We all know there is a difference between what we need and what we want. The same can be said for au pairs and the Au Pair Program, regulated by Uncle Sam over at the State Department. I would like to take a few minutes to give you some specifics about what is and is not required by the US DOS when you decide to host an au pair and give your family a cultural childcare experience.
Au Pairs are 18-26 year old child caregivers who provide safe, reliable in-home child care & bring a cultural experience to your family. Initial placement is 1 yr for out-of-country Au Pairs, or shorter if you choose an in-country Au Pair; many choose to extend up to a 2nd yr. Go Au Pair has been handling the logistics and details for you since 1989, so rest assured, customer service is high on our priority list.
Let’s be clear about what an au pair needs. He or she needs a private bed with a door that shuts securely. A locking door is even nicer, if one knows how children sometimes don’t knock, but not required. A room with proper amenities is required, such as a bed with proper bedding and a bureau of drawers and/or a closet for clothing storage. Even nicer would be a desk or table for sitting and working and perhaps a window or private entrance. These aren’t required, but can you imagine your only private space for a year being one without a window for fresh air or outdoor views?
An au pair needs to know that he or she is here to help meet your family’s childcare needs, but she is not a slave to your family. A weekly meeting is useful to lay out the schedule for the coming week, particularly if it tends to be a flexible work schedule for your au pair. It is a good time to say that au pairs are not supposed to be doing household chores or tasks unrelated to direct childcare. For example, the au pair might be asked to pick up milk, bread and eggs (provided the family has given him or her cash or means of payment) so the kids can have breakfast the next morning, but may not be required to do a household shopping as part of work.
Au pairs need to be rested and ready for their day with your kids, so many families set a series of curfews, although setting of curfews is not required by the DOS. It is up to each individual Host Family to decide for themselves what types of curfews they need for their au pair. Host Mom Cyndi Frick wrote an excellent article describing the different kinds of curfews and how they might benefit a family. Go check it out, please!
Au pairs may not work beyond the 45 hours per week, or 30 hours per week for EduCare, or part-time care, and all duties must be childcare-related. That being said, he or she may not be required to clean the household bathroom/toilet if all household members use it, but he or she must clean up after self and/or children when using facilities. If your au pair shares his or her bathroom with the children only, he or she may be required to clean that room, so long as it is not shared by another adult in the house. Families may not choose to pay their au pair extra money for extra duties such as housework or additional childcare; this is against DOS regulations. Au pairs may only care for the children of the Host Family, so play dates must also be attended by another responsible adult (or au pair) for the other children.
Au pairs need to attend courses to meet their program requirements and Host Families are required to make sure he or she has transportation to and from class. This may mean use of the family car, or a bus pass, or a ride from a Host Parent. Let’s face it, having a car to use is great, but this is a huge responsibility, and even when an au pair may be a licensed driver in his or her home country, that may not translate directly to what you and I might consider safe driving with our family vehicle.
When you host an au pair, there is a lot to consider, but the benefits far outweigh the small stuff, as they say. Contact me, Joan Lowell, at 401.309.1925 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your childcare needs and discover if a cultural childcare experience is right for you!