Which Au Pair Agencies are the Best to Work For?, asks future LCC

by cv harquail on February 8, 2016

What do Au Pair Agencies feel like from the inside?

I know that I was delighted when I got to meet the folks at InterExchange face to face — it was clear that they genuinely care about the experiences of their Au Pairs and Host Families. ¬†It seems like people there enjoyed their jobs and enjoyed each other.

But I never thought to ask– what’s it like to work for them as an LCC?

4339730815_07763e131d_mFuture LCC asks —

I am considering taking a job as a Local Counselor for an au pair agency and I came across your blog. It’s really informative and I love your laid back wisdom and insight.

(I know– aren’t the commenters on here great! ~ cv note.)

I’ve been fortunate to be able to stay home with my two sons for the last 18 years but now that one is graduating high school and the other is a busy 9th grader, I’m looking to re-enter the workforce.

My background is in counseling and community service and the fact that the metropolitan area in which I live is flooded with families needing au pair services, has led me to research agency LC jobs.

My question is about those agencies. Are there any that you would say have good to excellent support services (LC’s and management)? I’m looking at Au Pair In America, Au Pair World and InterExchange.

My ideal agency would be one that truly values their employees and provides them with excellent support and education.

If there are any LCs who’d like to send a private message to Future LCC, please email it to me and I will forward it along.

Image: Z33 Art Center on Flickr

{ 25 comments }

WestMom February 8, 2016 at 11:18 am

Au Pair World is a third party matchmaker, not an agency. They are also based in Germany. Perhaps the original poster was referring to Great Au Pair?

I’ll add a question if I may… I would love to know how LCCs are remunerated. Is this commissions, based on number of families in the cluster, or are some of them actually salaried?

Meg February 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Are they always remunerated? It could have been just a misunderstanding, but I thought I was told mine was a volunteer.

WestMom February 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Which agency are you with? That’s the first time I hear of a volunteer position…

Meg February 9, 2016 at 1:45 pm

I think I misunderstood. I think the words were “pretty much volunteers” and it was said in a context of “don’t expect too much”. And believe me, they didn’t do much. I don’t want to say the agency.

Returning HM February 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm

I am not an LCC, but we have been with three different agencies over our almost 10 years in the program, and there is a HUGE difference in how LCCs are remunerated. As a result, there ends up being a different emphasis on what they do. LCCs in the agencies who are paid by the number of families they support do things different than those who are paid by the number of families they BRING IN. I would ask a lot of questions about remuneration and also about what the average longevity is with the company for people in this role. Companies that have little turnover with their community coordinators are making choices that other companies that have a lot of turnover are not making. Good luck with this new career path.

WarmStateMomma February 8, 2016 at 2:15 pm

CCAP assigned us 4 different LCCs in 8 months so my impression is that there is a lot of turnover. There could be a lot of reasons for this, but I’d ask a lot of questions about turnover from any prospective agency to gauge whether it’s worth your time to pursue that agency.

Reluctant Grownup February 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I second the turnover / many LCCS experience at CCAP. Everyone I’ve dealt with there has been professional and supportive, but due to vacations, maternity leaves, turnover, and geographic reassignment, we dealt with 7-8 people with our first Au Pair of 2 months, and our rematch (this includes LCCs, matching specialists, and reginal director, so it would usually be 3). Now, matching with our second OOC AP. I’m having to reiterate our rematch story (only the AP’s side is well documented; we didn’t want to be negative, oops) and it’s got me feeling unnecessarily defensive.

Julie Dye February 9, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Hey reluctant grown up–write me a note and I’ll help you match. julie.dye at lcc.culturalcare.com

Reluctant Grownup February 9, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Thanks so much Julie,

We did match again. We are waiting on an OOC AP who seems amazing. Thanks for your kind offer. My remark was to relate that the poor CC people hearing our rematch tale for my fifth, their first, time, may hear it with unnecessary defensiveness on my end.

I really appreciate how transparent the CV rematch process is. I wish I’d been more assertive at the time though about our side.

