Took the car for the weekend & lied: Should I report car stolen?

by cv harquail on January 23, 2010

The quick answer?

  • Only if you’re ready to rematch, and
  • Only if you are ready to have your au pair hate you.

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And you may well be ready for that, if this situation is what it’s boiled down to:

I actually just found this great blog because I believe my au pair has stolen our car to take a road trip with her friends this weekend.

When I heard she was planning to drive, I told her that another friend would have to drive as her car was for local use and I did not want to absorb the liability or wear and tear on my car.

She has not returned phone calls. I am tempted to report the car stolen.

We had another au pair several years ago whom we found out was taking the car to NYC regularly.

This is so frustrating, and I welcome advice!

This is quite the combo of au pair lying, au pair abusing the car, and au pair experiencing her privileges and entitlements– and this is before we know anything about what you host parents & family have been doing…

[Please note: There are always to sides of the story, We here on AuPairMom almost always give the host parent the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because this blog is for Host Parents! Otherwise, where are you gonna go to get some help?]

That said, let’s all give the host parent the benefit of the doubt and assume (until the parent tells us otherwise) that s/he’s been bending over backwards to accommodate this au pair.

Now, what advice do you have?

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{ 58 comments }

Mom23 January 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

I agree with CV. If you report the car stolen you will have to deal with an angry au pair who will likely go into rematch. Also, will you bail her out if she is arrested?

I think I would call your LCC and let her know what is going on. I think I would also tell your au pair (chances are she is getting the messages, but not returning calls) that if the car is not back in the driveway by Saturday at 5 p.m. then she will not be allowed to drive it on the weekend for the next four weeks (or whatever amount of time you feel is appropriate).

Use of the car is a privilage, not a right. She can take a bus or public transportation if she needs to.

Good luck.

Noelle January 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I think I’d take a slightly tougher stance on this. By all means, call LCC. But I’d tell AP that she needs to have the car home by Saturday 5pm or the car will be reported stolen and she’ll be in rematch (if the theft doesn’t cause her visa to be revoked, that is).

This HF/AP relationship is a tough one to navigate – part family, part employee. In this particular case, she has treated you as *neither*. She’s a princess, and if it were me, this would irreparably destroy any trust I had in her.

Good luck. This has to be tough, and I’m sorry you’re going through it.

franzi January 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

i want to make sure i get the facts right. the AP has the permission to take the car today but she is only allowed to use it locally.
you do not know where she or the car is because she does not answer her phone.
is that correct?

as suggested above i think you should text her/leave a voicemail saying that the car needs to be back in your driveway by XY. that is if she had permission to drive it. if she did not have your permission i would add the “i’ll report it stolen” because in this situation, you do not really know if she has your car or not since she doesn’t answer the phone. also, it’s your car, you expected it to be in the driveway, you need to use it etc.

do you have a number from friends she is with? maybe their host families can give you a cell number. maybe this way you can get a hold of your AP.

if the AP has the car w/o permission i would notify the LCC. if she has had a permission i would wait with that call until you know she’s been acting against your set rules.

in any case, be ready for rematch and most certainly for a grumpy AP. while i understand an APs want to travel i absolutely think it is not ok to bend rules like that. having access to a car in the free time is absolutely a privilege that needs to be earned and can be taken away. and that’s what i would do if it turns out she has been driving out of town.

Calif Mom January 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Good points above– you need confirmation that she has the car, because it is possible that the car actually was stolen by someone else and she just happens to be out with her friends (unlikely, but possible, and strange things happen).

But I would not threaten her with rematch in phone messages. Just focus those on getting the car home. You could also say you will report it stolen to police at a certain time, but don’t remind her that if she gets arrested it’s an immediate trip back home (on her dime!). You don’t want her to panic while she’s in NYC with a group of friends who may not help her make good decisions. God knows what they might cook up. Just stay focused on getting the car home.

Call the counselor TODAY and tell her that you want rematch NOW.
Be businesslike with your AP when she does show up again.

(Weekends are good days to interview rematch candidates in person.)

Seriously, you can’t trust this princess. You’re done.

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Thanks for the feedback. We did finally hear from our au pair, and yes, she did take the car on a long road trip to DC. She told me that she thought that by changing a factor (only 1 or 2 girls driving with her instead of 4) that she thought we would be okay with her taking the car. However, she never approached me to discuss, and I was very explicit when I spoke with her that the car was for driving our children, going to school, and limited local personal use.

