the Angie’s List of my au pair community and am a resource to my families. I know you’re busy. But if you don’t speak with me, I’ll show up on your doorstep. (In 5 years, that’s never happened, but I won’t negate the possibility.)

5) It’s difficult for us to have an au pair meeting without someone complaining.

LCCs spend time, thought and their own money to put together interesting meetings each and every month. I love my au pairs and we often have very fun meetings and most attend happily, but there’s always someone who is unhappy. If we ask au pairs to spend any amount of money, several will be upset, but others will complain if we are limited to activities that are free or cheap.

Our group engages in activities like campfires with s’mores, bowling, scavenger hunts, cooking, coffees, painting, Halloween parties, dinners out, dinners in, movies out, movies in, tours, bucket list creation, meetings with police, meetings with firefighters and Zumba. We can’t make everyone happy—though I do hope that at least every LCC tries. We do consider your feedback and try to respond to it, particularly if it’s constructive, which leads me to my next point:

6) If you are asked for feedback, provide it!

Again, this may highlight an agency difference, but we really want feedback. One of my favorite things about my agency is how responsive we are to feedback—both from au pairs and families, but also our LCCs. If you are sent a survey, please take the time (often only a few minutes) to respond.

A Cultural Care LCC’s pay is directly related to how families and au pairs rate us in the online surveys. If everyone is really happy with our service, we can be paid more. If rated low, our pay can go down. Not only does your feedback affect our earnings, but it translates into positive changes, big and small, including updates to our matching process, payment options, online features, training school and more.

7) The State Department regulations are there for our own good.

When families switch from a competitor agency to my group, I always say the same thing: “If you want to work your au pair more than 45 hours a week or break the program rules, Cultural Care Au Pair is not the right agency and I am not the right LCC for you.”

I truly wish every host family, au pair and LCC across the country understood that the rules are there for a reason and that is to create a situation whereby this CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM is successful.

Asking your au pair to replace the housecleaner because she wants to earn more money, promising an iPhone in exchange for extra weekend hours or refusing to give your au pair a full weekend off per month rule are all ways families jeopardize the au pair program (truly) and cause a sense of imbalance, tension and burn out. I have a mom from another agency currently matching with my organization and her au pair arrived with some ideas for ways she could make more money. They liked her and wanted to help, so they “hired” her for odd jobs they needed filled. But now, everything has become what she can do for pay and the family feels very taken advantage of. The focus is now on money, hours, tasks—pretty disappointing for a program created to strengthen human relationships.

 If you need a good housekeeper or back-up babysitter, find someone else to do those extra jobs.

8) Don’t believe the gossip.

Au pairs are of the prime age range to gossip—and boy, do they! Other families are most often not as bad as the gossip you hear. A few years ago, an au pair in my group, who wanted to have the best year of her life—and that meant all the time—decided to leave and return home while her family was out at dinner. She simply left. The following week, I heard so much gossip: that they had been keeping the au pair hostage, she wasn’t allowed to leave the house and she had to run away (all untrue). I have heard it all. It’s like gossip you hear around the office—take it with a grain of salt.

9) But tell us the important gossip.

If your au pair does share information with you about a family or an au pair that concerns you, please let us know.

Good LCCs are skilled at addressing difficult topics with families and au pairs. If you think it sounds odd, outside the boundaries of the program or even dangerous, we really want to know.

10) Every new family always asks us about crazy au pairs.

More often, the really weird things we see involve host families. Enough said.

11) Cultural differences do exist.

One of my host moms called me within the first week her au pair arrived because she told her au pair her daughter shouldn’t wear a pair of princess shoes to school. The very next day, the au pair let her.

I spoke with the au pair and who said “My host mom told me she shouldn’t wear the shoes. She didn’t say she couldn’t.”

These differences are not just found in language, but in fundamental societal norms. Even safety, which often seems black and white, is greatly affected by cultural differences. Europeans leave babies in strollers outside a restaurant or store while they shop or have coffee with friends. Can you imagine anyone doing that here? We have different food, we work all the time. We talk—a lot—and expect others to engage in a similar fashion.

12) Yes, we did give your au pair the information.

Your au pair receives an overwhelming amount of information from the time she applies until she arrives to your home in the U.S. Although she may say she never heard anything about paying taxes, buying extended health insurance, packing her international driver’s license, for example, these boring bits of information probably went right over her head.

