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April 08, 2019

Au Pairs are all the rage in Philly… but is hosting an Au pair a good idea?

Childcare Au Pair

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Au Pairs seem increasingly common in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Many families name benefits such as language immersion, flexible scheduling, and more one-on-one attention for their children.

These, among the other benefits of Au Pair childcare, seem to be a big draw for local families.

Au Pairs are exchange visitors who come to the U.S. to study and learn about American life for up to two years. They offer childcare services in exchange for free housing, food, amenities, and a stipend paid by the Host Family.

This arrangement allows Au Pairs to experience a year or two abroad without having to pay expensive housing fees. The family also pays a portion of the Au Pair’s tuition, making this one of the most affordable ways to study abroad.

Au Pairs live in the family’s home and can work up to 45 hours a week, or 10 hours a day. Because you don’t have to drop off your kids at daycare every day, the Au Pair program one of the most flexible childcare options around.

(And contrary to how it may seem, it’s pretty affordable, too, averaging at $8.15/ hour).

But if the idea of living with a stranger from across the globe gives you pause, you aren’t alone. Many families express hesitation over the idea of inviting someone into their home after just a few Skype interviews.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge to find and Au Pair that would be a good fit for our family,” says Suzy, a local Host Mom. “I was nervous about handing over the care of my 4-month-old baby, Ana.”

Like Suzy, families often have questions and concerns about the program. Here are some of the most common concerns parents express.

1. Is Au Pair Childcare Safe?

Understandably, most parents are concerned about child safety, first and foremost.

Go Au Pair has a rigorous screening and training process for Au Pairs. Agency partners overseas screen Au Pairs and check childcare credentials and references in person. Then, Au Pairs undergo a background check and psychometric test before they’re made available to match with a family.

Families are also given interview guides that help them screen for things like safety, or specific childcare needs.

Au Pairs are also required to have previous childcare experience. If an Au Pair is “Under 2 Qualified,” it means they have a minimum of 200 confirmed hours of childcare experience caring for children under the age of 2.

It’s important to note that Au Pairs are not certified nannies.

The extent of an Au Pair’s qualifications varies from individual to individual. They don’t always have First Aid or CPR certifications, and some Au Pairs’ qualifications are somewhat akin to hiring a babysitter. Other times, Au Pairs may actually be over-qualified for the job, with a nursing or social work degree under their belt. It’s often the case that Au Pairs join the program to perfect their English and gain additional career opportunities back home.

Au Pairs often have different childcare expectations than parents in the U.S. Due to cultural differences, the things you expect from an Au Pair might not be intuitive to them.

For example, an Au Pair may not know that you want 100% supervision when your kids are near water. Or, they may not realize that many Americans don’t allow their kids to have caffeine.

Therefore, it’s important to communicate clearly with your Au Pair to ensure you’re on the same page when it comes to safety rules.

However, you can rest assured that these young adults have cared for children before, have been referred by parents or daycare providers in their home country, and have passed a background check.

Host Mom Suzy says she has the utmost trust in her Au Pair now. “I know that I can depend on Lore,” Suzy says. “She’s built a strong rapport with the kids which puts my mind at ease. It’s clear that she really loves them, and they have responded in kind.”

2. Transportation & Driving

Many families in Philadelphia express concern over the lack of public transportation in the suburbs.

Polina, Local Area Representative for Go Au Pair in Philadelphia, says, “Lack of public transportation in the suburbs may stop Au Pairs from extending a second year with the family. It’s something a lot of families consider heavily.”

There may be a lack of public transportation, but many families have started giving their Au Pairs a monthly Uber stipend. This helps ensure the Au Pair feels enabled to get around on their own, making them more likely to stay.

Many Host Families also let their Au Pairs drive the family car. Not only does this help the family with driving kids to and from school and other activities, but it gives their Au Pair the freedom she needs to have a social life and explore Pennsylvania.

Go Au Pair also offers a driving interview guide to help families screen for driving skills. Keep in mind that depending on where your Au Pair’s from, there’s often a huge difference between our roads and the roads your Au Pair is used to back home.

However, after reading your state’s driving manual, and with some practice (and patience from the Host Parents), most Au Pairs become proficient, safe drivers.

3. Educational Requirements for Au Pairs

“Colleges here are very expensive,” says Local Area Rep, Polina. “The education cost for Au Pairs is a big concern for families.”

As part of their arrangement, Host Families pay up to $500 in tuition for standard Au Pairs, or up to $1,000 for EduCare Au Pairs.

However, the $500 stipend for a standard Au Pair may not always cover the 6 credit hours they’re required to complete during their first year.

According to the State Department, Au Pairs can only attend an accredited university or college, and they must be physically present in the classroom (no online classes, unless they’re in addition to the minimum required credit hours).

This is definitely something to consider, or at least communicate to your Au Pair before finalizing a match. No one likes to be blindsided by unexpected expenses.

However, Au Pairs love Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania has a large Au Pair community. There’s a lot of incentive for Au Pairs to match with families in the area.

The cost of tuition may not be as big of a deterrent as you’d think, especially because you’re helping with that cost, and your Au Pair is receiving free food and free housing as part of the program.

Is Hosting an Au Pair Right for Me?

Most families agree that the benefits far outweigh the concerns they had over hosting.

Shaun, a local doctor and Host Dad, says, “We could never have the rest and study time that we need, or provide the kind of care and concentration that our patients deserve, if we didn’t have the security of knowing that our children are happy and being enriched at home.”

If you’re considering hosting an Au Pair, you should know that it’s so much more than just an affordable childcare experience. Au Pairs come to the U.S. to learn about our lifestyle and culture. They typically want to become part of your family, not just an employee.

It’s also important to recognize that Au Pairs are adults. They want to be treated as such and keep all the freedoms that come with adulthood.

Because they’re turning a new page in their lives, their goals and expectations often change throughout the program. Therefore, communication is the most important part of having a successful year with your Au Pair.

“Both of the children are always clean and happy after spending the day with Mindy, and the house is in great shape as well,” says Host Dad Shaun. “She is such a great part of our family.”

If you’re interested in a childcare solution that builds a lifetime bond with your kids, click here to learn more about the benefits of Au Pair childcare.