What can Host Parents Do about Deceptive Agency Practices?

by cv harquail on April 14, 2011

Readers, I must admit that these stories of being screwed by both agency & au pair get me upset. Thank goodness these stories are more rare than the terrific au pair and the perfectly fine au pairs we have little reason to need advice about. We all know that most au pairs, and most agency relationships, are not this bad. Keep this in perspective as we jump in to another bad situation.

Our posts about DeflatedHostMom and the “Match Behind Your Back” dynamic prompted another host mom to add her story. It combines both deceptive agency practices and tensions with one host parent

Here’s the situation:

I am concerned how to handle this. I had an au pair who arrived in my home on March 21st. From the start, the au pair did not hit it off with my husband.

Four days later at our local coordinator meeting, she informed the local coordinator that she had a fear of my husband. She also told me later that day. I tried to assure her we had hosted au pairs prior to her and they are all fine. She (to me and the coordinator) seemed willing to hang in there for sixty days to give it a try.

Now, at the time my husband was not residing in the home, however I told the au pair that he could come back at anytime. He was staying with his brother due to his job being relocated two hours away from our home. He was in and out quite a bit and we all did activities together. rebecca askerisk.jpg

Well, last Thursday out of the blue, I was told her rematch was approved when I never even knew it was being considered. The following Friday evening, the au pair informs me that she is leaving the next day to stay with friends in Nebraska who would allow her to stay there until she could rematch. Luckily, her family has the money to fly her across the states, because she told me they are secret millionaires.

The coordinator also told me about emails my husband had sent the au pair which she felt put her in the middle of our arguments. I pulled his emails from the cell phone website and saw some that discussed when he would be taking the kids to the park, but nothing as the au pair characterized. I asked the au pair about these emails (on text message) and she told me that my husband did not text her anything and she apologized for causing problems in my family.

I was very upset at the au pair for trying to make our family look bad, so that she could be approved for an emergency exit.

I was annoyed at the agency for not even allowing me to address her issues.  I would not have been upset over a rematch, she was a bit of a princess and I really did not want to live with that for a year. I was upset at her leaving so abruptly.

I had just come from four weeks of having no childcare when my last au pair was sent back home due to her anger issues. I just feel thrown under a bus by an agency that I have patronized for three years.

Anyway, I spoke to the au pair agencies directors/coordinators and told them I felt this girl was deceptive, immature, selfish and a liar. I sent the text where she denied my husband had sent any emails to her as proof of her lies.  One of the directors I spoke with actually said maybe the au pair said that because she did not want to hurt my feelings. They are going out of their way to defend this girl so that she can rematch. My husband was livid when I told him that as if he has to defend himself again.

What I need help with is I happened to read her new profile. It’s usually kept hidden from the past host family, but I was able to see it.  Her reason for rematch stated that she was uncomfortable with personal changes wthin our household. Then it goes on to say,

“AP’s Hosts indicate she is caring, responsible, intelligent and consistent and that she bonds easily with young children.”

Neither me or my husband said anything like that! I said

“She was deceptve, immature, selfish and a liar”.

I just rematched with someone myself, based in part on the description of her I got from the agency. To think that the agency will make up blatant falsehoods like that is incredible! I do not think this is right and I want to report them or something. Any suggestions?


Readers, we have two challenges–

1. Let’s help DCmetro with her current issue, and

2. Let’s think about what host parents can do (individually and together) to influence the agencies’ practices.



Yossi Pinkas April 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Parents should get more involved in the screening process and not rely only on the agency.
Carefully interviewing au pairs themselves and using NannyTest to perform their own personality test can prevent or at least reduce the number of similar cases.

Should be working April 15, 2011 at 4:07 am

My opinion is that “NannyTest” is NOT a great or sophisticated product. It is very easy for test-takers to answer the questions about ‘risky behavior’ in such a way as to present themselves in the most advantageous light.

I say this more plainly than I otherwise would because the previous post is advertising. I realize that some of the posters here, e.g. LCCs, combine advice with a bit of advertising, but most of them identify themselves as LCCs, which in my view makes things fair enough.