In the past year, I worked with our office in Switzerland who overseas global recruiting through each of our offices worldwide. I was able to read and review each piece of information an au pair receives from the time they first request information to the time they arrive to our Au (Cultural Care) Pair Training School at St John’s University campus. There is so much information to digest that is often hard for the au pair to absorb everything.

We are constantly working on new ways to distribute this information in more effective ways and update our training process regularly.

13) LCCs can’t often fix the problem at 7pm on a Sunday night when the office is closed.

 If you ever experience an issue effecting the health or well-being of your au pair or child, by all means, call me and/or the emergency number to get immediate assistance. Otherwise, I ask my families and au pairs to recognize that we are not on call 24/7 and that sometimes a situation requires patience.

We have an amazing network and I’ve contacted colleagues at 11 pm on a Friday night when we’ve heard an au pair is in trouble—they’ve scrambled to help. I know an LCC who left her own family on Christmas Eve to pick up an au pair who was dropped off at a McDonalds by a family who decided to transition in a very unique way.

I’ve brought food to host families experiencing loss, supported families and au pairs during illness or injury, and jumped in the car to be present for au pairs when they need me. But there are limitations and we hope that you will respect that we really are trying to do the best we can.

14) Being an LCC is not for the faint of heart (and the good LCCs truly love our jobs).


About Julie: Julie is a local childcare consultant (LCC) and host mom in Colorado. As a former exchange student and active traveler, she is passionate about the cultural exchange experience and has loved opening her home and life to 8 au pairs! Julie has worked alongside families across the country and with au pairs from 25 countries. Julie is always available as a resource to help families working with any agency and can be reached through

That’s a photo of Julie hiking with her current AP and their mutual pal, Piney.


Multitasking Host Mom June 23, 2015 at 11:51 am

Julie. What a great post. Thanks! It is nice to hear from a different perspective.

WestMom June 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Thanks Julie, this is very helpful! I know you can’t pick our next AP but I really wish you could!

Julie June 23, 2015 at 11:18 pm

WestMom–I’m totally available to help. Just email me and we’ll connect!

Didi June 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm

This is really good post! I love it. Au Pairs often forget that this is two way street and as much as we have to learn to be the best we can be for HF, it’s nice to see that LCC’s and Host Families are making the same effort.

Julie, you sound like amazing LCC. I heard stories (and witnessed it in my area) about LCC’s that do only their bare minimum accepting way more au pair families than what they can handle and not putting any effort into making sure things are going smoothly. I often wish there was a way to make sure all participants in this program are here for the right reasons.

Julie June 23, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Every agency is different, but I will say that LCCs who do the bare minimum don’t last very long with us. There’s too much feedback gathered to allow that. I will also add that it’s to our benefit to be very involved because if a situation doesn’t go smoothly, we’re the ones on damage control. I always tell families that I want them to find the right au pair not just for them, but for me too! It makes my life easier so all that help up front really pays off.

MGHostMom June 27, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Not lasting long doesn’t necessarily help matters. We have been with CC for just under a year and are on our 4th LCC. Sigh.

Trish McAleer June 23, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Thank you Julie! Sage advice from a lady who has been both Host Mom and LCC.

TexasHM June 23, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Julie – been dying for this post for months, so thrilled to finally see it up! Loved this. Great points (not surprising) and CCAP is VERY lucky to have you. Now if I could just get you to move…. ;) Thanks for sharing!

Julie June 23, 2015 at 10:27 pm

You are too funny. Not going to Texas (isn’t it hot there?!?) but I’m always “here” if you need me. :)

AlwaysHopeful HM June 23, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Thanks so much for your post, Julie! The point about asking creative questions is so important. I know what info I’m trying to elicit, but asking the questions in a manner that will actually yield those answers is critical and so hard!

I also liked your point about the monthly contact. During my recent rematch, I was struck by the number of LCCs who knew very little about their HFs (and sometimes about the au pairs as well). But how could they if the HFs don’t communicate with them. With the lack of info some had, the LCC reference– which could be a gold mine– was sometimes useless. But, when the LCCs knew the families pretty well, the feedback I got on the rematch situation was absolutely priceless.

Mom2Jack June 23, 2015 at 9:01 pm

I’d like to add that my LCC’s monthly check in email feels more like she’s checking the box that she has complied with the rules than being interested in what is going on. I think some number of “live” contacts would be helpful. As mentioned above, I think it would be helpful in rematch situations and I believe it could help in keeping small annoyances from becoming problems. While I have worked hard to foster a good working relationship with my LCC of 2.5 years, some new families could use more help and not all families are lucky enough to have a good LCC for an extended period of time. In our first 6 months with CC we would have had 4 LCCs if I hadn’t put my foot down.