The situation is particularly disappointing, because this au pair has been with us almost a year (she leaves in a week and a half… she was even considering extending but her family really wanted her to come back home). She also knows that our first au pair (whom we also appreciated very much and had extended with us) was great until the end, when she started seeing a guy in Brooklyn and started driving our car there without our permission (and the car was damaged (keyed) on one of these unapproved adventures).

We are very nice, flexible, supportive people, and this is so frustrating because we feel we are being taken advantage of and that she expressly defied us (although I am trying very hard to give her the benefit of the doubt that she misunderstood).

When I spoke with her on the phone, I explained that I was not comfortable with the wear and tear on the car, the potential for an accident (and our deductible is $1,000!) and the possibility of the car being stolen if it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know I am projecting the worse that could happen, but these are risks I am not willing to take, and I told her that it is not her car, it is ours, and it is a much-needed asset that we cannot afford to replace.

She has promised not to use the car in DC and that she will park it in paid parking. I told her that we would discuss further upon her return and am now trying to figure out what the right consequences should be. I feel that she should have to compensate us something and am considering holding her last check (~$190). Based on IRS mileage reimbursement rates, she would owe us $266 (less gas that she purchased, I suppose), but renting a car would have probably cost her $100 or so. I’m also considering not allowing her to use the car for personal use for the (brief) remainder of her stay.

She also used the cell phone we provide extensively last month and we have incurred significantly higher bills, although the way our family plan and the calls are priced it is very hard to tell what her share is (but she spoke more minutes than my husband and I combined on a phone that is supposed to be for me to stay in touch with her!). I discussed this with her a few weeks ago and she offered to pay, but I told her I would let it go but she should watch the use going forward.

I did speak to the agency counselor about this and she understood our frustration and if we chose to hold back her last pay. But she encouraged us to reflect and figure out what we would be comfortable with.

I don’t’ want to be overly harsh, and want this relationship to end on a good note somehow despite this recent infraction, but without me just letting her take advantage with no real consequence. Any thoughts on what kind of consequences you would impose would be very welcome.

franzi January 23, 2010 at 4:13 pm

that sounds like a topic recently discussed here, the AP slacking off in the last weeks.

i don’t buy her excuse of misunderstanding. considering that you only have 1.5 weeks left with her and want to end on good terms there aren’t many options you have left.
if there is a simple way you can make her understand what costs you incurred by her taking the car further than allowed then maybe that’s an option to make her reimburse you. but if it’s just an all assuming this and assuming that….i’m not sure if you will be able to proof your point and if she will be willing to understand/listen.

take this lesson and learn for your next AP. only allow her to use the car for work purpose and explain that the privilege has been abused by the former AP. therefore, you need to be more strict until you have the trust in her not to abuse the car use.

franzi January 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm

oh, and cut off the phone you provided her with. considering her minutes already increased it’s likely she’ll have a huge last bill!

CV January 24, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posting mom,
The most telling line is “she leaves in a week and a half”. She has just f*&%ed with you because she thinks she can, and b/c she thinks there are no repercussions for violating your rules at this point. Beyond getting totally pissed (which I would be, and would find hard to do) I think it’s within your rights to withhold her pay not only for the car but also for the phone bill.
And, her car privileges are over. She has demonstrated that she is not trustworthy with the car. Losing the car even for/esp for her last week is a very reasonable consequence of lying, stealing, and abusing a privilege.
Also, don’t kid yourself that this relationship can end on a good note… instead, consider what you’re learning, show your disapproval to her (and not to your kids), and be glad that your time with her is ending.

PA au pair mom January 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm

are you serious?

we are all adults. you are scolding CV for using expletives? give me a break.

I guess you’re right though. It is against the rules to withhold the stipend. It is not specifically against the regulations to “steal” the host family’s car. It is against the law though.

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

and all aupairs have an obligation to obey the laws of this country and the towns and state they live in. Ignorance is not a defense under the law

PA au pair mom January 24, 2010 at 11:37 pm

and, please, if you are going to scold and correct others, have the courage to use your “name” instead of anonymous.

PA Au Pair Mom January 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm

No, my name is not really PA Au Pair Mom, but everyone on this board knows that the comments I post are from me. It’s my on board identity. Anonymous isn’t any of those things. It’s what people use when they don’t want anyone to know who posted it.

