Au Pair Agencies

Updated on March 09, 2012
C.P. asks from Arlington Heights, IL
7 answers

We are starting the process of searching for an au pair for our family and are a bit overwhelmed by all of the information available on the internet. Right now, we are trying to determine which agency to use. Please share your good and bad experiences with au pair agencies. Many thanks!

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P.G.

answers from Chicago on

Did you ever get an au pair? What company did you choose? I am a local childcare coordinator with Cultural Care Au Pair. If you did not choose us, I would love to tell you why we are the best company to use.

P. Geistlinger ###-###-#### [email protected]____.com

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N.O.

answers from Chicago on

Hi Christine,

As a former au pair I thought I'd weigh in on your question.

I'm South African and au paired with a family in MI in 2000 through Au Pair in America/AIFS. I was 24 years old when I took a 'gap year' after finishing school. I chose to become an au pair because the idea of a cultural exchange appealed to me, I wanted to spend some time abroad, and obviously I liked children too.

I had an amazing experience. My host family always joke that I interviewed them - I had about 4 pages worth of typed questions, double spaced, and turned down 4 families before accepting the one I ended up living with. After my au pair year I chose to continue traveling and lived in London, UK, before moving back to MI after being offered a position on staff at a local church. That's when I met my husband and how I ended up settling in the States. I am close with this family to this day. Their daughter now goes to school at Northwestern in Evanston, very close by; we see this family at least a few times a year in MI, my host mom was my matron of honor, etc etc.

As you explore hiring an au pair I hope you will consider the following, especially as some responses below were a bit disconcerting: in particular comments about the 'negatives' including feeding the au pair, giving her privacy, and not being able to work her over 45 hours a week.

It is cheaper to have an au pair than a nanny, perhaps, but either one has financial considerations and with anything you have to decide if it's something your family can afford. You are inviting a person to live in your home 'on par' with you as a member of the family. You are not hiring a servant. Most of the girls are coming into the situation assuming this, and I think then you will get the most out of your relationship anyway. And the actual money an au pair receives is very little - it's pocket money basically. It's not for her basic necessities like room and board, and honestly, gas to ferry your kids around (or anything else that she has to pay for in relation to caring for your children.) That is part of what she is working for - she is being paid 'in kind'.
She is also an adult - how would you feel if you had to share a room, or never have any space/privacy? I don't see how this should be considered a negative. It's just respect, and again, part of what she is working for.
Finally, working 45 hours a week is perfectly reasonable. Again, that's part of the cultural exchange experience - the girls aren't coming over to experience only living in your house - they need time and space and opportunity to rest, explore the city they've come to, make friends, etc. If you expect more than that, you run the risk of taking advantage of someone who is already in a somewhat vulnerable position of having left her own country and entire support network. I did sometimes work overtime, but it was pre-arranged, I never was made to feel obligated, and I was paid an additional hourly rate competitive with adult babysitting fees.

Naturally, part of picking the right fit for your family will require careful thought and questioning during your interview process. As was mentioned by some folks, of course there will be some immature and irresponsible people coming through ANY program.

Your intentions and motivation to establish a relationship of mutual respect, an openness to truly care about this person, and the willingness to set healthy boundaries for both yourselves and for the person you're welcoming into the family will all go a long way in making the au pair experience a truly wonderful one for you and your children and will hopefully create the opportunity for some life long friendships.

All the best to you!

N.

K.H.

answers from Chicago on

I will let you know up front that I work for goAUPAIR. I am the local community representative in Northern IL.

There are many things I like about my agency.

One we are small. You don't get lost in the shuffle. We pride ourselves on customer service. You have a dedicated placement coordinator at the main office in Utah, and no matter where you are in the process you can contact the LAR (Local Area Rep - me).

The second reason I think our our agency is superior is something called Mutual Match. Basically this means that you and the Au Pair pick each other. The Au Pair is not forced to go to someone she doesn't gel with. The Host Family and Au Pair can talk with each other as many times as they like before they make a decision. Skype is a great tool for this BTW.

There is so much more I can tell you if you would like to speak. Here is the listing for goAUPAIR on Mamapedia http://www.mamapedia.com/business/12864725478417760257/de...

My phone and email are listed, as well as the main office website. Please feel free to contact me. I can put you in touch with some of my host families if you would like. You can also visit our local blog http://goaupairnorthchicago.wordpress.com/

A great place to some info is http://www.aupairclearinghouse.com/ (it is a paid service, but there is a lot of free info too) and this blog by a host mom - http://aupairmom.com/

B.H.

answers from Chicago on

We have been with 2 agencies. We weren't unhappy with the first, however, it was a fairly small "cluster" group, there was only 1 family near ours in the program, all the rest were at least 15 miles away, and meetings were 15 miles away closer to the main group and the coordinator. Plus, the coordinator switched from the one I liked to a new one even further away who I never met , then switched again (didn't meet the 3rd one, either).

The group we are with now has a very capable experienced coordinator and a group of over 30. In fact, the group got so big, they brought in another coordinator who carved out her region more to the north which took a few of the group and added a few new ones. Having a very on the ball coordinator who has a lot of experience is important. Having a large group is also helpful to your au pair-it means the au pairs have several instant friends within a couple miles when they arrive to help tackle the homesickness and social outlet. Plus, having the coordinator nearby means most monthly meetings are near so its easier for your au pair to drive to (or you to drive him or her). When you interview with the coordinators in your area for the different agencies, keep in mind their distance, their number of years of experience, and the size of the group. We have a male au pair, and there are at a few other men in the group of 30+ so that is another benefit.

