Hiring an au pair: Is it right for our family?

What is an au pair and how is it different from a nanny?

By Lizzie Horton



As the price of childcare continues to go up across the nation, many families are looking for more affordable solutions.  Many young families are choosing to hire an au pair, through the J-1 visa exchange visitor program.  There are many benefits to hiring an au pair, and one is that it can be more cost-effective.

What is an au pair and how is it different from a nanny? Au pairs typically offer help with childcare, meal preparation, and assisting with homework, like a nanny.  They may also be able to help care for your family pet or do some light housekeeping work. However, there are some key differences.

Au pairs come to the United States as part of a cultural exchange program, and they can teach your children about other cultures and customs, and languages, which helps to grow an appreciation for global differences at a young age.

They live in your home, and you are responsible for their transportation and a stipend for some meals, but because you provide these things, the rate you pay per week is much less than the salary of a typical nanny.

Other benefits include more flexible hours since families can negotiate a schedule that works best for their family.  There is also the convenience of having someone living in your home, which is sometimes easier than having to deal with the logistics of commuting to or from a childcare facility.  They are also able to handle date nights and events more easily.

To hire an au pair, you typically must go through an agency.  One of the most popular agencies is Cultural Care Au Pair.  We sat down with Jennifer Markhoff, a Cultural Care Childcare Consultant, who answered many of our questions surrounding the program.


AATM:  What is your advice to parents looking to hire an au pair?

Jennifer:  First and foremost, research the US Department of State au pair program to make sure you understand how the program works, what types of tasks an au pair can do, and what she/he cannot do. Also, make sure your family meets the criteria to host an au pair, such as a private bedroom for the au pair. There also needs to be an understanding that the au pair cannot work more than 45 hours per week.

AATM:  Can you tell us about the cultural exchange aspect of the program?

Jennifer:  The au pair program is based on cultural exchange. You are bringing a young person into your home to share a year with your family. They hope to be treated as family, a big sister to your children, and someone you all respect and treat as any other family member. You need to be comfortable with her living in your home, and your family can create your own host family rules so the au pair you ultimately match with has agreed to live with your rules.

Some au pairs have curfews where some do not, and some drive and others do not. This is based on your needs and desires. It is important to have clear communication when interviewing candidates about your family’s childcare needs and your household rules.


AATM: What should I expect from the interview process?

Jennifer:  When interviewing potential candidates, know that the interview process takes an investment of your time as you will be talking to several candidates. Each candidate that you are considering as a potential match you will chat with multiple times over video chat on Facetime, WhatsApp or FB Messenger. You want to share all relevant information about your family, the area in which you live, a typical day and week in your home, why you want to host an au pair, and their typical duties, both childcare-related and household-related related that the au pair would be responsible for. You also need to have similar timelines for her arrival as well. As you continue with the interview process, you can ask about the au pair’s childcare experiences, and age-appropriate childcare-related questions as well, like “How would you feel if the baby cries a lot?”

AATM:  That sounds great! I’m ready, what are my next steps?

Jennifer:  As a Local Childcare Consultant (called an LCC), I provide you with tips to complete your host family profile, guidelines to conduct interviews, and best practices for host families in matching. I am here for support and assistance throughout the process. There will also be an in-home interview as the US Dept. of State requires us to check the au pair bedroom and meet with you in your home to go over all the program requirements and regulations.

I am happy to help anyone interested in the au pair program to learn more. I live in Florida and currently have 30 families hosting in our area. I love educating families and helping them learn more about this unique childcare option!

Feel free to reach out via my landing page link for more information at www.culturalcare.com/jmarkhoff.

Jennifer Markhoff

Local Childcare Consultant

Cultural Care Au Pair

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (954) 260-6878

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