Write Your Departing Au Pair A Decent Letter of Reference

by cv harquail on April 5, 2016

…as long as she wasn’t unsafe, devious, or truly dreadful.

A Host Parent Letter of Reference Makes a Difference

Whether it’s for an au pair extending with another family, rematching due to poor fit with you, or applying for a job, school program or other opportunity, a letter of reference helps your au pair document the work s/he did in your home and how s/he coped with the challenges of living abroad with a host family.

  • People who don’t know what au pairing is need that letter to understand what the job entails
  • Host families considering your departing au pair need to know what s/he can do well, as well as why you and s/he are parting ways.

230188091_c8e093c7aa_mFocus Your Letter on Useful Meaningful Features of the Au Pair’s Time with You

Letters of reference are easy to write for stellar au pairs, and in all honesty they are not that hard to write for mediocre au pairs either.

Be thoughtful and note what your au pair did well, what parts of her/his attitude were easy to work with, what she learned, how s/he handled challenges.

Unless s/he was awful, you can find some good things to say. After all, you chose this au pair, this au pair worked well enough that you kept him/her for some time.

Writing a kind Letter of Reference is not an official Host Parent requirement, but it is a courtesy that I believe we’re obligated to extend to any young person who took a risk and came to our family.

There’s almost always something nice to say, that’s true and that matters.

I’m not suggesting that you lie, stretch the truth, or omit important information. I am suggesting, instead, that you refrain from documenting annoyances and failings that weren’t critical and/or that won’t be critical in your au pair’s next adventure.

Just because her inability to do X was a pet peeve of yours doesn’t mean you need to document it for the ages.

I’m writing this from my “sympathetic to the au pair” headspace, in response to this email, below.

Hello everyone

Currently, I’m an au pair with one host family, planning to extend my second year term with another family. The main reason in why I took this decision is because, even though I’ll finish my whole year with my current host family, we really don’t have the best relationship.

When the agency sent the information about the extending process, the family felt prompted to tell the agency that they wanted a new au pair, so I decided to ask to extend with another family.

As the year has gone along, we had never needed an LCC intermission (intervention). Whenever I had an issue with something I always talked directly to my host mom and we worked things out.

For my extension application, my host mom wrote my reference letter for the other host families looking for extension au pairs.  She really wrote a very bad reference about me, even though she never told either my LCC or I that something was wrong.

The main reason for this bad review is because she considers that I do not know how to multitask in the mornings and I don’t make things move fast enough with the two kids.

My LCC already talked to my host parents about the letter. The LCC did not ask them to rewrite the letter because the LCC doesn’t think this issue should affect my possibilities to find a new host family.

However I have worked hiring people in my home country and I know how horrible a bad reference may look in your resume.

Now, I have never exposed the kids into a hazardous situation and the girls have even asked me on why am I not staying with them.

I  would really like to know, how badly is this going to affect my chances to finding a new family?


2 kids and a cat April 6, 2016 at 6:05 am

As a professor, I’ve written a lot of references … It’s important to tell prospective host families what you do well, as well as address weaknesses. What has been a challenge in my family might not be in the next. The reference, however, is my word and has to show integrity. I don’t believe only positive references anyway.
We just gave a candid reference and I think my insight helped the other mom know what she needed to address in training, and to have a chance to think whether or not these were things she could work around. It was honest, but gracious enough on the strengths that our rematch found a new family.

Anna April 6, 2016 at 7:54 am

I agree with the poster above. I am sure your host mom said good things about your strengths also; but it is important to be honest so that the next family knows what your strengths are as well as your weaknesses.
This is also in your best interest, so the next family you find will be a good fit for you.

I notice that you don’t argue with what your host mom said – so you must know it is true; and the reason she may not have addressed it with you during your year may be that you wouldn’t be able to change that, or she tried and saw that you wouldn’t be able to change that. Some things are personality traits that cannot be changed or worked around well.
Keeping kids safe is a basic that is expected from every au pair, and the fact that your host kids asked why you are not staying is a sign that you formed a bond, which is also a basic I expect from every au pair. I hope your host mom said some of these good things also in your reference letter.