Real name: Marcia Helfrick

what about you?

Allison January 27, 2010 at 1:26 am

Dear Anonymous,

That shouldn’t be happening to such a nice HF like you.
I’m sorry to hear that.
I agree with you that the HF-AP relationship should be maintained on a good note no matter what even when the AP is leaving in 1.5 week.

NoVA Host Mom January 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

Allison, good relationships are two way streets, so it needs as much effort on the part of the AP as it does the HF. In this case, only 1 side is giving. But otherwise I agree that it is best to keep a good relationship right to the end.

Ct AuPair January 23, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Sorry, but I really don’t believe was she said, I think she is just making a silly excuse to you. I am allow to use “my” car how I want, so far they never tell me I can’t, but I always said to my HM first and ask her, also I tell her our plans, where we are going and who is going, and I txt to her when we get there so she don’t need to worry about me/car.

But if where my Au Pair, and she just need 1.5 weeks more (I asume you already have your new AP coming or another child care) I will send her to spend that time with the LCC, so probably she will lost her ticket or the deposit. Even if is at the end of the year doesn’t mean she can take advantage of you, you know your AP and you know if she is smart enough to make an excuse like this or not.
I’m an Aupair and I know because of others when they want to do/go somewhere they are going to do it, no matter what and she already drive there without your permission, do you really believe she is not going to drive in DC? Even if you brake your relationship with her, why you should want a friendship with someone who stole your car?

Mom of 3 January 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm

This is ridiculous. You are being WAY too nice. In the future, don’t let the au pairs use your car for personal reasons, only to drive the kids, or maybe to get to school (public transport is a better way to go). Get a cell phone which limits use to emergencies and only pay $x/month, and make her pay the overage. Same for long distance. You are being used. Stop it!

former au pair January 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Mom of 3, not every town has a good public transportation system. When I was an au pair in Europe, I could take buses and trains, but in literally every place I’ve lived in the US, this hasn’t been an option.
Do what you want with this AP for the next 1.5 weeks, but if a new AP is coming soon, don’t blame the her for this girl’s mistake. Not allowing the new AP to use the car for any personal reasons, or to get to school is not fair (especially if you’ve told her in past interviews that she would be allowed to use the car for purposes other than childcare). I agree that you should be a little stricter with future AP’s so you don’t get taken advantage of, but please don’t become overly controlling because of this.

Mom of 3 January 23, 2010 at 3:59 pm

As for NOW, I’d have her return the car early, end her trip, and get zero privileges until her time is up with you. She owes you big time, for using you. Stop being nice!!

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

At this point, you have 2 choices – let it slide for sake of harmony in the last weeks or be punative. You’re absolutely right that she is just taking advantage of you because you have little recourse this late in the game. If it were me, (FWIW) I would tell her she needs to bring the car home this minute (yes, tonight) and if she refuses, then you’ll have to report the car stolen. I would then tell her that she cannot use the car for her personal use anymore at all. It’s pretty safe to assume that she has no more mandatory cluster meetings or classes in the next 2 weeks, and that’s all the transportation you’re obligated to provide. She needs to learn that behaviors have natural consequences.

I may be overeacting in some people’s eyes, but I find it particularly dissapointing given that she about to leave. She just feels like there’s nothing you can do about it.

Noelle January 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I think restricting personal use of the car (even down to no use) for the rest of her stay makes sense. What would you think about having her address some of the wear and tear issue with the car, as in having her get the oil changed, tires rotated, etc? Maybe wash and vacuum the car? A car is a real responsibility – putting gas back in doesn’t reflect what it actually costs to own and operate one.

Your frustration is certainly warranted and understandable, after just recently letting her increase to the cell phone bill go with a warning, then she goes and takes the car without permission. I wonder why she’d even do this now – doesn’t this type of visa have an extra month allowed where the AP can travel the US before flying home? Hopefully it is just a misunderstanding, as you suggested.

On the other hand, between this, the cell phone last month, and the fact that she’s leaving shortly, getting squared away on expenses (contribution to this month’s cell bill, maintenance of the car, etc) should happen very soon, KWIM?

Former au pair 2 January 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

About withholding her paycheck.. isn’t there a rule in the agency, that host family CANNOT withhold her money under any circumstances? I’ve heard this before, not sure if it’s just Au Pair in America or others too.

