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US AU PAIR Agency Denies Putting Au Pair in Harm's Way

This morning, a story was released by the Willamette Week, from Portland Oregon - where a German au pair was placed with a host father who, according to the au pair, sexually abused and harassed her.  

We ran the first story about the alleged abuse last week and we were unable to get Helene Young's side of the story  Ms. Young is the owner and director of this au pair agency, one of 14 legal programs in the United States.  This week, Ms. Young did send us a short email reply "Please be advised that there is no basis for the charges."  

Shae Healey, reporter from Willamette Week, was able to find out more information about the story, including the fact police discovered files in US Au Pair offices that indicated there was at least 2 other au pairs that were fondled and harassed by host father Gupta:  

Washington County sheriff’s investigators found notes in US Au Pair’s files showing that an au pair in 2009 reported that Gupta had asked if she was a virgin and said he wanted to see her in a bikini.

An investigator interviewed another au pair who said Gupta in 2008 rubbed her thigh and back, told her to leave her bedroom door open, and came into her room and lay down in bed next to her. She reported his behavior to US Au Pair staff, the sheriff’s report says, and says Gupta had tried to punish her by refusing to let her attend school.

These above statements from 2 previous au pairs match what German au pair Amely Mae Conrad told the police about host father Gupta's behavior towards her.  

Miss Conrad was placed in Gupta's home in 2010 - she was removed from the home after her German father called and complained to Ms. Young about his daughter's abuse and demanded she take his daughter out of that placement.  

The agency did remove Miss Conrad and Ms. Young, and according to this au pair, told Miss Conrad she was sorry, but this never happened before in this home and she would find her another family.  

However, while waiting to be rematched, Miss Conrad found out about the other au pairs who were abused and assaulted in this home - she stated she could no longer trust this agency and went back home to Germany.  

In her lawsuit against Young and US Au Pair, Miss Conrad states once she was home, she had a complete nervous breakdown and became suicidal.  She is seeking one million dollars in damages.  

The reporter, Shae Healey, quoted me in today's news story regarding the au pair program and what I thought should be done about abuse of au pairs.  I told Healey that I think the au pair agencies should be required to institute au pair abuse awareness in their au pair training & orientation materials and lectures.  

Au pairs are mandated to attend 4 days of training before they are released to their host families.  It would be relatively simple and easy for agencies to provide au pair abuse awareness and training on their own, without another regulation handed down from the Dept of State that oversees the au pair agencies in this country. 

Why not be proactive?  Why not try to protect au pairs and prevent these incidents from happening?  Often times we assume abuse goes in one direction only -  au pair abusing children.  

What most host families and the American public don't know, there are ongoing incidents of au pairs being abused in American homes - and not just sex abuse.  
  • Au pairs are often overworked, placing them in a very precarious and dangerous situation where, if they are tired and fatigued, they could easily make a mistake with the children they are bound to protect.  This is what happened in the Lois Woodward case - Woodward, the au pair, stated she was overworked and tired and when the baby wouldn't stop crying, she handled him "roughly."  
  • Au pairs are often denied the right to attend college courses, because the host parents refuse to register them and pay for the courses (as required by the program rules).  
  • Au pairs are often made to work extra hours without monetary compensation - making as little as 4.00 or less an hour.  Host parents often make "deals" with their au pairs, telling them if they work an additional Saturday night, they will pay them "extra" but fail to follow through, knowing the au pair will not complain to the program, as they are not supposed to work over 45 hours a week. 
  • Au pairs are often emotionally abused by either the children or the host parents.  Au pairs will reveal that their host children swear at them, call them names and refuse to listen to them.  The parents are often worse, making au pairs feel insecure, unwanted and attacked.  Many times these au pairs become distraught and depressed, but feel they cannot ask for a rematch because they lack a skill set that will get them another job - good English or safe Driving.  
  • Au pairs are denied food as punishment.  I know personally where au pairs are denied food by their host parents.  When au pairs refuse to do "work" outside of the cultural exchange program (doing the family laundry, cleaning the entire house, etc.) host parents get back at their au pair by refusing to buy them food, or not inviting them to eat dinner with the family. Au pairs often resort to buying their own food with their meager wages ($199 a week). 
I am not saying these issues are in the forefront of the cultural exchange program, because for the majority of au pairs and families, this is a wonderful program - but abuses do exist and au pair agencies can be doing a better job of getting the word out that they will not accept these practices and that they will drop families who are found to be abusing their au pairs.   

How can we raise awareness to help and support au pairs?

We can begin by sharing stories here on Au Pair Clearinghouse and on www.BestAuPairGuide.com - au pairs please send in your stories so we can raise awareness!  Also, host parents who know of abuses going on in your cluster, please send in your stories.  We will protect your confidentiality!

Thank you and please, write in!   Your support will help au pair agencies to understand how important it is to protect both of their customers - au pairs as well as their host families!

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