AFHostMom April 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

big old eye roll from me. As pointed out, blatant advertisement–and also clearly you’ve never been a HP if you think we don’t “get involved” with the screening process. As if we would leave our children in the care of someone purely based on an agency’s representation–when the agency is in the business of making a profit. But it’s highly unreasonable, for so many reasons, to fully vet candidates before we invite them into our home. And as paying customers, you bet we expect the agency to do a significant amount of work alongside us.

azmom April 14, 2011 at 5:41 pm

In the current situation, I’m assuming you’re with a company that doesn’t allow you to talk to the current Host family. However, hopefully you can talk to the LCC – I would DRILL the LCC on this new au pair – do the “trick” questions if you have the ability to do so. You can screen all you want, but the fact that your agency lied about what you say about the Au pair means the ones you’re likely seeing are the same situation.

When you interview the new AP, maybe ask more questions about materialism. I find in talking to more and more people a lot of the rematch issues are based on being close to friends or being with a family that gives them their own car, vacations to disney, etc., not based on actual family dynamics.

aupairmominca April 15, 2011 at 7:49 am

We do not trust either of the 2 au pair companies we have dealt with. Our current company (a large, national au pair agency) actually told us that at our last au pair’s 2 week visit with her new family, they went over the list of concerns we shared with the LCC about her after she left our home. The list was quite extensive and specific, honest and not very complimentary. If the new family had actually read it, there is no way that this au pair would still be with that family, which we know she is. The agency just wanted us to think that our concerns were noted and shared, but we know they were not. Our current au pair is heading back to her home country soon, and we will probably not continue with this company. And of course when we were in rematch, there was ALWAYS a reason why we could not speak with a prospective au pair’s host family.

HRHM April 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

I agree, you need to SPEAK with the outgoing HF at all costs. When I look at rematch APs, they all have no negative comments from their HFs! Seriously, if there was NOTHING negative to be said, they wouldn’t be in rematch. LOL Of course, one family’s negative is another family’s positive, but you need to hear it in order to be able to decide for yourself.

Should be working April 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

This has come up in a previous line of posts about rematch. Knowing what I know now, the agency’s policies on being able to speak to previous HPs in a rematch situation would be in my top 3 criteria for selecting an agency. Maybe my top 2.

MI former AP April 15, 2011 at 8:46 am

I think us AP’s have an advantage during the whole matching-process. We always kinda have the chance to talk to a possible former AP of a hostfamily and hear about how it is like to live, work and be with specific potential Hostfamily. It is one thing to read and talk to a HF only or to have a different viewpoint from the AP that is/has been with that family before.
Hostfamilies mostly don’t have this opportunity. They have to rely on what’s the APs online profile says, what the agency puts in there and can you trust in every reference that was given by the unknown environment of a potential candidate?!….
I, as a hostfamily, would love to have the chance to contact references and former hostfamilies, especially in a rematch-process!

azmom April 15, 2011 at 9:22 am

These posts lately have me wondering too many things. My AP is meeting our LCC for a random coffee break – couldn’t have been pre-planned because I just told her yesterday I plan to let her off at 10 am today. I know her general gripes – but nothing that could be rematchable – we meet all the program requirements, yes we do some little extras, but no, she doesn’t have a personal car, yes we’added restrictions after she had a fender bender that put over 4K in damage between the two cars, no we haven’t brought her to Disney – that’s not something we do and if we decide it won’t be until both kids are a bit older. Anyway, who knows what they have up their sleeves.

DC/MD Mom April 15, 2011 at 10:15 am

This is a fascinating discussion. I just was in rematch for the first time and found the experience awful. The pressure the LCC puts to call IMMEDIATELY this or that possible AP based on scant information, if any, was unbelievable. If you can’t or are unwilling to drop everything and call right away with no information but wait a few hours, the AP will tell you she’s already heard from families in CA, IL, NJ, VA, etc., etc.

Ultimately we went with someone out of country because the rematch APs who seemed promising chose someone else and I wanted to escapte the high-pressure sales tactics of the in-country rematch process. This discussion about how little you can trust the agencies and how difficult it is to speak to the other HF (I asked once and was told by my LCC she’d look into it and get back to me …never did hear) reinforces my skepticism. I know some HFs get great APs through rematch but I don’t like the odds.

JBLV April 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

What agency are you with?

