Find an Au Pair
For many families, the experience of hosting an au pair for a cultural exchange program is an exciting way to meet their childcare needs. During an au pair’s stay in the United States, they are expected to complete a specified number of secondary education coursework hours, to experience local culture and to be treated as a part of the family unit while providing light childcare and domestic assistance. There are times, however, when American host families run into difficulty finding and sustaining an au pair relationship. Here are ten of the reasons why it might be more complicated than you initially expect.
- Visa Arrangements Must Be Made in Advance – Rather than simply scanning ads for an au pair that’s already arrived on American soil, families must make contact with a young person while they’re in their native country and wait for visa arrangements to be completed.
- Au Pair Agencies Are a Must – Hiring a babysitter or engaging a nanny is often as simple as opening the newspaper or visiting a local online classifieds site. To engage an au pair, host families must work with an American au pair agency that matches them with a student that is most likely to be compatible.
- Greater Demand Than Supply – Often, an au pair is seen as the ideal low-cost childcare option by families that don’t quite understand the intricacies of the program. As a result, many families compete for a relatively small number of available young people.
- Global Economic Problems – Securing a visa and travel arrangements cost money, up to half of which an au pair is typically responsible for themselves. As economic difficulties plague many countries, financial concerns may keep more would-be au pairs at home.
- Stringent Education Requirements – The United States requires that au pairs complete six hours of academic credit under the standard au pair program and twelve hours under the Educare Au Pair program. Young people without adequate conversational English skills and the intention to complete the required coursework are excluded from the program.
- You Live in a Rural Area – Families that live in rural or secluded areas may have an even more difficult time engaging an au pair than those who live in major cities, as young people with the desire to study abroad are more likely to want to do so in a metropolitan area.
- Turnover and Homesickness – After overcoming the initial hurdles of securing an au pair and making the necessary travel arrangements, many host families find that their au pair is so homesick that they request to end their term early. In most situations, au pair agencies will make every effort to replace the departing au pair, but may find it difficult to do so.
- Culture Shock – Though exchanging cultures is one of the basic ideas of becoming a host family or an au pair, there are times when one or both parties are simply unable to accommodate one another’s ideas and customs. Almost invariably, this will lead to an early termination of the au pair agreement or request for a transfer.
- Anti-American Sentiments – While it may be difficult for some Americans to admit, there are places in the world where anti-American sentiments run deep. As a result, au pairs in those areas are quite likely to seek a host family in another country.
- Previous Education or Practical Experience Requirements – Au pairs visiting America must possess, in addition to conversational English language skills, at least 200 hours of professional or practical childcare experience. Students with less experience may opt to spend their au pair term in a host country with less stringent requirements, making it more difficult for American host families to secure an au pair.
Though the process of finding an au pair may be somewhat challenging, most host families that participate in the program go on to do so more than once after their first term ends. For many, the arrangement and opportunity to share their culture is a very rewarding one that they cherish for the rest of their lives.