This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but me sharing my experience.
I first started to look for an au pair more than a year ago and since then had to search again a few times more.
I have used a few methods, but never an agency. Mostly because I believe the results would be very much the same and they are quite costly. So I’ll let you know about what I know.
First and foremost, are you sure you and your family are ready to have an au pair? It should not be a decision taken lightly. It will change your family’s life. It can go wrong. But if it goes right it’s worth every second of your effort.
Who are they? Young girls, 18-25 years old, that for some reason want to leave their country. It can be because they want a new experience, make friends, learn a language. It can also be because that’s the easier way to come into England and find a real job. Most of these girls come from poor countries, or countries that are going through severe economic crisis. But there are also girls that genuinely want to have the au pair experience.
How long do they stay? Varies on their objectives. And sometimes they just change their minds pretty quick. It can be from 1 month – 1 year. I had a few that told me straight away they only wanted to stay a couple of months.
How much do they earn? Au pair is not a job, although some people take advantage of them. Au pair is an experience where people agree to exchange services. The au pair looks after the kids, does light house work, basically cleaning after themselves and the kids, babysits in the evenings and not much more. The host family provides a room, food and pocket-money; this can be from £75-120/week.
What to look for? If I only knew…This is the difficult part. By email all is rosy. On Skype all looks good as well, most times anyway. You only start having a real feel for the person, once you meet and start living together.
I look at their interests. What experience do they have with children? I also put up some scenarios and ask what would they do in that situation? Did she go to university? What was the field of studies? If not why and what are the plans for the future? What do they do on their free time? Who is the family? Siblings? Baby sister, Big sister? Knows anyone in England? Party girl?
All this questions can vary from family to family. It really depends on what’s important for you and your family. But I recommend you think about this very thoroughly, so you ask and clarify all you need, before inviting an au pair to live in your house.
Where to find them? As soon as you type au pair on Google, you’ll be inundated with results.
Au Pair World is famous around the globe. I found it very useful. Plenty of choice. Girls from all over the world. You can search by country, age and other options. Ideal for a first time host family. You need to pay a membership, that won’t break your pocket. For around £30 you get a 3 month membership. You’ll find a suitable person within the first month.
Most recently I started using Facebook groups, where many times you find au pairs that have a page on au pair world and there’s always girls looking for new position, as well as families.
There are also Agencies, that will charge you quite a lot more money, but I heard that it’s not really worth it and on the other extreme is Gumtree – too much anonymity for my liking.
Contracts? Some au pairs will insist on a contract. Au pair is not a job, therefore there are no legalities around this agreement. But APW has drafts of contracts, that you can fill in, to reassure your au pair and make things crystal clear between your family and the au pair.
Health Insurance? If your au pair is European, it will only be necessary that they get European Health Insurance card. If the person is coming from outside Europe, you’ll need to make other arrangements, such as private health insurance.
Language courses? Your au pair could attend an EFL course. The host family does not have to pay for these. Although this courses last for several months and that would give some reassurance regarding the length of stay. That should be decided between the family and the au pair, depending on circumstances.