Julie Dye February 11, 2016 at 12:20 am

I’m here–reach out if you need something.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 8, 2016 at 10:01 pm

I’ve been a HM with APIA APs for nearly 15 years. I’ve had the same LCC since 2004 (granted her area has grown so large that it has been split in half, I’ve just been fortunate to be “grandfathered in.” Recently, I housed an AP who chose to go into rematch (HM sounded a little tough, AP was categorized by my AP as “sensitive”), and I used my LCC to light a fire under rematch AP’s LCC. My LCC, in gratitude for my willingness to house rematch AP, free of charge, for 2 weeks, was to get APIA to give me a credit. (Small, yes, but totally unexpected.)

If you chose to LCC, then expect there will be a learning curve. As a HF, I’d rather you asked questions of more senior LCCs or HQ, than just attempted to “wing it.”

WestMom February 9, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Great point about the learning curve. I’d also add that coordinators need to learn from parents as well. I interviewed a bunch of coordinators last year when I registered with 4 agencies, and I find their personal experience extremely important in relating to our situation. My coordinator at IE has been in her role for 20 years, and was a host mom before, so I can’t think of someone better suited to be a LCC. Here are some of the points that definiteyl give me confidence in an LCC:

– LCC is an ex-host parent, or an ex-AP familiar with the program
– LCC is a parent, ideally of grown children and understands how the family evolves over time
– Or minimally, LCC is a parent who understands the challenges of childcare

When I met the LCC for CC last year, she basically only barely my ‘parent criteria’. She had a 3yr old in preschool, had never had an AP, or any other form of childcare. It was evident that she did not have any personal insights about the program, so for that reason (and other reasons about how CC deals with rematch/refunds), I decided not to deal with CC in the future.

Julie Dye February 9, 2016 at 5:00 pm

WestMom, what area are you in? I totally agree with you on experience, but would love to pass your comments on. Would also love clarification on your point about how we deal with rematch, which I’ve always felt was so good since we have transparency and contact info for host families and LCCs. Would love to hear your comments–thank you! julie.dye at lcc.culturalcare.com. Warm regards!

Julie Dye February 9, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Hi all–host mom & CC LCC for the last 5 years here. Indeed, the agencies are very different in how they pay and work with LCCs. I’ve asked a colleague who worked for one agency for 12 years and then with CC for the last few years to comment, as she’s a really good one to answer. In the meantime, here are my main thoughts on this question:

Some agencies give a coordinator/LCC/regional director a salary to take care of every au pair within an hour of them. They often have really huge groups or sometimes, really small groups. Not all of these agencies require face to face meetings with au pairs each month or voice contact with families. Au pairs often have to travel longer distances to meetings. One of my local competitors has like 5 au pairs in our entire state. She’s lovely, but it’s really a small side job for her. One reason families may have had turn over is because LCCs may have decided that it wasn’t the right position for them (it requires a lot of flexibility). It could also be because your area has experienced a lot of growth and as CC wants to increase our service and support, we tend not to have HUGE groups so that we can focus on our area. I totally recognize that both turnover and a bad LCC can really effect your experience and would hope that the organization is doing everything they can to find you a person of reliability and knowledge.

CC is really different–it’s much more performance-based. If you are good and your families and au pairs like/respect you, you can do well. You have the power to grow your group and it can become a full-time job. But generally, it does not start out that way. It is not a job for everyone because you have to be able to deal with drama, sometimes at a moment’s notice. I’ve dealt with all kinds of very intense situations that many could not handle, but you know what? I love my job and I love CC for many reasons. Here are some of them–1) as both a host mom and LCC, what has been most important to me is working for an organization that is ethical. Unlike many other agencies, if we cannot find an au pair who is in transition a home, we pay for their flight home. Many agencies require the au pair to pay their flight home if they have not fulfilled their contract. We want to take good care of them. When something goes wrong (and we all know it really can), CC always wants to me on the right side of the ethical debate. I’ve seen this over and again for years. 2) I am rewarded for really caring and being very good at my job. My families and au pairs are both empowered to effect my pay. A lot of people would not like that. But what this means is I am going to do everything in my power to provide you with a high level of support. We don’t just send you an email each month to call that contact, we want to hear from you, we want to know you. 3) I have a lot of opportunity to travel–I’ve had the incredible chance to travel to our offices worldwide to see how we recruit, screen and train au pairs. The passion my organization has for cultural exchange is incredible. And I love that if I do a good job, I have the chances to see these places, as I am passionate about travel as well. 4) We value compliance with the state department–Interexchange is very small and APIA is larger–your experience would likely be very different. It’s very important to me that we as LCCs are following the rules of the state department and as an agency, CC is very complaint, which is why we are the largest. The state department continues to allow us to grow by the granting of visas. Not every agency or every LCC is going to be as strict on those regulations so you really want to ask yourself where you want to be. Are you a rule follower or are you going to be fighting with your agency to break off ties with a family not following the rules? 5) CC has a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children in the countries from which we recruit au pairs. I really love this, as it’s a big part of what we do.

