Your Au Pair Counselor As A Local Expert and Resource

by cv harquail on November 27, 2010

All local Community Counselors are trained in the fundamental, general issues that are relevant to each and every au pair – host parent relationship. Community Counselors (CCs) must know the US State Department au pair regulations, the contract details of the agency they represent, and the au pair contact, support & rematch practices of their agency. Many CCs are trained in issues like helping with culture shock and recognizing eating disorders. Also, most are trained in the foundations of mediating conflicts between host families and au pairs.

Reading The Jolly MonIn addition to these universal areas of expertise, each local au pair counselor should become an expert resource in two local issues:

1. Fulfilling the Education Requirement in your community
2. Getting the Driver’s License that’s necessary to meet your state’s requirements

The truly great local CC arrives at the host parents’ house bearing two gifts of expertise, (1) his or her own wisdom and (2) accurate, timely, printed materials.

1. Fulfilling the Education Requirement in Your Community

Your CC should be able to provide you with a package of information that covers “All About Fulfulling the Education Requirement in a Cost-Effective Way”. This information would include a handout comparing the local community colleges & universities, with contact information and phone numbers. It would include a list of classes that Au Pairs in the community like to take (for example, ESL classes) that also fill the requirement. This package of information might even include the latest catalog & course listing for the school that the majority of au pairs use.

2. Getting the Driver’s License that’s Necessary to Meet Your State’s Requirements

The other set of information your LCC should provide you with is “Everything You Need to Know about Driving Legally in ThisState“. This would include a handout with web page addresses to the DMV, an outline of the official requirements (and the online page where these can be referenced), and a booklet of driving rules and regulations in your state.

(201011271645.jpgOne of our early CCs went to the Virginia DMV and gathered driving regulation pamphlets in several languages– not only English but also Spanish, German, French, Chinese and Portuguese. These were available free at the DMV, so she kept a stash in her car so she could give one to ever new au pair.)

Note: Questions about what your insurance company requires are up to us Host parents. Every policy has its own requirements, and we each need to be aware of what our policies cover and what they require.

Why should this be the Counselor’s job, and not the Host Parent’s (or Au Pair’s) job?

As host parents, it can be very hard for us to be up to date on either license/driving procedures or education options. When you have only one au pair at a time, the information you search for is specific to that au pair (e.g., language, interests) and to that particular year. In contrast, the local counselor is being asked all the time about driving and education, and must assist 20 or more au pairs each year. It just makes more sense for the community counselor to keep up to date on what’s necessary and what’s working. S/he should be the go-to resource for these sorts of questions.

We get a lot of questions here are AuPairMom about licence requirements and about education requirements, but we can really only tell you what has worked in our own *individual* situations, which may or may not be helpful to you.

in contrast, your local counselor should develop and maintain her or his expertise as a resource in these areas– not only does this make sure that au pairs fulfill requirements and drive legally, but also it is a HUGE help to each and every host family.

These are my personal, unofficial thoughts about how a counselor can be a resource to every host family. Are there other areas where you wish your local counselor was an expert? Please share….

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Taking a Computer Lunch November 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

As someone who has hosted 6 APs in the last 9 1/2 years, I’m grateful that my LCC stays abreast of the changes in the State. Dept. Regs. — or the changes in my agency’s interpretation of the State Dept. Regs. — so I don’t have to. I’d rather play with my kids in my free time than figure out of my AP still needs a document signed by her professor (she doesn’t – a mailed transcript suffices) or whether a driver’s license is required by our state in our AP’s first year (it isn’t).

My LCC is great at mixing the personal and the professional. Recently she notifyied APs in our cluster to buy winter coats and boots — and warning them that they’ll be expected to play in the snow with their charges should it actually snow here (rarely, but it does happen). She’s much better than the first LCC we had (who always sided with the HF) and given what I’ve read here, I’m very fortunate in her creativity in organization bi-weekly AP meetings for much of the year (so, going above and beyond) that give our APs a sense of American culture within a group setting that gives them an opportunity to interact.

My LCC answers my questions. I may have to ask them twice, but they do get answered.

New Jersey HM November 28, 2010 at 5:34 am

Wow…it’s great to hear that these are reasonable expectations of a LCC. Our LCC has been essentially useless in the past year and a half that we have hosted au pairs, actually giving us wrong information both about schools and obtaining a social security card. We are actually researching switching agencies based on the fact that our LCC (who has been doing this for over 12 years) appears to have no real idea of what her job is/should be. HD and I often joke that we could be doing a much better job with all of the footwork we’ve had to do for our au pairs!

