Au Pair Lotte features in ‘Linda’, a popular Dutch Magazine

One of our Au Pairs Lotte was interviewed for a Dutch magazine to share her experience in Australia as an Au Pair. We are happy she had such an amazing experience and shared her great testimonial. Here’s what it looks like:

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Lotte Slotboom (20) studying European Public  Health, went to Australia as an au pair: My family was very nice and generous and lived in a suburb of Perth in an amazing house. They even had a swimming pool in their garden (this is the unusual thing for Dutchies). Just 1.5 hours away they had an even more amazing beach house, just a few minutes’ walk to the ocean. My host dad was a gynaecologist, this meant that he was on call 24/7, therefore they enjoyed relaxing during the summer holidays. We went to the outback; this meant not having access to phones, TV or any social media at all for a few days. Together with other families they built a complete camp in the outback, with an improvised toilet, kitchen, etc. In the morning the went out to go fishing, and then with this fish the lunch was prepared. One day there was a tiger snake in our camp, and they killed it with a shovel because it is one of the deadliest snakes of Australia. The other 5 girls wrote their story before mine also wrote about holidays, but I’m sure none of them had a holiday like this!

Lots of Love,

Lotte

How to choose the perfect gift for your au pair this Christmas

Your au pair has spent a lot of time getting to know your children and will likely feel like an integral part of your day-to-day lives now. Why not make her really feel like part of the family with a gift that reminds her of the special bond she shares with your children. This may be a personalised mug or photo frame or a Christmas stocking to hang next to the rest of the family’s stockings. Whatever you decide, get the kids involved in helping pick something special that shows that they appreciate how much she does.

See full article on how to pick the perfect gift for your au pair this christmas.

 

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing an Au Pair…

Experience shows us that there’s 10 TOP mistakes to avoid when choosing an Au Pair that the other agencies won’t tell you!
Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing an Au Pair….

Mistake #10: Not Reviewing An Agency’s credentials
If you choose a program because it is cheap, you may be placing your children at risk. You should ask hard questions about how the girls are screened. Is your agency a member of a local and/or International Association? Do they look and sound (don’t just rely on the website but give them a call) like ‘experts’ in their field? What is their re-match policy and what is the pool of au pairs to choose from? Why are they so much cheaper than others? How easy is it to get through on the phone? Is there just one person? What happens when she is not there? Is there only a mobile phone? (run a mile!)

Mistake #9: Not Taking the Time to Carefully Check and Re-Check the au pair Application
Each agency will send you an application for each au pair you are interested in. Many host parents make the mistake of not making the most of this material.
Tip: Look at the date when the au pair received her driving license and this will tell you how many years experience she has behind the wheel. More important however is ‘real’ driving experience; frequency, total mileage and traffic conditions. Traffic in Europe is busy and challenging and many young drivers get their own car shortly after passing their test. Some Asian drivers especially have no or minimal driving experience.

Mistake #8: Not Reading between the Lines of the Au Pair’s Host Family Letter
Each au pair writes a letter to her prospective host parent and her letter can be very revealing even before you speak to the au pair. Her letter gives you a sense of her ability to express herself in English and what kind of personality she has. What are her reasons for leaving her home? Does she come from an intact family who are close? Does she have siblings? If the au pair’s letter expresses positive statements about herself, her family and about children in general, read the rest of the application. If the letter does not have these elements, skip it and move onto the next application.
Tip: Does her letter express a “sunny” and positive personality that may indicate she has good self-esteem and a secure sense of self-identity? And how about on the phone?

Mistake #7: Not Conducting a Phone or Skype Interview with the Prospective Au Pair
You must call any au pair you are interested in! This phone call is critical to the success of your year with an au pair. Many times we have heard from host moms that they were too busy to call the au pairs! They said they “emailed the girl many times” and were confident the au pair was the “one.”
These host moms are usually very disappointed and ask for a rematch soon after the girl arrives. Once you have the girl on the line, may sure you ask her specific questions that represent real situations that are likely to occur. Her responses will give you a window into her personality, cultural differences and her ability to think quickly on her feet. Does she sound mature, responsible and flexible? If you like the answers and like the au pair, call her multiple times before you make a decision. Each time you call her, you will find out more about her qualifications and personality.