Good luck with finding a new family. Don’t be upset with your host mom; she did her duty to other host moms and was honest, which is an American value. And also, this is a learning experience for you. I am surprised you didn’t see that your host family didn’t think that you were doing a great job, and I am surprised that you didn’t see it coming that they don’t want to extend with you. Partly this is their fault for not giving you honest feedback, but in any situation there is a little fault with both parties – part of it is your fault for not asking for feedback, or for not recognizing it, and for not trying to fix what was broken.

NoVA Twin Mom April 6, 2016 at 10:56 am

Can you ask your LCC if it’s possible to “add a page” to your extension package where you would provide a response to your host mom’s letter of recommendation? I have to say I’ve never seen this when looking at extension candidates, but it might make you feel better about applying to extend with another family. This would give you the opportunity to point out that these issues were brought up first in the letter of recommendation and you weren’t given an opportunity to address them. If nothing else, that would allow families looking at extension candidates to know that you see there may be an issue and would be willing to work on it in the future.

Or maybe it will result in a family that needs more after school care than morning care to choose to interview you, when perhaps your strengths shine through later in the day, setting you up for success in your extension year.

Mimi April 8, 2016 at 3:56 pm

I would also add that when interviewing you can reference this issue by talking about how you understand the importance of good communication and use it as a mutual screening tool.

WarmStateMomma April 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Just a thought – I wouldn’t think to ask for an LCC intervention unless rematch was on my mind. The thought of calling up an outsider I don’t know to mediate issues within my household feels weird and needy. Drama-seeking, actually. Especially if that outsider has no experience with parenting, hosting, etc. If your HPs aren’t happy with you but are willing to finish out the year instead of deal with rematch, it’s very possible they wouldn’t see a benefit to contacting the LCC.

If I were interviewing APs who were not staying with the original HF, I’d expect to see some reason for the AP not extending with the HF. I don’t think the “I want to see another part of the US” reason really applies to so many candidates. I’d appreciate the honesty of a candidate who said the original family wasn’t a great match and the AP wants to try again – and the the determination to stick out a year with a family who wasn’t a great match.

Be honest and think hard about what you can offer to a future HF. Describe that in detail. Speak respectfully about your current HF, even when you disagree with them. That will speak volumes about your maturity. At the end of the day, many HPs are looking more for character than experience.

I gave our first AP a positive reference for her next gig, but was honest about her inability to drive. I was actually pretty irritated that she took a job illegally after she finished her year with us, but I didn’t want to be the jerk who ruined her dream. The positive reference was more about me not wanting to feel like a jerk than about her abilities. She got the job but Homeland Security booted her 6 months later.

HRHM April 6, 2016 at 4:10 pm

First of all, I think it’s important to understand what HFs are looking at when they consider an extension candidate and what our expectations are. I don’t ever think that I’m going to see an honest LOR saying “She was fantastic, had no faults, was our perfect match” because if they felt that way about you, they’d be keeping you. I know this because out of 8 APs (all but one who stayed the whole year) I’ve only extended with one. The others, two of whom extended with other families, were not dangerous and managed to get to the end of their year with us without me needing to rematch. They were NOT excellent, they were “meh”. Each one of them had good traits (#1, super tidy; #2 GREAT with kids, #3 always on time, #4 great cook, #5 organized) and terrible faults (#1 not great with kids, #2 Terrible driver, #3 lazy, #4 late almost every day, #5 total pig) – You get the idea. For the ones who extended elsewhere, I did my best to highlight their strengths while still being honest about their shortcomings. Some families don’t need a driver, some have a housekeeper twice a week, some eat take out at every meal or use a personal chef, some only need their AP in the afternoon, so for them, her shortcomings may have zero impact.

BUT – I will not be that HP who pretends she’s perfect in every way so that she can get her dream match in Hollywood at the expense of the poor unsuspecting receiving HM. My allegiance lies with the new HF who needs to know what they are getting.

Reread the letter your HM wrote. Ask yourself – Is it honest, is it kind and is it necessary. If it’s 2 out of 3, she did the right thing. If you feel like it’s not honest or doesn’t highlight your strengths while only talking about your weaknesses, I don’t think that you’d be out of line to ask her to revise it to include those as well. Also, keep in mind that your current performance can impact how she feels about writing a positive eval. If you were doing a decent job but now have started to slack off because you are having burn out or short timers’ syndrome, you might want to reconsider and do at least as good if not a better job than you had been doing. Nobody wants to end the year on a bad note. Now that you’ve seen her criticisms in the letter, you have a unique opportunity to address those things she complained about and make them better. Just a thought.

