What the best way to Pre-Match with an Au Pair, before connecting to an Agency?

by cv harquail on September 1, 2011

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could meet a really terrific young person from anther country, discover that you had complementary world views, and THEN go through an official agency to engage him or her as an au pair?

From time to time, we get questions from either parents or potential au pairs about how to go about with “pre-matching”, and I’d love to hear what any of you all have learned about that process.201108312130.jpg

Please note – let’s talk about pre-matching and then using an Agency to keep things legal and to provide support.

(Save “Can we sneak in an au pair without a program?” for another conversation.)

What’s the best way to pre-match with a family and then find an agency?

Dear Au Pair Mom,

I’m Tiara, a young woman based in Australia who just spent a wonderful creative summer in San Francisco. I’ve been looking at coming back and au pairing seems like an option – I’ve done childcare before as well as lived with host families of all sorts so I think I can adjust well.

I was wondering if it was possible for au pairs to prearrange host family placements.

In my SF stay I spent quite a bit of time with members of alternative families – queer, sex-positive, kinky, poly, and so on. Many of them are recent parents and would appreciate help that was friendly towards their alternative family arrangements. However, because they are not very mainstream they may not be open to registering for an au pair service. Indeed, while looking through au pair sponsor orgs, I’ve noticed that many veer towards the conventional and traditional, and wasn’t sure who would be open to non-conventional families.

I thought that I could get in touch with the families I met in San Francisco, ask if they would be happy with me as an au pair, and then have the sponsor company help organise the paperwork between us. Is that possible?

I understand that many companies do family screenings; would the alternative bent be a huge rejection factor? Alternatively, are there agencies you could suggest that are more alternative-lifestyle-friendly and could place me in an appropriate setting?

Thanks for your advice!


giulia September 1, 2011 at 5:02 am

I would say that anything you ask BEFORE hiring her is fine, anything you ask AFTER is subject to her (polite) approval. In this case, I would rematch…

Seattle Mom March 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Ummmm.. what?

Calif Mom September 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

Even if you prefer “alternative” lifestyles, you still need a visa. And the way to get a visa is through the State Dept-approved au pair agencies.

Since you liked SF so much I’m sure you will want to keep your option open to come back one day after your au pair gig–but there is a real risk that if you come illegally you will be deported and have to wait through a ban on returning that can be several years long.

If you can’t find a host family to pre-match with through your existing contacts in SF, then why not apply through an agency and see what you come up with?

There are certainly queer families who host au pairs through the agencies. If that’s what you *prefer*, then just say something in your application about “I prefer queer or alternative-lifestyle families” and then be prepared to wait longer than other au pair applicants. If you *only* want to be matched in SF, then you may be in for a loooong wait. I hope you realize that there are communities *like* the Bay Area in the rest of the States… Austin Texas, Madison Wisconsin, Takoma Park (in Washington DC), Santa Monica California (and other neighborhoods in Los Angeles, like Silver Lake), and of course New York City all have vibrant alternative communities that tend to congregate in certain neighborhoods. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t limit yourself in terms of geography if lifestyle is more important to you.

Furthermore, don’t underestimate the benefits to you, the au pair, in using an agency! They provide an important support network if things go wonky with your host family while you’re living overseas. And things can and do go wonky with host families! My au pair was first matched in a family with great kids but the parents wouldn’t do anything to train their little dog that attacked people–she has a big scar from the evil little beast. Just sayin’. Or what if your appendix bursts? Stuff happens. You’re going to need a safety net, even if you love living life on the edge.

Good luck!

German Au-Pair September 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I don’t think she actually wants to go without an agency. She clearly asks about which agency to pick.
To me her plan seems like this: get in touch with families she knows, already have an agency selected, have them apply, apply herself, match.
I don’t think it’s about staying in San Francisco or alternative lifestyle families in general but about THOSE specific families.

3grtkidz September 1, 2011 at 10:07 am

We did a pre-match for our first au pair. She was the daughter of a business colleague that my husband had met during his travels. We used Cultural Care Au Pair since it was available in both her country and our area and it worked out great. It was important to us that she had a visa, health insurance, etc. The San Francisco Bay Area is an amazing place for diversity. I think it is a great idea to contact the families you met this summer and say you would like to come as a legal au pair for the year. Agencies also have placement managers and the fact that you are open to working for a wide variety of non-traditional families should be to your advantage. The agency should be an advocate for both you and the host family. Sorry I don’t have a recommendations for specific agencies that are more open to different life styles. However you can interview the au pair agencies in your country and probably get a sense pretty quickly of their willingness to help you. Good luck!

