Last week we discussed misleading advertisements made by some nanny web sites claiming to "pre-screen" caregivers on their web sites. To see the article posted on Wednesday click here, to view Part II of the article posted onThursday click here, and to read our post on Friday click here.
Unlike nanny web sites, au pair agencies are required to pe-screen caregivers prior to introducing the cultural exchange visitor with host families. Yet, similar to parents using nanny web sites the ultimate responsibility for the well being of the children still rests with the parents.
The United States Information Agency (USIA) says, "Nannies are childcare providers who are paid for their expertise and experience and they are employees of the family for whom they work. Au pairs, on the other hand, are participants in a USIA exchange program. Au pairs provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week as part of their responsibilitiy to their host family and are considered members of the family, NOT employees."
Sponsoring organizations in the U.S. (au pair agencies) have the responsibility for administering the program, within the regulations set by the USIA. Unlike nanny web sites, the sponsoring organizations identify, screen, select, and match au pairs and host families and monitor the au pair/host family relationship throughout the year. At the end of one year, au pairs return to their home country.
Although USIA authorizes these sponsoring organizations to conduct au pair programs, the responsibility for choosing the right organization rests solely with the host family and the au pair.
The USIA established the au pair program in 1986 as an educational and cultural exchange with a strong childcare component. "Au pair" is French for "on the par," reminding host families that their international visitor is to be treated as a member of the family, not an employee.
USIA's rules are clear: au pairs are provided a private bedroom meals, remuneration tied to the minimum wage (will increase to $195.75 per week on Friday, July 24, 2009), a full weekend off each month, two weeks paid vacation, and up to $500 toward attending an institution of higher education. An au pair is not to work more than 10 hours a day/45 hours a week and is not expected to perform general housekeeping.
Sponsoring organizations in the U.S. have the responsibility for administering the program, within the regulations set by USIA.
Unlike nanny web sites sponsoring au pair organizations carry out the day-to-day operation of the au pair program. They identify, screen, select, and match au pairs and host families. They ensure that background investigations, including criminal history checks, are performed on au pairs, and that host parents have adequate financial resources to participate in the program.
The sponsoring organizations interview au pairs for spoken English proficiency and suitability to participate in the program. They also interview host parents to ensure spoken English fluency and suitability to deal with an international visitor.
The sponsoring organizations provide au pairs with a detailed profile of the host family and community into which they will be placed, and the educational institutions available in the community. They ensure that au pairs have all the training required by USIA. These organizations must maintain monthly contact, through local and regional counselors, with au pairs and host families to ensure compliance with the program.
For a listing of USIA-designated sponsoring organizations contact the agency's FAX ON DEMAND service by calling (202) 205-8237 (document #203) from a phone/fax, or visit USIA's web site at http://www.usia.gov/.
Please Note: No guarantee of performance or competency is made by the designation of sponsor organizations.
Learn more by visiting U.S. Department of State web site at: http://www.state.gov/