EBHM April 6, 2016 at 5:00 pm

I had to laugh when I read this because I kind of have the opposite problem. I am looking for our next au pair, and exchanged some emails with a candidate. Then we had an interview on skype that we all thought went well. So I asked my current au pair to have a chat with the candidate and be honest about our pros and cons. Well, whatever transpired during that chat sent the candidate running for the hills. I thought we had been very honest about our family’s pros and cons. So this leaves me wondering whether we have some unaddressed problems with our current au pair. Has anyone had a similar situation?

HRHM April 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm

I haven’t had anyone run for the hills, but I have found out after the fact that the AP gave the candidates some dicey information. At the end of the day, opinions are like… well you know ;) everyone has one. It’s a little hurtful to hear the negative stuff, especially second hand, especially after you feel you’ve been kind and generous and welcoming to this person you’ve welcomed into your family for a year. I do think that if the candidate is willing to give you some “exit interview feedback” it may make you realize you do have a problem with current AP or even better, may make you realize that she told the absolute truth and saved you from a bad match.

Mimi April 8, 2016 at 4:50 pm

IMO if you address this letter (either directly or indirectly) in your interviews, you will have a better chance of off-setting it’s negative impact. If your LCC doesn’t think the letter will negatively impact your matching chances, then try to relax a little about it and not obsess over it. If you spend all your time interviewing refuting what this LOR says, you are not likely to be successful in finding a match, good or bad. Be prepared to talk about what is true in the reference or how you can appreciate how what you felt was acceptable/reasonable might be perceived differently by your HM and how you think you would have addressed it if given the chance. If I were looking at a letter like this, an AP who demonstrated genuine introspection about the situation would have a better chance of matching. Like Seattle Mom, I prefer honest balanced references and can recognize what is and isn’t a deal breaker for me. Most HFs will recognize that there are two sides to every story and the truth often lies somewhere in the middle.

We have only extended with one AP. It was a good experience, but I prefer having a new, fresh AP and want our APs that choose to extend to have new experiences and get the most out of their time here. All our APs have extended with other families and I have always given thoughtful references that talk about personality, capability, responsiveness to feedback, and communication in the context of their duties and a general description of our HH and HF style. This is very close to what CCAP has for their structured extension info page now.

IntellectualMom April 6, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Our lovely au pair is hoping to extend on the West Coast (we’re in Massachusetts) and I think she has grown into being an absolutely wonderful au pair. She’s a pro with the kids (a trained kindergarden teacher and a juggler/gymnast), speaks several languages, makes delicious meals, is organized, very dynamic, loving, and creative; inspires confidence in adults, and is very sunny and fun to have around. I’d love to help her find a family in the San Francisco area or somewhere in California for her second year. Do you all have suggestions for how to recommend her to families? She finishes with us in August. Thanks!

New to This April 8, 2016 at 11:18 am

As an HF in California, we ended up opting not to consider extension au pairs who requested west coast placements. Having myself experienced and loved many parts of the US (including in “flyover country”), the frequency with which I see specific requests for the same region suggest that a significant fraction of the people making them, even after most of a year in the US, are still heavily influenced by pop culture cliches. I also think I have better odds, with applicants whose preferences are more open-ended, of finding someone who is more interested in cultural exchange as a genuine learning opportunity, rather than just a “glamorous” experience, and who is more focused on connections with the kids and compatibility with the family than on the perks of the placement. (We do aim to provide great perks, but we don’t want them to be the reason anyone chooses us!) I’m sure there are some good applicants who slip through that filter, but I expect that’s just as true of all the heuristics we use for narrowing our candidate pool, and we have to start somewhere.

So, in my case, I guess the best suggestion would be to help her contextualize the regional preference in a way that makes it seem like a clear exception to my filter — I might be swayed, for example, by some well-informed individual reason why living in this area would enhance her cultural experience (maybe related to a trip out here that your family took, a specific contrast with her experience in your area, etc.), and your recommendation could help lend her some credibility there… I suspect even HFs for whom regional preference is a neutral or positive factor would be that much more interested if there’s some thoughtful grounding for an applicant’s interest in their area.