WarmStateMomma June 23, 2015 at 9:33 pm

3 months in and we are on LCC #3! The first struck me as a box checker, the second planned the best meetings and HF events, and the new one told the APs that she isn’t planning real meetings (just the Starbucks visits). My AP is disappointed but may join other clusters for their events.

Julie June 23, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Having a lot of turnover is really frustrating for sure–sometimes it’s due to the area growing so much and we want to keep LCC groups smaller. Sometimes it’s that LCCs can’t do the job to a high standard. The good news is one–if you’ve had that much turnover, they are certainly watching your area and looking at your feedback and ratings. As I said above, LCCs who aren’t very good or who can’t deal with the drama do not last very long and sometimes turnover can mean they are really trying to get someone amazing in your area and will take out those who aren’t as solid.

Mom2Jack–if you are with CC, your LCC should absolutely be calling every month and reaching out in email only if she can’t get you. I can tell you that FOR SURE, they are noting that all compliance is via email. I receive a lot of contact from my compliance person and they are aware of what kind of contact is made as well. Please always feel free to write me about your experience and I will pass it on. I guarantee you it will be heard. julie.dye at You also wouldn’t believe how many host families get matched with a transition or extension au pair and never call the LCC or host parents to learn more!

WarmStateMomma–great to hear you had a good LCC and very disappointed to hear what your current LCC said. You might want to call the LCC and ask her if that’s true. There could be a misunderstanding (that does happen for sure!)–or, she could tell you that she does plan only Starbucks meetings and then you can voice how that is not ideal. You are also welcome to contact me about your thoughts. I want everyone to have a great experience!

WarmStateMomma June 24, 2015 at 10:17 am

The good LCC is still here, but she lives far from us. I suspect we were shifted to her cluster just before the AP arrived because the newbie LCC wasn’t working out. Then a new LCC (a former AP who married an American) moved to the area and we were reassigned to her cluster.

I can understand that the kind of events our good LCC planned cost money that APs might not want to spend, but my AP loved the events and got to experience things we would not have been able to organize for her with our little ones. Some other LCC even invited our AP to join a horseback riding event because it wasn’t too far from our house. (AP had a great time!) So far, our AP is still planning on attending the out-of-town events the good LCC planned so it might work out. Our AP paid $3k to the agency and I think she deserves to have an LCC who helps the APs experience new things together.

Anonymous in CA June 23, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Great post! Thank you so much. Naturally I’m now gripped with fear that I haven’t asked enough or told enough for AP who arrives in 6 weeks. (zoiks!).

I also love the creative questions, especially the last one…”Our child is hungry but there is only swiss chard, a can of sardines and marshmallows in the house, what do you make?” (from CCAP blog)

Such good and sage advice. Thank you again!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 23, 2015 at 10:08 pm

Yikes– what DO you make? Lol

Julie June 23, 2015 at 11:17 pm

I think it’s different for each agency. Some agencies pay their directors/coordinators a regular salary and they don’t have the same sort of performance structure where you really need to be good. If you give me an average or neutral rating, you might think it’s just saying “yeah, she met my needs,” but that could make my pay go down because average/neutral isn’t good enough. We don’t want average LCCs. One of my amazing colleagues who plans some of the most epic au pair meetings ever (think well-organized weekend trips) was with another agency for 12 years before coming to a couple years ago. I think she’s quite happy because she’s really recognized for being awesome. She even recently went on a trip with Cultural Care’s non-profit Kids First. She was able to volunteer with an amazing organization overseas that really saves children and I know it was a life-changing experience for her. She feels appreciated to have that kind of opportunity.

I think many people start as an LCC with us as a side job, though some move straight into an area with a bigger group and do okay. It quickly grew into a full-time job for me (and then some), but big or small, you have to really love it!

Julie June 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Anonymous in CA, I have to say that my response to chard, sardines and marshmallows would be “put your shoes on, we are going out!”

