Tough Topic: When your au pair steals from you

by cv harquail on January 19, 2010

There are many topics that I have dreaded bringing up here, but I’m going to bring them up anyway with a little bit of warning… I’ll announce in the headline that it’s a “Tough Topic” and everyone will know to treat it gently.

One of the painful tough topics is when you discover your au pair has been stealing from you.

I don’t want our conversation to scare away any potential host parents or au pairs. I also don’t want to bring down the wrath of whoever, who will assume that because we’re talking about a few au pairs who have stolen things, we’ve forgotten all about the au pairs how have been trustworthy and more. And, let’s face it, this is just hard to talk about.

201001162014.jpgFor example, consider this story from years before I even had kids.

My college friend SA was telling me about problems with her au pair… SA told me that she’d discovered that her au pair had stowed several small, valuable items from around the house (a silver picture frame, a few pairs of my friend’s earrings, and a vase, among other items) in her suitcase as she was packing to leave. My friend found them as she was looking through her au pair’s luggage, and quietly just took them back out.

What was my friend doing looking through her departing au pair’s luggage? I never asked her; it was all too weird and very unlike SA. I imagined that SA had some kind of hunch that the au pair was stealing, and her search merely confirmed it, but still…it was weird because SA only found out about the theft by doing something (that seemed) wrong herself. It was complicated, and unpleasant.

Anyway, a few of you readers have mentioned stories about au pairs who have stolen items from you. I’m imagining that these stories are also complicated, and unpleasant. And, you may have some wisdom to share:

  • For those of you who discovered a theft while the au pair was still with you, what did you do?
  • For those of you who discovered a theft after the au pair left, how did you make sense of it?
  • Thinking back, were there any warning signs or things you’d have done differently in hindsight?

Please keep in mind, dear readers:

Remember, I am asking for the very worst sort of stories– and we all know that we need sometimes to talk about bad situations and offer advice on problems. Here’s the chance to talk about a problem you may not want to share with people who don’t already appreciate the good things about having an au pair.

Remember, there are many, many more good stories about au pairs that we each have but only occasionally share.

We’re talking about maybe one-half of one percent of au pairs— Although we may hear several different stories because this post will draw them out, we all know that this is an uncommon situation.

With those caveats in mind, please share ….

{ 55 comments }

PA Au Pair Mom January 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

Our AP never intentionally stole from us, that I know of. She did, however, take 3 of our brand new kitchen knives to an AP holiday get together and we never got them back. I was upset, but quickly tried to put it behind us. I *think* it was an accident. As we progressed through the year though, I began to find myself wondering if it wasn’t done maliciously. She knew that they were a brand new birthday gift to me, from me and she knew how much I valued them. Add to that the fact that she didn’t ask if she could take them. She did so while I wasn’t home and then when I asked where they were, she said she didn’t know. She only confessed to taking them to the party when I saw one in a picture from said holiday party on her facebook page.

Sorry, my mind wandered back for a minute.

If I caught an au pair obviously stealing from me, I would definitely confront them and if I had time left in my year, she would have to be put into rematch. I need to be able to fully trust my au pair with my home, my things, and most importantly, my children. If it was near the end of the year, I might be more tempted to just discuss it with the LCC and send her home early if possible.

Jane January 19, 2010 at 11:12 am

I’m surprised she didn’t feel a responsibility to replace the knives for you. All of our au pairs have asked for permission to take things from the house for their outside use–even things I couldn’t care less about–and I think it’s the right thing to do as a housemate. One of our au pairs did take something outside of the house that was then ruined, which I did care about, and while I didn’t make a issue of it, she still got me a replacement. Granted, it was not an expensive item–but that wasn’t the point–she wanted to take responsibility for using/breaking something that wasn’t hers.

NoVA Host Mom January 19, 2010 at 11:57 am

If I had discovered the theft while our 1st AP was still with us, her rematch would have happened much, much sooner. Her rematch started when we discovered she was lying to us about where she was going (out of state in a snowstorm) and why she was late (and missing work hours!), and then refusing to communicate about any of it.

Once she left, I discovered many “little” things missing (including professional wedding photos I had printed to frame for our niece and nephew – yeah, not a clue why for that one, but it is costing me big bucks to replace). While trying to clean up the mess she left behind, I did discover she had helped herself to my personal items, like specialized tablets for my DayTimer, books, stamps, etc.

