Article in the Greer Citizen

This article came out in the Greer Citizen the week of February 21st following the info session I held February 15th – check it out for great information on the program!

You can download the file with the full article in PDF format: cultural-care-au-pair-in-greer-citizen-2-21-07.

THE GREER CITIZEN, WED., FEB. 21, 2007

By Nicole Jamison

Most busy parents are aware of traditional childcare options such as babysitters and daycare centers, but there is one less conventional choice available in the Upstate: hosting an international au pair.
An au pair is a male or female live-in caregiver between the ages of 18 and 26 who provides up to 45 hours of childcare per week. In return, the au pair receives a weekly stipend and the opportunity to experience American culture by living with a local family. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Exchange Visitor Program has designated 11 agencies to place international au pairs with local families.

One of these agencies, Cultural Care Au Pair, held an information session in Greenville on Feb. 15 to explain this unique form of childcare. According to Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC) Nadia Price, the Cultural Care Au Pair program was created to fill a pressing need for reliable, flexible childcare for school-aged children. Nannies can be very expensive and daycare centers have limited hours that may not fi t with your work schedule. Au pairs, on the other hand, can schedule their hours around each specifi c family’s needs.

Patricia Harrison, the Executive Director of the International Center in Greenville, is considering hosting an au pair precisely because of this fl exibility. “I often work events in the evenings. It’s a big problem to fi nd a babysitter,” Harrison said. “I’m interested because I’ve lived as an exchange student in other countries, which was a really rewarding experience. Our hope is we can offer the same for the people who come here.”

In addition to this flexibility, cultural exchange is often an enticing benefit when deciding between the au pair program and a daycare or a nanny. “Daycare centers and American nannies may not expose children to new cultures and languages,” Price said. “An au pair opens your children’s eyes to a world beyond their reach. They are learning to embrace differences in other people and they learn that these differences can enrich their own lives.” Au pairs teach their host children words, songs and games from their native countries.

There are currently 9 families hosting international au pairs in the Greenville-Simpsonville area, and Price hopes to see this expand into Greer and Spartanburg. As an LCC, Price provides service and support to these host families and their au pairs. Part of this support includes helping the family and the au pair adjust to each other. “I try to do events that foster openness to other cultures,” Price said.

Recently this included organizing an international scavenger hunt. Participants had to answer a series of questions and find several items, such as menus from ethnic restaurants, an international calling card, a police officer’s signature, an international event ticket stub, and a coin from a different country.

Originally from France, Price served as an au pair in 1999. “The experience was very enriching for me,” she said. She took care of 2 year-old triplets and a 6 year-old girl. In addition to seeing to their basic needs, she played with them and helped with light chores. This enabled their mother to spend quality time with each child individually.

The phrase “au pair” is a French term meaning “on par,” reminding host families that although an au pair is an employee, he or she should be treated as a member of the family. Au pairs are entitled to a private bedroom, meals, a weekly wage that is tied to the minimum wage, one and one-half days off each week, a full weekend off each month, two weeks of paid vacation (one week for the summer program), and the first $500 toward the costs of required academic coursework.

Cultural Care au pairs are recruited from 35 different countries in Europe, South America, Central America, Mexico, Australia, and South Africa. Families can choose to host an au pair for a summer (16 weeks) or for an entire year. For families interested in the summer option, the application deadline is April 15.

Au pairs placed by Cultural Care are screened by trained recruiters, and only 30 percent of applicants are accepted. Every au pair must participate in an extensive interview and application process and meet all of the organization’s requirements.

Requirements include: 

*200 hours of documented infant care experience if caring for a child under the age of two

*32 hours of child safety and development training

*Three checked non-family references, one from a former childcare employer

*English proficiency

*Secondary school graduate or equivalent

*Must successfully pass a background evaluation, including criminal checks, health examinations and

a personal profile analysis

*Must be 18-26 years old

In addition to the documented childcare experience each au pair is required to describe on the application, all au pairs complete an independent study unit on childcare before coming to the U.S. When au pairs first arrive in the U.S., they attend a four-day training program focused on child development and safety at the Oakdale campus of St. John’s University on Long Island, NY. The curriculum was developed in collaboration with The Children’s Foundation in Washington, D.C. Additionally, au pairs attend a personal safety workshop led by a New York police offi cer and have the opportunity to tour New York City. This training continues throughout the year with LCC’s dedicating four of their monthly meetings to safety and injury prevention units. Topics include bike safety, playground and water safety, effective communication and behavior management.

Topics covered include:  

 * Health and Safety in the Home

* Child Nutrition

* Common Childhood Illnesses

* Safety and Emergency Education

* Effective Communication

* Au Pairs as Role Models

* Ages & Stages: Birth to Teenage Years

* Age-appropriate Materials and Activities

* Building Self-esteem in Children

* Behavior Management

How does it work?

After a family applies, a Cultural Care Au Pair regional manager will select an au pair who best matches the family’s interests, lifestyle and childcare needs. The family is then encouraged to call the potential au pair’s references and speak with him or her several times prior to making a fi nal decision. If a family doesn’t like the first match, Cultural Care will find another. This process continues until both the family and the au pair are comfortable with each other.

Au pairs offer affordable childcare

For most families, cost is the most important factor when evaluating childcare options. Hosting an au pair provides live-in care for an average cost of $285 per week, regardless of the number of children you have or their ages. This is roughly half the price of a nanny or quality day care center. The weekly cost is slightly higher for the summer program, averaging at $330.

Both prices include the program fees, the au pair’s weekly stipend, the average domestic transportation fee and an educational allowance. Families with a variety of situations are eligible to host an au pair, including single parents, stay-at-home moms, and families who have children with special needs.

Cultural Care Au Pair, a division of EF Education, has worked with the U.S. Department of State since 1989. In that time, the organization has placed more than 60,000 au pairs into homes across the United States. Of those, more than 70 percent choose to host again each year.

For more information about hosting an international au pair, including specific details and prices, contact Nadia Price at 1-866-438-5499 or visit http://www.culturalcare.com.

 

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About FrenchNad

English to French Translator & Interpreter; blogging at lemotdubonjour.com about a French word of the day, the challenges of interpreting and translating, and my adventures in Oregon!
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