Mistake #6: Not Getting Tough with the Agency during the Matching Process
If the agency is sending you applications that do not meet your family’s needs, reject them. Be clear about what your most important criteria are in choosing an au pair (ex. driving skills, experienced infant care, good English skills, etc.). If your agency will not work with you switch to one that will or can.

Mistake #5: Matching with an Au Pair that Does Not Drive
This can be a big mistake – you may think you don’t need an au pair to drive but unless you live in a large city with public transportation right outside your door, do not match with an au pair that does not drive!

Mistake #4: Matching with an Au Pair who has a Serious Relationship with a Boyfriend
Some au pairs sign up for the program even though are in a pretty heavy relationship with a boyfriend.
They both think they can be apart for 12 months, but eventually, the couple starts to miss each other. They may spend a lot of time and money calling and emailing each other multiple times a day. The boyfriend may start to tell your au pair she made a mistake – and if he “wins” the day, you lose big time because your au pair may very well break the match and return home! If she doesn’t go home, and tries to stick out the long 12 months, she may end up miserable and unhappy
Tip: If after the au pair says “no” to the question “Do you have a boyfriend” drop it and come back to it again, unexpectedly. Later, in the conversation, ask, “What does your boyfriend think about that?” Usually, caught off guard and if the girl is honest and not used to fabricating stories, she will (and if she indeed has a boyfriend) answer in the affirmative “Well, my boyfriend thinks …”

Mistake #3: Matching with a Party Girl
In the au pair industry, we label girls who go out every night and every weekend, dancing and drinking and cavorting with men, “Party Girls”. How do you avoid a Party Girl? Ask the right questions: “What do you do on weekends?” “What are you most interested in doing when you get to the Australia?” and “Why did you decide to become an au pair?” If your prospective au pair tells you she cannot wait to try the clubs in Sydney, think carefully about matching with her.
Tip: Take a look at her pictures that will accompany her application and letter. If most of the shots are with friends, hanging out at the beach, drinking beer, dancing at clubs wearing skimpy dresses, and you see very little of her family, think Party Girl. Au Pairs applying through a reputable agency are more likely to understand the au pair role and will have been probed already on their lifestyle.

Mistake #2: Not being honest with yourself
Is an au pair really right for your family?
There are some things you may not want to hear/read in this section….
But in some situations we know an au pair has a limited chance of success, here are some of the examples that we have encountered.
Isolation, either from your family, due to the fact that you are very private people and really want your own space more than you want a person helping with your children
A child that is hostile towards the au pair, either a younger child with real anxiety towards strangers or an older child, almost in the same age group as the au pair an not willing to accept a ‘big sister’ in either a position of authority or even friendship
A recent trauma, such as a painful break-up or a serious medical situation, in your family means that there is a lot of discomfort and the au pair role resembles counseling rather than cultural exchange
Extremely demanding positions such as highly absent parents working long hours and when at home stressed or tired may mean the au pair carries an enormous amount of responsibility.
Mum is always there and can’t ‘let go’ (or the children won’t let go!) If it’s the children, this is relatively easy: connect the au pair with favorite ‘excursions’ such as dress-up, camping in the living room, feeding the ducks, blowing bubbles or making cookies; something that is special enough not to be an everyday activity. If the child gets to do these favorites with the au pair at the start, she will associate the au pair with fun stuff. This is especially important if the au pair arrives around the same time as a new baby and other child/children may feel a little left out and this feeling is associated with the au pair.

Top # 1 Mistake: Choosing an Au Pair Who Does Not Speak English!
This is a one of the most common mistakes a host family will make with dire consequences on their time and wallet. Although most au pairs will quickly adapt and speak better English, she needs to have fair English to start with.

You must understand and accept the Number One Reason young women join au pair programs is to improve their English skills. You may speak her language, but don’t assume that others can, including your family! Your children and your spouse must be able to speak to her, and she may need to speak with teachers or other school mums to convey a message.
Many host moms will choose an au pair based on the language she took in college, hoping to get a “refresher course” from the au pair. Remember host moms, this is not a language program for you – it is a language program for the au pair! So, if you think your au pair will arrive and be happy speaking her native tongue in your home, think again! She is there to immerse herself in English! Choose an au pair who can speak English in your home so she can improve her skills. In addition, if you cannot speak her language, and her English skills are poor, then no one will be able to communicate with her!

