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Au Pair Agency "Quality of Au Pairs" Rating

It seems that perhaps the smaller, "boutique" au pair agencies may have a distinct advantage over their larger competitors when it comes to recruiting QUALITY au pairs.  Customer Service.jpg

In our 2009-2010 Host Family Satisfaction Survey, we asked parents to rate their Satisfaction with their agency’s Quality of Au Pairs.  Host parents with smaller agencies were, overall, were very satisfied with their au pairs.

We defined the Quality of Au Pairs in our questionnaire by these characteristics: ability to keep children safe, pleasant personalities, and ability to drive and speak English well. 

While most agencies are able to recruit and offer good, stable and well-balanced au pairs who can drive and speak English well, there are individual agencies that stand out from the rest and they were all smaller au pair agencies (servicing less than 500 host families a year). Larger agencies, like Au Pair Care, service around 2,000 families a year - the largest agency today, Cultural Care, has close to 5,000 families a year. 

It is interesting to speculate why the smaller agencies seem to be doing better screening and recruiting au pairs compared to their bigger competitors.  Perhaps it is just because they are smaller and are able to focus on each au pair one at a time during the screening process and they take the time to get it right.  Too many au pairs slip through the screening process and get matched with families only to arrive in the U.S.A. unable to take care of the children they were hired to care for. 

Foreign agents, who are only travel agency staff, are paid by au pair agencies to recruit au pairs - they interview them, do the background checks and administer (and sometimes score) the psychometric tests the Dept. of State requires.  These agents get paid on a commission basis - and only receive compensation for au pairs they do accept

Do some of these agents allow marginal au pairs slip through to pad their commission checks?  Of course they do.  We do not know how many, but when you look at the rate of rematches (some counselors report rematch rates as high as 30% of their clusters at any given time), you know that au pairs are not always screened as well as they could be, or as well as they should be. 

The smaller agencies are not overwhelmed by large numbers of au pairs and host families - they have the luxury of taking the time they need to make sure their au pairs are well-screened and all red flags are taken seriously (and dealt with appropriately).  They often have one or two placement counselors who are very hands-on during the matching process and will spend lots of time on the phone with their host parents until they find the best au pair for their family.

In our survey, the agencies that received the highest ratings for the quality of their au pairs were all smaller programs.   The smaller agencies may not have all the features and well-designed Website of a larger program, but they seem to be delivering what host parents really want:  

  • Well-screened au pairs who can drive,
  • Speak English and
  • Keep their children safe.

To find out what smaller agencies really stood out from the crowd, read our Quality of Au Pairs report.

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