Seattle Mom April 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Also, it gets my goat a little when AP’s say “west coast” but they really mean California. Hello, Seattle is on the West Coast too! And as a native New Yorker, I can tell you it’s an amazing place and quite different from the east coast. It’s also quite different from California, although we do seem to attract a lot of native Californians who settle here once they realize all that stuff about the rain isn’t as bad as people think. But don’t tell them, we don’t need any more darned Californians coming up here!

There’s also Portland, Oregon, which gets a lot of Seattle transplants who are sick of all the Californians jacking up housing costs and driving all crazy.

Seattle Mom April 8, 2016 at 2:32 pm

As a side note, I’m sort of glad not to live in the prime destination for APs. When they say they want to come to Seattle (it happens sometimes) I know they must have done some research. Although we had one au pair excited about Seattle because she loved Gray’s Anatomy. One au pair had friends who were au pairs here, so she chose to extend with us over families in NYC and CA. And she is from Bangkok, so she knew she didn’t want to live in such a big city with insane traffic.

HRHM April 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm

I also would NEVER choose an AP who was looking for a specific city or state unless she could clearly articulate why. I would not be turned off by a MASS AP who said she wanted to extend in a warm climate, or vise versa for that matter. Or a Mountain or plains state AP who wanted to be within an hour of the ocean, etc. I can see geographic reasons for wanting to move as being within reason, but when an AP says “california” what I hear is “RHWOC” or Hollywood. And the rest of us know that California also includes the Mojave dessert, the redwood forests, Napa, Sacramento – none of these places have ANYTHING in common with RHWOC!

New to This April 8, 2016 at 9:56 pm

Even if you narrow it just to LA and SF, those are very different places — someone who loves SF will probably love Seattle, too, but may well hate LA, and anyone dreaming of the Southern California sun will be miserable in SF! Of course, it’s possible to be separately enthusiastic about both Northern and Southern California, but someone whose interests range that broadly is probably capable of naming half a dozen other cities they’d love to experience, too!

FirstTimeHM April 7, 2016 at 4:53 am

I’ve been asked to provide our regular babysitters with a reference and did so with honesty. One of them is a great, cheerfull, optimistic, loving girl. One of those girls who never fully grow up. She’s great with kids, finally grew into a responsible adult, but never lived on her own and isn’t tidy. When she’s around the house is full of laughter and the kitchen full of dishes.
She’s now a regular sitter with a family that loves her energy and the great ideas she comes up with.
Another of our sitters is a very responsible young girl who has a natural authority and is extremely tidy. She will always know exactly where every kid is and what he/she is doing. She’s good at arts and crafts and in engaging kids in educational stuff. She’s not an outdoor/into the woods kind of person, but likes to take the kids to a playground, or play tennis with them. I let her go to the swimming pool with 4 kids and she did very well. Everybody enjoyed themselves and was completely safe. I wrote a letter of recommendation for her because she would like to be an au pair and I think she’s a natural.

Our current au pair is an extension and came with a bad letter of reference full of things that were never addressed during her time there. She came to her last family out of rematch (her first host family had been kicked out of the programm and her host father convicted because of sexual harrassment of two of his au pairs including her) and the family wasn’t a good match. Their view on raising kids and their temperament didn’t match with hers and though she first didn’t think that would be a real problem because she’s quite flexible and she would be there as a mother’s helper (7 kids) it turned out to be a big deal after all. She loves to travel and see and explore new things, her HM is a homely woman and prefers to stay at home. Her HM had a very laissez-faire approach to raising kids and didn’t tell them off (not even for hitting each other) but praised them for good behaviour. That did cause the 3 yo to seriously hurt her baby sister more than once, even with hospital visits etc. Still the 3 yo was never told off and never told she couldn’t do something. Our AP always tried to keep the 3 yo and the baby separate and bit her tongue in front of the kids, but took it up with her HM who wasn’t pleased with that.

