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Will Your Au Pair Be Screened for Psychological Problems?

We received an email from Germaine, a host mom from NJ.  She said: "How can I tell my au pair is not suffering from a mental disorder, like depression?  How can I know she or he will not abuse my child?"

I can understand Germaine's parents worry "Will my au pair be of sound mind?" "Does she have mental health issues, like depression, anxiety or an eating disorder?"  "Will they be pedophiles (sexual abusers)?"

Parents should know how effective screening tests are in pinpointing mental health problems.

First, let's take a look at the issue of psychological screening. If the agency has been designated by the Department of State, then yes, the agency is required to do both a criminal background check and a psychological screening.

The tests the agencies use vary - there is no one test required by the Department of State. All the tests vary along types (some are personality tests, some are cultural adaptability inventories). There are no statistics available to the consumer regarding the results of the psychological scores, for example, how many au pairs pass; how many fail; how many are accepted if they have marginal results and what are the criteria by which the agency accepts or rejects an au pair using these methods.

BrainTherein lies the problem - where is the reliability of a U.S. government sanctioned test that has passed muster?

Secondly, not all tests can rule out all mental health issues. Only a few psychological profiles flag a potential child abuser and there is no indication that the tests used by the au pair agencies include this feature.  In the case of the infamous Swiss au pair, who took at least one pornographic photo of the child touching her genitals and posted it on a website in Sweden, did the test she apparently "passed" screen for Pedophilia?

Who is looking at these tests? Who reads the results and consults with the agencies regarding potential red flags? What are the person's qualifications interpreting test results?

Pedophilia is defined as a psychological disorder in which an adult has a sexual desire only for children. Main features of this disorder are recurrent sexual urges and fantasies about children that leads to child sexual abuse, including child pornography. Most pedophiles take excessive photographs of children and they can be of a sexual nature, or show nudity.

We typically think of males as pedophiles but research indicates that female pedophiles preying on children in their care is much higher than previously thought. Over 6% of pedophiles are women (Natalie O'Brien, NEWS.com.au, & The Australian, March 7, 2006). The study also indicated that female predators were less likely to be charged and prosecuted for crimes against children compared to male predators (so, this 6% might in fact be much higher).

The study noted that female pedophiles typically abuse girls, at twice the rate they abused boys. Yet, male childcare workers and male au pairs face much more discrimination and scrutiny compared to their female counterparts. Au pair agencies and childcare workers clearly should be screening both sexes for potential child abuse!

The good news is that the majority of au pairs coming into the government regulated agencies are not child abusers and the incidence of reported cases is extremely low.

We will continue to follow this disturbing and timely topic and report related incidents in the news as they unfold. Please send us your comments and thoughts regarding psychological screening of au pairs.

Read our article on the Warning Signs of a Pedophile.

Take Charge of Your Au Pair Screening and Matching Decisions NOW!

Unsure about the prospective au pair you are considering for your children?  Wish you had a way to find out more about her? We can help!

Until all au pair agencies begin to use a universal au pair psychological test that has been proven to be effective in the appropriate screening of au pairs, we encourage all of our readers to educate themselves regarding which agency uses a test proven to test the childcare abilities of prospective au pairs. 

  • Know More, Choose Better!  Start by reading our exclusive interview with Dr. Flowers, who developed one of the better psychometric tests on the market for screening au pairs.
  • Read our list of au pair agencies and the psychometric tests they DO USE!  We identify, describe and comment on the different tests used today by the private au pair agencies:  Psychological Screening Tests 101 

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Blog | by Dr. Radut