Tip: Don’t expect your au pair to stay with your family if English is your second language and you and your family always speak your first language in the home. When host families only speak their native tongue instead of English, the majority of au pairs will become very unhappy with this arrangement (even if they agreed to it initially). She will most likely ask for a rematch with “a real Australian family that speaks English in the home.” So, if you are French, Russian or Hispanic, etc., and refuse to speak English in your home, you may not find an au pair who is willing to spend her entire stay with you. You must approach the au pair experience with a commitment to speaking English with your au pair.
All of these 10 mistakes, now that you know them, are easily avoided. Our agency staff and our partner agencies overseas use our combined experience to minimise mistakes.
NOTE: above content is adapted from an article by Edina Stone from Au Pair Clearing House USA.

You are bound to have lots of questions AND we are here to answer them all!

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#TipTuesday series

We just recently launched our #TipTuesday series, where we post tips for our au pairs in the Facebook Smartaupairs group!

These tips refer to our most frequent asked questions, issues that might come up, general guidance and fun tips for our au pairs in Australia. This will help and encourage them during their au pair stay.

To get a glimpse of what they look like, see below:

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We love receiving Feedback in the comment section on Facebook and having the au pairs share their experiences and learn from one another. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for #TipTuesday on what you would like to see next!

FAQ – Working With Children’s Check

Do I (or does my au pair) really need the WWCC?

The Working with Children’s check is legally required for anyone who is working with children. You can learn more about the check, why it is required and more if you google WWCC and the state you are located in.

I have applied but still need my WWCC number

The process of receiving the WWCC number can take 2-28 days, so be patient. If you still haven’t received it by then, please contact the WWCC office in your specific state and ask for the process of your application.

Why the police check AND the WWCC?

Coming to Australia, it is legally required for everyone to complete their WWCC (whether au pair or not) and while we do know that the au pairs already have the police check, it is still the law and required. And also they check internationally if there are any crimes committed on your account.

Who pays the fee of the WWCC?

The fee is paid by the au pair but you can talk to your host family and see if they are willing to contribute something.

How much is the WWCC or the Bluecard?

The WWCC in NSW is $80, see here: http://www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/Working-with-children/working-with-children-check

The Bluecard is also about $80 : http://www.bluecard.qld.gov.au/fees.html (au pairs have to fill out the Bluecard business form)

Where can I find an RTA office?

You can find a list of RTA offices on this website:

http://www.cityhobo.com/component/option,com_easyfaq/Itemid,32/index.php?option=com_hotproperty&task=view&id=26&Itemid=26

What does this sentence mean? “If you are NOT subject to the Phase in schedule, you have until xxx to visit a NSW Motor registry or NSW Council Agency to complete our application, or the application number will expire.”

It means that you have time until the xxx to visit a RTA office in Australia to complete the WWCC.

Do I need to print out the application form?

You do not need to print out the online application. After you submitted the form you will then receive an Email with your application number (which you will need if you go to a RTA office in Australia).

Do I need a WWCC in Tasmania or South Australia?

You don’t need a Working with children check in South Australia and Tasmania. The police check from your home country is sufficient.

 

Welcome To Our New Intern Miriam!

We would like to introduce Miriam as our new Smartaupairs Intern! 

Miriam is 22 years old, from Baden-Baden in Germany. Miriam hosts our Meet and Greet for au pairs on Fridays in Sydney city and is looking forward to meeting you 🙂

Here is a little bit about Miriam:

“I am completing this internship as part of my studies “English & American Culture and Business Studies” for one semester.After my high school graduation I worked as an au pair in Alaska, which  was an adventurous experience I absolutely loved! This is why I chose this internship during my studies as I fell in love with the idea of au pairing.  I look forward to chatting to au pairs, supporting them during their stay in Australia and I am happy to give advice, share my own experiences and help them to make the most of their time here. Besides exploring Sydney I love puppies, baking, and iced coffee.”

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Working With Children’s Check

Background checks for au pairs in Australia – Updated December 2013

We know that host families want the safest care for their children. As an Agency we provide candidate profiles complete with a Police Clearance from the home country of the au pair, a medical report and a minimum of two references.

