In my video series, Au Pair Answer Mom, I answer families’ frequently asked questions about au pair childcare such as, “What does it take to be a host family?”
Parents considering the au pair program should think carefully about what it means to be a host family, because welcoming a person from overseas is a big commitment. The U.S. Department of State requires families to meet certain criteria. But, beyond the State Department’s checklist, families should also make sure they have the general qualities that will enable them to be successful program participants. So first, the U.S. Department of State requirements. According to them, a host family must be:
1. U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents
2. Fluent in English
3. Able to provide a private bedroom
4. Willing to participate in orientation meetings and attend host family conferences and be willing to follow program regulations, many of which related to their au pair’s on-duty hours. For example, parents must limit their au pair’s hours to 45 per week and 10 hours per day.
5. Cultural Care Au Pair also requires all adults living in the home to undergo a criminal background check prior to the au pair’s arrival.
Aside from these more black and white stipulations, there are also general characteristics that successful host families have.
6. Good host families recognize that au pairs are here not only to provide childcare but to experience American culture. Experiencing life in the U.S. is one of the biggest attractions of our program and good host families help their au pairs adjust to and engage in their new language and culture.
7. Good host families treat their au pairs not like employees but more like extended family members. This means asking how your au pair’s day was and celebrating her birthday and including her in family meals. When problems arise, you don’t just give up and move on. You spend time working through issues (which ultimately make the relationship better).
8. The best host families are those that communicate well. They take time to share what their needs and expectations are, especially at the beginning of the year. They tell their au pair “Great job!” for a job well done and give constructive criticism when needed.
If all of this sounds like too much work, the au pair program might not be your best option. However, I’ve always thought that what we’ve put into our relationships with our au pairs, we gotten back 10-fold.