That bad reference caused me to double check her other references. She nearly didn’t get the job because of it.
In our house our temperaments match, and our views in raising the kids match. And when your and her views match on the basics, it’s easy to follow my lead in details like not giving the kids cola during the week, but stick to water, tea and lemonade.
I’m glad we took her, she’s a good AP. She’s probably not the greatest all around, but she’s a good fit, she’s good and responsible with the kids, she’s full of energy and takes them places and does a lot with them, and she’s quite tidy. Downside is she doesn’t like housework much and will do her share but nothing more than that. We can easily live with that.

Seattle Mom April 8, 2016 at 2:38 pm

I find honest, balanced, references for extension or rematch au pairs to be invaluable. If a family focuses only on the negative *OR* the positive I give the reference less credence- if it’s glowingly positive, why is the au pair not staying with the family? (Unless it was her choice, but even then… is anyone really perfect?) I suspect the family isn’t being honest if there isn’t something somewhat negative in there. And the au pair-bashing references… I can read right through those, especially for an extension. For rematch it might have more credence, but I would still take it with a grain of salt, and corroborate with what the LCC says and the au pair herself.

To the OP, one thing you might consider is asking your HF to write you a reference for employers outside of the au pair program. Something more general about what you’ve accomplished, what your duties were, and how you generally performed. They might not need to include little negative details if the reference is not directed at other host families. I have written references for long-departed au pairs to use for different kinds of jobs, and I tailor those references according to the position they are applying to. I don’t praise an au pair if it’s not deserved, but really there’s no reason to mention to a travel agency that my au pair wasn’t great at remembering to take out the trash. I would instead focus on her great cross cultural skills, and how she applied herself to learning English and went from a low level at the beginning to near native fluency when she departed. But for host families, I might include other details- both negative and positive.

CO Host Mom April 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm

As a HR professional, I often caution our supervisors about giving references. There are a growing number of lawsuits over references – former employees suing over harsh references that hampered their job search (even if true) AND companies are suing individuals that provided overly positive references saying they misrepresented the truth and the company ended up with a bad hire. While I understand that the AP world is different, references should still be taken very seriously.
My general advice is if you are going to give a reference, be thoughtful and sincere. Be fair – what are the critical skills for an AP and comment on those areas. Also, rule number one of supervisor – feedback (positive and negative) should never be a surprise. I would be hard pressed to document negative feedback about someone if I hadn’t at least talked to her about and given her an opportunity to improve. Again, as I tell supervisors, if you didn’t talk to them about it, you can’t hold it against them!
I would also recommend if you are an AP, it’s never a bad idea to seek feedback. How am I doing? Is there anything you think I could be doing better? This approach might save you a headache later.

AuPair April 11, 2016 at 11:00 am


I agree with you in that. I actually seek feedback from my current host family and through the interactions that we had had before is because I ask her to chat with me. During those sessions she declared to be very happy with my performance and didn’t ask for a change in certain matters, however at the time she had to write the reference, the negative feedback appeared. Now, I’m not trying to get excused or seek for sympathy. The truth is that I’m quite vexed because of two main reasons. In the first place because even though I seeked for her feedback, she wasn’t 100% honest with me, and second, because she wrote in the reference that nobody should have me as their au pair cause I’m not qualified to be one, whic makes me wonder, why keeping me for the whole year then if I’m not qualified to take care of her kids.

I expected an objective analysis of my performance and I never expected for it to be perfect, but honestly, I never thought that she would write that I’m not a fit for any family

Taking a Computer Lunch April 10, 2016 at 9:13 pm

On a slightly different note, after living with us for a year, our APs have gained significant skills that are sought after for situations in which a person requires total care (e.g. how to give tube feedings and how to change a g-tube). A couple of our APs were trained by physical therapists on stretching exercises and then had to train us, the HP. For APs who have consistently performed at a high level throughout their year, we have written a letter for them to take home to future employers. What DH and I do is draft a letter in third person, with a final paragraph written in the first person for our LCC, to whom we send it. She puts it on letterhead, signs it, and sends it to our AP.

Several of our APs, who matched with us because they wanted to make a career working with people who had disabilities, were able to parlay our letter to a position at a higher level than they had held before they became an AP. I did not offer to do this for APs who required constant job coaching all year, but had they asked for a letter, I would have been honest about what I intended to write.

