Once you’ve made that initial, exciting decision to become an au pair, you’ll quickly be faced with the daunting task of finding the right family for you. This is crucial. Pretty much any au pair horror story I’ve heard has something to do with mismatched families and au pairs who did not have open communication with each other from the start.
My ultimate piece of advice for any potential au pair is to be completely, 100 per cent open with yourself regarding what your expectations and requirements are. Once you've determined those, convey them honestly to any potential families. A friend of mine, who was an au pair a few years ago, gave me that advice. When I embarked on the journey of finding a family, it turned out to be the best piece of wisdom I received.
The next best advice that was given to me? Use an agency to find your host family. Here's why.
You’ll encounter a slew of options to find placements online. There are Facebook groups, websites, personal connections (“I know this family that’s great and looking for an au pair”) and au pair agencies. While all are viable options, I’m going to suggest the latter.
I’ll put it frankly; going through an agency is the most legit way to find a host family. There are scams by the dozen out there promising incredible pay and low weekly work hours—if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Aside from safety factors, most agencies provide contracts for au pairs and host families to sign so that all expectations are laid-out far ahead of time, allowing for any confusion to be resolved prior to your start date.
2. Matching software
Once you’ve had an honest conversation with yourself about what your expectations, requirements and needs are, you’ll input them to the agency’s website when creating your profile.
Au Pair World’s main questions are as follows (with the option for to select either "yes" or "no"):
• Willing to work for a family who smokes
• Driving license
• Willing to help with housework
• Childcare experience
• Willing to work with disabled children
• Willing to work for single parent
A few other questions included a preferred region to be in and how many children the au pair is comfortable with. Host families enter in similar responses about themselves and what they’re looking for in an au pair. The software runs these responses and provides quick matches of au pairs and host families based on similar answers.
With hundreds of families to choose from, this allowed me to instantly narrow my search to families that shared some of the same requirements as I did. However, you can still message any family and vice versa. The agency lets au pairs and host families message back and forth on the website. After this most families will ask you to a Skype interview, which you will conduct outside of the agency.
3. Support before and during your placement
Once you’ve found a family everything doesn’t neatly fall into place. As I mentioned, the agency will most likely provide you and your host family with an au pair contract (mine was a contract approved by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe). Most agencies provide translated contracts, along with guidelines to securing the appropriate visa for your country.
Agencies also tend to offer multilingual support once au pairs are living with their host families, whether that is through conflict resolution with the family and au pair. In a worst-case scenario, most agencies will assist in finding new placements for au pairs and families.
While it might take a little more work up front—creating a profile and messaging with dozens of potential families—going through an au pair agency will be worth it 10-fold in the end. You’ll be with a family that shares similar values as you, with a contract outlining your requirements, and the peace of mind that if anything does happen, you’ll be able to quickly find another host family. Though, hopefully, since you went through an agency, that will be something you’ll never encounter.Add this article to your reading list