I’ve heard of hiring an au pair from another country. Isn’t this a less expensive child care option?
The au pair program was designed as a cultural exchange and educational opportunity program. Most au pairs are 18 to 25 years old. They may or may not have child care specific experience or training. They usually speak fairly good English, but aren’t always savvy to our American culture. That’s part of the experience - to learn more. Families provide room, board and a weekly stipend in exchange for some child care.
I’ve met several au pairs over the years. Most are very nice and really want to help a family out while spending time in the US. They can offer another cultural prospective for the host family. However, not all of them are ready to be away from home, family and friends for an extended period of time. They often become homesick and it affects every aspect of their life, and their host family. Because they are typically younger they may need a lot of guidance from their host families as well. Not all families are ready for this role. Because their child care experience or training is usually not extensive they are best suited for families with older school age children.
I personally would never recommend an au pair for a family with infants or toddlers, or for a family who needs full time child care. The program works best for families who are looking for a parent helper or very part time child care provider and who can accommodate the au pair’s interest in attending school or experiencing activities in the local area.
Au pairs are placed by specific agencies. Not all of these agencies recruit, train or prepare their au pair candidates in the same way. So understanding what the agency will and won’t do for the family and what type of support they offer the au pair is important. Families need to understand the replacement policy should their au pair choose to end their cultural adventure and return home - or if the placement just isn't suitable for everyone involved.
For families who need consistent part time or full time child care from an individual who is local, experienced and highly qualified then hiring a nanny is the best option. Nannies from the Heartland places nannies have the professional attitude and the experience that families are looking for. We customize our search based on each family’s specific needs.