NJ Mom April 11, 2016 at 10:42 am

Before I wrote my last letter of reference, I found it helpful to discuss with AP what her goals are to tailor the reference appropriately. There was a limited number of space on the agency reference form and we wanted to make it count. For example, she was looking for a family with older children so I wrote more details about her driving ability, helping with academics, etc and only a general summary for her infant responsibilities.

Regarding a bad reference, unless the reference is truly horrible, as long as the AP can explain why she and the current family were a not good fit, it shouldn’t be deal breaker with a prospective family. Much of the AP/HF experience is influenced by how good a personality/lifestyle/philosophy fit it is (in addition to childcare experience). Knowing what is a good fit and what isn’t can help the AP find a better match for her extension.

For example, “The main reason for this bad review is because she considers that I do not know how to multitask in the mornings and I don’t make things move fast enough with the two kids.” This may be an issue with school kids where they MUST get to school and activities on time with their lunch, snack, hw, school forms, equipment, appropriate clothing for the day’s weather/activities, etc. Especially when the children have differing schedules and destinations, mornings can be a bit hectic and the adult in charge needs to be on top of everything while anticipating brewing issues that could derail the schedule. This may not be an issue with young children who are being cared for at home where a calm, loving, patient, and relaxed caregiver is more important. Or for a HF where there is more flexibility with the children’s schedule.

A Host Mom April 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Anyone willing to share their reference letter for a great au pair?

Returning HM April 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm

To Whom It May Concern:

It is my great pleasure to write this letter of recommendation on behalf of __, who was an au pair for our family from August 2014 until August 2015. __ came to the U.S. through the Cultural Care Au Pair program, regulated by the U.S. State Department. Au pairs live with a U.S. host family and provide up to 45 hours per week of childcare, in exchange for room and board and a weekly stipend. Au pairs also complete six credits of study at an accredited college or University in the U.S. during their stay, a requirement that __ competed at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Our family has hosted au pairs for nine of the last eleven years, so we have a great deal of experience with hiring, training, and evaluating au pairs. I also prepare teachers for careers in the classroom, so I am used to working with and mentoring young people for careers in education. Through both the eyes of an experienced host-mother and judging as a professor of education who seeks to prepare excellent teachers, I found __ to be simply first-rate in all aspects of childcare and in working with my children: He was thoughtful, proactive, caring, engaged, energetic, punctual, careful, fun, cheerful, consistent, loving, attentive, affectionate, responsible, skilled, and patient – the list could continue. __’s job entailed overseeing the daily schedules, including driving to and from activities and overseeing completion of homework and other assigned tasks of two children: A girl who was 12 years old and typically-developing, and a boy who was 10 but functioning more like an 8 year old due to some developmental and learning delays and challenges. __ showed patience, skill, and real capacity in working with and engaging both children.

__ took his job very seriously with our family and constantly looked for ways to do it better, as in introducing interesting math games in the car as a way to make a long commute home from school go faster, finding fun strategies to help our younger child study for spelling quizzes, enabling our boy to process the big experience of a first trip up on the chairlift on the ski slopes through building a chairlift out of legos, or supporting our daughter as she navigated the sometimes treacherous social waters between girlhood and the teenage years. In each case, __ showed an understanding of child development and a genuine sense of caring about the well-being of each child. While his job “required” him to do certain tasks – monitor homework, oversee music practice, etc., – it was HOW he completed the tasks and the care and attention he put into them that made __ truly stand out. Our children simply adored being with __ and talk about him still, even though it has been months since he left our family.

The pleasure the children took in being with him was due in large measure to the fact that __ seemed always to be in a good mood; he was consistently optimistic, kind, and attentive to the children and very respectful and engaged with us, his host parents. __ appeared interested in and engaged with literally everything the children he had to say and share. If a child had an interest, then __ wanted to know more about it, even if that interest were unusual (my younger child is particularly interested in the Boston subway system). __ embraced our children’s interests and modeled true empathy, engagement, and warmth in sharing his host children’s passions. 

We adored having __ with us for the year we were lucky enough to have him as our au pair. __ embodied both knowledge and skill in dealing with children as well as patience and care in his manner and approach, and he set the bar very high for subsequent au pairs who will work with our family; he is a “hard act to follow.”

