June 21, 2013

How to find an au pair

4 minutes
Advice for host families

Finding an au pair can be a daunting task if you are unfamiliar with the process.  Because au pairs who come to the U.S. are on special J-1 visas and the au pair program is regulated by the U.S. Department of State, it is not as easy to find an au pair as it is to find a nanny.   This overview will help you navigate different ways you can find au pairs and give you some tips to make sure you find a good au pair for your family’s needs.

Find au pairs through an au pair agency

Most host families go through agencies to find au pairs since using an au pair agency can drastically simplify the process of finding an au pair.  Plus, good au pair agencies will help you through the whole process by providing insights and guidance to help you find a good au pair to fit your family.  These days, there are many ways to find young people overseas who are looking for a way to come to the U.S.  Technology has made the world more connected and you might find people posting au pair profiles online and see one who looks like a good candidate.
However, au pair agencies generally recruit au pair candidates overseas from a number of countries and put them through a rigorous screening and training process before they are accepted into the agency’s database.  Plus, the agencies will run a criminal background check as well as check the references the au pair has provided.  When you use an au pair agency to find an au pair, you have the peace of mind of knowing that the agency has lots of experience with this and is helping you find properly qualified au pairs.
Once you choose an au pair agency to work with, the agency will walk you through their matching process.  With Cultural Care Au Pair, you can use the online Search and Select tool to browse au pair profiles and let the agency know who you want to interview.  You are also given a dedicated placement manager who will recommend au pair candidates for you to review based on your family’s needs.

Find au pairs on your own

Some families find au pairs on their own.  This is a good option if you have personal connections or contacts overseas and can get a reference from someone you trust before you hire an au pair.  Remember, the prospective au pair must be between the ages of 18-26 to qualify for a J-1 visa.  For example, if you have a family friend in France whose 19 year old daughter would like to be an au pair for your family, you could hire her since she is someone you trust and know.  However, you will still need to use an au pair agency in order for an au pair to get a J-1 visa and be able to legally work as an au pair in the U.S.
The benefit of finding an au pair on your own is that it will generally save you some money with the au pair agency.  Since the agency hasn’t had to find the au pair and interview her, you are likely to get a discount on an au pair you bring to the agency as your candidate.

Finding a good au pair

However you decide to search for au pairs, it is important to think through the qualities you are looking for in an au pair.  Here are some questions to think about to help you find an au pair.
How old do you want the au pair to be?  Some families prefer au pairs who are under 21 because they tend to be more used to living at home with parents and siblings than older au pairs.  Other families want au pairs who are a bit older and have more experience being independent.
What country do you want the au pair to come from?  This might be a consideration about the language the au pair speaks or a desire to bring a particular cultural experience into your home.
Do you need a good driver?  Some au pair candidates have years of driving experience while others don’t even have a driver’s license.  Do you need someone to drive your children to and from activities or is driving unnecessary?
Do you have an infant?  The U.S. State Department requires au pairs who will be looking after any children under 2 years old to have a minimum of 200 hours of experience caring for children under 2, so not all au pair candidates are able to care for infants.
When do you need your au pair to start?  If you need childcare immediately, you may want to consider au pairs who are already in the U.S.  Au pairs can extend their visas beyond their first year for 6, 9 or 12 additional months.  These extension au pairs may be available faster than those who have to come from overseas.

Beyond those basic criteria, finding a good au pair for your family’s needs is often about getting someone whose personality works well with your family.  Prepare a list of au pair interview questions to help you decide between candidates and make sure that you feel comfortable with the au pair you select.