It was actually just a month ago I learned she may have stolen a camera from the HM of her “best friend” (another AP, who quit as her HF was preparing to leave for the airport with her for a trip overseas).

Honesty and trust are huge for us, and both being in law enforcement, we need to know that we can trust the person we leave in charge at home while we are at work. The first sign of theft is going to be the fastest plane ride home in our house (and she will be spending the last 2 weeks with the LCC and not with us). Yes, I would certainly confront her, and likely get a confession or at least enough incriminating statements to confirm my information (I’m pretty good at that part), and then tell her exactly what behavior caused her to be sent packing. She can’t learn from the situation for the future if she is not told exactly what the deal is.

Sara Duke January 19, 2010 at 12:25 pm

We never had an au pair steal from us, although a couple used items thoughtlessly (like using a kitchen knife instead of a screwdriver to pop a sticky lock open because it “worked better”).

However, we did have an au pair who brought a friend into our home who was in rematch (we seem to be the place where young women in rematch come). The young woman was extremely thoughtless and self-centered, completely unlike our AP. She proceed to take our AP’s brand new digital camera, $80 in cash, fingernail files, and other items from our AP. Our AP confronted her about it. This young lady had enough chutzpah to call up our AP a week later and ask for help in paying for an air ticket back to her country. Fortunately our AP had wised up by this point. As far as I could tell nothing was missing from our belongings, and I did check thoroughly (our most valuable items are our daughter’s handicapped equipment, but you need a PhD to dismantle them and get them out the door!).

Some people have a compulsion to steal and the items are senseless. I’ve never felt a need to check my AP’s room or belongings and so far I’ve felt that I could trust them all (although some of their friends left a lot to be desired).

Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm

I am going to be completely honest – all of these stories upset me so much that I would never have gotten into this program before signing on.
All I can say is that all of my friends who have ” hired help ” have horror stories too : the cleaning lady who steals, etc. I suppose it is just reality-
you take a chance having someone else live or work in your home. I worked once for a woman who brought all of her jewelery to work in a little velvet sack while she was having construction done in her house. At the time I was very put off by this ; she was a very materialistic woman and I thought it was insulting that she would assume that the workers would steal. Long ago , I worked in retail and I kept hearing management talk about how employee theft was the greatest threat. There are all sorts of psychoanalytic explanations for stealing and to tell the truth, they give me the creeps. Another thought is that the cleaning lady and the aupair are easy targets for accusations and allegations.

Mom23 January 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I have had eight au pairs and none of them have stolen from us. I would guess that the majority of host moms have had my experience. I do think it is a worthwhile discussion since it allows many of us to think about what we would do in a similar situation.

NoVA Host Mom January 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

I think that while it is nice to think that no one will take advantage of a situation and steal from an unattended jewelry box, it is unrealistic. Is everyone a thief? No. Are there people out there who take advantage of an “opportunity”? Absolutely. While you might have been mildly insulted at your coworkers actions, as an investigating officer, I think she was quite smart. Were her workers theives? Maybe not, but did she eliminate an “opportunity”? Yes.

We adore our current AP and her personal ethics and values are amazing. She asks for permission to do the laundry (my take – if it’s open, use it). We trust her without hesitation. Do all APs steal? Certainly not! Are there people who are untrustworthy but know how to gloss things so the HF does not see? Certainly! And if you notice, a lot of those go into rematch.

As an aside, yes, employee theft is a huge problem for businesses/retailers. It is amazing the ways I have learned that the theft can occur (my arrestees frequently give me detailed explanations as to how they got money from the til, etc – facinating!).

Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Our first AP stole from us heavily and in retrospect, there were certainly signs that we could have picked up on had we been more suspicious people and more vigilant.
We gave her a debit card to use, linked to a small account, for gas, groceries etc. I never paid attention to how much was used and DH just kept refilling the account. Toward the end, she was spending $400 a month. We now realize she was taking cash back – we told her in the beginning to give us receipts but we never followed up and asked for them. I was working 120 hours a week and DH was living 2 states away ( hence the need for an AP on top of daycare) and I just let certain aspects of my finances slide. Our bust.