As a professor of education and someone who regularly works with children and teachers, I can only say how thrilled I am that __ has chosen a career in education, as I believe he is ideally suited for lifelong work as an educator and mentor for young people. If I can expand positively on any aspect of __’s skill and attitude, please contact me as I would welcome the chance to further support this talented, kind young man.


Should be working April 20, 2016 at 10:39 am

Wow. That is an amazing letter. Great template for future reference, and a high bar for my own letters to try and match (not just AP refs either).

WarmStateMomma April 21, 2016 at 8:45 am

Wow. That’s how you write a great letter.

hOstCDmom April 21, 2016 at 4:04 pm

THAT is the kind of reference letter that would make me want to hire the subject of the letter– be it for childcare or otherwise!

Anna April 21, 2016 at 11:27 am

Here is one of mine

To Whom It May Concern:

M. worked as an au pair for our family from June 2012 to June 2013. She worked full time taking care of three children, who were the ages of 8, 6 and 2 years old when she arrived.
M’s responsibilities included everything child-related – taking care of them, driving them to school and activities, supervising homework, preparing meals for them, doing laundry, organizing and cleaning their rooms, planning their activities and free time. In addition, because M lived in our home, she was expected to maintain a good relationship with host parents, follow house rules, and be responsible in using our cars and home. M also was expected to take 6 college credits of college courses, and participate in regular au pair program events.

M not only successfully fulfilled all the expectations of her work and relationship with us, she exceeded all expectations and excelled in everything.

M was able to successfully deal with very different personalities of our three children, of different ages and genders. She was loving but strict when necessary, and was able to make every child follow her directions and listen to her. We have hosted ten au pairs, and M is the only one who didn’t have a difficulty with at least one of the children. She achieved it with methods that were loving and fair, and all three of our children love M.

M started her work in our family when I had to be away on a trip for work, and wasn’t able to train her for her first several days. My parents were visiting and trained her instead of me. M was successfully able to deal with this challenge and when I returned everything was running smoothly. M always understood instructions the first time, and I never had to ask for anything more than once. Moreover, M displayed initiative and improved on things when she saw a way.

M is a self starter and a quick learner. She took initiative organizing play dates for my children, finding new activities for them, discovering new places and parks to take them to. She took initiative in the household too – if we were running out of milk or bread, she would buy it in the supermarket during her work time, she would take out the trash when it was full, she would keep the kitchen clean, she behaved like a mature, responsible and proactive member of our household.

She successfully and quickly made new friends in America upon her arrival, found things to do in her free time. She also found college courses to take to fulfill her requirement, and she took more college credits than required by the au pair program. She sought out a challenging advanced English course and was able to balance full time work, intensive English study, and balanced social life.

M took good care of herself and her health. She regularly attended the gym, she ate a good diet, and she found a good balance between rest and social activities. She also successfully managed a whole year away from her family and her boyfriend.

M has an excellent attitude, which reflected in both how she approached work and personal relationships. She always got along with us, we found easy understanding and never had a conflict. My husband and myself have very different personalities, and she was understanding, nonjudgmental, mature and fair dealing with both of us. She was very accommodating to our requests for extra work, or changes in her work schedule, or additional duties.

M is extremely intelligent. She was able to function well right away in an English-speaking environment, and she improved her English even more during her year here. She was able to understand and absorb an overwhelming amount of information in English right after her arrival, and communicate successfully with us. We keep a kosher diet which involves many complicated rules about food and kitchen, and she was able to understand everything very quickly and never made mistakes. She was effortlessly able to find her way around our city driving, and understand the map, and find local colleges, institutions, parks, libraries and everything else she and our kids needed without much guidance from me. She obtained a local Virginia driver license less than two months after her arrival, which required her to take a road rules test in English, and pass a practical driving test.

We have hosted ten au pairs, and M stands out as a truly exceptional individual. I would love if she decided to extend with us for another year, but I understand that for a woman of her ability and potential being an au pair is a step towards larger success. I have no doubt that M will excel in any career she chooses to pursue. I highly recommend Mfor any job, she would especially excel in a job that requires a lot of responsibility. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Anna April 21, 2016 at 11:33 am

And here is another one of mine, for the au pair who was a professional teacher (preschool age)

Dear Sir or Madam,

This letter is a professional and personal reference for C, who worked as an au pair in our family from June 13 2011 to June 13 2012. During this time C lived with us in our home, and worked 45 hours a week caring for our three young children.

