Do you want to become a host family but you are not sure if you should hire an au pair agency or not? Do you want to know what services an agency can offer you as a host family? Do you wonder how you can find the best agency to help you look for the right au pair? And finally, would you like to know if it is cheaper and faster to take matters in your own hands and look for an au pair online? Stop worrying! In the following, we have summed up the most important information about au pair agencies for you!
Behind most au pair agencies, there is a private corporation or owner. Sometimes, you can find associations, organizations and also religious groups that offer au pair programs.
Recently, the number of au pair agencies has grown dramatically. Just take a look at the yellow pages and you will find many entries for au pair agencies that you can hire to help you find an au pair. If you try to contact these agencies and ask for more information, you will realize that there are hardly any differences.
They will send all you fancy fliers where you can read a lot about the au pair program in particular and cultural exchange in general. However, very few agencies are serious about offering high quality service in bringing together au pairs and host families. You will note that the biggest difference between the agencies is the price. Commissions can vary from 100 to 1,000 euros. Legally, the agencies are free to charge whatever they consider appropriate, as long as the au pair doesn’t have to pay any fees. You probably won’t find information on the fees in the brochures. Agencies are usually not very transparent as far as their fees are concerned.
So, the big differences in price don’t make a lot of sense if the agencies offer the same service, but ultimately it is the host family who has to decide whether to pay for it or not. However, it is problematic that there is no independent quality control that checks and compares the au pair programs of the different agencies. There are merely associations whose members agree to adhere to certain quality standards. Some associations have developed special quality labels for agencies that make it easier for host families and au pairs to find good agencies.
“I haven’t had very good experiences dealing with au pair agencies. They didn’t really care about what we were looking for in an au pair. When we asked why, an agent told us that with our high expectations we would never find an au pair. However, we didn’t think that we had asked too much. We simply didn’t want to leave our children for several hours a day with a random stranger. We got the impression that the agency only cared about their commission and they tried to spend as little time as possible searching for an au pair. At the same time, as a host family, we were asked to compromise. It felt like at first they only showed us the au pairs that they couldn’t place. In the end I had spent much more time and energy contacting the agencies and organizing meetings with the agents than I would have spent looking for an au pair on my own through an internet plat form.
Now I look for my au pairs on my own. I found an online community for au pairs from where I choose my au pairs every year and I am very happy with the service. It might require a little more work, but I have had very good experiences. Ultimately, I want to decide which au pair will stay with us and our children. Since we will be living together under the same roof for several months, it is important to pick the right person. There are certain criteria that both sides have to meet to make sure that we will all get along. If you have to compromise, in the end, this will create problems and somebody will end up upset. In my opinion, hiring an au pair agency might save you some time and work in the beginning, but in the long run, you will have to invest more time and energy than you do looking for an au pair yourself. And of course, you can save a lot of money if you search for an au pair online. I know that many families hire an au pair agency because they dread the paperwork, especially if the au pair has to apply for a visa. But with the right tips, it’s really not such a big deal.”
Click here to download our guidelines, tips and information about au pair visas.
If you are determined to hire an au pair agency , you have to know how to distinguish a good agency from a bad one. There are several factors that can help you identify a good agency. Keep in mind though that it will take longer than you probably think to find a good au pair agency.
Make sure the agency has references. It is even better if another host family can recommend you an au pair agency. If you type the name of the agency into Google, you can find references from host families and au pairs that will give you a pretty good idea about which agencies you shouldn’t hire. Good and experienced agencies offer several services for the host family and the au pair.
A good au pair agency has outstanding customer service, and this is mainly what you pay for. Agencies that don’t offer information on entry regulations, residence permits, work requirements or insurance issues and leave you alone to deal with it don’t understand at all what an agency is about, and shouldn’t be working as an agency in the first place.
Agencies should offer to mediate between host families and au pairs in case there is a problem or conflict. Also, they should be able to react quickly and find a new au pair for the host family right away, if necessary.
A good au pair agency has international connections. That’s the only way they can meet the potential au pair to test their language skills and make sure the au pair is a good fit for the host family. They usually have partner agencies that take care of this abroad.
The placement process of an au pair into a host family is similar in most agencies. First, the host family has to meet certain formal and personal requirements. You make an appointment with the agency for the first interview. You should bring the following documents to this interview: pictures of your family and a letter that explains how many members there are in your family, if you have pets, what jobs you have, where you live and what the life of the au pair would be be like.
Together with the agent responsible for your family, you fill out an application. Once you have been approved as a host family, the au pair agency will send you their first suggestions for au pairs. You can then choose from among these and let the agency know which potential au pairs you would like to contact.
After this, the job of the agency is done and what follows now (talking on the phone with the au pair, exchanging emails) is identical to the process of finding an au pair online.
For your information: The contract between you and the au pair agency is a “brokerage agreement”. This contract is the legal basis for the placement of an au pair in your family. The commission that you have to pay as a host family is performance-related, which means you only have to pay once the agency has performed its duty (that is: finding an au pair for you). This leaves little incentive for the au pair agency to help you after the au pair has arrived and you have paid them.