What is an Au Pair and Why They Are so Beneficial to the Family

By: Reggie Andersen

An au pair is a young man or woman who lives with a host family and helps with the family's childcare, household chores, and other small tasks while staying as a guest. Typically, an au pair will receive a small allowance, but is thought of as an extended family member rather than an employee. Treating the au pair as part of the family includes meal times spent together, outings, and so on, with private time for both the family and au pair allowed. Usually, the au pair is of a different culture or nationality and mutual respect between the family and au pair is essential.

In most cases, an au pair placement is an agreement between a host family and an unmarried young man or woman between the ages of 17 and 30 (the maximum age depends on the country). The au pair is to live with the host family for up to two years, usually in a country foreign to the au pair. The host family is to allow at least two days off per week, a set number of work hours a day, a reasonable allowance, or pocket money, and a private room. The au pair is expected to work willingly for the agreed arrangement, so a contract is often encouraged.

Within the United States, there is an au pair program in which a young man or woman is given the opportunity to live and study in the U.S. As part of the program, the au pair is required to commit to at least 45 hours of work per week for the family and must also complete at least six semester hours at an accredited college or university. The au pair agreement is usually for one year, with extensions available of six, nine, or twelve months with the same family. However, upon completion of the initial agreement, many au pairs return to their home country, or choose a family in another region of the U.S.

In addition to the au pair program, there are many au pair agencies that potential au pairs may find a family or a family may find an au pair. A good au pair agency will work like almost any other social network or employment agency. Both families and au pairs may post listings for possible employment opportunities, but all communications between the two parties will be handled through the au pair agency. Extensive background checks are performed on the au pair as well as the family in order to eliminate and reduce the chance of any sinister intentions. Additionally, the au pair is required to have a certain number of hours of work experience with small children.

Many au pair agencies will offer au pair registration and orientation programs for those young people interested in becoming an au pair. The potential host families will also go through orientation programs and an interview process. Once these processes are complete an au pair will be matched with the family. The agency will outline the agreed weekly allowance, any cost for schooling for the au pair, and hours required. There are many agencies found online including some of the oldest and most well known such as Au Pair Vista, Cultural Care Au Pair, Au Pair in America, Au Pair Care, Au Pair USA, GoAuPair, and EurAuPair.

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