We caught her stealing from our home, because she frequently “borrowed” personal stuff without asking (hair clips, make up, jackets) and one time I saw something of mine in her room and went back for it while she was out of town for the weekend. Once in her room, I found a bunch of stuff that was obviously taken from my drawers (clothes I hadn’t worn all year) and decided to start re-appropriating my stuff. I then found my video camera (missing since 4 months earlier) and went ballistic. I ended up tearing apart her entire room, including her suitcases (she was going home in 2 weeks, her year was almost up) and found jewelry and toys belonging to DDs, expensive cosmetics and my clothes with tags still on them, plus a bunch of other random stuff that I have no idea why she would steal (swim goggles???) I packed her stuff into bags and boxes, called her to come back and sent her within the hour to the LCCs house. That was Sunday and she was back on a plane to Bosnia on Tuesday.
It broke my heart because we treated her so well. We let her use the car to travel all over (we later found out she used our CC to get it out of impound when she got it towed – talk about nerve!) We took her to Disneyworld and on a Carribean cruise. We gave her a digital camera for Christmas (that’s when the video on my camera ended – she had a better one to use!)

In the end, when we confronted her, she lied repeatedly, until faced with evidence. Her excuse the LCC was that she was testing us to see if we were going through her things. Bull****. She was taking our stuff as gifts to her family. The funny thing is, we would have given her almost any of the stuff she took if she had just asked.

I try not to think about it but I still don’t understand it, don’t know if I ever will. She had a lot of issues in general (culture shock, eating disorder, depression, came from a poor family in a war-torn country, etc) And she left here with 7000 dollars, two nice vacations and suitcases full of gifts, with no repercussions for the damage she did. If I ever see her again, immature or not, I’m gonna kick her a$$.

Anonymous January 19, 2010 at 6:08 pm

It may be unfair but I do not consider candidates from poverty stricken, war torn countries who might honestly feel that we have more stuff than we will ever miss. There are other ways for us to support them. I also do not consider people whose profile leads me to believe that they have personality disorders. I do not consider people whom I think are going to send their entire stipend home to support their family. I am very generous but I do not want to use this method to improve the world in this way. I don’t want to live my whole life hiding my belongings in my own home. Once a person steals from me, that’s it.

Poor AuPair January 23, 2010 at 12:15 am

Anonymous, I’m from Panama, so I don’t know how much 3 world you think we are, or how poor, also I send half of my pay to my family because they need it and sometimes I wish to buy a new pair of shoes but I think my mom will do something better with the money, not for that reason I will stole your things or think you don’t care about your belongings, I am poor so I KNOW if I want something I need to work hard for it, and I need to take care of that. Also, I am teaching my hostgirls to ask for the money, because they can look inside HM purse and take out the money for their piggyback, and I always say something and tell them to ask first even touch the purse, because that was what my mom teach me. Also, I don’t expect that you (my HF) feel pity of me and be generous with me, as my last job before came here, my financial situation wasn’t the problem of my boss, so I keep that part private and I don’t speak about if my mom is late with the payment of our house or not (even my HM knows I send the money because she help me to open my bank account and that was a very important part to choose in wich one).
So I hope you have luck with your rich au pair, but there are many poor au pair, who are loving, respectful and responsible for help the families in her country without the need to stole from you. I’m sorry but I really feel offended by your comment, so I am glad that you don’t pick poor girls because I won’t like neither be with a family who discriminate people for their economical situation (for me is the same as skin Color, country, religion)

aria February 18, 2010 at 5:06 am

I agree with PoorAuPair.

“There are other ways for us to support them”???

Sheesh!

Anonymom February 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I agree, too. Stealing like she describes is caused by a personality disorder or a lack of morals. Stealing is not a symptom of poverty. The belief that you can avoid problems with petty theft by ruling out “poor countries” is called “classism”.

MommyMia February 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Excuse me, but aren’t the agencies supposed to be doing psychological screenings and/or testing before the girls qualify? I know that our agency advertises this, and I thought that it was somewhat of a requirement of the Dept. of State, but maybe I’m worng? I don’t know how (unless you are by profession a psychologist) you could possibly judge whether or not they have a personality disorder by reading their profile.