Darthastewart January 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm

It depends on the agency. Also, you can get around this by handing her cash, and having her hand it back to you to pay off the debt.
Also, given that the agencies are largely paid by the host families, in this case, the agency is going to give the HF the benefit of the doubt. They have the right to demand repayment for the use of the car for the weekend, as well as any damages. So while, yes, for some agencies technically they can’t withold the paycheck, I would be surprised if the agency actually enforced it in this case.

NoVA Host Mom January 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Actually, we are with APIA and our LCC specifically told us to hold onto the pay for the last 2 weeks, and give it to our (outgoing, fired) AP at the end, with an accounting of all money due (she had not earned over half of her education pay but we had already paid for it). She actually seems more than a tad similar to this AP in question, to include choosing to turn off her (surgically attached to her ear) cell phone when she had missed the start of her work hours by more than 2 hours.

Mom23 January 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

I think this really does vary by agency. I have been with two agencies. One said no with holding the stipend for any reason. My current agency has directed us to with hold the last stipend for two weeks after the au pair leaves (this came from the central office, not the LCC).

NoVA Host Mom January 23, 2010 at 11:36 pm

First, remove all privileges of auto use. ALL OF THEM.

The offense is called “Unauthorized Use.” It covers someone who had prior permission or limited permission for use of a vehicle, but clearly violated the grounds/rules and used the car for a use that was not previously granted. It is a felony and it is serious.

Who cares if she only has 10 days? She is still your AP and still took your property without your permission. And frankly, if she had any doubt whether the rules changed or not with fewer guests in the car, your (presumably) frequent calls inquiring as to her whereabouts and that of your personal property was a huge clue. After the first violation of UUV (Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle) to Brooklyn, the car should have been yanked for all but work-specific needs.

Write the receipt for this week’s work for the full stipend, then deduct for phone overages and vehicle overages, and show the amount remaining. That is what she gets, along with a copy of the receipt. Oh, and pull the phone now. It will take a bit for everything to show up on the phone bill. Maybe for the next one, don’t use the family plan but put the AP on a separate phone. It keeps the accounting much easier to manage.

NoVA Host Mom January 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I forgot, yes, the LCC needs to know IMMEDIATELY. And this AP just ended her last 10 days about 10 days early. She would be sitting on the front stoop with her bags waiting for the LCC to pick her up. End her employment now. She has not completed her contract and committed a felony. She can buy her own ticket home.

Jeana January 24, 2010 at 8:25 am

If the aupair had more time left with the family, I’d be going into rematch. The aupair has shown extremely poor judgement. If she could handle this situation so poorly, I would fear how she could problem solve in an unexpected situation with my children. You can’t change immaturity or poor judgement–deal breaker for me.

Since she has such a brief period of time left, I would not allow her to drive, except for work. I would also likely collect the cell phone. I would also notify our LCC.

Bebe January 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

This AP is walking all over you and it is no coincidence that this is happening now with 1.5 weeks to go. She is totally s…….with you and yes, you are being way too nice. Not only is she complely ruining the impression from the last year, your good will and memories but also, she obviously does not give a damn about the next AP coming and how this will affect their privileges.

I agree that ALL privileges should be revoked with immediate effect; you should request her to come home NOW and I also agree that pay should be withheld. It must be unbelievably disappointing for you and you must be walking around with a big knot in your stomach. I feel for you, but don’t let her walk all over you ! Good luck

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm

In my state , you can report a car ” taken without permission ” which is much less serious than stealing it. The police will look for the car and pull it over. I agree with CV. She is taking advantage because she thinks she can but you do not have to allow this.

NoVA Host Mom January 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm

That is “Unauthorized Use”, however officers don’t just “pull it over”. It is still (in most states) a felony and that traffic stop is treated as such. There are consequences to actions, and this AP needs to know that. And while it is “less serious”, it is not really that much less serious. Still a crime, still a felony (especially given I have yet to find a car that is blue book value less than $200).

Darthastewart January 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I think I would remove all car and cell phone for the next 1.5 weeks. If she’s that unhappy about it, she can go stay with the AD/LCC for the remaining time.

Really very few host families allow their cars to be taken on road trips- and for a reason! I’ve heard plenty of stories to give me good reason why!

