Au pair agencies - which would you recommend?

Hi BPN!

We're interested in hosting an au pair but wondering which au pair agencies to use AND which ones to stay away from.  The last BPN question on this was from 2006 (!!), which was 16 years ago (feeling old now haha).  Also, any advice on how to select a good au pair who isn't here to party (read the old au pair Q&A section of BPN, slightly scared now...)?

Any help navigating this would be much appreciated!

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Hi TG,

We have had an au pair for 2 years. We have the amazing and the terrible experiences with au pair selection. But I will say the Au Pair in America organization has been great through it all. I highly suggest using their agency. If you'd like to chat more let me know. Also, we are switching to a nanny share in 2023. Our current au pair is wonderful if you are interested.

well we have not successfully matched with an au pair so I don't have the best advice but here's what I have learned so far: there's aupaircare, au pair in america and cultural care. starting in 2023 any au pair hired in california from au pair in america will need to be paid minimum wage. we have been surprised at the expectations of many of the au pairs we have interviewed- not all, but many expect a private bathroom, personal car, 9-5 with weekends off etc. We are trying to be upfront about what we can offer and what we expect to avoid wasting everyone's time. It's taking us much longer than we expect to find someone we are excited about. Not sure if that's typical or just our experience. A few more thoughts: we prefer the profile format on aupaircare, we find it easier to get a sense of the au pair than from the profiles on cultural care. but the cultural care website does have the option to filter for english proficiency which au pair care doesn't have. both websites are slow. we signed up for both.

We have used Au Pair Care and they have worked well. I believe the fees between agencies are similar, so not sure if there is an ability to "shop around." We chose them because they are based in SF, making their staff slightly more accessible (vs. an east coast based agency). They have also had a good a selection of APs and were supportive during COVID when there were a number of travel restrictions.

For AP selection, there are lots of aspects to consider! They are an employee, but also a roommate. We created a rubric that assess things like English ability, familiarity with caring for kids at the age we have, driving ability, dietary preferences, cleanliness, etc. We also try to get at what the AP wants to do while in the US (e.g. travel every weekend, learn English). For us, we tend to go for APs who are young (19-20) and are doing a "gap year" before going to college. The 25-26 year olds seem more interested in traveling / partying, but it is person dependent!

Hi! We used Culture Care and I found the interface really helpful for finding someone. I also explained to our coordinator what traits we needed in an aupair and she told me the best cultural fit and experience fit for us. In general I think an aupair who has already done a year with a family is a must otherwise you’ll be dealing with a huge learning curve regarding culture and just generally with life as an aupair! Trust your instincts too!! We found someone amazing!! 

Hi there, we have used Cultural Care for a few years. We are searching now for our fourth au pair (have had 3 over the past 4 years or so). Here are a few tips, but of course personal preference plays a large role in how you choose someone.

--search for someone 22-26 rather than in the 18-22 range, they have a little more experience and might be more comfortable moving away from home

--search for someone who has driven a fair amount so they are comfortable driving in America

--ask them their hobbies - you want someone outgoing enough to make friends of course, but if they are too much into partying then that might be a warning sign (a good au pair will ask about the kids, their ages, what they like to do and won't only be focused on asking you about what your house is like, your city is life, what life in America is like) 

--emphasize the importance of being on time, being organized, being clean, responsible, no drugs etc. they are here for a cultural experience but also they have to abide by the rules and respect your home of course (I would also ask about friends, boyfriends - are they wanting people to stay over? they should check with you first etc) you don't want them bringing a bunch of friends over all the time, at least in the beginning (it is different once you are comfortable and know their good friends of course, that takes a bit of time).

--I typically do 3-5 Facetime/WhatsApp interviews before matching with someone. I get a sense of them, ask them a ton of questions, have them ask me a ton of questions, show them all the kids, etc. I have never rematched and getting ready for our 4th AP. I think if you put in more time and work up front you are less likely to get surprises and have to enter the whole rematching process.

--Remember: you are not getting a nanny. An AP is a young-ish lady usually from another country (who may never have been away from family) who typically likes kids but also may not have a ton of experience! Expectations for an AP are typically a bit different than a nanny. With that said, they can be wonderful and it can be a great experience for everyone.

I have a long list of questions I can share, if you wish you can email me and I can send that to you. Best of luck.

Hi TG 

I used Cultural Care Au Pair. They seem fine enough. I have not enjoyed my au pair experience however. I don't think I fully appreciated that I would be considered a "host mom." In other words, the au pair has become someone I take care of and it's not making my life easier. She is lovely but it's not working for me and I've just let her know we won't be able to continue. I don't think I really understood that many au pairs don't consider it a job. They think of it as a chance to live abroad but not as a real job caring for someone's kid. 

We've hosted two au pairs (from France and Spain) via Cultural Care and are now interviewing for the third. We like the agency mostly for their matching interface: each AP can only be 'connected' to 3 potential families at a time (and vice versa), which means if an AP is talking to you then they're genuinely interested (in some other platforms they can talk to an unlimited # of families at a time). I agree with others that you should know what you're getting into. We never ask APs to work overtime, nor weekends. When we cook family meals, we cook for them too  (cooking slightly larger amounts isn't really that much extra work). We invite them to restaurants when we go out. We've flown our APs with us on family trips to Miami and to the Caribbean, and taken them with us to concerts, comedy shows, wine tastings, horseback riding, and other fun activities. In all cases, we pay all expenses. They're here for an experience, and we want to make sure they have a good time they'll look back on positively for the rest of their lives.

If you enjoy playing host, it's a great program. If you just want a nanny, then it's not a great program. Just to be clear though, the AP helps us a lot. Our first AP joined before either child was in daycare, so they watched the kids 7:30am-4:30pm every day, cooked and fed them, took them out for different activities every day, arranged playdates, etc. Now that the kids are in pre-school, the AP has a split schedule: morning prep and school dropoff, then free, then late afternoon school pickup and spend time with the kids until 6:30pm (and for the latter portion of that, typically one parent will be around to help). The AP cooks all child meals (except sometimes when we all eat the same thing), bathes them, does their laundry, etc. In terms of time, having AP help is of tremendous help (even taking into account the time that we spend playing host).

Thank you so much all!  Really appreciate all the advice - so helpful!  Very thankful for you all at BPN  :)

Wish us luck!!  We’re planning to move forward with the au pair search, keeping in mind all the advice received.