Anna February 18, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Yes, they do a psychological test. But it is a joke. Anyone can pass. And I also knew that until recently in some places they let them retake the test once if they didn’t pass the first time.
Also every agency uses its own test; they are not standardized, and I don’t know who or how sets criteria for passing.
I feel that in this are, the onus is on families to trust their intuition and try to weed out weird personalities.

Calif Mom February 18, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I believe they apply the age-old “mirror test”.. :-)

MTR February 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm

What ever test they take is not enough. As Anna said about the test is a joke. I have the same info as Anna.

If this test was ment to screen potential AP’s for anything, my previous AP would never have made it past the test.

I had a incompetent hysterical AP on my hands for 4 months who could not take care of kids or herself and had a mentality of a tween. She changed 3 families in 8 months, while she was an AP (we were her 2nd family) and in the end ended up leaving the program early because she said she could not handle it and families wanted too much from her. She left with 4 months left in her year.

NJMom January 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Yes, but let’s not jump to stereotypical conclusions here. Our first AP was from Bosnia (same poverty-stricken war torn, depressed country) and she most certainly did not steal. She was extremely principled and worked very hard while she was here. It’s far more about the character of the individual. We have had three AP’s from not particularly wealthy countires and not a single thing has gone missing. They always fessed up if the car got a scratch or they broke a glass or whatever. If you get an entitled, morrally corupt girl from a wealthy country I think you have just as much of a chance of her stealing. Just sayin’.

Darthastewart January 19, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I’ve run into similar things- the one that stole my cell phone was from a privileged family, and had a good job to go home to. Lord knows what else was stolen, but let me say that the room was stripped surprisingly bare when he left.

Calif Mom January 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

We’ve never encountered theft issues, in 4 years of hosting and several APs (counting the short-timers). Even Pointy Boots didn’t steal from us–but we got rid of her quite quickly because she was obviously a bad seed.

We always have a conversation with a new AP–usually during the screening process/interview–that addresses this very issue of telling us when something bad happens. We tell them exactly what we tell our kids: people make mistakes and accidents happen, but the worst possible thing to do is to try to hide it, or wait to tell us, because that will make it so much worse for us to untangle. You will never be “in trouble” for an accident or mistake if you are the one who tells us about it. And we follow through on this. It’s basic respect and trust.

Trust is key to this whole relationship. Once it’s gone, I think you really do have to consider ending it abruptly. How could you go to work while having worry or suspicions about what’s going on all day at home?

We’ve not had good luck with APs from privileged families. We have had the best luck with APs from more modest backgrounds. Even with my bad matches(which I would never had made if I had been readnig this blog at the time!) we have never encountered theft, so please, future and new host families, don’t take this conversation too hard. It’s extremely rare.

Mom23 January 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

Interestingly, of our au pairs, those who were from privileged families seemed, in retrospect, to feel the greatest sense of entitlement. Their attitude was was more what we could do for them rather than an exchange. Also, they felt entitled to more material things (a blackberry rather than a cell phone, use of the car whenever they wanted, etc.). I have enjoyed and learned much more from our au pairs who were from more modest backgrounds.

TXMom January 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Thanks for posting such a difficult topic, CV.

Here is my advice for HF’s who deal with theft after an AP departs.
1. Keep it in perspective and accept the fact that your belongings will not be returned. Remember, even sentimental items and heirlooms are just “things.” People are important; remain positive about the relationships between AP’s and children.
2. Don’t make it personal and accept that you may never identify the theft. People (and AP’s) have personality faults, but don’t accuse someone of being a theft. Consider filing a police report of missing items and be prepared to give the names of people who have had access to your home – cleaning people, AP’s, babysitters, etc. A homeowner’s insurance claim may be an option to consider, as well.
3. Accept that you may never understand why someone stole items from you but learn and teach from the lesson. Stress the importance of emergency money to your future AP’s. Remember all the good money management skills you adhered to pre-kids? Update your household inventory records and/or video; check your accounts and credit cards routinely. Use your silver, china and crystal quarterly.
4. Don’t take all the blame but take a wake up call! You may have made yourself vulnerable in the past but remember to keep on top of “things.” Be generous with your AP without acting like “rich Americans who can afford to lose things.” Hey, give your AP the ultimate American history lesson, ‘cause in the US anyone who works hard can achieve their American Dream. :)

PA Au Pair Mom January 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

and, add anything that is valuable to your homeowner’s policy. Just in case.