DCBurbTwinMomma June 24, 2015 at 5:34 am

This is great! I’ve been lucky to have the best LCC in the nation (CCAP’s Marji in the upper MoCo area of the DC suburbs) which keeps me with CCAP. I’m a lot less enamored with the Boston office however. I’m happy to know that my feedback can actually lead to her getting the compensation she deserves. She plans events (like tours of the embassies of the area au pairs, tours of the Capitol Building, pro-baseball games, national museums etc), calls me AND sends me e-mails that help whatever unique situation we’re experiencing. A good LCC can complete the circle of support for our kiddos. I can’t praise and admire Marji enough.

That said, why do the agencies seemingly accept some “gems” way out of their league. I’ve been told that I’d be switched to a person the same age as my then au pair who had been an au pair (who lacked objectivity or maturity and quickly burned out) to another with the charm of a robot (also now gone). I refused both times but my neighbors with au pairs went only to end up consulting with Marji when the other LCCs fizzled out. Now we refuse to entertain switching nonsense and have successfully thwarted any attempts to diminish our support system. So…how do we work to get better LCCs and/or (other than the annual review and prayers for the ill fitting ones to move on) make the current ones better? My house has also become a way station for au pairs with handsy host dads, refugees from bathroom cameras and anoxeric host parents trying to groom the au pair to join their disorder. These and other problems were documented and negotiated and in these cases the LCC was pretty blasé about what I considered to be quite bad. We had negotiations and mediations only to have the LCC say, “American dads flirt” (that’s bull—-) or “she can just ignore the host mom’s rants and buy her own food”. So what then?

FirstTimeHM June 24, 2015 at 6:25 am

Wow, in Europe the agencies are more the ‘take the money and disappear’ type. I would love to have a structure like this set up in our country.
We’ve got a great au pair who’s really happy to be with us. We’ve introduced her to quite a few people her age and she makes friends easily. Never had trouble with her, she just needed to get used to parents not as security conscience as she’s been brought up. She’s had a few near heart attacks with my kids climbing trees.
But if she would have been unhappy with us or if we would have been unhappy with her, there wouldn’t be anyone to help us. If she would have been lonely there wouldn’t have been anyone with meetings to help her to get out and make friends. Every now and then I’m jealous of your LCC’s.

MetroAreaHM June 24, 2015 at 10:52 am

Thank you for your advice. It is great to hear from an LCC. I am not with CC, but have considered switching more than a few times.

Since being in the program 5 1/2 years, I heard from my LCC a handful of times. When she does reach out to me, I find it to be not genuine and it turns me off perhaps it is always because she is asking for me to organize something not to check in with me. Plus, I do not think once she has ever asked for my feedback, but I will now put that on me to provide it whether solicited or not.

To my LCC’s credit, I’ve heard from the girls that when they place with us and the agency finds out where they will be living they are always told they have one of the best LCC counselors. I am sure it’s very reassuring to the girls, but when they get here they are annoyed. More because truly when they do have questions, it takes days for her to get back to them and unless I start to call and email they don’t get a response. Luckily for us – knocking on wood – we’ve had fairly low-key girls that don’t require a lot of hand holding and neither have we.

Also, thank you for providing the link to creative questions, I need to ask a few.

Julie June 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hey MetroAreaHM, I’m here if you want me to take a look at who is the LCC in your area and help you in any way I can. Just send an email! julie.dye at

MetroAreaHM June 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Thank you Julie. I am curious, so I will send you an email.

Kristy-Go Au Pair June 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

Thank you for writing such an honest and informative post. I love that you have shared all the things we think on an agency level. It is hard sometimes to get this type of information out there and to share it with Host Families. I am really impressed with this and couldn’t have said it better! I work for a different agency, but the information is relevant, I think, across the board. While agencies do “compete” for business, we are all in this program together and we all have the same mission in mind. Thank you for this post! I can’t wait to share it!

Julie June 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm

We are in this together, Kristy! Warm regards.

NNTexasHM June 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I am glad to read this post and happy to hear your perspective. I think a lot of it comes from being a conscientious agency. I am on my 2nd agency and so far between the 2 of them, have had 4 LCCs NONE of whom have had direct experience either as an Au Pair or as a Host Family and 3 of the 4 were brand new to the LCC role. More importantly, I haven’t felt that the LCC has had much support from Corporate – at times I’ve even seen them get thrown under the bus. I will definitely be considering this in the future. Thank you!

Julie June 25, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Hey NNTexasHM, I can do a little research to scope out our LCC there and let you know my thoughts. I do feel very supported and am so grateful for that.

