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Hosting an Au Pair - How to Get Started!
Hosting au pairs is not an easy task by any means. Finding a great agency, interviewing childcare givers over the phone (blind if you don't use Skype) and opening your home to a stranger for a year to care for your child is a huge leap of faith.
Thousands of American families take that leap of faith each year when they welcome a new au pair into their families. Why? Because the au pair program is affordable and it works very well (when all the pieces fall in place, like a puzzle).
Why do some parents get it right while others do not? Parents make bad choices every year and the family and au pair go into "rematch" - the word that strikes fear and consternation in every counselor's heart when she/he hears it!
Families that make good decisions and stay in the program for years are doing something right and one main factor is they make Educated Choices each and every time. Yes, sometimes things fall short and they have a rematch, that is life and we all are thrown curve balls once in a while, and we deal with it and move on.
Successful host families are alike and make decisions in a similar way. They go about the process in a systematic manner that increases the likelihood of success - we measure success in the cultural program by good, solid matches with great au pairs that stay for their 12 months (and sometimes they extend for another 12 months).
Who are these successful host families?
When you look at the demographics of who uses au pair agencies (who typically picks the agency, interviews au pairs, matches and supervises the au pair in the home) you see there is a majority group with these common characteristics:
- Professional Women
- Full-Time Careers
- College Educated (at least 4 years or more)
- Between the ages of 30-52
- Who have Two or More Children
What makes these women Unique as a Group?
They are professional women, with at least 4 years of college - they are highly educated as a group. Educated people usually make good, sound choices because they are typically logical, systematic and well-rounded. They know a lot about many things. They may be quite familiar with traveling abroad, speak another language and have taken several history courses and world civilization classes.
Armed with a college degree, travel and exposure to a broader world view, when this group begins their search for an au pair, they approach it the same way they do with everything in their life - research and education. Find out as much as one can about a subject, compare and contrast different agencies, look at costs and focus on quality.
They Experiment! They do their Research! They make choices based on fact, not ads.
Well-educated parents who start out looking for an au pair will call several agencies at one time - they may sign up and start receiving applications from 2 or 3 different agencies. They are trying out the system and sampling the "goods" of an industry and they will make decisions based on how and what the different programs deliver. Let me share one experience a host mom had and shared with us when she took our 2010 Host Family Satisfaction Survey):
"I was new to the au pair program and I applied to 2 agencies at the same time (they both waived the application fees). I placed calls and emails to both on the same day. 24 hours later, one agency answered by sending me an form to fill out with a focus on our family needs so they could start sending me au pair applications right away. I completed that, sent it in and started receiving au pair applications the same day! Their counselor then called and made an appointment for a family interview that took place 2 days later. During the interview, the LCC matched us with an au pair from Germany! A week after we matched, the other agency called and we told them we were already matched. We knew they didn't really care one way or another because they didn't apologize for the delay in getting back to us!"
This same agency continues to advertise themselves as the "largest, oldest agency" with "quality service and au pairs."
Educated parents are drawn to quality service and quick response time - they know it tells them something about a business, but they also know to check out all features of an agency and not just a quick "sales call."
Host families that do their homework before they sign up with an agency get the best results when they are finally ready to hire an au pair.
It really is true that Educated parents make the best childcare choices - we see and hear about their success everyday at the Clearinghouse.
If you are a new parent thinking about hosting an au pair - do your research first! Not all au pair agencies are the same. Read our article on Getting Started with Au Pairs first so you get your direction and plant your feet squarely on the success track to finding and hosting a great au pair today!