NoVA Host Mom January 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

I agree with PA AP Mom about making sure your homeowner’s policy is up to date (we should all be doing that regularly anyway).

And TXMom is right: gone is gone. You won’t see it again. Lesson learned and it is time to move on to the next life lesson.

Calif Mom January 20, 2010 at 10:49 am

Just be thoughtful before making claims on homeowners’ policies for smallish things. We learned the hard way that if you have had a claim on your homeowner’s policy in the past 3 years and apply for a new mortgage, you may have a very difficult time getting a new policy, even if you are loyal customers. My hub had something damaged while on travel, and the hotel wouldn’t pay enough to cover the costs, so we filed a claim on homeowner’s. Made escrow extremely nerve-wracking, and cost us more than the value of the claim b/c we had to switch insurance companies, and they charged more because we had had a claim. This was a few years ago, but given the current climate, I would investigate this issue before filing anything. YMMV, of course.

Anonymous January 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm

In an odd twist, last spring we were going through the exit interview with an au pair with whom we had had a good deal of trouble. During the interview, she acused me of stealing her clothing. Nevermind the fact that she was 5 feet tall and I’m 6 feet tall and about 20 years too old for clothing from Forever 21!

Sara Duke January 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I’m going to reply to this, because perhaps you had a daughter the rightish size and age? When my son was one, my au pair complained that items were missing from her purse. Now, he was too young to morally know not to steal, but one day we saw him take a sock, lift up the cushion on an ottoman, and put the sock there. We also saw a watch, a ten-dollar bill, and several other items missing from us and our au pair. Our AP thought it was cute, we did not. Even though he was too young to know that what he did was “bad,” if we smiled we only encouraged the behavior. We asked her to be firm with him (and the three of us sought out all of his hiding places). As far as I know he hasn’t been invited into the rooms of our last two au pairs (certainly not the current one, with whom he barely talks). However, he still has a habit of taking things he likes from his sister and us, so I go clean him out every once and a while.

Has anyone else found something belonging to an au pair in their child’s area?

Chev January 21, 2010 at 1:56 am

I have a friend who looks after teenagers, one of whom is the same size as her and who wears the same kinds of clothes. At the start of her au pair year she regularly found her clothes and accessories in the girls bedroom while cleaning and doing laundry. But after she’d talked to her host kid and then her HM after it kept happening it doesn’t happen that often anymore.

TX Mom January 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I think ~ 5 yr old children can go through a “sticky finger” stage when they can’t yet control their impulse if they want something desirable (i.e. AP’s iPOD)

Calif Mom January 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

Sara Duke–Not good, this AP not talking to your toddler!

The only items from APs that I’ve found in kids’ rooms were there with permission. But my kids are older, and we have made respect for the AP’s privacy a big deal. I think it has helped us balance out some other things about our home that must be pretty annoying to an AP, frankly.

Your story about the hiding game is a great reminder of just how powerful that primal concept of object constancy is — it’s why kids love peek-a-boo, then later on hide-n-seek, magic tricks, sneaking up on people, and so forth. He is feeling powerful, because he can take something, make it disappear. Only he knows where it is, and he can go get it any time he wants to. He doesn’t get to control much at that age, so he found a nice little outlet. He’s not on the road to thievery, don’t worry!

Sara Duke January 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm

He’s 9 now and the only thing he sneaks is candy, cookies and crackers from the pantry, and stuffed animals that are given to his sister (who doesn’t see why they exist if they don’t play music). That AP had been a pediatric intensive care nurse and had never had to deal with typical children before. She was fantastic with him, once we got her going.

Anonymous January 23, 2010 at 9:21 am

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 and I am tempted to report the card 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!

CV January 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

Just put this up as its own post… let’s see what the wise readers suggest!

OB Mom January 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

These things can happen whether the person is an AP, Nanny, Cleaning Lady or even Babysitter. We trust these people in our homes unattended and it is a risk we take. The weirdest stealing story I’ve heard is when my friend discovered that her Babysitter had stolen her exercise bra from her drawer. She noticed the gal wearing one “just like hers” … it was fairly distinctive. Then she went in her drawer and it was missing. A couple weeks later the girls Dad called and said “Mary will no longer be working for you” … we suspected she had more serious problems … good riddance!