DC/MD Mom April 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm

We are with APIA. And while they may technically say you can speak to the HF in a rematch, I can only say that the one time I asked because I was given a rather nebulous reason about personality issues, I was told they would check and did not hear back before I found someone else.

I think part of the issue I had was that with APIA you’re conditioned to the database approach — you can look at lots of candidates and screen how you like. Suddenly it was all turned inside out and you only knew who your LCC told you about and often the lag time between when they added the profile electronically from when they gave you the initial contact information was substantial. With one candidate we had already talked ,emailed, and have her tell me she matched with another family — all before they THEN added her to my file LOL.

HM Pippa April 15, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Similar experience. We’re on AP 3 within 7 months this year due to some serious deception on the part of APs, and also, I suspect, the agency. First out-of-country AP lied about herself, and our screening didn’t catch it. She was sent happily along to another unwitting family in MA. I was surprised that I didn’t get a call from any new potential HFs. We were incredibly NAIVE about the complex dynamics and frequency of rematch.

Only in the crucible of rematch did I learned that AuPairCare does not permit contact between host families–I was told they “discourage” contact, but in fact they make it impossible, unless the departing AP volunteers contact info for her new family. So I was left to rely upon scant information from APC and the word of the AP about reason for rematch. AP said the main reason was HM yelled at her and called her a f_ing _itch, which elicited from me more sympathy and less skepticism than it should have. I assumed the agency would not rematch an unfit AP. I assumed the AP would tell the truth. NAIVE! The rematch AP came with some serious character flaws which resulted in another rematch, and left us speculating about the REAL reasons for the AP leaving her original family. Although LCC recommended that she be sent home, there was some question about whether she would be allowed to rematch(?!). The AP wanted to leave the US, so she went home.

After a very grumpy phone call from HD, APC allowed us to have a third AP without having to reapply and pay a fresh set of agency fees. We, too, were pressured by placement reps to make a quick decision. I again pushed to speak with host parents, and was “discouraged.” Instead they sent me to the LCC. Multiple calls to LCC were not returned. APC wanted a decision so they could release AP to be seen by other families, which I understand–AP has limited timeframe to find a new family. But it was complete baloney. Plenty of other families had access to her file, because during the next call with AP, she mentioned that she would having a hard time deciding between her MANY new families. When APC rep said another family was interested and had offered her a match, I panicked and moved quickly to match. There were exactly ZERO German speaking in-country APs to choose from, and although I had a couple niggling reservations about her, I was pressured and desperate. We’re a month in and those niggling reservations proved correct, but I swallow hard, smile and make lemonade. I’m with you about the rematch odds, DC/MD Mom. My own rematch odds do not encourage a further round at the rematch poker table. Not when the dealer is shady.

Calif Mom April 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

1. Helping DCMetro with her immediate needs:
–she needs a replacement au pair or roll her back-up childcare plan.

–she needs to deal with the fraud her agency is perpetuating, and the way they have dealt with her. This is harder. My suggestion includes reaching out to your Congressmember’s district office. You have to decide whether you want to keep dealing with this agency or gear up for a fight with them to get your money back. Better business bureau might be keeping track of the particularly “bad actor” agencies. In my experience, legal letterhead does wonders in reaching quick resolution of disputes like this.

If she is willing to suck it up in order to get a rematch au pair on site quickly, that should be her immediate focus. Personally, when it comes to rematch I have a SINGLE, unbending, immutable requirement: I must meet them in person. In fact, after this last experience we will NEVER take an au pair I haven’t met in person again. I’m serious this time. :-)

How can I make such a strong statement? I have only made one hiring mistake while in rematch–and that was a two-time rematch candidate whom I couldn’t meet in person. She was in the US, but had to fly to join my family. I was desperate, made a bad decision. Won’t do it again.

We have had one week with our new rematch au pair and I cannot begin to describe how much calmer I am and how much happier our household is. We drove 5 hours to meet this girl in person, but because we had the kids with us we couldn’t do any kind of a ‘real’ interview. Our “interview” was sharing a meal at a noisy restaurant and then we talked a little while afterward on a walk through a city. Not exactly an ideal interview set-up, but it worked. It was high pressure enough that we could see how she handled herself (she ordered chicken, she shared plates with us, she made nice conversation with us and related to the kids well). I can tell she’s a keeper. I have no nagging doubts–which I’ve always had with the au pairs who ultimately don’t work out.)

