Interview with Edina Stone of Au Pair Clearinghouse: Part 1

Au Pair Clearinghouse

Today we are talking with Edina Stone, CEO of the Au Pair Clearinghouse, which offers in-depth reviews on the U.S. State Department approved au pair agencies. Edina helps host families learn how to find great au pairs and work through all the details that come along with hiring an au pair, so she is a wealth of knowledge. Here’s what she had to say …

Best Au Pair Guide: How did you get started in the au pair industry?

Edina: I worked in the au pair industry for over ten years and learned a great deal about au pair agencies and how they operate, including where and how they recruit au pairs, how they find host families, USA government regulations, and how to mediate problems between au pairs and host families.

BAPG: What made you start Au Pair Clearinghouse?

I started Au Pair Clearinghouse to advocate for children and host families across the United States by providing information on hosting au pairs. When I left the au pair industry, I wanted to help parents choose more wisely and have more information. So I decided to create a website where parents could visit and read all there is to read about the entire industry. Choosing a childcare giver for your family is probably one of the most important decisions a parent can make!

BAPG: “What are some examples of the information you share on your website?

As you know, up until 2009 or 2010, agencies didn’t openly “share” a lot of helpful information with their customers (both host families and au pairs). They didn’t offer many resources or how-to guides or information about cultural differences or countries where au pairs come from. So I published hundreds of pages of information for host families on AuPairClearinghouse.com and I reached out to agencies for more information.

Agency directors, including Natalie Jordan of Cultural Care and Heidi Woehl of Au Pair Care, responded by not only sharing useful information with the Clearinghouse, but by offering more agency useful resources and links and by doing interviews with us. At present, you can find more information on most agency sites than ever before! And with publication of books on au pairs (your Girl’s Guide to Being an Au Pair is a great example) and the increasing popularity of au pair blogs and websites like Au Pair Clearinghouse, au pair agencies in the United States understand the value of information that is easily accessible, unbiased, and helpful.

BAPG: You hear a lot from host families and you know what they want. What qualities are host parents looking for in an au pair?

Edina: The majority of American host families are looking for three basic things in an au pair –

  1. Good English – are you able to communicate in English well and speak for at least an hour with your host parents in the language? If not, maybe you should improve your English first before you sign up for the program.
  2. Experienced and safe driver – if your host parents need a driver and you don’t drive well, please be honest and find a family who is not looking for a driver. More families fire their au pairs over driving issues more than any other problem!
  3. Friendly, flexible personality – host parents do not want to deal with an au pair who mopes around the house and is negative about everything. Enjoy your time abroad and smile! Do things the “American way” – that is why you came here, to learn and experience another culture. If you tend to be rather stuck in your ways and don’t like change, maybe you should reconsider becoming an au pair. If you like new things and new places, and love America, you have the important qualities American host families are looking for.

BAPG: Thanks, Edina! That is great advice for potential au pairs wanting to work in the United States.

Stay tuned for the rest of the interview with Edina Stone – Part 2 will cover more helpful advice specifically for au pairs. Don’t miss it!

 

 

 

Agencies for Americans going abroad as au pairs

woman in office

For Americans wanting to work as au pairs, there are several agencies you can find au pair jobs with. You can also find different Au Pair agencies on the IAPA’s home page (the International Au Pair Association).

Another comprehensive list of au pair agencies can be found over at Au Pair Clearinghouse. Each agency has also been reviewed on that list, so there is more information than just a name and link. Edina Stone, director of Au Pair Clearinghouse, has some of the most credible information for host families and au pairs, to be sure to check out her list.

In addition to the big agencies, there are hundreds of other smaller au pair agencies worldwide. The best place to start is to decide which country you would like to work in and then search for agencies in that target country. Just remember, you want to be sure that you are working with a bonafide au pair agency with several years of experience successfully matching au pairs with good host families. Read more about finding a legitimate agency here.

Au Pair Tips – part 2 – finding an au pair job in the right country

Au Pairs abroad

So, after doing the right thing and deciding to go through an agency to find a host family, the next thing is to decide where you want to go. That is, if you haven’t done this already. If you are not already dead-set on where you would like to work as an au pair, then let’s get back to basics.

Ask yourself a few of these questions – where have you always wanted to visit? Which country or culture do you find fascinating? Is there a place that you most definitely have to see someday?

If you answer no to any of these questions and still aren’t sure where exactly you would like to be an au pair, then maybe you should consider going back in time. Is there a place that fascinated you as a child? This might sound crazy, but work with me. Maybe you read Hansel and Gretel as a child and were fascinated by the Black Forest, witches, and gingerbread (call me crazy, but I know I was!). Or maybe your family had friends or acquaintances from another country and you always found them to be interesting.

Fast forward back to the present day. Maybe you love Asian food and would enjoy living in a place where you can eat Phad Thai or Sushi every day. Or the thought of being able to delight in croissants and good red wine is enticing (and a drinking age of less than 21 years is also exciting, in which case Europe would be the place for you!). Are you in to fashion? Then au pair-ing in Italy or some equally chic place might be for you.
See where I am going with this? As an au pair you can work virtually anywhere, so open up your mind, let your adventuresome spirit free, and don’t forget to let us all know where it is your au pair journey will find you!

Au Pair Tips – part 1

Hi again – it’s me, Talya, the writer of this blog who has been MIA for the last several months. We have finally settled in here a bit in Berlin and are starting to feel at home, so I can now focus once again on helping au pairs (and would-be au pairs) to learn what they need to in order to have the best experience possible.

So here we go …

For part one of my new Au Pair Tips series, we are going back to the basics. I see a lot of questions on our forum about whether or not potential au pairs should use an au pair agency. SomeĀ  have found host families on their own and want to know if they should move forward. In short, I would advise against going abroad as an au pair without an agency. Of course, you are all adults and can do what you like, but for practical and safety reasons, it makes sense to have the protection of a legitimate au pair agency behind you.

First, an agency takes the ultimate responsibility off of you (and off the family) for sorting out the important details. A good au pair agency will conduct background checks, negotiate contracts, ensure that the au pair and host family are as well-matched as possible, secure visas and work permits, and much more. For host families, this is important because an au pair is a big investment in both time and money. Host families need to know that they have the best possible chances of success when it comes to their au pair. They are hiring an au pair to make their lives easier and need things to go as smoothly as possible.

For au pairs, the agency helps him or her to be certain that they will move in with a safe family and that all (or most!) of the kinks have been worked out beforehand. An au pair agency also serves as a mediator between the au pair and the host family, and if any issues arise the agency is available to help. This is especially important for the au pair, who may be too shy or afraid to bring up problems directly with the host parents themselves.

So yes, I would definitely recommend an au pair agency. For anyone who has already found what appears to be a great host family, consider asking them to continue through an agency, so that both parties have the best chance at succeeding. If you need a place to start, the IAPA (International Au Pair Association) is a great place to start and has a list of agencies around the world.