October 29, 2012

Fact or fiction? Transition au pairs are just other host families’ rejects.

4 minutes
About au pairs

Before tackling this statement, let’s first define transition au pairs for those readers who don’t know what one is. A transition au pair—or in-country au pair (the terms are used interchangeably)—are au pairs who have matched and started their year with one host family but have decided to part ways with the family and are currently looking for a new host family to join.
When families recognize that transition au pairs are part of Cultural Care Au Pair’s pool of available candidates, they often assume that something must be wrong with them. “Why would we want another family’s reject?” is an oft-shared sentiment. What a lot of families don’t realize is that sometimes transition au pairs can be great candidates to consider, depending on what they are looking for.
To understand why, it’s important to share that the reason most families and au pairs go into a transition is due to personality differences and communication breakdown. “When a host family and au pair aren’t seeing eye-to-eye and don’t take time to talk about their problems, the relationship can deteriorate pretty quickly,” confirms Terry Bell, Cultural Care Au Pair’s Director of In-Country Placement. “Most of the transitions that happen are because families and au pairs have given up on fixing their differences and want a fresh start.”
Says one anonymous blogger on a popular au pair site: “Some of our best au pairs have been au pairs who were rematches. Two in particular had come from families where there was a personality issue. We had one 2nd year au pair who was also good, but [did not want to be] a part of the family—we knew this going in and that had been part of the problem with the previous host family. She was on when with the kids, but she had a boyfriend and she wanted independence. We were fine with that.”
Jennifer Guarracino, host mom in Ohio actually prefers to take transition au pairs ever since her family’s second au pair, Ana from Colombia, came from a transition situation. In fact, all three of her subsequent au pairs have also been transition au pairs and all of them—Maria from Sweden, Sarah from Austria and Stehfy from Colombia—were in transition due to communication issues and personality conflicts. Jenn says, “In my experience, au pairs are not going to make the same mistakes twice. The same goes for host families. [Au pairs and families in transition] know now what happens when you don’t talk about things. Like any relationship, for it to work you have to put in an effort. You get out of it what you put into it.”
Two other common reasons transitions occur are due to driving and language abilities, and in a small number of cases, host families release their au pairs due to safety concerns. In all but the last circumstance, au pairs are allowed to rejoin the matching pool if their family and/or LCC recommends them for placement (au pairs who jeopardize their host children’s health or safety are sent home).
Host mom Jill Janson says of her transition au pair (pictured above with their daughter), “Carolina had two transitions, the first of which happened because of her lack of driving experience—for us that was actually perfect because we preferred not to have a driver or someone that wanted to drive.” She adds, “The second transition happened because the family wasn’t totally confident in Carolina’s experience caring for two young children under the age of 3 years. I, however, have a totally different experience. She is excellent with my baby and I couldn’t have more confidence in her. It would have been a tragedy for Carolina to go home because she is incredible.”
While transition au pairs are clearly not “other host families’ rejects”, keep in mind that not every transition au pair will fit a family’s needs. Terry Bell recommends that families carefully consider what they are looking for in a candidate and speak with as many of her references as possible before making a decision. That being said, there are distinct positives au pairs bring to the table. When I asked our two host from above to share some of the advantages of hosting in-country au pairs, they had a lot to say.
From Jill Janson:
References are easier and you can meet them in person.
I loved being able to talk to Carolina’s previous host families and LCCs for their perspectives. Because we were in the same time zones and speaking the same language I felt like I could dig deeper and understand more than if I were checking a reference from overseas. We didn’t meet Carolina in person because she was living in a different state but I know a lot of parents who make that a priority when interviewing transition au pairs.
They are available right away.
In our case, we really wanted to have someone join our household right away. Hosting a transition au pair means the time between interviewing and when she shows up at your doorstep is unbelievably quick.
From Jennifer Guarracino:
Homesickness isn’t an issue.
For a transition au pair to be re-matched, she has to really want to continue her au pair experience. I have found what when our transition au pairs have arrived they are either over that stage of their journey or were the kind of au pairs that never really felt homesick to begin with.
Experience driving in the U.S. is a plus.
All of our au pairs came with experience driving in the United States. While the road conditions and climate might be different, there is comfort knowing this person drove with another family, in the United States, with our gigantic vehicles on our busy streets.
There is little orientation or “ramp up” time.
Since they’ve already had experience with American family life and culture, transition au pairs don’t need nearly as much time to adjust. In contrast to my first au pair who came straight from Mexico, our transition au pairs were easily able to jump right into the house, routine, schedule and life.
Gratitude and humility go a long way.
When things don’t go as you intend and you get the opportunity to try again, aren’t you grateful? Aren’t you going to use that humility to make your second chance more successful than the first? My transition au pairs have been incredibly happy to have been given that second chance with us and have provided my children with the best possible childcare and love as a result. I am still in touch with all of them and we are happy to have helped them rewrite their story so it ends on a positive note.