F.O -London January 26, 2010 at 8:15 am

My Aupair was from Czech Republic. She seemed decent and was very hardworking. She looked after the kids properly so there was nothing for me to suspect. The first I noticed was the padlock of my designer handbag missing. I had the bag for years and it had a gold plated paddlock. It also had the keys on a chain on the bag straps. Within days of me using the bag while she was around it went missing. I looked for it and asked her about it and she said she didn’t touch it. I put it down as nothing. Then the odd £10 or £5 will go missing from my purse. I knew then she was stealing. My husband works abroad so it’s just me , her and the kid – both toddlers.
While I was at work a neighbour told me she had noticed a man coming to the house and he’d left with 2 huge suitcases…
I asked her about this and she told me it was her boyfriend who was helping her with presents she’d bought to take home for Christmas.
When she had left , did I find out to my display she’d gone off with most of my new bed linen I’d bought in America plus 6 new bath sheets ( nice chunky ones from the states) No wonder her suitcase was heaving. She has not been in touch since
I got her through an Agency and the took £293 from me . The first too was from the . She was Psycotic and onlky stayed a couple of months. They charged £410 for her. they were supposed to vet these girls but I wonder what sort of vetting they did. I might as well have gone to the web-site and tried my luck with one for free.
The second girl I got charged less for because I was a returning client
I since have a french girl working for me and she seems perfect. I think it depends on the individual. I was warned about Eastern European girls and their stealing by a colleague at work but I thought she was just stereo-typing. It’s really pot-luck. It’s either they are good or bad. With my experience I’ve now learned to guard my self and my stuff. Locks on all doors where she has no business.
I did inform the Agency and I’m yet to receive a response.

Reggie January 27, 2010 at 1:11 am

My first AP ended up getting sent home to Bosnia after her first 3 weeks because she lied about being a smoker and smoked in our house, trying to hide it. After she went home, we found a few things missing including my husband’s wedding ring and several pairs of my earrings including my small diamond studs. Since we never caught her in the act, we aren’t 100% sure it was her but there was no one else who had access to our house. Very disappointing and worrying to me that we didn’t notice until after the fact.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 19, 2010 at 12:27 am

My Au-pair that recently just left in a rematch. She would charge things on my credit card when she would go to the grocery store to pick up things needed for the household. Most of the things were small items that she purchased with my card. I was quick to realize that she was doing this and brought it to her attention. I had her pay for the items that she charged for herself. Stupid stuff like car freshner, a small quart of choc. milk and I forget what the other item was that she bought. However, I wonder my teen daughter had $50.00 bucks stolen from her bedroom 1 week before she left.

Sara Duke February 19, 2010 at 7:56 am

I have trusted all my au pairs, but I would never give them my credit card! My husband and I give cash to purchase items (usually not so much groceries, as cash to take the kids out on a school holiday). I know some HF use the Visabucks card to give to APs to buy household items (the card is only good for the cash on it).

I have put AP airplane tickets and hotel reservations on my credit card – but only after they give me the cash first!

NoVA Host Mom February 19, 2010 at 9:47 am

I’m with Sara Duke. HD and I have gotten plane tickets for the AP before, but also only after the cash was paid up front. I do not see giving someone else (anyone) our card to use. It’s just too risky.

MTR February 19, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Yep, us too. I would never give AP my credit card.

I give her gas money for the month at the beginning of each month and leave cash if I need her to take kids somewhere. I generally expect receipts for the money I leave her, although I rarely check them. Then again, I never leave her more then $20 in cash and it is usually of ice rink fees of $17.

I have charged her plane tickets to my credit card with prior agreement on how she will pay it back ( we ended up doing deductions from her weekly check for 5 weeks after her trip and we have have email records of how decuctions were calculated and her agreement to them, I also pay her by check so I have record of what I paid her each week).

Soccer Mom February 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

We do add our APs to our credit card and give her one. We explain what it is for (grocery shopping & gas fill-ups that are agreed to ahead of time). We ask for all the receipts for each use – we do look for unauthorized add-ons, and we check our online account frequently for unauthorized use – by anyone and not just the AP.