But my track record with au pairs coming to our family “fresh” from their country is now 0-fer. Yep. Not proud of this, not sure why it seems to be true, but there’s something about meeting a person in person that is important for me. Or maybe my kids are harder to supervise than I think and there really is a short list of skills that we need that are hard to discern with the ‘online dating’ format of matching with an au pair.

I have *never* spoken with a rematch au pair’s former host mom. I just don’t see the value, since there are so many hidden agendas there. There’s no way to discern the truth — which is usually somewhere in the middle anyway.

I also think that sometimes, an au pair will actually learn from her first host family experience and change her own behaviors that might have contributed to the relationship not working out. I also think chemistry matters, a lot, so hearing what the former family has to say is probably irrelevant, because unless the au pair was violent or wrecked the car, it’s a guarantee that whatever else was going wrong, the girl and the family didn’t have good chemistry. And sometimes, if the former family tells you “we loved her but she wrecked the car and I just can’t have that” it’s probably spin — they probably didn’t have good chemistry or the family would find a way to work around the driving problem, one way or another.

CV’s other question of what can we do about these agencies is hard. Really, what I think we are asking for is for the au pair agencies to be held to higher quality standards, and deal fairly with host parents and au pairs alike.

Individually, we consumers don’t have a lot of power because we really are held over a barrel when we don’t have our immediate childcare needs met. All the other projects–and dealing with a complaint with an agency quickly becomes a big, time-sucking project for the host parents–have to wait until we get childcare happily stabilized. And once you have your childcare emergency stabilized, you have to deal with all the other projects your family needs done that had to wait while you were dealing with the crisis!

I bet the State Department has a “public inquiry” office that fields incoming questions and issues. They must have a department which oversees the au pair program. Reaching out to them as a community might have more long-term progress/success than calls/emails from individual consumers (who, let’s face it, are at risk of being viewed by bureaucrats as complaining, rhymes-with-witchy women).

If we take our cue from other consumer advocates (I’m thinking of patient advocacy groups here, too, because they have been very successful in getting Congress to push on different health-related gov’t agencies) — the way these groups get Congress to breathe down the necks of federal agencies is by banding together, presenting their case to sympathetic Congressmembers or Senators who then take on the issue and start poking at the federal agency that oversees or does the work (in this case, the State Dept). First they ask questions and require formal responses; they can also hold hearings and require federal agencies to answer questions on the record. You identify these members of Congress by looking at the committee rosters that have jurisdiction over the program in question.

Ideally, one would start with conversations with the State Dept itself, so that you can then take the information you get from them — or the promises, or the arguments, or the cries for funding, or whatever the State Dept tells you they need in order to really clamp down on those scalawag au pair agencies–with you when you talk to the Congressmembers’ staff.

When reaching out to Congressmembers, you need to tell them the big picture story:
1) here’s the problem (with data!) (the number and demographic of voters in their District to whom this issue is relevant would be a good one–as in, “we host au pairs and we vote–and we donate!)
2) here’s what the State Dept has done/isn’t doing/says they’re going to do but we really want teeth in it
3) what we parents/customers of the au pair agencies are asking for Congress to do. What’s “the fix” that they can help make happen……and that they can tout as something they’ve done for their constituents, because we’re heading into an election cycle.

[If the issues can be described in terms of national security, so much the better. Dramatic stories help, too.]

Need to show how many voters are affected by these problems, how big the industry is, etc. Honestly, I’m not sure where to start building that info, but I bet it’s public record somewhere. Might need to start doing FOIA requests.

This is not a quick approach, but it holds the best potential for longer-term success. If we are just looking for quick-fix catharsis, then maybe what we need is an FB page or associated web page here through aupairmom.com that is a place to post complaints, name names, etc. That seems riskier to individual families though, since those stories could make life hard when dealing with au pair agencies, and maybe even when recruiting your next au pair.

Should be working April 15, 2011 at 10:38 am

CalifMom, I’ve got a small question compared to the proposals you have here, which are great but admittedly daunting and require more organization than I can imagine myself ever pulling together: In the future will you only look for transition APs, or are you going to try out-of-country again ‘next time’?