With any job you take, I would ask yourself how can you grow in your position–how much has your area grown, what is the plan for the next 3 years, how can you make more money? What happens if you are excellent at your job? What happens to someone if they aren’t good? It’s great if you are passionate about the program, but if not performance-based, a person could have a job for 10 or 20 years and be very complacent. You need and want to be an LCC who cares. Do you want to be part of a team or are you okay being a little more disconnected? CC gathers their LCCs as a large group annually and smaller groups multiple times throughout the year so I feel like I’m part of a community, a family really. Do they have in-person trainings and events that you are able to connect with throughout the year? That might be important so you don’t feel like a little island.

Even if you are not looking for a position at my organization, feel free to use me as a resource: julie.dye at lcc.culturalcare.com

TexasHM February 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm

As someone who has remained friends with our first LC (APIA) and been approached by two other agencies about being an LC, I want to stress a couple of things.

1. This is NOT lucrative. This position is absolutely a labor of love and thus, naturally has higher turnover as many either cannot juggle it as a second or third job and/or need to make more money and cannot afford to do it long term.

2. This is often a thankless job. HFs can be nightmarish, APs less so but some can be, and at the end of the day you don’t get paid for the drama (reset mtgs, rematch mtgs, cluster meetings, transitions, etc).

Generalizing (but I have seen comp for 3 orgs now and they are all similar $), I will paint you a picture.

Org 1 – you get a higher monthly stipend per family (let’s say $30 each) but you don’t get paid for pre-arrival home inspections, new family meetings, etc. If you have 10 families you make $300 a month and assuming you do a cluster meeting and home inspection every month plus one other unpaid meeting (mediation, rematch, etc) and monthly check ins wild guess is minimum 20 hours of work which equates to about $15 an hour (assuming ZERO drama happens).

Org 2 – you make a little less per family ($20-25) but you get paid for new home inspections, 2 week check ins, etc ($10-25 per type of meeting). Still no pay for mediations, rematches, transitions, cluster meetings, etc but at least you feel like when you go out to meet with a new family you are getting paid for it!

Different orgs structure differently. I would ask what the size of the cluster is you will be taking over (smaller the cluster, more turnover at LC position), what geo it covers exactly (do you have to drive an hour for a mediation you arent getting paid for?) and what the maximum number of families is you can have in your cluster before they will split it up and give some to a new LC.

I would also ask how much autonomy you will have. At APIA my LC couldn’t do ANYTHING. Everything was controlled at the AD level and our AD was infamous. APIA has had 4 LCs in 5 years here in large part due to this AD and continues to have a small cluster because families don’t want to to deal with AD. If this AD was gone tomorrow we would reconsider APIA actually but as of now, no chance. You would be working for this woman if you were an LC here! None of those 4 LCs had ever hosted an AP so they were largely useless to HFs anyway. By the time they started to figure it out, they left for greener pastures.

At IE here there have been 5 LCs in the last 5 years. In large part because its a small cluster that covers a huge geo (way smaller now that they had a HORRIBLE unstable LC that the national director backed despite numerous complaints who later quit and almost all the HFs have left for other agencies now). I actually like the policies of IE but again, none of these LCs had ever hosted although one many years ago was an ex-AP. But right now one family and driving an hour to see them? Who would want that job?! Plus I found as a non profit that they were much slower to respond to me and LC on pretty much everything. My dream would be CCAP’s corporate adopting IE’s policies and keeping my CCAP LC. ;) And world peace!

