The High Cost of Au Pair Care
I am doing an article on the hidden costs of Au Pair Care. After my personal experience and reports of dozens of people, I feel the public needs to be alerted to the negative financial impact using an Au Pair agency can have on their bottom line. I will also be discussing the personal dangers a family is exposed to by inviting a stranger into their household.
Though we were personally spared some of the biggest problems, such as an Au Pair leaving 1 year old twins asleep in the home with the door unlocked while she went bike riding, we still have some of our own stories. Other have theirs about the lack of professionalism on the part of executives at some of the agencies.
As a mother, a business woman and a community member, I feel it is imperative that the public be aware of the consequences of the Au Pair Care system. Perhaps by our combined efforts we will be able to get Au Pair agencies to change their policies and be more client friendly and understanding of the financially difficulties families face when agencies put all the burden on them when something goes wrong.
And trust me, things go wrong. Our Au Pair said every one of her 7 Au pair friends had switched households at least once and some of them had illegally left the program and stayed on here illegally while leaving their families in the lurch. This is more common than the agencies will ever let you know. Guess who has the foot the bill for the extra cost of getting a new Au Pair? The family ... not the agency, even if it is was the Au Pair's fault. And the family can lose thousands of dollars, which for some is a hefty sum.
If a family has an Au Pair who illegally leaves the program, does something tragic ,or is just not a good fit, the Parents generally do not get their pre-paid money back from the agency. You see, families pay all 12 months up of the agency fees up front. The agency gets paid the same amount as the Au Pair. I wonder how many Au Pairs really understand this.
Au Pair agencies are staffing companies that take 50% of the Au Pairs first year salary up-front and is usually non-refundable, regardless of the situation works out or not.
Also the parents have to pay a registration fee, education costs for the Au Pair and possibly air fare too. So if the Au Pair leaves or the family decides the Au Pair is not a good fit for their family, they often will not receive their money back. I personally lost $2,000 and my Au Pair lost $1,000 that the agency wouldn't give back because she illegally left the program to travel around the U.S. A good friend of mine lost $3,000 that Au Pair Care refused to give back. What is happening here?
If the Au Pair rings up a $1,000 in long distance charges to their homeland (it happens!). Who pays? Not the agency, the family has to burden that cost. I would recommend turning off your international long distance service if possible and using Skype instead.
By speaking about this online we can require that these agencies (and our government) to REQUIRE better screening of Au Pairs before they become part of the program and enter our country and our homes. And also require better screening of parents by the agencies to make sure their home and their expectations are a good fit for an Au Pair. As well as checking Parents references to ensure the Au Pair is safe.
One Au Pair's references we checked said they would never trust their child in the care of this woman, who was their Au Pair in London, nor should we. And this reference was on the Au Pair's application she sent to us. How in the world did she get into the program then and why didn't the agency check her references? I asked and the agency said they did check her references. Interesting ...
On a positive note ... our Au Pair experience overall was terrific for our son who loved our Au Pair like a sister. We also treated our Au Pair like a daughter (she was only 18 years old when she arrived from Ecuador) and enjoyed having her along on all our family events and sharing our life with her. It was a shame that after 8 1/2 months she decided she didn't want to work anymore and wanted to travel the U.S. with her girl friends, some who were also illegally staying in the U.S.
She left one day with any notice, just a note left behind I found a day later after worrying endlessly where she had gone - just a like a mom would if her 19 her old daughter didn't come home one day. And just like a mother, worrying about the impact of one child leaving on another, I was saddened beyond words when I had to explain to my son that his "sister" had disappeared.
Luckily she did come back in a few months on her way back to Ecuador to say goodbye to our son and to wish us all well in our life. However, I don't think it will ever remove the sting of her unexpected departure with myself or our son.
I invite other parents who hosted au pairs, au pairs, or au pair agencies to comments to this blog. However, please keep it a postive otherwise your post may be removed.
This is a forum to provide solutions in a polite way to parents who are looking for quality au pairs and for au pairs who are looking for quality parents.
Please avoid the "complaining" syndrome and instead offer an opportunity for growth and change for the Au Pair Agencies, for Parents and for Au Pairs. Often problems begin because of a lack of awareness, you can point out potential conflicts and problems without being negative. You must have an open mind to invite change.
Au Pair care offers many advantages for all parties involved. However, it also has many risks. To minimize the risks, one should research as much as possible, check references (whether you are the Au Pair or the Parents) and set your boundaries with the Agencies with the terms you are willing to accept.