I have never had an out-of-country arrival, will have our first one this fall, and I’m wondering if the in-country candidates–despite the screening and timing issues–make certain things more likely to work out, namely the candidate knows already about homesickness, what being an AP REALLY is about, and that if she doesn’t do a good job she can end up going home. I feel less strongly about a meeting in person, but the in-country au pairs don’t have the stars in their eyes like the out-of-country ones do, in my experience.

Busy Mom April 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

We’re on our 3rd AP. 2 out of countries + 1 in-country extending for her 2nd year. No rematches. We met the in-country in person and spoke with her HM. She actually traveled to see us because she wanted more control over where she ended up. Some hiccups with AP1, but more due our needing to move from a nanny to AP mindset and youngest child’s behavior than anything specifically to do with her. We did need to terminate her 3 months early due to my lack of employment (and I got a credit for the unused months from our agency!). AP 4 arrives in August and I simply KNOW that it will work out because we spent a lot of time on skype and she wasn’t scared away by any of our rules :-) (handbook, shared during interview process, is 20+ pages, excluding anything on how the house works, directions, etc.) Our family letter alone weeds out many!

To be honest, we also provide a car, so – to the extent that rematches are motivated by material goods – we aren’t subject to that whim. We don’t take our APs on vacations. We also had 6 live-in nannies, so had some prior experience with managing someone who lives with us.

I have decided, however, that I will only hire APs who I can skype with. I don’t know to what extent that will limit my pool in the future, but skyped with current,last and next and it’s so much richer an interview experience than a phone call.

Calif Mom April 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

I’m too chicken to try an out-of-country au pair again. Our going-on-two-week rematch au pair feels like an old shoe already. So yes, I’m going to stick to that rule for us going forward. And for the record, I have indeed rejected rematch candidates we interviewed in person.

It’s not that I mind the ramping up of a newbie–the language, the jet lag, the homesick–mentioned above (though it’s nice to have someone who already has ‘acclimated’ to the States and doesn’t want to go home, just wants a host family that fits them better) for me it’s really more about not ending up with the wrong type for us.
It strikes me that rematch au pairs come to us with a very different perspective than a starry-eyed newbie, but not just because they know what the job is, or feel under threat of being sent home (that’s so rare!). I think it’s because they have not just seen but lived through some amazingly thoughtless families; ill-mannered kids, manipulative/psycho moms and workaholic the dads, etc (or vice versa!).

We do have a tiny, frankly crappy home (in the process of moving) so we need an au pair who hasn’t based all her ideas about upper-middle life in the States on Hollywood sitcoms. Our new house isn’t going to be gigantic; she will not be getting her own car to use. That’s just the deal. So the material goods thing is more of an issue.

Interestingly–and PLEASE don’t misinterpret this as a political statement that one end of the spectrum is better than the other, that’s not what I’m saying at all–all 3 of our rematched, well-suited-to-us au pairs have come to us from host families who seem to have been on the opposite end of the political spectrum from my family.

I don’t know about you all, but we tend to avoid political discussions during the matching process, but I now clearly see that that’s the wrong approach–and would have highlighted problems with our last au pair who meant well but didn’t know herself at all (total xenophobe, but had a couple gay friends). (There was a discussion of the politics issue earlier on this site that’s worth looking at if you’re currently searching for a new au pair). Au pairs don’t know a Dem from a Rep or blue from red, often, but I would absolutely plumb their views on certain topics–like immigration–that might give you some clues about their open-mindedness. Because an au pair who isn’t open-minded about social issues can have a tough time making friends and finding her way in the States. To me, the opposite of open-minded–which is difficult to determine in a young woman, after all, who might just have never been exposed to much, which is totally different from rejecting new things– is often judgmental; I just don’t need that attitude from an au pair. And I really don’t want it circling around my girls!

