Frequently Asked Questions…
…answered by Nadia, LCC in the Upstate:
1. What is Cultural Care Au Pair? Please explain the au pair program and your role as a Local Childcare Coordinator?
Cultural Care Au Pair has been the leading provider of intercultural childcare and educational exchange since 1989. Cultural Care is one of only eleven organizations in the world designated by the U.S. Department of State to legally place au pairs with American host families. The U.S. Department of State regulates all au pair programs in the United States, offering parents the peace of mind that their children are in trusted, qualified care.
As a Local Childcare Coordinator, I love connecting South Carolina host families with au pairs from around the world, helping families find flexible and affordable childcare. I am a resource for host families and their au pairs. I arrange orientation meetings when a new au pair arrives in the host family’s home. Throughout the year, I maintain regular contact with host families and au pairs to make sure things are going smoothly. I also organize monthly meetings for the au pairs, with fun activities and updates about program information and safety training.
2. What is an au pair?
Au pairs live and study in the United States for one year on a J-1 cultural exchange visa, in exchange for providing 45 hours of childcare per week. Au pairs are between the ages of 18 and 26 years old and speak proficient English. The au pairs I meet are adventurous, educated, young people from abroad who choose to leave their life at home for one year to share their love for children with an American host family. Au pairs are excited to become part of an American family and experience American culture by living in our communities, volunteering and taking classes at local colleges.
3. What are the qualifications of an au pair and what training do they receive?
All au pairs have at least 200 hours of documented childcare experience. Before the au pairs go to their host families, they also receive 32 hours of child safety and development training at the Cultural Care Au Pair four-day training program and au pair school at St. John’s University in Long Island, NY. The Cultural Care staff developed the training curriculum in collaboration with The Children’s Foundation in Washington D.C. Topics covered include: children’s health, safety first, child nutrition and feeding, building self esteem in children, au pairs as a role model, etc.
4. How are au pairs screened?
Cultural Care Au Pair completes a comprehensive screening process before the au pairs are accepted in the program. Cultural Care Au Pair interviews the candidate, and requires the au pair to complete an extensive application and essay about why they want to be in the program. Cultural Care Au Pair performs a background check, personality profile analysis and checks the three references that the au pairs provides.
5. How is the au pair program an affordable option for most families?
At the average cost of $280 per week, hosting an au pair is more affordable than other childcare options, such as daycares or nannies. Regardless of how many children you have, hosting an au pair still only costs $280 per week.
The average cost of $280 per week includes the au pair’s weekly $139.05 stipend, the $500 dollars toward fulfilling the au pair’s education requirement and the Cultural Care Au Pair application and program fees.
6. What are the unique cultural and exchange benefits of the program?
In addition to the flexibility and affordability an au pair provides, the benefits of cultural exchange influence many families to choose the au pair program over summer daycare or nannies. Au pairs open children’s eyes to the world beyond their reach—often, host children learn to sing Brazilian songs or know German children’s games. Children learn about a different language, music and culture, and the lessons they learn from an au pair can last a lifetime.
7. Can you speak to why this is a great option for busy families and how it is different from a live-in or full-time nanny or daycare center?
Au pairs are a very flexible and affordable childcare option for busy families. Au pairs work well with the family’s schedule and can work both split shifts and weekends. To have an au pair work split shifts is especially convenient for helping school aged children as they get ready for school or come home from practice. An au pair is also a great option for working parents, especially if they often have unexpected meetings that last into the evening. With an au pair, parents do not have to rush home to pick their children up from daycare.
Unlike other childcare options, au pair programs are closely regulated by the U.S. Department of State, giving parents the peace of mind that their children are in trusted, qualified care. While both au pairs and nannies provide live-in childcare, nannies are not regulated by any form of state or local government. The U.S. Department of State requires Cultural Care Au Pair to complete a reference check, personality profile and criminal background check for each au pair.
8. You once were an au pair. Can you describe your experience?
I had always dreamed of experiencing the American Way of Life, and spent a month with a loving American family on vacation at the age of 16 in Houston, TX. My great experience with new friends there (one of their five children was my age) and the progress I was able to make in spoken English in just a month, made me want to come back for an extended period of time. I loved children and had been baby-sitting for clients of my parents or at the church nursery since the age of 14, then obtained my French certification to become a camp counselor. Becoming an au pair was the most logical option for me, as I was eager to take care of the same children for a whole year and develop strong ties with a host family.
I was packed and ready to go in August, after my high-school graduation and a month-long camp in July. While I was waiting for the right match with an American family, I was able to help a family in London, England for two months. I helped a single mom with her 9- and 11-year-old daughters. In October of 1999, I was matched with a lovely family in Greenville, SC. The mom stayed home but they needed an extra set of hands to help with their 18-month-old triplets and 5-year-old girl. It was quite a challenge, but the fact that my English was already very good and that I was used to taking care of multiple children at the same time made me the right candidate for them. I had a great year, and we are still friends today! The children have grown up, but the memories shared with the family that year will always be in our hearts… and the oldest still remembers how to count to 10 in French!
9. What is the Cultural Care Au Pair Summer Program?
With the increasing popularity of au pair programs, the U.S. Department of State now also sponsors a summer au pair program. The Cultural Care Au Pair Summer Program provides an affordable childcare alternative during the hectic summer months. Summer au pairs provide 45 hours of childcare per week for 3 ½ months. Summer au pairs are between the ages of 18 and 26 and come from Poland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Brazil.
The summer au pair program was designed for families with school-aged children. For many families, hosting a summer au pair is a way to bridge the gap between children’s soccer camps, Grandma’s house and play dates. Instead of bouncing back and forth between childcare options, hosting a summer au pair gives parents the comfort of knowing that the kids are always with someone families know and trust, with the convenience of having someone to get them from one activity to the next.
10. Who should interested families contact if they want more information about the au pair program?
Interested families can contact Nadia Price, Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair at 1-866-438-5499 or by e-mail at LCC_Nadia@upstateaupair.com. For more information, they can also visit www.culturalcare.com and request a brochure.