PA au pair mom January 24, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Because she only has a week and a half left, she may have decided that she had nothing to lose by disregarding a “direct order” from you regarding the car. I don’t buy her excuse about less people in the car.

Call the LCC and tell her to pick her up pronto. There is no possible way that you can have a good relationship after this event.

When did she end up returning home with your car?

Anonymous January 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

As far as withholding the pocket money or whatever it is officially called, if you cannot do that, most likely your contract with your agency says that she is responsible for any damages to your personal property, etc, caused by her. The agency can reimburse you from the deposit she
posted in her own country. I had this done once in the case of an exhorbitant phone bill. The agency wasn’t required to help me collect it but they were very helpful in the matter. The aupair wrote a letter saying that she owed me money and they deducted it from her deposit. It is worth asking about this.

AnotherCAMom January 25, 2010 at 1:00 am

I would love to hear more about this – the APs have to put down a deposit with their agency? Do they get it back after fulfilling their year or something?

I’d also love to hear what others know about the bonuses, etc. paid to by the AP agencies.

PA Au Pair Mom January 25, 2010 at 9:14 am

Our AP told us that the deposit is around 2700 dollars. If they successfully completed the program, including the educational component, they can get the money back. If not, they lose the deposit.

ex-AP January 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

2700 dollars?! For me (and everyone I know) it was 200-500$, and I think with some agencies you don’t even have to pay a deposit at all.
I got my deposit back a few weeks before I finished my year and after I finished my college classes.

PA Au Pair Mom January 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

Our last AP said hers was $2200 as well. Not sure why the difference.

Mom23 January 25, 2010 at 10:30 am

My understanding is that it varies by country and agency. My au pair from China told me it was several thousand dollars. Au pairs from Europe and South Africa have said that it is about $500. I don’t know why there is a difference.

franzi January 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

yes, depending on the country, the deposit varies. it coincides with the difficulties to get a visa.
the more likely the girl is to overstay or stay illegally indefinitely, the more the deposit is (speaking by country; of course this is a totally unfair assessment by the dept of state because a german is just as likely to stay illegally as a brazilian if that’s what their plan is)

Chev January 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm

The deposit with my company for aussie girls is $400, but we get it back in the form of a return flight home, which generally costs a fair bit more than $400 AUD

Ann from NE January 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Re: AP deposits/bonuses. Our first AP, from Eastern Europe, had to pay an approximately $900 or $950 application fee to apply to the program, only half of which she got back from the agency at the end of the year for successful completion. That’s a huge amount of money for where she comes from, I presume requiring her family to take huge loans. We voluntarily repaid her the other portion (that the agency was not going to reimburse) to “ease the pain.” for her.

Dorsi January 28, 2010 at 12:01 am

@ Chav You know, most of the families are under the impression that our agency fees pay for transportation to and from the host country.

@ Franzi It is nice to think that we are all the same, but immigration policy does not treat us all the same. If someone wants to illegally live in the US it matters a lot where you are from. Someone from Western Europe can come to America (and live here forever, illegally) just for the price of a plane ticket. This is not true for many other countries.

Host mom in NJ January 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

You are kidding, right? It is just ridiculous to report your au pair because she took your car for a weekend trip. Do you have any idea how messy it can get and she can even be sent back home. It is just stupid and careless. Let her know that YOU KNOW what is going on and that she is taking the car where she should not and that if she wants to stay with your family she will need to follow these rules. AND THAT IS IT.

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

For a one-time thing for an otherwise good AP, I might agree. However the OP already advised us that this AP had a history of taking the car where she was specifically told not to take it, and did not answer her HF-provided cell phone, and is now about a week from the end of her year with no rematch or extension. She is doing whatever she wants b/c she believes there to be no repercussions left for this HF. She would be incorrect.

And it is really up to the HM and HD to decided if they want to report it. For this history, I would. The charges can be dropped and she can lose her visa rights to the US for 6 years. Maybe the kind of time-out this AP needs.

HulaGal January 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I think that we should all step back and put this into perspective.

The au pair seems to have been on good terms with the host family but pushed the goodwill too far at the end of her stay. She chose to take a car outside of the approved area without her family’s permission. She did not damage the car, she didn’t steal the car with an intent to never return it, she isn’t out joy riding. She didn’t injure the children, or other members of the family.

