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Hiring a foreign au pair

By Janet Castrejon

Au Pair

One way of providing a native language model for your children and getting inexpensive childcare at the same time is to hire an au pair. An au pair is a domestic worker from a foreign country that provides childcare and possibly some light housework. They tend to be young women (but they could be men) who are interested in living abroad.

In exchange for childcare services, you will provide the au pair with a private room and a stipend. There may be other application or program fees associated with your au pair program. U.S. Department of State rules state that au pair childcare cannot exceed 10 hours per day, and a maximum of 45 hours per week.

When searching for au pair programs find out about their screening process and training. One of the largest au pair programs, Cultural Care Au Pair, provides new au pairs with training on such topics as health and safety in the home, child nutrition, and behavior management. Also, ask what happens if you are not satisfied with your au pair.

If you are hoping that the au pair speaks their native language with your children, be clear about that up front. You would hate to be matched with someone who is interested in speaking English exclusively. Some au pairs may be willing to compromise and speak their native language part of the time and practice their English at other times.

Before your new au pair arrives, read about their home country and teach your children about it. Allow the au pair some time to get to know your family before leaving her or him alone with the children. During that time get acquainted and familiarize your au pair with household rules and routines.

To learn more about au pair programs and see a list of U.S. Department of State approved programs visit

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