MommyMia September 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Absolutely, it’s possible and after four au pairs that we “had” to select from the agency’s applicants, for our current (and last), we used AuPair-world.net to select a candidate, advising them which agency we had chosen so they could apply, if they chose to match with us. It did take a bit longer, overall, as not all countries have convenient agency contact companies to do the interviewing, pre-screening, visa application, etc. But we found it better, as we could post our family profile (for a small fee) and screen applicants who were interested in us, as well as search on various criteria which some agencies don’t have built into their process. Also, the profiles that are created by the applicants themselves on the APW site (also, Great au Pair, which others have mentioned on this blog) are not the cut & dried forms that agencies typically forward to families. We got a better picture of their personality right up front, could judge (at least their written) English language ability (presuming that they had done it themselves, which was easily sussed out in the first phone interview, if they hadn’t!) and the candidate didn’t have to pay any fees until they chose us and applied with the agency. Plus, we received a “pre-match” discount, which given the amount of hours I put into the selection of each au pair, was a bonus. Good luck!

NOVA Host Mom September 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Carrying on this question further… let’s say the young woman pre-matches with a family. Does the family have to pay the chosen au pair agency the “full” placement fee since the matching was already done? Just a thought.

MommyMia September 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I think the agencies vary in their fees, but you should certainly request a discount (even use the pricing as a basis for deciding which to sign with, if you haven’t already committed to one). Most are also lowering rates or giving bonuses to “new” families who switch from another agency. Just be aware that not all agencies recruit in all countries, which means they may not have a local partner to do all that’s necessary to ensure that you’re getting a quality au pair. There are still many administrative tasks that must be completed, even if it seems that we, the families, are being gouged for these services!

evyyk September 1, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I´m an aupair in the USA right now and i did a prematch with my hostfamily. I was registered at the internet website for aupairs (i was an aupair in England back then), and so was my American family. It was their first aupair experience so they didn´t know much about visa things and agencies. We seemed to click together really well and then agreed on signing up with the agency. I believe they had a tiny discount because we were prematched already. We are actually through the agency based in SF and California and i believe their hostfamilies are mainly from there…it´s very small agency and I´d say they are not that strict in some things as aupair care and other huge agencies are….maybe that might be the option for you as well:).

james walker September 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Dear Nanny,

My name is James Walker,My wife and i are both engineers and work very hard until 5:30pm. Usually we will like to have a loving nanny to take care of our 2 kids. Your duties will be feeding the kids, ensuring that they eats their meals, have their clothes cleaned, do some laundry, and typical basic cleaning activities at home. Our home is not that big so you won’t spend more than a couple of hours to do it all!!!

My family is mixed Danish and American,actually my wife is American and we live in the United Kingdom. Family speaks English and
Spanish fluently.Looking for male or female Nanny. Our nanny will not need to have a driver’s license cause i am planning to get you one and even send you to a driving school if you are willing. Light housekeeping is required, and we will accept a nanny that does not smoke in the house or in front of my kids.i would love a reply whether or not your want the job.

AFHostMom September 1, 2011 at 11:19 pm

we prematched with our first AP, and yes, we had to pay the full agency fee. She was a disaster, so thank goodness we did use an agency so we had rematch support.
My concern with this whole idea is that is seems like, unless the AP is already registered and ready to go, it would take forblankingever to get her paperwork through so the agency could bring her over. I would be very hesitant to prematch with an unregistered AP.

UKAuPair September 2, 2011 at 5:18 am

I am in the process of possibly pre-matching with a family and going through Aupair Care as I can’t drive yet, and Aupair Care already has my full application.
I would register yourself with an agency and then find your pre-match.
You can’t get a visa without going through an agency, but it is possible to pre-match and have the agency do all the legal support side. I wish you lots of luck.