Now – taking the car when she was told not to is a problem. She should have her car priviledges removed for the remainder of her stay at a minimum. If you want to be more punititive I think it would have been appropriate to ask her to return the car immediately. But reporting it stolen is just absurd. If this au pair was a reasonable au pair and there were no issues (other than a possibile overuse of the cell phone the month before) than why go to such extremes?

It seems that some of the host moms on this blog have a lot of bitterness towards APs in general. Why host APs if you have no joy in doing it? Why not consider reactions to incidents in a more reasonable way than in such an exteme and punitive way as what has been suggested already? Why dock her pay? Did she damage the car? Is that just punishment? The reason that some au pair agencies do not allow you to dock pay (mine included) is for this very reason. An unreasonable and overly punitive host parent might just decide to dock pay whenever they feel it is appropriate even though the punishment may not fit the crime. In addition, is it really worth all of the emotion, negative energy and headache that you will take on yourself to go to such extremes to punish her for her poor choice? She’s gone in 1 week. Draw a line under it and move on.

Calif Mom January 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I’m with you, Hula. I would suck it up and deal with her for her last week by gritting my teeth. I would make the best of it, for the kids and general “harmony”, but I would not allow car use any more. We’ve paid about $3,000 in the past few years due to car damage from APs driving on their own time, with a friend, in unfamiliar streets. We’re lucky no other drivers’ cars were involved–these were solo problems. Otherwise our family’s rates would be through the roof.

For my part, it is not to be punitive; it’s about risk reduction. This host is going to breathe easier when this AP is on the road. It’s sad, really, but the host didn’t ask for this. It’s that issue of detachment — and boy this conflicted AP, who doesn’t really want to go home, would much rather still hang with her new best friends forever, is detaching! Those last months are a tough time for host moms.

Jane January 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I think Hula Gal is right–there does seem to be some bitterness in reacting to au pair issues, and honestly I think it’s born out of being taken advantage of too much.

We trust au pairs with our most valuable possessions–our children, our cars, our homes. So when/if they constantly push the rules or blatantly ignore rules because they know it’s too late to suffer any consequences, it really leaves a negative feeling. Lately I’ve been bogged down with some negative feelings too–this happens whenever I feel like I’m constantly giving more than I receive without even a thank you. It’s hard to get the right balance.

Is reporting the car stolen too much? Yes, probably. But the host mom was pushed to feeling this way because of multiple incidents. I would revoke all personal car use for her remaining time, and if she’s miserable about it, I would end her time early and send her to the LCC. Just my opinion. I hope things get cheerier here soon!

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Wow, okay ya’ll. Obviously something about this hit a little too close to home for some. Let’s all take a couple of moments back. And a few characters on a screen is the least of what would be coming to my mind (and mouth) had this happened with our family (and if our first AP was allowed to drive our cars, I do not doubt for a second it would have).

No one is talking about “punative withholdings” or nonsense like that. And yes, she actually did take the car for a “joy ride” (use it against the specific instructions of the owner), just as if it had been the OP’s own child. Joy ride is a joy ride, and it is unauthorized use – intentional depriving of personal property for a period of time. Any financial charges would be for personal use of the vehicle, which HF is well permitted to charge.

Certainly this AP likes to push limits, and has amped this up in her final weeks much to the detriment of the HF and their relationship. The OP wanted to know her options, and if some things were actually permitted (like calling the police). Yes, they are, and they are up to each of us to decide how to handle things in our own homes. It’s great she can come here and get a wide range of options and suggestions from her fellow HMs and HDs. After all, that is why we come here, right?

By the end of this week, the entire situation will be mute. And with any luck, the OP will have established some new, updated guidelines to use with the next AP.

As for hostility towards APs? Well, you might wish to read postings on a single topic and lump a bunch of us into one batch of meanies. Or you can take it for what it is: strongly held feelings on a sincere and intentional violation of trust and caring. I adore our current AP, and would never put her in the same category as our first AP, a horrible experience that I am still learning from (and about) nearly a year later.

Do we treat our new one differently than we did the first? Absolutely. I was quite gun shy when we did the rematch and was waiting for the other shoe to drop for the first few months. Eventually I began to let myself trust and care sincerely for the new AP, who has become a dear friend and someone I hope my daughter always knows. “New” AP is now extending with us, and I still sing the praises of doing the AP experience. But I also have some lessons learned that I am happy to share with others, hoping others can learn from my mistakes.

