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Finding an au pair - advice from the experienced?

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Hello does anyone with experience have advice on finding a live in au pair? I can see that there are the Internet sites and more formal agencies. Any specific recommendations? I'd like someone properly vetted and committed who can stay with us for 12 months without disruption. Any lessons from those who have found live in au pairs? Any advice greatly appreciated! Thanks
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I think one of the things to get your head round with an au pair is that there are no guarantees. We went through an agency with our first au pair because I felt more secure that way - but she got a place at university (we didn't know she'd applied) and left after 6 months unexpectedly. We went back to the agency and had to pay the full fee again - with a small discount - and had someone great who stayed for 18 months. More recently I've had a lot of success finding our last couple of au pairs through gumtree - which has a major advantage in that you can often meet and interview them in person as they are already in the uk. The agencies I think always tend to offer people who are still in their home country so you have to skype. But then we recently had a bit of a stress because an au pair had to leave because her fianc? was suddenly seriously ill and she had to go home. At the end of the day - it is definitely a less secure form of childcare than a nursery or even nanny. They are young girls, possibly away from home for the first time, without any real commitment to stay.

Going through an agency gives you some peace of mind - supposedly they have run a police check on the aupairs, but the biggest advantage is that it saves you time as they shortlist a handful,of people for you - whereas when you do it yourself you have to engage in a lot of emails, spend a lot of time trawling through responses. Ringing others for references etc.

But I have to say - we have been incredibly lucky so far - both routes have yielded lovely, sweet, responsible girls. All have been amazing with the kids - very loving and caring, they all come back for visits and are now friends on Facebook. They have also all been a huge help around the house, tidying up, cleaning the kitchen, helping with washing etc - when you get it right it's like having an amazing 1950s wife. I came home tonight to a spotless house, children sitting quietly eating a delicious home cooked meal. I'm slightly in awe of our current au pair. She is much better than I am at organizing the house, taking care of them etc.

Of course the golden rule is treat them really well. Pay a decent wage, pay on time, don't take advantage and expect additional work, don't treat them like servants - ultimately you will reap what you sew.

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I have always advertised on au aupair world and recruit from there. I do a full description of exactly what I am expecting (in my case they have to drive, so must be 23+ for insurance purposes e.g.).

I then wheedle it down to my last 2/3 and interview them. I prefer people already in the UK who can come to our house, see their room, meet the children etc so I can get a proper feel for them. Our current au pair is an absolute marvel, has been with us for a year, and is staying for another year (hurray!).

I agree with the above poster - pay well, treat them well and don't take advantage and it can be immensely rewarding for everyone.

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