 

We understand that Au Pairs can apply in the Volunteer category in all states except NSW, where we are still waiting for confirmation. 

In addition to police clearance from home country a Working with Children Check is now a legal requirement for au pairs in most States/Territories in Australia and families must verify the check – here is how to apply:

 

New South Wales – NEW check December 2013    

In New South Wales au pairs start the application before travel

Au Pair click here for the online application form NSW Working With Children Check

and complete the check on arrival in person at the local RTA office.

 

Host family to click here to verify the check and use the application number provided.

 

Victoria – NEW process December 2013

Au Pairs click here to apply online for Victoria Working With Children Check and then complete the check on arrival in Australia in person.  

 

Host family to click here to verify the check

 

Queensland
In Queensland people working or volunteering with children need to hold a Blue Card.
The au pair must apply using au pair Bluecard form

 

Host family to verify the check by clicking the following link: https://www.ccypcg.qld.gov.au/onlinevalidation/validation.aspx

 

The QLD form can also be completed prior to arrival in Australia and completed on arrival.

Australian Capital Territory    
In November 2012, ACT introduced the Working With Vulnerable People Check to work with children.

Click here to apply:

Northern Territory
The NT law changed in 2011 and covers employees and volunteers in child related employment who are now required to obtain a Clearance Notice before commencing work.

Download your NT Working With Children application form here (fees apply)

 

South Australia
Under the Children’s Protection Act (Section 8B) people in SA who work in jobs which require regular contact with children are required to obtain police clearance before they commence employment. A National Police Certificate application form is available from the South Australian Police Department.
Overseas police check obtained by our agency is confirmed sufficient by SA police.

 

Tasmania    
In TAS there is no specific legislation (as yet) requiring specific screening for working with children, however employers often act on their own discretion to request Criminal History/Police Checks.
Overseas police check obtained by our agency.

Western Australia
In Western Australia a Working with Children Check is compulsory for people who carry out child-related work in Western Australia.

 

Application Instructions:

The host family needs to obtain a WWC Check application form. WWC Check application forms are available from authorised Australia Post outlets or by contacting the WWC Screening Unit.

Complete the WWC Check application form.   View a sample application form here. You must apply using your full name which matches the name on your identification documents.

The host family must complete Parts 5 and 6 and sign Part 7 of your application form, confirming that you are engaged in child-related work.

Lodge your WWC Check application form at an authorised Australia Post outlet. The WWC Check currently costs $54.00 for paid employees and $10.50 for volunteers and students on unpaid placement and is payable on lodgement.

Provide 100 points of identification when lodging your application form.  For a list of acceptable documents see the sample application form. You must provide at least one form of photographic identification and proof of current address.

NOTE: in Australia, many ‘official organisations’ rely on a ‘100 points check’ to verify your ID, see link for more detail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_point_check

We recommend all au pairs to bring more than one ID (I.e. Not just passport)

 

NOTE 2: The Working With Children Check is MORE than a police check and even Australian people have to have this (often in addition to an original Police Clearance to apply for a position) Please see here for more info:

http://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/home/about+the+check/how+is+a+police+check+different/how+is+a+police+check+different

 

AS SEEN ON TV AND IN NEWSPAPERS The Australian, Sun Herald & Age

As seen on TV; Channel 10 TV NEWS asked Nicole Kofkin at Smartaupairs about the ‘au pair boom’ in Australia 

 

READY TO TACKLE YOUR CHILDCARE CHALLENGE? START HERE WITH OUR SIMPLE FORM

Quoted in The Australian (July 2013)

Desperately seeking longer stay for extra au pair of hands….

Mother of three Helen Kettlewell has just hired her third German au pair.

She says the extra pair of hands around the house has been a godsend, particularly as they have no family in Australia. THey get into the routine, they know the kids friends and they know you and how you work as a family; six months isn’t really long enough.

Juliette MacGregor, acting Manager of Smartaupairs, said laws were restricting the ability of agencies to bring students and denying consistency to children and families.

Featured in Sun Herald, Australia

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The Sun Herald newspaper featured a very informative article about the shortage of au pairs and the need for an au pair visa in Australia. We recommend that host families start interviewing 3-6 months in advance and many of our regular family are already interviewing now for their au pair to start in July/August!