MommyMia November 28, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Ditto that, NJ HM! Our LCC hasn’t been able to answer the most basic questions, and often provided incorrect information, which took much time and effort on both the HP and AP’s parts to pursue “higher up” the ladder in the agency. I’ve toyed with the idea of becoming an LCC myself for the simple reason that it should be so easy to find out the answers online or from the agency’s printed materials, and I’m sure these questions are asked repeatedly – why re-invent the wheel each time, or make up completely different answers (the APs DO compare notes and don’t have a lot of confidence when they are told different things by the LCC!). IMHO, our LCC should retire and move on to something else – the fact that four years ago our cluster consisted of 17 families and for over a year has been below ten, currently at 7) should speak volumes as to her ability and interest in keeping her job!

Jeana November 28, 2010 at 9:07 am

I researched several companies, and spoke with several LCC prior to choosing to go with our agency. The biggest reason I chose our agency is that I sensed if there was ever a problem, our LCC would be of support. Our experiences were very positive, and we had three incredible aupairs. I made bad choices about two other aupairs, and when our LCC was aware of that, she was in constant communication with me, knowing that we would be needing a new aupair. Both times our LCC came to our home to notify the aupairs that they were no longer in the program (they were not offered an opportunity for rematch), I felt our LCC could serve with the United Nations. She clearly, quietly, and without drama communicated that the girls had been removed from the program, and why. She proceeded to tell them that they needed to go upstairs and begin to pack, as they would be leaving our home when she left our home, in less than two hours. She helped our aupairs pack, and helped me during those moments, because it is incredibly stressful and sad when something like this happens. Our experience with three of our aupairs was incredibly positive, and despite these two situations, I continue to stop by here, hoping to be of support to families that are considering hosting an aupair, and those folks who might be very new in their experience. When choosing an agency, you’re choosing the LCC who will be your lifeline if there is a problem. You’re choosing the LCC who will be the person to deal with situations that can be upsetting and stressful. I just knew, when I spoke with our LCC in person, that I would be choosing her agency. We’re really fortunate, and our LCC teaches college classes in child development. She understands kids, families, and aupairs. I’ve told her many times that she should write a book about her experiences with aupairs and host families! Choose your LCC carefully! With a good aupair, you won’t need to have a significant amount of contact with your LCC; mostly checking in to confirm everything is going well. If you have a problem, this is the person who is jumping into the trenches with you to make things better. Make sure you’re confident that this is someone who will stand beside you, in the trenches.

Long Island Host Mom November 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

I can tell you one area that I think not only are the LCC’s lacking in information – but the agency’s in general do not provide enough information or they provide conflicting information and that is the tax requirements on the host families part and the AP’s part. I realize that different states require different things (some pay no state incoem taxes) but as a general rule – the federal information should be clear and concise in terms of responsibility. My last AP told me so many different stories from her AP friends at different agencies and it was all conflicting – this makes the AP’s (that are responsible or hope to work here some day again) confused and concerned and the LCC doesnt get involved. We are told to consult our personal accountants – but believe it or not – they dont even have that information at hand so easily. The more time it takes them the more it costs host parents. Why arent we told clearly what can be deducted from our taxes – i.e. fees paid the the au pairs, agency costs etc. and provide the area of the IRS tax code to show the accountant so they can use that information for our personal taxes…More needs to be discussed so the AP knows they will need to pay some $ in taxes and how to do it.

KM November 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Our favorite LCC resigned when she was treated quite awful by a couple of host families in our area. She was pulled away from her son’s birthday party one time. Another family demanded she interrupt a holiday gathering to accommodate their emergency (au pair left a light on). She told us families yelled at her, degraded her, threatened to sue her and agency and even got personal. She was so upset by their abusive behavior, her husband told her to resign.

Are families really so rude? Do many LCCs resign because of this?

As a host family, I see it as our responsibility to help our au pair obtain a driver license, SSN, get enrolled in school and set up her bank account. I would do this for a family member. Why not for our au pair who becomes a member of our family?

Gianna November 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I, too , have heard many stories about poor treatment of LCCs by host families:
people being ” beeped ” during church services, screamed at, ridiculed, etc. Sometimes it is familes who have bragged about they told the LCC what they thought , do not bother to return calls and worst of all, tell the aupair not to bother about the LCC.
I think that if a host family can help with the details of getting a license or finding a school, great. I do not think it is unreasonable to exspect that the LCC will know more bout these matters that the average host family and it is reasonable to ask the LCC to communicate that information. I do not think it is reasonable to ask an LCC to go to court with an aupair to address a speeding ticket, or to go to Motor Vehicles to take the test, to open a bank account or to register for classes. I know someone who told me that his LCC refused to take his family back because he called her an idiot. It seems that the agency had another LCC a bit further away. The family did not want to schlep their aupair to meetings so far away ; the agency asked the man to call the LCC and apologize but her husband took the call and requested that this man never call their home again. LCCs are paid very little money. If they were paid more, I suspect that the agencies would pass that cost along to families. It seems to me alot easier to bite one’s tongue . adjust one’s exspectations and call corporate for an answer to a question if necessary then to hurt or antagonize someone with whom one must work.

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