Gianna April 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm

What a powerful, articulate statement ! I do believe that the agency in question can be made uncomfortable but on the other hand, insiders have been telling me for years that the State Dept has a strong basis against host families. The presumption is that American families use these young women as cheap labor and do not follow government regulations. I have no clue as to how the State Department regards the agencies. There is always the option to sue or go to binding arbitration to recover fees. That , too, is very time consuming and expensive. Some agency contracts stipulate that the loser pays court costs so weigh the chances of prevailing very carefully before going that route. Some agencies also have a confidentiality clause in terms of settlements. Lawsuits would be a matter of public record but binding agreements with arbitration boards might not be public. That is probably why some agencies require that you go to arbitration and sign a non-disclosure statement upon conclusion of a settlement. I think that there was a thread regarding this not to long ago.

Happy Host Mom of 2 April 15, 2011 at 10:39 am

I almost took an au pair for her second year. I spoke with the host family and they were positive about her. Things didn’t work out – the au pair actually took another non-au pair job offered by the same agency – giving me only 4 days notice before she was supposed to move in! I’ve subsequently heard that her host family was itching for her to leave. The host family had very negative things to say about this woman only after she left. I guess I should have guessed as much when they weren’t keeping her for her second year. So don’t rely on a host family being honest with you even if you have the chance to interview them.

HRHM April 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Let me apologize to whomever received AP3 – DH did the same thing with her. I was not involved (deployed at the time) when he spoke with the new HM. When I heard what he told her I was aghast. When we discussed it, it turns out he was afraid that if he told the truth, that she would tell AP3 what we said and then he’d have to deal with the fallout in an already contentious situation for the next 2 months. In his defense, he told the new HM that she would do what was required of her as long as “she got everything she wanted” which would have set my alarm bells ringing, but she was a first-timer and she thought that was fine. And what she didn’t tell us (or AP3 for that matter) doomed her as a new HM for AP3 (cloth diapers, no junk food) and had we had that information in hand, we could have readily told her that this was not the AP for her (and AP3 would not have taken the job for that matter) but I doubt that DH asked a lot of questions. After all, we were just counting the days until she was gone.

HMAgainMaybe April 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm

We had au pairs a few years ago and are considering going the au pair route again in a few months. I have to say that this blog entry, as well as the one on the au pair shopping behind the host parents’ back, make me wonder if I want to go through this process again. Maybe I need to re-read old posts on the pros of having an au pair as opposed to other forms of childcare.

Dorsi April 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I think one of the simple things we can do is name agencies when we talk about them. I have always been confused why people don’t do this — there are so few agencies I can’t imagine it really ‘outs’ the poster (any more than talking about AP1 from Brazil and AP2 from Thailand and the metro area you live in ‘outs’ you).

cv harquail April 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hi Dorsi-

In the past, I have wanted to avoid naming agencies, especially when the situations involved seemed either rare or highly emotional. I guess I have wanted the conversation to be around helping each other rather than venting about specific agencies. Also, there is that other site that claims to rate agencies, and since advising on agencies is their ‘business’ I’ve been happy to leave it to them.

I’d prefer to keep the conversation general and ‘agency-agnostic’. That said, I’m open to having people mention their agency when it seems to matter.

I’m also reconsidering whether we should have some agency to agency comparison pages– like on rematch procedures, vacation terms, and so on. I don’t want to have to keep track of agency fees and specials, but some more comparison of the day in and day out workings of the agencies might be useful.

please send me an email at mom@aupairmom.com if you have some ideas for what sorts of Agency-related ‘resource’ pages you might like to see (and contribute to). cvh

Taking a Computer Lunch April 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I have been with APIA for 10 years as a HM. I have never gone into rematch (did think about it once, as you regulars know, been even in the big agency the venn diagram of special needs in-country APs who can drive is sometimes nil).

In the past decade I have hosted over 10 young women, most of whom were on a one-way ticket out of the country because they couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm to rematch. I have seen bad host families (like the single mom who told the AP that her 9-hour shift started when the child woke up, even though the AP was trapped in the house until the child woke up, the AP whose special needs host children hit her and after several months of enduring it gave up, and the HF that took their AP aside one evening and said “Pack your bags”). I’ve also seen liars, thieves and cheats.

APIA permits HF contact, and when the LCC suspects that the HF is unreasonable, allows other HF to act as contacts. We have done this for APs who consistently worked over 10 hours per day or more than 45 hours per week, whom we thought were good candidates for other families. We are honest that we know nothing about the AP’s child-caring skills, except what we see in our own home (the AP who engaged our kids and pitched in while she was under our roof got high marks – the one who complained bitterly and ignored the kids didn’t). We do not offer to assist bad eggs. Our LCC has been known to go the extra mile for young women from other clusters staying under our roof.

