Hi Abbie and Maddie here. What matters most when you pick an au pair agency? Cost? Au pair availability? Quality of service? Who you know? Bottom line: the criteria you use to select an au pair agency is personal. You will need to decide what is most important to you and which au pair agency will be best suited for your family.
Here are our au pair agency recommendations, how we chose our agencies, and if we’d stay or if we’d leave.
A quick note about au pair agency referrals
Most au pair agencies offer bonuses to host families who refer a new host family. It’s the same cost for the new host family whether they use the referral code or not. And it could actually save the new host family a registration fee.
This is a great way to make another momma’s day by gifting her a hefty discount for the next time she matches. These discounts can ranging from $250 to $1000 depending on the agency!
You will need to complete the referral before you reach out to the agencies on your own. Some are links, some are a name you fill in on the application form.
The best way to find an au pair referral code or au pair affiliate link is to ask your friends. You can also post the question in the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook.
Maddie is happy to answer questions about EurAuPair. You can find her on Facebook Messenger or email her at [email protected] If you apply to EurAuPair, you can enter “Maddie Clark” in the referral box.
Abbie is happy to answer questions about Au Pair Care and Cultural Care. You can find her on Facebook Messenger or email [email protected] If you apply to Cultural Care, you can use Abbie’s referral link.
*This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, we may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. For full details, see our Disclaimer Page.
How did you choose an au Pair agency?
Maddie: My mother-in-law first introduced me to the idea of hosting an au pair. She suggested that I call her friend’s daughter-in-law who worked at EurAuPair. So, instead of doing the logical thing and calling an expert, I turned to Google.
Typing “au pair” into the search engine bombarded me with ads from the huge au pair agencies. It was very obvious that these agencies spent a lot of money to bring in web traffic to their fancy websites. After spending hours digging around the big agency sites I was able to pull together a list of fees. Every page I opened seemed to add more costs. The intentional separation of the fees across the various pages felt dishonest.
Next, I Googled “Eu Au Pair”. EuAuPair’s website felt totally different to me. It was simple, organized, and presented all the fees on one page! Their straightforward approach made me feel like they cared about more than money. I was also impressed that EuAuPair made contributions to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
I finally decided to call my mother-in-laws friend’s daughter-in-law at EurAuPair. This was a great decision! As it turned out she was a regional director and a former au pair. She talked me through the program and answered all my questions. Then she introduced me to my local community counselor (LCC). The LCC for my area was also patient, down to earth, and great to work with.
Abbie: For our first au pair, we knew we wanted an au pair from Japan because we want to visit Japan someday. My husband always had Japanese exchange students as roommates in college, who constantly ask when we plan to visit. We were hoping our au pair could help teach us (and the boys) a bit of the language. (And she did!)
Looking around, the only agency that had a selection of Japanese au pairs at the time was Au Pair Care. So the choice of agency was pretty easy.
After renewing with our first au pair for a second year, it was time for au pair #2. We went with Au Pair Care again because it was convenient and we liked our local area coordinator. We weren’t able to find a Japanese au pair that would fit with our family. This time we went with a French au pair who loved hiking and the outdoors. (We live in Seattle, not a hotbed of fashion or shopping like L.A. or N.Y.…)
For our 3rd (and current) au pair, we looked at Japanese au pairs at Au Pair Care again, but there weren’t many options. So, we expanded our search to Cultural Care and Au Pair in America. This is when we realized that the discount for switching is pretty much the same as the discount for being a repeat family.
We matched with a great au pair from Italy through Cultural Care.
I know Cultural Care has a bit of a bad rap. For a while they allowed au pairs to be in negotiations with as many as six families at once! It’s so stressful to think you’ve found an au pair and reach out, only to be turned down. It’s like you have to reach out to an au pair on the first day she posts. Aaagh! Thankfully, they’ve narrowed it down now to I think two at a time.
Both of our local counselors through Au Pair Care and Cultural Care have been helpful. Our Au Pair Care counselor helped us when our Japanese au pair needed to suddenly return home. Her family needed her support through her father’s hospitalization. And our current Cultural Care counselor is a former au pair herself, so she really knows the ropes.
Would you stay with your au pair agency?
Maddie: I choose to stay with EurAuPair because they are easy to work with and responsive. I like that they treat the host families and au pairs like they care about them, not about the money.
When things went south with my 4th au pair, they supported us in mediation discussions. Then, once we decided to rematch they helped me to find candidates to interview. They prorated the program fees I had left on my contract and applied all of it to my incoming au pair. (There are agencies who only credit a portion of the program fees if you rematch!)
I also like the au pair matching process at EurAuPair. The entire pool of candidates is available to view with easy to use filters. You can add your favorites to a list so you can find them. Once you interview an au pair you can put them on a temporary hold (24 hours) to remove them from the search pool. You can only place one au pair on hold at a time. I always ask the au pairs if they are talking to other families. Most admit to talking to one family other than my own. Only once have I had an offer turned down and it was because she was uncomfortable with my big dogs.
The other reason I stay with EurAuPair is because of the way they handle fees paid by the au pairs. My current au pair paid the equivalent of $950 USD to match with a family from EurAuPair.
I have seen au pair fees at other agencies at $1800 or more plus the cost of their health and travel insurance. (All au pairs who match with a family in the USA also have to pay $200 to obtain their visa, regardless of their agency.)
EurAuPair offers host parents reduced program fees for second year au pairs. They also charge the au pairs nothing if they choose to extend. Some agencies charge the au pairs a program fee (and insurance costs) if they want to extend. They include an option for the host family to pay the au pairs portion when they pay their own program fees. This makes the host families feel obligated to pay for these extra fees.
Abbie: Short answer: not necessarily.
The most important thing to me is that I find an au pair that’s a good fit for my family. This is a person I’m going to live with for the next year or two and I will be trusting to watch my children. I want to find the right person as much as possible. I don’t care which agency it’s through.
Staying with the same agency has some advantages. This is true especially if you have a great relationship with your local area counselor. It’s important to have a good relationship with your local coordinator. She is the one who will help you out if things go wrong. If you need to rematch, she’s the one you need on your side. If your au pair has an emergency (or her family has an emergency and she needs to go home), your coordinator can be a big help.
The agencies all have to follow the federal au pair program requirements. This includes monthly check-ins, au pair cluster meetings, educational credits, work hours, etc.
I would recommend that you consider searching multiple agencies at the same time. It can be a pain to write-up your family schedule and introductions that many times. But, if you start from a word document then it’s pretty easy to copy and paste. Though many agencies have a registration fee, most of them also have a way to wave it.
What about you?
What agency do you use? Have you switched agencies? Have a question or story you’d like to share?
If you’re a host parent or thinking of hosting an au pair, come on over to the My Au Pair and Me Host Parent Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!