Host Mom in the City June 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Thanks, Julie! We’re happy to have your input on here! I’ve been lucky to have had a really great LCC for four of our five au pair years. I never realized how important that is until we had our surprise rematch, when it became absolutely totally critical to have a great LCC. I can’t imagine what I would have done without her. For our one year that we switched to another agency, our LCC basically didn’t appear to do anything. Well, she did call every month to ask me if I was paying my au pair on time and only having her work 45 hours a week – totally a check the box thing. She planned a monthly Starbucks meeting and that was it, couldn’t give me any advice or guidance when I asked questions, and took a really long time to respond. That year was the #1 reason we switched back to our current agency and won’t consider moving as long as our LCC is with the agency. It makes all the difference in the world.

Please know that we really really appreciate all you do as an LCC (and for all those great LCCs out there reading!). I can only imagine how challenging your job is!

Julie June 29, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Host Mom in the City, support can make all the difference! So glad you have a great LCC!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 24, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Not to make this a rah rah CCAP thread, but I did want to add how much I am going through withdrawal after leaving CCAP for my current au pair. My LCC was fabulous there– incredibly supportive for both AP and HF, but not intrusive. She was armed with tons of information and was always thinking of ways to improve everyone’s experience. My current AD is very check-the -box, slow to respond, and has only limited information (but always friendly). She shows up late for AP meetings or cancels or changes at the last minute (like the time she scheduled the group for a Saturday night dinner in a small restaurant and neglected to make reservations until the last minute– needless to say, they ended up moving on to “plan B” that evening) In fact, when I was with this agency before, my AP sometimes sought info from his CCAP friends– he would get them to ask their LCC– because our AD either was unresponsive or uninformative.

I swore that I would never return to this agency unless the AP was truly exceptional. As it turns out, we did end up finding a fantastic AP there, so we’re back…I just feel sorry for my AP because he’s already feeling the lack of support. In a perfect world, the agencies would all share the pool of au pairs, and HFs and APs could then decide which agency to use.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 24, 2015 at 9:29 pm

I agree with Julie. Be as honest as you are able when representing yourself. Don’t sugarcoat your kids – it is better to find the au pair who is right for you then to deceive a young woman ill-prepared to care for children with special needs because you chose not to self-identify, I can say, as the parent of a teenager who cannot talk, cannot feed herself, and needs full care in bathing and dressing, as well. Some APs will tolerate children whose needs are beyond their abilities because they have formed tight bonds with local APs. Nevertheless, other families have experienced APs who have gone into rematch over an asthma inhaler – even when the child has never used it. Don’t set yourself up for having to wait 6 weeks for an out-of-country arrival because you didn’t self identify as having a child with special needs.

Over the years (and I have matched with 11 APs over the past 15 years), I have learned that I need to ask only 10% yes/no questions versus 90% that require linguistic elaboration. The yes/no questions tell me that the candidate has a basic understanding of English, but I really rely on the elaboration questions to see that the candidate not only understands my questions but has the ability to understand the language enough to elaborate.

Some of my favorite questions are: You have a crying infant and a pre-schooler who demands your attention – how are you going to handle the situation?

What was the last meal you cooked?

What is your safest driving habit?

Please describe what you did today (because I usually do evening interviews)

What are the three words your friends would use to describe you?

What are the three most important things your parents have taught you?

Surprise the candidates – get them out of their comfort zone – and you’ll get them to reveal their own personalities (even if you don’t recognize it until after they arrive).

Julie June 25, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Amazing questions! I’m going to share these!

AussieHM June 24, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Julie thanks so much for a great post, and very timely as i sit here writing out questions for the 2 Skype interviews I have this evening!

TACL – those questions are excellent and I’ll be borrowing them for sure

Thanks again – I’m the only HM I know, so to have all of your experience only a web browser away is very comforting xx

cv harquail June 25, 2015 at 6:46 am

Hi AussieHM– for the longest time I felt like I was the only host mom I knew– hence, the blog. I’m glad (and I’m sure the regular contributors are too) that it’s a help to you. cvh

NZ HM June 25, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Thanks Julie for the great post! Good LCC support, or equivalent here in NZ (agency contact person), is really important for the families but maybe more so for the APs. One of the reasons why I am reluctant to go without agency, although we also had the experience that a useless agency contact person can do more harm than good. And then you’re paying for a service that doesn’t really exist…