CCAP runs the market in our area and for good reason. There are multiple clusters and two of them are sizable (dozen APs) and in a small geo (our suburb and next). Our first LC with CCAP had been doing it 11 years, had not hosted but had been an exchange student herself and the only reason she left was she actually moved to Boston and is an LC there with CCAP still. Other LC took over the geo because she lived here and she’s going on 6 years, has not hosted but her much older sister did so she grew up around AP program and does a great job. The AD is an ex-AP that became an LC that got promoted to AD. She’s amazing. The previous AD and matching coordinator I had last round both were current HMs and most of the people in the organization either currently host or have hosted which I found to be in stark contrast to my experience with other agencies.

I have a HM friend in another part of the US that recently went to LC for Expert. I am hearing more about them as they are growing pretty rapidly and I have another HM friend looking at becoming an LC there. I can’t speak to their comp plan but like I said, I have found them all to be 6 or one half dozen of the other. My friend went there because she loved their customer service and the owners after hosting through them and 6 months in she still has only great things to say.

I don’t know if that helps you at all, just wanted to help set a fair expectation. HFs think (I did too) and APs think that LCs get paid to deal with everything and in reality they get paid for almost none of it so you start with high expectations and low compensation which = labor of love.

Old China Hand February 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

We are with GAP and our lcc does the bare minimum, if even that. I complain regularly to our matching coordinator about her. One ap didn’t make all her required meetings because not enough were scheduled. I would switch to CCAP in a heartbeat if they recruited in China better but GAP does the best recruiting there by a long shot and that is worth putting up with the crummy lcc for. Our cluster and CCAP do most activities together so the girls meet each other anyway. And none of this would change our status as the only host family with any agency in our entire county.

Julie Dye February 11, 2016 at 12:22 am

Hey Old China Hand, if you want me to keep an eye on you for Chinese candidates that are amazing, let me know. There is really high demand for Mandarin speakers, so I know there are a lot of efforts to grow the amount of experienced candidates! Just email me!

Old China Hand February 11, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Thanks, Julie. We just started our year with a so far amazing young woman. I have ended up just being as careful as I can that I select and train well because I don’t trust that I’ll get support locally for rematch. So far has been ok but not the best way to live. Only come back to you in the fall when we next match.

Au Report Author February 10, 2016 at 1:43 am

I was a counselor for 6 years with APiA, and the job gave me a lot of flexibility when my kids were young. However, there was much aggravation and drama along the way. The plus side was that the job was never boring, and I got to know many fabulous host families and au pairs, but then I also had to deal with some terrible host families and au pairs. It was important for me to be an advocate for the au pairs, who are in a vulnerable position (and having been an au pair in France, I was sympathetic to that), but there was always the realization that ultimately the host families were the customers, and even if the customers are not always right, they have a lot of bargaining power (far more than the au pairs). We did have an excellent regional director in my area (a more experienced counselor), but the support from the main office varied in quality over time. I had so many crazy things happen that I felt compelled to write a novel about my experiences (although I fictionalized them).

There is a lot I could say about that job, but the one thing to keep in mind is that it is entirely dead end because it is a unique job that leads to no other job. The pay is based on the number of families covered (which is variable) and on an independent contractor basis (unless this has changed). I stopped being a counselor five and a half years ago, but one thing that bothered me was that our roles were defined as employee roles tend to be (lots of rules about how to do things–not only due to State Dept. requirements but also due to the program’s priorities) yet we were not compensated as employees. There are no benefits other than a program fee discount if you have an au pair. The poor pay was only worth it to me because working from home part-time allowed me not to pay for child care (the pay does get a lot better for counselors with very large clusters, but then the job becomes much more demanding and truly full time). Most of the “in person” commitments were on weekends or in the evenings, and that was often tedious, especially when one of my territories was a half hour away by car. It doesn’t make as much sense for someone with older kids, although if you love to work from home but also interact with people, it may be a good fit for you.

I recently transitioned back to working full time in an office after having another work-from-home job following the au pair counselor job, and it’s not as difficult as I had feared. You may find a counselor job a good transitional job, but you should probably explore other options as well.