Now, on to the next issue/question/concern/happy thought!

JJ January 27, 2010 at 1:18 am

NoVa Host Mom, for what it’s worth, I think you provide a very balanced perspective and really appreciate your posts.

NoVA Host Mom January 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

TY! And just what I needed as a pick-me-up on a day when random morning sickness hit (I am 8 months pregnant). Now I am smiling!

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I feel that using the Anonymous signature allows people to be honest about their feelings. Some people are nice and some people are very strong in their opinions whether or not they sign their actual name.
I appreciate all of the wisdom I gain on this blog. Sometimes it is good to know that people are angry because they have been pushed or misled.
Using one’s own name might cause hurt to other parties ( host dads, aupaies, LCCs, neighbors, etc ) I think it is the content that counts

Anonymous January 25, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Well without further delay, here is the rest of the story and some additional context. Our au pair has been wonderful, and a valued and cherished part of our family for this past year. She has been responsible, dependable, flexible, and a warm and loving caregiver to our children.

We thoroughly embrace the concept of the au pair program. We try to treat our au pairs as we would want our daughters to be treated if they were living in a foreign country with another family. I myself only exist because an au pair from Germany came to the U.S., had a relationship with a man from Norway, and was left for adoption to be raised by a wonderful family who could handle the responsibility. I try to treat my au pairs with the respect and concern I hope my birthmother was treated, and to give them the best of possible experiences.

We do give our au pairs the (limited to local) use of the car during their personal time because we live in an area that has no reasonable public transportation system. We want our au pairs to be able to get together with friends, and to do and see things in our community.

As you know, I brought some baggage into this situation. After our first au pair left (she had extended with us), we found out that she had been taking our car without authorization into NYC and lied to us about that (claimed it was only once, but we learned later it was many, many times).

Our second au pair was not a good fit personality-wise for us. She was very rigid with the kids … not a lot of fun. We tried to make it work because she was responsible, had good technical skills, etc. But she was a very poor communicator, and did not discuss things with us, and instead chose to air any problems on Facebook (e.g., our very young children made too much noise in the morning for her – she was a painfully light sleeper). Trust was completely destroyed, and we moved on.

When this situation about the car unfolded with our current au pair, I was unbelievably hurt and frustrated. We felt like we were again being taken advantage of, and we found it completely surprising that it would come to this at the very end of an otherwise quite successful experience. We were particularly annoyed when we could not reach her on the cell phone that we provide to her), and that she did not return our call for several hours. It was after waiting for her return call for quite a while that I searched for information about this situation on the internet and found this blog and posted to get advice.

I don’t’ like being taken advantage of. I feared being legally responsible for any accidents she could get into. If the vehicle was stolen, I did not know how we would be able to replace it. I was not wishing to get my au pair “in trouble”, but trying to find a way to insulate myself from the liability that could result from her actions.

I really appreciate reading the broad range of perspectives that I received from the comments posted on this blog, and some ideas for logical consequences to this type of infraction.

I did not demand her to return the car immediately. I told her to stay in DC, enjoy her weekend, and that we would talk about the consequences of her decision when she returned. I saw no value in humiliating her in front of her friends, destroying her chance to visit our nation’s capitol (she is returning home immediately and not using her travel month), or have her be any more stressed out about the situation to create additional risk of accident upon her return. She did promise not to drive the car in DC, and to leave the car in paid parking at the hotel.

She returned home at 9:15 on Sunday evening. We sat down with her to express our complete dismay at her decision. Her demeanor was calm, conciliatory, and confused. She recalled an early conversation after her arrival when I told her the car would be available to her unless we needed it. She interpreted this as “unlimited use” although I had told her it was local use. I honestly think her English skills upon arrival are part of the issue here, in addition to unsound judgment and not having the good sense to ask for clarification.

When I told her that someone else would have to drive to DC, I said that I didn’t want the liability of 5 people in a car to DC. She should have asked me with the number of people would have made any difference (it wouldn’t have, of course). She also knew that I was upset that a prior au pair had taken the car to NYC without permission. She said she thought that it was NYC that was the issue, and didn’t have the sound judgment to think our concerns would extend to our nation’s capitol after a 5-hour drive in a 10+ year old car that had not been serviced for a road trip.

