I started my au pair program in January 2015. I arrived in my host family on a Friday night in a small town in the Suburbs of Chicago. The next day, talking about the family pattern with the mom, I learn that she’s expecting a baby for July. I was not infant qualified at the time.
Taking care of a tiny newborn was not a part of the plan but if I got along with the family and had a great experience with them, then I was okay to do it. In that unexpected case, according to the agency, I had 2 choices : I could either make my infant qualification valid or rematch (not being qualified, you actually cannot stay in the house if there’s an under-2-year-old baby even if you are not supposed to be taking care of it).
Weeks after weeks, I realize this is not going to work out. I don’t feel as a member of the family, the kids are disrespectful and bad-mannered, always fighting with each other, a moody mom and the father that is not involved except for the dishwasher replenishment. The accumulation gets bigger and bigger. I make my decision : I want to rematch.
Three weeks later, I luckily found a lovely family in Chicago to match with , they have no agency. This family is composed of two little girls, 18 months and 3 years old. I proceed my infant qualification.
It’s Wednesday afternoon, end of April when I tell my ex host mom that I am moving out to go settle to a new host family. She then calls the counselor and tells her about the discussion we had.
I had an hour and a half off. I had no clue about what was going on but from where I was, I could hear my name and a “she lied to me”. At that time, my English wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t understand the conversation through the door. The LCC called me. Twice.
The first call to tell me that I couldn’t move out on Sunday. I didn’t know why but I assumed it was because of the infant qualification requirement. The second one was to tell me that everything was okay, I was done with my period of rematch, I could leave.
After all that time, I think there has been a misunderstanding or a miscommunication about my profile and the qualification status between the agency and the LCC.
Around 6 am, I got out of my room to take over with the kids. She was there, in the kitchen joking with her stepmother and her 5-year-old son. She turns to me, getting her serious back, and asks me if the LCC had called me. I start my explanation about both phone calls that I’d had with her. She gets mad at me, and orders me to pack all my stuff, return the keys, the phone (that she gave me as a gift for my birthday) and leave the house.
As soon as I get to my room, I call a friend of mine living in Chicago to come and get me. I start packing very quickly. Here I am, on the curbs, no phone, no contacts to call, just my suitcases and the hope that my friend is on her way. It is Wednesday night, around 7:30 pm, suburbs of Chicago, nothing around but highways and neighbors.
For the heads up : the second host family was just amazing, they have moved to Switzerland and I still work for them while waiting to get my internship to go back to school.
Beginning of February I am back in France and I receive a survey from my agency to get my opinion about the experience. I fill the form out and don’t forget about the bad family, the LCC that has never got in touch with me when I got kicked out, the harassment from the first family that wanted me to pay the repair back for the phone ($200), and I’ve added that if I had known, I would have sued my agency and the family so they would be more careful about my fellow au pairs treatment. This family has had at least two au pairs after me. What if a younger au pair had been in that situation ?
Later, my agency got back to me. They wanted my version of what happened. The representative was very supportive and willing to find a solution about that family but they were not in the program anymore. They are going to figure out what to do with that LCC too. Their questions were always in order to improve the help for au pairs when they have issues with their families and an unavailable LCC. I told them that myself and a few friends of mine had had some problems to reach that LCC when needed.
Also, I told them that my last LCC in Chicago, was AWESOME! Very nice, au pair comfort oriented, she was an au pair before so she knew our needs, she was so kind, always a good listener and would do anything for the au pairs to enjoy their adventure! The lady on the phone told me that they needed this kind of feedback as well. So, if you loved your LCC, let your agency know so they can be rewarded for their work! Some are good.
Guys, this adventure is YOURS! You decide the way you want it to turn out for yourself. You decide to be respected. You decide who you want to work for. Your agency must be a support and if it’s not, there are plenty of ways to be heard. At EYA we do hear you and we will do our best to help you out.
I chose to be respected, I chose to use my rights. You too, do it.
Marine G, an ambassador of the EYA team
LCC : Local Childcare Coordinator that is supposed to help both host families and au pairs