C took care of our three children, who were seven, five and one year old when she joined our family.
From the moment she first met my children, I saw her sincere love and excitement for being with kids. C is a professional teacher, and it is obvious that children are her passion and she truly enjoys her work.

My children responded in kind to her – the two youngest got along with her right away. It took her longer create a close relationship with my oldest daughter who was going through a difficult time, but C was very patient, understanding and forgiving of my daughter, and she listened to my advice and suggestions. C was successful in building an excellent and loving relationship with all three of my children, who are very different in age and personality.

In her work with my children, C was always very kind, loving and patient. My children were not always kind or respectful to her and often were a challenge, but she was able to get them on the right track, keep her composure and loving understanding. She always followed my instructions. C is punctual, she was always on time for work, and she was flexible and very accommodating of schedule changes. She had open and sincere communication with me. C was also very respectful of me and my husband, and of our extended families.

We all appreciated C’s sense of humor, especially her skill of joking around with our kids.

C’s other responsibilities with our children included doing their laundry, preparing their lunches, driving them to school and activities, supervising their homework, bathing them, giving them snacks and food, helping them get dressed, brushing my daughter’s hair, organizing play dates and library trips, etc. C helped keep their rooms, play area, and kitchen area clean and organized. She was doing all of this very well. C demonstrated a lot of maturity and responsibility, and I always felt confident leaving my children with C every day when I went to work.

C is very friendly and happy and is a pleasure to have around every day. She adapted quickly to her life in America, her English became truly excellent. C was able to learn new skills for her work with my children and adapt to our rules with children and to our household rules. She was able to make new friends here and have a healthy and positive social life outside our family.

We are very happy that C chose to spend a year with our family, working with our children. We are very sad that this year is ending. I highly recommend C both on a professional level and as an excellent, warm, kind and trustworthy person.


Femke April 22, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I agree with the HR professional, we should be honest and also thoughtful. My Au Pair did not specifically ask for a reference letter, but I had to provide feedback for her Au Pair profile. I was honest. She has great strength which I put in and emphasized. But I also recommended that the family had clear cell phone usage policies, because that was a problem from the beginning, and we had at least 3 in depth conversations about it, with email follow up just in case there were communication issues in the verbal conversation. I emphasized the safety of a toddler at the park, and how a caregiver had to be very alert and texting or surfing the web prevented that and exposed my child to preventable accidents. I told her that I personally did not use my phone while playing at the park with my child (as I play with her, not just watch her), and I am expecting my Au Pair to do the same.
I did a couple of spot checks and caught her on texting/surfing the web while my toddler was running around. I explained to my Au Pair that there are other kids on bikes or scooters roaming around who may have a hard time avoiding a toddler who’s running around, toddlers may run too close to the swings and get hit by another child who is swinging, or fall from a play structure, or run onto the street.
Each time I spoke with there, she said OK that she understood and that she would not use her phone while my child was playing at the park. But she did it again. I think she stopped after the 3 conversation, as I did not see her do it again, but I cannot drive to the park often during my work day. So in my feedback on the Au Pair web site, I did put a recommendation for parents to set up clear rules about cell phone usage, that the 20 something generation tends to be glued on their phone and it is important to let them know what our expectations are when they are caring for our children. It seems that this feedback is preventing her to get a chance with a good family for her 2nd year. To be honest, the comment I made is very likely applicable to 95% of Au Pairs, and since our children’s safety is at stake, I think it is an important tip for host families, especially first time host families.
But I think that since most families only put positive feedback and hold back on the negative, the comment I put makes her stand out not in a positive way. But I would personally feel bad about saying how great she is and then hear about a toddler accident because of the caregivers lack of attention while using her phone. I stated that my Au Pair was very good, except for the phone usage, which can be addressed with clear rules or providing her with a flip phone during her work for emergencies only, instead of a smart phone.
So as a host mom, I feel sorry that she has a hard time finding a new family, but at the same time, if a new family got her and did not spell out the cell phone usage rules and ended up with a preventable accident, I would feel guilty and dishonest about not disclosing the issue.

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