Last night, we told her the range of things that we could have done. From reporting to the police, to rematching, etc. She understood and offered to leave earlier if that was what we wanted. We told her that was not what we wanted … we wanted to enjoy every last minute of her time with our family.

We would definitely withhold use of the car for personal reasons. We were considering a financial penalty to repay us for the wear and tear on our car (oil change, tire rotation, etc.). Options ranged from around $100 (what she would have paid for a car rental) to $250+ based on IRS’ mileage reimbursement rate.

Could she be lying or making up a silly excuse? Yes. But in honor of the otherwise great relationship we have had with her, we choose to believe her. This morning, I told her that her use of the car would still be restricted, and that we would welcome any contribution she and her friends would like to make towards the wear and tear on the car, but this would be voluntary and we would not withhold salary. We hope to have a long relationship with her as she has been a valued part of our family and our children’s lives.

The situation has ended with hugs and tears and a lot of lessons learned. The lesson that I have learned is that car rules and other family guidelines will now be part of a family handbook that we will share with future au pairs. This way, it will all be in writing to ensure comprehension and that we are all on the same page.

Thank you all for your input! I appreciate knowing about this wonderful resource. It was very helpful in a time of great pressure.

PA au pair mom January 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm

what a great ending to a particularly difficult situation!!!

NoVA Host Mom January 25, 2010 at 11:49 pm

I am really glad that things worked out in a way that you and your husband were comfortable. I am also really happy that we were able to give you all sorts of different ideas both for this and for future experiences. Stay with this blog. Everyone has put in so much towards the Family Handbook (which I wrote for our family thanks to the AP Mom blog), that maybe it will help for future APs. Good luck!

Busy Mom January 26, 2010 at 12:52 am

I’m glad that it ended well…and I hope that your au pair will do the responsible thing and that she and her friends will contribute toward the car costs. I think I have a page and a half on car usage in my handbook :-) That section as grown by a bullet point or two with each nanny/au pair transition. Fortunately, none have abused the privilege of having a car provided to them, but there are always little things that happen or questions that come up that it’s useful to codify. (e.g., what do you do if you hit a deer)

Your comment about misunderstandings about a handbook that was reviewed early in an au pair’s tenure struck a chord as well. From a post near the end of last year (can’t remember which one), I got the idea of doing a handbook refresher. In one of my periodic mtgs with my au pair (after about 3 months), we reviewed the handbook and went back over some points that I’d noticed were not being followed in the spirit of this refresher. We have a wonderfully responsible au pair so I think it was a case of “too much information” condensed into the first week, rather than a deliberate breaking of the rules. Yet another thing that I’ve learned from this blog (thanks CV!).

CV January 26, 2010 at 7:36 am

OP-

Thank you SO MUCH for giving us “the rest of the story”– so often we talk about the problem but don’t get a chance to reflect together on how the solution(s) played out, so this is much appreciated.

From a really big picture perspective, the whole personal use of the car issue is the #1 source of confusion, frustration, privilege and advantage-taking for host parents and au pairs. It’s almost crazy how often a car is involved in a host parent-au pair relationship issue…. which says something interesting about american culture, american neighborhoods, and universal issues of maturing. Onwards… we’ll figure this all out eventually! cvh

franzi January 26, 2010 at 3:55 pm

thanks for giving us the rest of the story! i think you are a very generous and understanding host. personally, i don’t think i would have had the calmness in me to handle the situation the way you did. i know several APs who were “dumped” on the street by their host family from one second to the next and seeing that this was a possibility in this situation, i really appreciate your approach to the situation.

anon January 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Our first au pair took the car for an overnight stay at a friends house close to our home, we do not allow overnight use of the car normally and this was an exception we made after she promised the car would be parked at a friends house all night.
She brought the car back the next morning with roughly 250 miles driven on it, a completely scratched right side (looks like she drove it alongside a wall) costing about $3-4K to repair, and on top of it lied about how/what happened.
Our second Aupair took the car for personal use and was “just looking for something on the floor”, caused a fender bender, we were sued by the other driver and had to appear in court several times etc. …having to take vacation days I might add on top of everything else.
My point here is….worst case scenarios are not so unlikely…if it were me, she would have had to come back immediately, within 5-6 hours, or I would have gone to DC to get the car…she could have then figured out how to get back, pick up her things and stay with the LLC. I know it sounds harsh, but once you have to pay for repairs of this magnitude, appear in court etc. you might think otherwise.

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