I chose to work with Destino Idiomas because I consider the director, Ana, straightforward, honest, and an Au Pair advocate, having been one herself. She was very supportive throughout my home-stay.
I strongly advise taking full advantage of the placement process. I was not completely satisfied with my placement; however I do take responsibility for this because for the most part, it was my lack of communication and specificity about what I wanted that resulted in my placement.
If you want to be within walking distance from grocery stores, cafes, and parks, I recommend clarifying that with the agency and host family. I requested a small town, thinking that it would be similar to where I am from in terms of layout and accessibility, however the family lived in a small neighborhood on the outskirts of a town, and a fifteen minute drive from any business establishments. I think its important to factor in what activities you will want to do in your free time when choosing a location. Also, I would suggest being flexible with your criteria— for example, although my host family lived in a more isolated area than I would have liked, this was was made up in part for by the fact that they had relatives and friends living nearby so the house was always full of guests and activity.
I also recommend thinking critically about the child care you can provide, and what type of family fits your expectations. I was placed with a child with challenging behaviors, thinking that I was prepared for the work because I had previous experience with children labeled difficult. However, I had worked with children with challenging behavior in the range of 3-4 years-old and 10-11 years-old, rather than 5-6 year-old, and the difference threw me off guard. That being said, I had no previous experience working with children 11-13 months, and I ended up having an amazing time bonding with host family’s baby, and thoroughly enjoyed watching her learn to speak and walk!
Finally, be specific about your expectations when talking with the family ahead of time, and find out theirs, in order to get a more realistic image. For example, over phone call or email, ask them what a typical work day will be like, and communicate what you have envisioned. That way, you can adjust your expectations before arriving.