My name is Karren, I’m 22 years old and I’m French living in Paris. A week ago I was still an au pair in United States of America. My sponsor agency was EurAupair / Calvin Thomas. I decided to share my story because I need to speak up about it and to warn au pairs about this agency. Thereby, I thank you in advance for the time you are taking to read this.
As many au pairs, I wanted to improve my English and to continue my studies in Tourism in France afterwards. I didn’t have any expectation about my future host family. I just wanted to share with them my double culture, French and Caribbean, learn their American culture and have a good year at their home. I was super excited about this au pair experience in USA.
My Host Family
Christine M., my host mom (HM) is a manager and her husband, Bernard M., my host father (HF) is a manager too. They both live in Palo Alto in California where I arrived in August, 17th 2017. I had to take care of 2 twins of 9 years old and one little boy of 5. My daily routine was to get up at 7 am, after breakfast, dropping the kids at school, playing with the kids, cooking for them, etc. Everything was fine until that day.
Monday November 6th, I start my day as usual and my last week. Like everyday I make breakfast for the kids then I drive them to school. That morning I accidentally bumped the host mom’s car while backing up the van in front of the house.
I immediately went to tell my HM about it. She told me to drop the kids at school and we were going to see that later. When I came back home after, she asked me if I had money to fix the car before my departure to France. Indeed, it was planned already to go to France for a medical reason by the end of that week. So, my HM told me that we need to go to the bank to check if I have enough money.
"Bring your passport and your social security number with you" she said. Okay, I thought we were going to the bank office while in fact we were going to the ATM machine. Here we are, I typed my PIN code and showed her the balance of my account. She could see I had a bit more than $1,000. Before I realized what was about to happen, she suddenly passed in front of me and typed 1-0-0-0 and took $1,000 on my account.
I freezed up. "You can't do that, give me back my money" I said.
"$1,000, it's not even enough, the car has pretty big damage" she said and left.
To be honest, I wish I could hit her and take back my money! Instead, tears fell down, I was shocked, I felt angry and powerless. I am a tall Black girl of 180 cm and my English is not very well. I was afraid of what people would have thought if I ran and caught her. She is shorter than me. I did not want to do any mistake. I was so so angry. I was shaking. After I got myself together I decided to call my au pair agency EurAupair on my way home for assistance. I explained to Miriam Weynand, the director of the agency that my host mom just robbed me $1,000 because I had a car accident with their van. Miriam answered me "According to the au pair contract, you don't have to pay more than $500 for the damage car. I am going to talk with your host and I will call you back".
I also called Jeannet, my LCC, who told me the same as Miriam. Then I received a message from my HM asking me if I was still working in the afternoon. I thought, she was joking. She had just stolen my savings and reacted like nothing happened.
I told her I won’t be working for them anymore and that I will pick up my stuff and leave their house by 7:30pm that day definitevely. She did not agree and prefered it to be later around 10:30 pm when the kids will be sleeping. I did not agree either.
When I came home in the evening, my HF came outside and showed me my luggage and some plastic bags on the sidewalk. Yes, this is how the supposed to be my «host family» treated me after stealing my savings. They just threw out my personal stuff like that.
"You don’t have the right to do that !" I repeated to them. My HF started threatening me until he realized I was not alone. Luckily, I was with a friend of mine from another agency.
With my friend, we tried to call Jeannet and Miriam, people who were supposed to protect and help au pairs. Jeannet didn't answer and Miriam had the nerve to tell me that my HM won't give me back my money because I had damaged their cellphone two months ago. Of course, I explained Miriam they have never asked me to pay for that.
Where to sleep ?
We called the 911 and nobody was able to help us at the moment. It was night time and I didn’t know where to go because I was lost and no place to go. In this case of emergency, EurAupair, my au pair agency has the obligation to help me out but they did not.
I ended up staying at my host family friend’s house and I’m very thankful for that.
What to do then ?
The next day, the Police called me and asked me to come to my host family address. A police officer was waiting for me there. He came with me into the house to take my other stuff.
I asked him about the money and he told me he could do nothing without evidence. Finally I had advice from my LCC’s friend who was very nice. She confirmed I was right to leave the host family’s house because they abused me and that my agency was supposed to find a place for me to stay until Friday, the day of my flight to France. Moreover, my host parents still have to pay me my weekly stipend, $195,75. I have kept calling Miriam, the director, to ask her to help me to get my money back and my stipend but she told me that I shouldn’t leave their house so, the host parents have the right not to pay me. Ugh !
As usual, EurAupair prefers to cover up a situation by sending an au pair straight home instead of finding reasonnable and long-term solutions. My agency offered to book me a flight ticket and a night at a hotel as a solution. Obviously I could not accept it. What about my savings ? What about these host parents in their au pair program ? What about the trauma I have been gone through seeing my HM withdrawing MY money in front of me ?
I went to the French Consulate of San Francisco and they advised me to go ask for help at the Police. I did so on Wednesday. The police tried to find an amiable solution with my host parents at their house and my HM said " Karren doesn't have any proof that I stole her". I could not believe what she was saying. She didn’t deny it so.
At the end I will have to go to the court with a lawyer.
My only proof
The bank cameras are the only way to prove that she stole me.
Do not go to EurAupair
If you still have any doubt about sponsors agencies, do not choose EurAupair.
Maybe some of you had a good experience with them, unfortunately not me and I’m very disappointed about how they managed the end of my supposed to be a dreamed au pair experience.
Be brave, some families know we are alone in their country and we don't speak a good English. That makes us weak.
If you have read all of this, thank you so much. Enjoy your experience and be careful.
If you have any advice for filing a claim against my agency and the family, please let me know.
Without my friend, her LCC, her host family, others au pairs and Express Yourself Aupair (EYA), I would not have done anything. I am now safe in France and I don't know what I can do more to get my money back besides an online petition.
PS: I know they have a new au pair so I hope she could read it.