Melissa February 19, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’ve never given our APs a credit card, but I have at times given them a gift certificate to Target, to be used to pick up children’s supplies (diapers, wipes) when we run out. They usually give me a receipt the first few times, although I don’t ask for one. If I trust our AP, I don’t worry about or care whether she’s charging an occasional bottle of shampoo for herself. If she uses the whole card (I usually buy in $100 incremements) in one or two trips, that would be a big flag.
I’ve purchased plane tickets for some of our APs on my credit card, with the understanding that they have the money and will pay me back. It’s never been an issue and they’ve given me the money soon after or asked if it could be paid in installments (after they get their stipend).

HRHM February 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm

We help our AP get her own Debit card when she gets her bank account. Then she can charge her own plane/train tix. If she can’t think far enough ahead to save in advance, I wouldn’t front her the money. I’m a big believer in natural consequences being the best teaching tool.

aria February 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

This isn’t really about stealing, it’s more of a continuation of the thread going on above ^. I’m an AP, and my HF has a “house wallet” where we keep the boys’ library cards, receipts, and cash (no credit cards) for groceries, outings, cabs, etc.

We live in a metropolitan city, so whenever I take the boys out somewhere, the HP prefer that we take a cab instead of public transportation (lucky me!!! :)), and usually my HD will give me a ridiculous amount of money to pay for it, and I just put what’s left back in the wallet.

As an AP, I would actually feel really uncomfortable having a credit card from the HF- I’m wary enough with my own! I prefer cold hard cash (also how my HM pays me) and receipts for everything I buy with their money. I just leave them all in the house wallet. If it ever runs out and I need to get something, I’ll buy it with my own money, and my HF reimburses me later.

Sara Duke February 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Wow, what a great idea. My son might know where his library card is right now if we had one central place.

Anonymom February 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

yes, we use a distinctive plastic envelope — cash, zoo card, library cards, etc go in, and receipts are put back in as cash depletes.

Of course, our APs haven’t ever been comfortable doing much grocery or target shopping (even for kids or OJ) so it’s for incidentals and gas.

MTR February 19, 2010 at 5:37 pm

WOW, great idea. My AP right now has our library card, museum membership card, and some other things, but they are in her wallet. If we need them we need to tell her in advance to leave them for us. And is she is gone for the weekend and we decide to go to the museum on Sunday we are out of luck.

I should think about implementing something like this.

Mom23 February 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm

We leave everything in our manual. The binder has pockets and we keep an envelope with cash. Another envelope has the zoo, museum and library cards, as well as copies of medical cards. The au pair puts in receipts, and then subtracts the amount from the total. I look it over once a week and add money. I generally put in $100/week — it is for gas, outings, groceries, occasional treats, etc.

Soccer Mom February 19, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I am surprised that we are so in the minority on getting a credit card for our AP. We set the credit limit on the card we get for her to $250. She has no idea what the limit is – we have no reason to discuss it with her, but she would be denied if she tried to make a big purchase. Not only can we log on to our account and track her purchases, but we get an email to HD’s Blackberry if she approaches the limit. We feel like we have more control over how and where money is going instead of leaving a bunch of cash for groceries, gas, kids’ prescriptions, etc. I like the idea of gift cards, but then we need to buy many different cards to cover all the different places she may need to go, and then she would probably end up having access to more than $250 in less trackable money, and we would have trouble replenishing the gift cards all the time.

Should be Working February 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm

I like the idea of getting a credit card with a very low limit for the AP. It is in my view MUCH more trackable, because honestly I’m not going to look through a pile of receipts, but I can look online at a statement much more easily.

Also, in case of emergency (car battery dies?) she has access to more money than I leave her, which is usually about $20.

Can you just request a very low limit on the card?

Soccer Mom February 20, 2010 at 11:59 pm

We get our AP card through Am Ex and you can set the credit limit online (and track it online) for each card on the account. I am not sure how other cards’ offerings compare. If you spend like we do on groceries and your AP does the shopping, besides the trackability and convenience, we like the points we get with a credit card instead of cash. At one point we got 5% cash back for cred card purchases for groceries, gas & pharmacy. It adds up.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs February 20, 2010 at 1:18 pm

When I stated about me giving her my credit card it was a visa check and after she returned home from the grocery store, I would ask her to place it on the kitchen countertop. As I was able to pick it back up after each time I sent her to the store. I trusted her enough to purchase some needed grocery. I wouldnt give her the card to keep during here stay here to freely use. I just didnt think she would add things to my card that she wanted.