LC@IEX February 10, 2016 at 10:37 am

Dear Future LCC,

I am responding to your post on the Au Pair Mom Website. Congratulations on being able to stay home with your children and now exploring ideas for a future career.

I have been a Local Coordinator for InterExchange/Au Pair USA for 21 years. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for and work with such a wonderful agency. Working as an Local Coordinator it is important to feel supported by your agency. The position is independent much of the time so having a strong support network and the backing of a professional agency is an important factor when considering this position. I am just one of the many LC’s that have worked with InterExchange for more than 15 years. We are a close group that welcomes our new LC hires with open arms. I have never once felt “alone” in the field. I know that I am just a phone call, email or text message away from an answer. InterExchange has a partnership with their LC’s and treats us with respect and mutual cooperation. They are at the top of a long list of agencies that always use best practices when working with host families, au pairs and staff.

This position allowed me to work at my own pace and build a successful cluster group which has become one of the largest in the country. I am passionate about the cultural exchange program that the agency provides for our families and au pairs.Like you, I also have a background in counseling and community service which has been invaluable to me in my success. LC’s are usually compassionate, open minded, quick thinking, creative and helpful individuals. This position will afford you the privilege of meeting the nicest people from around the world. You will learn about so many different cultures, customs and child care preferences.

Every day is something new and different. Every day we have the opportunity to start over, make a difference and be a support for someone. There are many benefits to working in this position and I appreciate my job with this agency.

LC@IEX2 February 11, 2016 at 11:37 pm

Hi Future LCC,

Thank you for asking such a valuable question.

As a current LC for IEX I appreciate the fact that you are doing your due diligence to truly find the right fit for you in a position such as ours. As you have seen from many of the posts, this is a job that is rewarding in many different ways. In some areas if you have a large cluster you may be rewarded with higher income and in areas that are smaller the reward is more intrinsic. Although in both scenarios you have to have a passion for working with people, caring about someone’s well being, have the ability to mediate, problem solve and be compassionate.
If you have had the opportunity to travel or experience other cultures first hand it certainly helps you understand how to work with people of other cultures.

I have been an LC for IEX for over 11 years. My cluster has been large and small and at the end of the day I feel rewarded, challenged and appreciated regardless of the size of my cluster. When I began as an LC I was a host family to a wonderful au pair from Sweden. My children were young and although I was a stay at home mom at the time I was fortunate to be able to have the extra support. I went on to host 4 more au pairs and return to work full-time and continue my role as the LC in my area.

I truly enjoy the people I work with at IEX and feel supported in my role everyday. Since the agency is in NY and I am on the West Coast there are often challenges that arise due to the time difference. However, they are always diligent about making sure my needs and the needs of my host families and au pairs are met regardless of the time difference. Considering I have been with them for over 11 years and do not see myself working for another agency, and I have been approached to do so, I feel that you couldn’t ask for a better company with the best policies than IEX.
Good Luck in your job search!

Maryory, future auPair February 23, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Im going whit Au Pair in America its this a good agencie?
I’m learning soo much whit this page I love it <3

MHoli3 May 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I am a first time HM and have had an ok experience so far. Ok only because we failed to set up better expectations in the beginning. We thought we were being “nice” with being open about the day to day arrangement (besides the be attentive to our child). But with the agency rep, I must say that six months in I have not met any other host families in my area. I have been to three events myself. It would be nice to know what other families in my area are experiencing. But back to this post, my point is that it would be nice to know of the agencies that have very attentive Area reps because we could have used some help navigating some intense issues. Mental health diagnoses’ that were left off the application (rep says “I called her, she’s fine) AP signing up for 4 days a week of school (mon to thurs) that we have to transport to without consulting us (rep says “it’s your responsibility to transport”) home sickness needs, etc. I’m not sure my family is going to do this again because of the lack of support. But maybe it’s just me? And I am expecting too much from the company?

MHoli3 May 14, 2016 at 4:25 pm

?? I should mention there are at least 20 AP in my area, so not meeting any other HF seems weird.

Mauricio May 21, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Hi, My dougther is considering going to germany as an au pair, she is using aupairworld.com, obviously I am very concern about this and I wanted your advice about this site, is it serious?, is it legal?, is it a scam?.
My biggest worry is about human traffic.

Thanks in advance.

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