Both agencies had good matching processes. Because I was unfamiliar when I switched to this second agency with how our family profile was presented to the candidate, I had to learn to tell them to release my info to the prospective candidate (not just our location and the # and ages of kids). But agencies allowed me to review/consider 2-3 candidates (the candidates full info) at a time and would put more in my folder as I removed choices. I was not competing with other families at the same time, although they both urged to give a yay or nay with a couple days so they could release the candidate to other host family's review. All agencies require phone calls or skype with the au pair, the agency we are with will connect the phone call for free (during their working hours).

I only have experience with InterExchange AuPair USA and Cultural Care Au Pair, so I can't comment if there are other agencies that aren't as good. Again, I would call several, ask to be put in touch with the coordinator for your area, and factor those phone or in person interviews into your decision making.

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M.T.

answers from Chicago on

We have with two agencies.
The first one has very few au pairs to choose from, few au pairs in the area, does not send the au pairs to training (or you can pay extra), we had one rep who lived far away but was good but moved, then we got another one who was HORRIBLE - did not care, was out of town all the time, and frankly had no idea what she was doing. We did have one good au pair out of three.
Needless to say, we swithched to another agency. This one has hundreds of au pairs to choose from. The au pairs are sent to a week of training. Our rep has many years of experience and really had great ideas of dealing with the au pairs and really cares. There are also several hundred au pairs in the Chicagoland area. This agency will call/connect you to the aupair that you are interested in for free(which can save hundreds).
We have been with GoAupair and Cultural Care.

A.F.

answers from Chicago on

I know the LCC for Cultural Care au pair in Arlington Heights :) She is great (she is my LCC as well because I am an LCC- Local Childcare Coordinator for my area and cannot service my own family). She has a great mid-sized group and all of the girls are very friendly/get together often and are a very mature, nice group of au pairs. We have even had playdates with other families that were coordinated by the au pairs in our area (with the approval of the families) -- my daughter has severe food allergies so we are VERY cautious. We have been with Cultural Care for 2 years. We love the agency and the au pairs we have selected through them. Also, because they are a larger agency, there are more "friends" in the area for your au pair to meet and if things do not seem like a great fit once your au pair arrives and settle in, there is a larger pool of available in-country au pairs that can be swapped in and traded (it is a complicated process but sometimes it is just hard to pick someone from paper and a few phone calls/skype talks that will fit with your family and daily routine for a year-- in my group this has only happened because of the special needs of the family...it isn't just a personality thing as it is a commitment on the part of the au pair and the family that you are making). We were referred to Cultural Care from a colleague of mine (attorney) who has been with them 5 years now and he was referred by another attorney friend of his. I did check out some other au pair agencies before making my decision though - AP in America, AP Exchange and another one like APUSA or something -- it was 3 years ago now so hard to recall. I got the best feel for Cultural Care and the referrals helped! The Chicago area for Cultural Care is great too - they are planning an au pair soccer tournament for this summer, a scavenger hunt for the city in the early Fall and we coordinate sporting events from time to time as well for host families and the au pairs -- last year we did the Bulls and Sox and this year they opted for a less-expensive Wolves hockey game.

Best wishes to you- if you have any questions you can Private Message me or I can give you the name/phone number for the LCC in your area (that would give you a better feel right off the bat for the program). I was locating an infant-qualified au pair for my family both times (and will again this year as we have a baby due in May) so I am familiar with those concerns too if you have any!

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M.S.

answers from Chicago on

Hello C., Before the birth of our first son, we investigated quite a few of the au pair agencies, and since they are all regulated by the US Government, they are all pretty similar. Some have more nations represented than others, but they all work similarly, and after you add everything up and divide it, the cost is about the same~$1500 per month, but the Agency money must be paid up front, first. We didn't take an au pair at that time, but when our nanny left us to move on last November, we decided to hire an au pair. We chose EurAuPair, because we were looking for the same ethnicity as my mother-in-law, who lives with us. We chose to screen and interview five possible au pairs from my husband's country of origin, (although they had hundreds from many nations) and each had different levels of English knowledge. Skype makes interviewing much easier! The one we chose had studied English for 11 years. She holds a bachelors degree, and hopes to improve her working knowledge of English to have a human resources position in a bank in her home country. Some of the good things about having an au pair: The agency completes all background checks, and the results are available to host families for review prior to the selection. Kids need not to be shuttled out and back from daycare (sick a lot less). They have one on one attention, and consistent authority. They will learn culture from another country. Having an au pair costs much less than a nanny, and it is the same for one child as it would be for several, au pair stays for one year, (or two if everyone agrees and the visa is extended), her 45 hours are set by the family’s schedule. The au pair is legal, and costs are tax deductible. The counselors are available (at least for our agency) 24/7 for questions and problems. Some of the negative things about the au pair: another mouth to feed and adult member of the family, she (he) must have private bedroom without sharing, she is not allowed to work over 45 hours per week. A few tips: If she will be driving your car, you might want to check on the additional cost for auto insurance. We will have insurance higher rates until her 25th birthday next month. When interviewing, ask her if she has ever been away from home before. Our young lady was extremely homesick for about two months. She Skype’s her Folks every day during the boy’s naptime, and her boyfriend every evening. Chose an au pair that comes from a situation similar to your own: if you have babies, chose one from a family with baby siblings; if you have toddlers or older children, one with siblings the same age, etc. If you have more questions, I would be happy to talk with you. Good luck!

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