Au Pair - Au Pairs Gain Popularity
Thinking of hiring an au pair or nanny for in-home childcare? You're not the only one!
There has been a rapid rise in the number of au pairs in the US over the last few years. And there is good reason for that. The many benefits and a recent rule change have made this age old approach to child care highly desirable.
An au pair, a foreign in home child care worker from outside the US on a cultural-exchange program, is now allowed to stay twice as long as she could historically.
A nationwide program is allowing au pairs to stay as long as two years. For families who did not see an au pair as an option because of the one year limitation, this is a welcome change. Also under this pilot program, au pairs will be allowed four-month summer stays. This is an ideal time frame for families with school-age children who only need coverage while school is out.
The soaring cost of childcare has also caused families to take a better look at the au pair program. In the past, having an au pair may have been too costly of a proposition. However, the rise in cost of other forms of child care, such as daycare and in home child care, has levelled the playing field. An excellent rule of thumb to use when initially determining if an au pair is a smart financial move for your family is to look at the number of children you need care for. If you have one child, chances are that traditional out of the home daycare will be more economical for you. However, if you have two children, you will more than likely find the cost to be the same. But once you calculate three or more children into the equation, you will actually find it more economical to have an au pair than to use other forms of child care. Even nannies tend to be substantially more expensive than au pairs.
Today, the bar is quite high when it comes to screening potential aupair candidates. In the past, inadequate screening on the part of agencies resulted in poor matches and quality of care issues. But today applicants are required to provide references, background checks are done and emotional and psychological testing is often done as well. To avoid any potential problems, parents should closely examine a candidate's file, call references and interview the candidate by phone, ideally more than once. Be sure to ask the candidate important questions, such as her motivation for becoming an au pair.
The au pair child care experience is not for everyone. But generally speaking it could be the option for your family if you:
- Don't require coverage more than 45 hours a week (10 hours a day)
- Have available, a private bedroom
- Are prepared to work with the emotions of a teen or young adult
- Are willing to help and train a relatively inexperienced caregiver
- Will treat her like a member of your family
- Don't mind changing caregivers every two years, possibly sooner
- Value the cross-cultural experience
For families and au pairs alike, the new two-year option is one where everyone wins. If you would like to learn more about the au pair program look for an agency near you, or take a look some of the many web-based agencies such as greataupair.com. Good and reputable agencies are located across the United States. Most of them also do business quite effectively on the Internet making the process quick and convenient.