maleaupairmommmy September 2, 2011 at 5:52 am

I have prematched with three of my au pairs. One waited for me for a whole year (BTW he was the best one). I use facebook a lot for this. For me I have found that latin male au pairs fit the best for our family personality. I have it a bit easier as male ap are not easy to come by. I am with CC so I go to the different CC facebook sites i.e. Cultural care Venezuela. I either stalk the page see if any males are asking questions and talk with them and encourage them. If I like their personality talk some more and it just naturally comes up that they would love to be our ap. I get to take my time. CC IMHO likes to do no work but reap the rewards I get 250.00 dollar discount and now twice during the 6 years I have been with them I had to fight them over 250.00 basically be a bitch which I don’t like to do but I did the work, the LCC doesn’t help me at all in fact usually makes life more difficult (that is another story and great blog how to deal with the LCC). Oh one year they didn’t take my male ap because Venezuela stopped taking male ap even though he had a family. Had to go to another country that year. I was a bit irate over that one but than got my best ap ever from the deal so it all worked out. I also belong to a facebook host mom group and one of the moms who had a large family had an ap that was suppose to come than she had to back out at the last minute and she was leaving the program right before he was suppose to go so I snapped him up figured if he was willing to deal with 5 kids he could maybe handle my 3 kids (LOL). So in the end yes it is possible and I do it every year as I have never had a great matching experience with CC. In fact my worse ap ever was a match I was pressured on by CC so I vowed never again.

anonmom September 2, 2011 at 7:10 am

I have prematched a few times. I found those au pairs at Greataupair.com, and that was after poring through hundreds of applications. It was well worth it, as those were the best au pair matches I had! One was already registered with the same agency as I, the other, was registered with a different agency, but had yet to pay the fees, etc, so she switched agencies for me. I did not get any discount for it, as the way the agency explained, they still have to do backrground check, etc, and if it didn’t work out she would be in their pool for a rematch. It is possible to prematch, but if the au pair who posed the question is going to limit herself, she needs to be prepared to wait a while. As others have posted, you need to make sure that the agency you register with services the other country, etc. It is a pain, though, that the US requires us to use agencies to have them here legally, as the agency fees have really skyrocketed.

CO Host Mom September 2, 2011 at 9:15 am

A family in my agency recently prematched with their AP. They were living in Europe and had used her as a babysitter – they found her through an expat classified section. When they returned to the U.S., both parties applied to the same agency, and she joined them in the U.S. as an au pair. The agency gave a pre-match discount.

Julie September 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

With my agency, they do offer a discount to families for pre-matching (several hundred dollars) and from an au pair side, it can be very beneficial to get “noticed.” I don’t know if non-traditional families would have a problem going through an agency. I am a local coordinator, as well as a host mom, and we have a same sex couple in my group of families. My organization actually offers discounts to same sex and non-traditional families. The State Department requires a visa and has strict requirements for the entire process, so you would have to match with one eventually. I think if you posted in your application that you would like to live with a non-traditional family, you would be an assist to the agency.

From the family side, I think it’s one thing to match with an au pair who you have personally met, but it’s another thing to match with a stranger. Part of the reason the agencies exist is to vet the au pairs and make sure they are good candidates for the program and family. Good luck!

WestMom September 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm

We have prematched twice using non-agency sites (Facebook, greataupair.com), and twice found great girls who were already registered with other agencies. After a long email courting, Skype interviews and reference checks, we decided to proceed and have them transfer to our agency. For our first prematch, our agency was able to transfer her dossier at no extra charge and did give us a $300 prematch discount. For the second, our respective agencies were not related and she had to re-register with ours. It was a bit of re-do but in the end it was well worth it, and ended up being less expensive for our au pair (and we got our $300 prematch discount!).

I prefer to do my research myself, hence the reason for our pre matches outside the agency. I find that it allows me more time to make contact and get familiar with a prospect, as opposed to the quick 48hr turnaround rules from the agencies.

To answer your question, there are alternative families with our agency, so I shall think that it would not be an issue to do this legally. We are with InterExchange/Au Pair USA if it helps.

Deb Schwarz September 4, 2011 at 7:50 pm

About half of our family’s 15 au pairs were pre-matches – I would find my own au pairs on a website in the UK (lots of au pairs there looking to come to CA) and run them through an agency for the visa (with a pre-match discount – takes about 6 weeks). With Cultural Care, I have also placed au pairs with many gay and alternative families – we have lots in the SF Bay Area to choose from. I’d be happy to help you come here/find a family (I used to live in Australia – now SF Bay Area and one of my former au pairs works in the Sydney office of Cultural Care).

Deb Schwarz

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