We did not offer to extend with one AP who wanted to stay after her year was up (we have extended successfully with three others, and so far two others have decided not to extend at all). We had to fill out a HF document on behalf of the AP, and while we decided not to throw her under the bus, we were politely honest about her shortcomings. Several HF did call me, and when asked why I chose not to extend with her, I replied, “Because she never got a US driver’s license.” Sure it was one of the reasons, and an important reason, but not the only reason. However, that was usually enough. There were some good things about this particular woman, and those were the things that the agency highlighted in the Web blurb about the AP. They were not wrong, just putting the AP’s best foot forward, as it were. That AP did successful extend, with a family from her ethnic background who told her that under no circumstances would she be given the keys to the car.

Did that AP deserve to stay? Yes. Was she a bad fit in our household? Yes (it turns out I eat passive aggressive people for lunch – ask one of my co-workers). And six months after she was gone I emailed my LCC to ask “Don’t you miss my weekly complaining emails?!” It can be better.

And now that I’m in the process of interviewing candidates again, I must say, I nixed the one candidate who had been an AP in the US several years ago, but only used a family with whom she had lived for one month while she was “in between families.” If she wasn’t going to provide a reference for her whereabouts the other 11 months, I am not interested in finding out.

So far, I have only matched with out-of-country APs, and I must say, this year’s pool looks great. (Especially since I rarely consider APs who do not already have some form of special needs experience.)

German Au-Pair April 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm

You know what I finf remarkable (besides the fact that there are strange people out there who go into rematch to live by the beach)?

I’ve read SEVERAL complaints from au pairs who had to go into rematch because they got kicked out, had families who treated them badly or who didn’t stick to the rules and sometimes from girls who got into rematch for reasons unknown. I also know girls who had to go home after two weeks because they couldn’t find a family.

All of them complained about the agency because they were just caring for the families as they provide more money than an au pairs does. The local coordinators don’t really care if they find a new family and in the discussions before rematch, they don’t even want to hear the au pair’s point of view.

And then I read this blogs and get to hear all these horrible stories about the agencies just working in favor of the au pairs and neglecting the hostfamilies’ needs. Isn’t that weird? I would like to assume that no one (on both sides) is exaggerating (not a lot at least…who can be objective at all?) so then one questions remains in my mind:

If the agencies don’t really care about the au pairs and they don’t really care about the families…who are they caring about at all?

Now I do realize that you cannot generalize anything but stories add up and leave me wondering…

DarthaStewart April 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm

They care about themselves- not the host families, not the au-pairs. They do what they have to do to stay in business, and generally keep people happy enough to keep coming, but not a bit more.

I imagine that is probably true of most corporations in general.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

While I agree with Dartha, I also think that rematch hinges on the LCC and her relationship with the AP/HF. I have seen our LCC go the extra mile for APs who were rematching after being unreasonably kicked out by their HF whom she knew well because they attended cluster meetings and participated in AP events. She has also gone to bat for APs out of her cluster because they were living with us while waiting for a rematch and WE thought they were good candidates for rematch. I’ve also watched her try to assist sullen APs who didn’t do themselves any favors (we housed one such woman who slouched, didn’t engage in conversation despite our attempts, and never even looked at the kids – we were happy when she left, quite frankly). When the AP with whom we chose not extend decided she wanted to stay one more year, my LCC really went to bat for her, including extending the period in which she had to find another HF.

Here’s some behaviors I have seen in APs who did not successfully find another HF and went home: 1) being completely negative about the U.S., 2) not calling HF back immediately 3) complaining about the HF with which they were living or about what other HFs who had called them had wanted them to do, 4) not having a positive attitude and 5) not engaging in conversation when meeting someone in person.

And yes, the bottom line for any profit-making company is profits.

DarthaStewart April 16, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I totally agree that your experience on the ground is largely influenced by who your AD or LCC is. I’ve seen that over and over again!