Thanks also to TACL for the questions: I am always looking for more and better questions to interview! I have come across a few over the years (found on here, on other websites and in the material provided by local agencies) and have put the ones that seem relevant to us together. Some we ask in our initial emails, some we keep for skype; they are in no particular order and we don’t pose all of them to each candidate but tailor a bit according to personality, situation (rematch, out of country) and where we might need more information. I also tried to add a reason in most cases why we ask the question/ what we are looking for. Hope they are useful to others too!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your life back home; your family. What do your parents do? What do your siblings do? Good question to start of skype interview, even if already asked per email or otherwise.
2. Take us through your day from morning until now. What did you do today? What did you have for breakfast? what type of food do they eat? are they active?
3. What would the perfect host family for you be like? do they have a clear idea? do they just talk about money?
4. Have you lived away from home before? If so, how long? How do you handle being so far from family and friends? How do you stay in touch? What’s the longest you’ve been away from your parents? Have you ever traveled without your parents or family? Where did you go? Screening for potential homesickness
5. What length placement are you looking for/ how much longer do you intend stay in New Zealand? Do you want to travel? do their expectations match with yours? are they just coming to travel?
6. Do you expect anyone to come visit you while you are in NZ? If so, who? When? finding out about plans
7. What do you want to accomplish during your time here? do they have a plan? is it just about travelling and meeting people? Do they mention kids? Want to learn English?
8. Where do you want to spend your vacation time? Have they done research about the area/ country?
9. What do you want to do after your time as aupair? Plans for afterwards?
10. Do you have a particular area in NZ you would want to live in? If so, where and why? Have they done research about the area/ country? Do they only want to go to a ‘prime’ location?
11. When did you decide to be an au pair and why? Kids! Family, culture, language, experience, grow…
12. As aupair, what does ‘being part of the family’ mean for you? how involved do they want to be? Join into activities or ‘taxi aupair’ (drive kids around but out of the house / in their room as soon as shift finishes)?
13. What do you know about NZ? Do you want to travel around NZ and if so, where? Why NZ? Are they prepared? What do they know?
14. What kind of role do you want to have with our daughter? A playmate? A teacher? A parent? How would you go about these roles? (personally, ‘big sister’ is a red flag for us because we don’t want another child in the house but an adult)
15. Our daughter can be quite shy and reserved with people she doesn’t know – what would you do to bond with her and make her like and accept you? experience with kids; personality
16. What would you do if our daughter is upset and crying? What do you do if you ask her to do something repeatedly and she doesn’t listen/ do as she is told? experience with kids; personality; attitude to discipline
17. What are your views on setting rules and boundaries for children? attitude to discipline
18. You are at the playground and our daughter falls of the swing. She is bleeding. What do you do? experience with kids; personality; stress response
19. How would you go about planning a day with our daughter and what kind of things would you do with her? do they have ideas?
20. Why should a host family pick you over anyone else? What can you teach our daughter that no other au pair can? Self promotion; personality; special skills
21. When did you last cook something? What are your favorite foods? Do you have any special diet or preferences? do they cook? what do they eat?
22. We live in a small village with few forms of entertainment. How do you plan to spend your time when you’re not working: (1) When you have a few hours spare, (2) when you have three days off? Are they pro-active? easily bored? doing things by themselves? will they just sit at home?
23. What values do you consider as being the most important in life? do these match with yours?
24. We have strong ethical and environmental values but are not religious and don’t teach our daughter about religion, God or Jesus and would expect you to do the same. How do you feel about this? do expectations match?
25. You made plans to meet your friends but suddenly they all cancel/ no one has time – how do you feel and what do you do? pro-active? doing things by themselves? will they just sit at home?
26. How often do you drink alcohol? do they drink?
27. Do you prefer: Tea or coffee?
28. Do you prefer: Beer or wine?
29. Are you messy or neat?
30. Do you know any other aupairs? What is their experience /advice regarding aupairing? Do they have realistic expectations of the job (and it is a job)?
31. Are you a morning or an evening person?
32. How do you feel about talking native language with our kids?
33. What do your parents/siblings/ boyfriend think about you being an au pair? do they have a boyfriend? Is anyone not supporting them?
34. When you go clubbing do you prefer to go with a large group or with a few close friends? Do you like going out socialising at night? What kinds of places do you like going, e.g., pub, club? do they go clubbing? Big party person?
35. How do you spend your usual day/ weekend at home? Do you get bored easily / how do you keep yourself busy? Can they keep themselves busy or do they need constant entertainment? what are their pastimes?