To counter the seasonal shortage of au pairs, the industry is lobbying the federal government to introduce a specific au pair working holiday visa, so au pairs can stay with the one family for 12 months instead of the present six-month limit. Australian demand for au pairs has doubled in the past three years, agencies said, as families realise they are a more flexible form of childcare than long-day care or after-school care, and far cheaper to employ than nannies.

Read more about Au Pair shortage in Australia

Nicole Kofkin from Smartaupairs was interviewed by David Oldfield for 2UE radio; he was amazed how affordable an au pair is for an Australian family!

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Featured in other newspapers

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Online news site www.womensagenda.com.au

Nicole Kofkin worked fulltime for almost 20 years, primarily in the marketing area of the travel industry in the UK. She loved her work-from-home days but in order to step up to the next level, including managing a team, she was told she had to be in the office every day, which would have meant gruelling commuting and a 60-hour week.

Nicole Kofkin set up a Sydney au pair agency called Smartaupairs to enable her to work part-time and have the flexibility to be there for her boys, now aged 9 and 12, as they entered their teenage years. One-third of the families she has on her books have teenage children. They employ au pairs – young women from Europe and America – to live in the home and act as big sisters, role models, homework helpers and a “taxi service” when their parents can’t be around fulltime.

“It would never be voiced but you know in the corporate world if you make the decision as a mum to go part-time or ask for flexibility, it can affect your career. You know the employer will say ‘Oh well, there will be someone else to step into that position to do everything we want’.

I had to make a big decision to go part-time and for women who do that I think they deserve a pat on the back for that bravery.

Not everyone is in the situation where they can start their own business but you have to respect that other people want the flexibility you have. I’m proud that amongst the entire team I employ, not a single person works nine to five, five days a week. I employ several part-timers, including one mum who works some of the time from home. We all have a life outside work. Having that flexibility to work part time creates so much more happiness and fulfilment.”

Au Pair in Australia article featured in the Western Australian newspaper Thursday 2 February

Working parents are hiring au pairs and nannies in record numbers to cope with their busy lifestyles.

Agencies which link in-home carers with families say the demand is also being driven by long childcare waiting lists, fly-in fly-out dads in need of 24/7 help and more foreign women using au pair work as a way to travel around Australia.

Au pairs are live-in carers who often come to Australia on working visas, while nannies live elsewhere. Both care for children in the family home.

Last year, the Age newspaper in Melbourne featured an article about au pairs also! Families go in-house for a pair of helping hands

”My au pairs have been an absolute godsend. I pay Stefanie $7 an hour on top of board and she does 29 hours a week for me.”

Nicole Kofkin, from Smart Au Pairs, says many families find au pairs a more flexible alternative to other childcare options.

”Not everybody works from nine to five and yet childcare seems to predominantly cater to a nine-to-five workforce,” she says. For lawyer Nicole Spicer, who works full-time, au pairs have provided the kind of flexible and convenient care she and her husband, also a lawyer, needed for their two youngest children, Anika, 9, and Daniel, 5.

Early Childhood Australia chief executive Pam Cahir says parents opting to have au pairs, who do not require any formal qualifications, should be vigilant when it comes to choosing an employee.

”Au pairs are a very legitimate choice for parents. At the same time, caring for children isn’t a job for just anybody off the street. Parents need to be really thorough in terms of looking at these people’s qualifications and references and making sure they have had the appropriate police checks,” Ms Cahir says.

 

Au pairs in Australia are really gaining momentum and we are very proud to be at the heart of it!

Welome Fabienne Our New German speaking Intern

Hello!

My name is Fabienne, I’m 22 years old, I’m from Germany and the new intern at Smartaupairs Australia.

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As part of my studies, “Foreign Languages in Economics and Administration”, I already did a 5 month internship in Spain and right now, I can’t wait to start this second internship in Australia.

Besides German, I speak English, have a good command of Spanish and know some French.

At Smartaupairs I will be the first point of contact for the Au Pairs from Germany. I will answer their questions, help them to solve problems and I will be a friend if they need someone to talk.
All in one, I will help them having an awesome time here in Australia.

During my Internship I would like to improve my English skills and would like to gain more practical working experiences.

In my free time I would love to travel through Australia, explore new places, meet new people and just enjoy my stay.