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Is an Au Pair Right for Your Family?

By Chris Pichereau, Abshier House Publishing
1 of 4

It’s important to examine your specific family circumstances to determine whether an au pair is the right type of child care for your family. You might decide to consider hiring an au pair in lieu of day care centers, nannies, or babysitters if you

  • Would like to expose your family to a new culture.

  • Are interested in providing a cultural experience for a young foreign woman.

  • Are prepared to house and feed a live-in child care provider.

  • Are willing to follow the rules set forth by the U.S, Information Agency regarding au pair employment.

  • Require child care no more than 10 hours each day and no more than 45 hours in one week.

  • Are prepared to compensate the au pair based on the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the U.S. Department of Labor.

  • Can host an au pair for 12 months with the possibility of 6-, 9-, and 12-month extensions.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/olga_sweet]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/olga_sweet

Au pair definition

Au pair literally means “on the par” in French. Hiring an au pair differs from hiring a nanny in that the au pair lives with you and becomes an extended member of your family.

Au pair is French for "on the par." This means that when you hire an au pair, you are really bringing someone in your home that will be another member of your family. Au pairs come from foreign countries, while nannies are from the United States. The Au Pair Program was initiated in 1986 by the United States Information Agency (USIA) as a cultural exchange program with a child care component.

Au pair description

The typical au pair is usually female, young, and serves as an extended member of your family. She is not from this country, and since she isn't with her family, the host family serves as her surrogate family.

Instead of treating her as a domestic servant, host families typically involve the au pair in all of their family activities, including dining with them, taking them on family trips, and including them in most family activities.

Au Pair qualifications

Sponsors of au pairs who come to this country are required to ensure that the au pairs are prepared to serve in your family as the primary child care provider by

  • Ensuring the au pair is between the ages of 18 to 26 years old.

  • Making sure the au pair speaks proficient English.

  • Ensuring that the au pair completes at least six hours of academic credit or the equivalent in a U.S. post-secondary educational institution.

  • Properly screening both the au pair and the host family.

  • Providing the au pair with orientation and program information before she leaves her home country for the United States.

  • Providing the au pair with child development training and child safety training before she is placed with the host family.

  • Ensuring that the au pair can provide up to 10 hours each day and/or 45 hours each week of child care.


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