PippaMaus December 16, 2010 at 2:31 am

I just last week caught our au pair stealing little items from us, confronted her, and then caught her the next day stealing more. AP was preparing a package to send home for Christmas. The top of the box was open and I immediately recognized that she had taken an Amazon blue fabric gift bag to fill empty space in the box. It took a split second for me to recognize the item and AP to know I’d seen it. Before I said anything, she volunteered out of the blue that her mother had sent it to her. I was a little annoyed that she had just lied, but recognized that she was on the spot and her instinct might have been to lie to protect herself. Who hasn’t done that? Later I went to her and explained that I regularly use (and reuse) the bag for oddly shaped presents that can’t be wrapped, said that I understood she probably didn’t know it was valuable to me, and that if she wanted to use something to ask me first. I emphasized I wasn’t upset, but wanted to be clear that she needed to ask before taking. She removed it from the box and returned it to me and then said she needed to ask about one other thing. She showed me a gift box she had taken to use for the au pair meeting gift exchange. It happened to be a family heirloom from my husband’s childhood. I thanked her for telling me, offered her three other options for packing the present, and reinforced that she can’t know what’s valuable or not and so should always ask first before taking something. I thought the issue was dealt with.

After work the next day I entered APs room to retrieve the ringing family phone. The package she was preparing to send home was wide open on her bed and I immediately recognized a number of other items that belonged to me–not high value items, but meaningful to me. A christmas stocking my grandmother made me. A decorative box I’d placed in APs room to hold office supplies. An assortment of christmas cards she’d taken from my collection. A selection the loveliest fabric ribbons from my ribbon box. Since she was away for the evening at a basketball game with two other au pairs (using very pricy tickets we’d gladly given her) I left a note on the box stating she’d taken things that were valuable to me and we needed to talk. The next morning she returned the christmas stocking, asking if that was what I’d meant, but not the box or cards or ribbons. She cried and apologized and said there was no excuse. I expressed my anger and frustration that she had stolen, had lied, and then had stolen again AFTER I talked to her about not taking things without asking. I demanded that she return everything she had not purchased with her own money, ribbons, cards and box included. She protested that since the box was in her room she thought it was ok to use. She asked if I wanted to see everything in the box. I declined and said I trusted her to fix the problem. AP said she understood that she had broken our trust, and felt awkward. I assured her that I was angry but in time I would calm down and that we clearly needed to improve our communication.

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

HRHM December 16, 2010 at 4:07 am

Having been burned on this in the worst possible way – I suggest you start the rematch now. She’s an adult who despite all possible cultural differences, knows what stealing is and knows that those things weren’t hers to take/give away. She knew what she was doing was wrong the first time and if there was any doubt, she REALLY knew it the 2nd time. It’s not kleptomania (since her thefts serve a purpose – no compulsion) but rather a sense that either a)you are rich and won’t miss what she takes or b) she deserves to take these things because of how hard she works and how little she reaps from being your AP. In our case, my biggest mistake was not calling the police and filing charges when it came out what she was doing. If you can’t trust her not to violate your personal property, how can you trust her to be alone with your kids? (and by the way, after ours was sent home for stealing, our 5 year old told us how she was forcing them to overeat and making up stories to scare her into doing what she wanted – case in point)

Scott McDicken March 23, 2011 at 8:47 am

We had a student come and stay in our house who advertises his services as being a tidy, clean & perfect Au Pair or Career. He’s even, as I probably write this out there presumably looking still looking for a Job.

My mother let this individual into our family home and received the nightmare tenant from hell as a result, at first he seemed very charming. But then when we started to notice things going missing and his wanton destruction in and around the property in General he was asked to leave (eviction). He then even refused to leave. We had to then contact the police to remove him from our home. Presumably this individual enjoys Caring Roles so he can then gain access to your house, then when you leave them alone with the children or house sitting, he can then proceed to rifle through your belongings at leisure and then steal what he likes on the oft chance you wouldn’t notice.

There really are some incredibly unpleasant snakes out there!

Scott McDicken March 23, 2011 at 8:49 am

Fat chance on finding a Job in the role he’d love to have; as when asked for references this individual can not provide any.. Now theres a surprise.. I wonder why!?

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