Eastcoaster April 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm

We went into re-match with an AP who lied. The new HF contacted us about her and we were honest with them. We’re with CC.

eastcoastcounselor April 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The agency I work for has a “full disclosure” policy in rematch issues, and I can tell you that both of the regional managers I’ve worked with have held me/my families/my au pairs to the policy consistently. That said, we cannot actually control what any party says privately to a host family or au pair that calls them directly. I can also say that I’ve been surprised at what host families have been willing to overlook; there have been times when I’ve told them negative information about an au pair and they’ve chosen to match with her anyway (stuff that isn’t negative enough to send her home directly over but should be food for thought for the family before they take her into their home). The subsequent matches have thus far, just in my own direct experience, always been successful, which just goes to demonstrate that we’ll never find a way to standardize human relationships (guess that’s why we sometimes wonder how our friends/relatives can stand their spouses!).

I think the reason some host families feel the agency is working to help au pairs and some au pairs think the agency only cares about the families is because it can be very difficult to find the ‘middle truth’ and we’d rather not be unfair to either party. If there’s a child safety or mental stability issue, the au pair goes home and is *not* rematched. If host families are consistently unwilling to abide by the rules, they don’t get a new au pair. Outside of those issues, I think we try hard to be as fair as possible to both parties.

DC’s experience doesn’t sound fair. The only mitigating circumstance may be that somebody in the agency felt it was a safety issue for the au pair (since she said the au pair was afraid of her husband). Maybe there is more to this story than we- or possibly even the host mom- knows. However, I believe that the host family was owed notice of the possibility of rematch and the fact that there was incorrect information in the quote is serious and unacceptable.

With all of that said, I think that au pair agencies rely on positive experiences for *both* au pairs and host families to stay in business, and it’s therefore in their best interests to resolve issues as painlessly as possible for everyone when rematch occurs. When that doesn’t happen, you can be sure the au pair agency regrets it, because they do not want any negative opinions about their agency shared by the affected parties.

DCMETROAUPAIRMOM April 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I am the OP. I do agree that if there is any danger than the AP has to pulled from the environment. In our situation, the area director tried to talk the AP into staying in the home through the rematch process, but she refused. She had friends in Nebraska and she wanted to go stay with them. The AD told her that would be a hardship for the family, but she did not care. That was hurtful as she claimed to have formed a bond and kinship with me. I also do not think they are trying to rematch her now. I was told they had put something in her profile so that she is not viewable or something like that. Too late for me though. Au Pair Care made a mistake by not mediating the situation or even bringing it to our attention until the day before she was out of there. They apologized and refunded our money stating they did not feel comfortable keeping us as clients. They probably got the BBB complaints or something.

Calif Mom April 18, 2011 at 9:49 am

Glad to hear you got your money back. Take some time, shake it off, and know that there are good eggs out there. Our very first AP came knowing fully well her plan was to make her way to Chicago, where her BF lived (unbeknownst to us at the time). Which APIA allowed to happen.

Our dewy, idealistic new host family glow disappeared quickly! But we then had two great years with a fun, warm, reliable, excellent driver–who cooked! It can happen.

Glad you got some resolution with them. I’d say call around to the local counselors and go with the agency whose rep you like the best. It makes a huge difference.

Julie April 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

We have gone into rematch twice with Cultural Care and they encourage new families to speak with both the old host family and the former LCC. We get both of their phone numbers in an email and both times I called the old families to get information before making the decision. Though it hasn’t always been a perfect experience for us, we respect how the agency has dealt with being fair to both parties and, as I have very little tolerance for a lack of integrity, I think we’ll stick with our agency in the future.

Calif Mom April 18, 2011 at 9:56 am

Neither APIA nor CHI promoted conversations between host families in rematch.

Honestly, I don’t see it as a loss. I’ve done fine without it.

But, because I always want to help (it’s a curse sometimes), as we were loading box after box of stuff into the minivan of the new host family who took our former au pair, I felt obligated to clue the host parents in on the management style that they would need to supply. I felt obligated to do this because I am not convinced the agency had really been honest with them, or they would not have placed this particular au pair into this particular family arrangement. On paper, she’s got a tough row to hoe ahead of her. I do wish them all well, so I did what I could, sotto voce. Sometimes that’s all you *can* do….

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