36. How much time do you currently spend with friends, family or by yourself? Can they keep themselves busy or do they need constant entertainment?
37. Did you vote in the last elections? views/ values
38. What’s your favourite food/ drink? what do they eat/ drink? expect to eat?
39. What’s your favourite program/ show on TV? do they watch TV (a lot)?
40. Are you religious/ go to church regularly? Do you intend to go to service while here?
41. It’s raining and our daughter wants to go outside to play in the puddles. What do you do? dealbreaker question for us: want to hear they will definitely take her out in appropriate clothing
42. What chores/ duties do you need to do at home? Which is you favourite? Least favourite? do they have to help out at home?
43. Tell us about the sort of things have you done with the kids you have looked after (fun, duties). How did you discipline the kids you’ve worked with? experience with kids
44. Do you like to plan your day or just see what happens? rigid planner or flexible?
45. What scares and excites you the most about being an au-pair in NZ? have they thought about potential problems?
46. Describe one thing that is going to make this a happy and successful time for you and what you think would make it a success for us. what are their expectations? what do they want to get out of it? do they consider others (the host family)? are they worried things with host family might not work out (red flag – self fulfilling prophecy)
47. How would you describe your friends/ parents and how would they describe you? mature response?
48. Have you ever gotten lost while driving? If so, what did you do? If not, what would you do? How often do you drive, what kind of car are you used to driving, and on what kind of roads? practical, pragmatic, stress-response?
49. How do you usually spend / celebrate Christmas at home does their experiences and personality match with yours?
50. It’s my birthday and we are having some friends over to celebrate; usually we ask people to bring “a plate” (with some food to share) and we are also preparing a few things. What would you do in a similar situation at home (and what do your parents expect of you)? How do you want to be involved/ what would you like to happen here? involvement in family life; what’s it like at their home?
51. Our son is upset, you’ve got something on the stove and the phone rings – how do you handle the situation? stress response
52. What are your expectations for being an aupair and staying with another family? How involved do you want to be in family life / activities? do these match with yours?
53. Where do you/ does your family shop for food and what type of produce do you usually buy (processed, fresh, prepacked, cans/ tins, frozen, etc.)? do these match with yours?
54. Have you ever been homesick? Have you felt homesick since you came to NZ? What did you do? What will you do? are they over homesickness/ culture shock? do they have a plan to deal with it?
55. What are the rules / routines of your house (with regard to when to be at home, letting someone know about staying out longer, bringing friends home (for the day/ overnight), having meals together, etc.)? match with yours?
56. How do you feel about spending a whole day with and looking after a small child? it can be boring…
57. What are the (5) most important things you brought / will bring with you? personality (party dress or hiking boots? passport or picture of family? tangible or intangible?)
58. Do you like cheese? likes/ dislikes
59. How did you celebrate your last birthday? find out more about them and their personality/ life?
60. What do you do when you are sad? big party or quiet night at home?
61. Do you wait for friends to call you, or do you often organize activities for the group? pro-active?
62. How do you handle conflict (with your parents)? and how will they handle conflict with you? mature and reflective?
63. Do you like pets?
64. Can you ride a bicycle?
65. When was the last time you were sick? What did you have? Are they often sick?
66. How do you make friends? pro-active, outgoing? do they have a plan?
67. Do you smoke? Do your parents/ friends smoke?
68. Have you had a job before? Tell us about your job & what you did. What where the challenges? been working before/ know what work is/ commitment?
69. what questions do they ask …

Julie June 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I already sent many of these questions to several of my families in matching. Thanks so much for these more involved questions!

NZ HM July 2, 2015 at 5:46 am

Glad I can help! It’s really good to know they are useful to others as well!

I noticed that the formatting got a bit messed up and all extra spaces between questions and notes disappeared… so generally the ones starting with capital letters are the questions and the questions starting with small letters are comments and notes to self…

Washingtomom July 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I am bookmarking this post. Thanks, Julie for such valuable POV.

Neither AP or I were impressed with our LCC, she checked the box each time and moved on. Never asked or encouraged AP to join the meetings and AP never felt compelled to attend any of them. AP ended up connecting with girls from a different agency and the LLC there was truly welcoming to her and I decided to try this new agency now, hoping that our new AP has a better support outside our home.

Julie July 30, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Washingtomom, I’m here if you want to talk. Not sure which agency you were with or who you’ve gone to, but I can check who your LCC would be with CCAP and give you the inside scoop if you’d like! Good luck with everything!

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