February 25, 2019

Our 15 finalists for the 2019 Host Family of the Year Award

Congratulations to our 15 finalists!

16 minutes
Au pair stories

We received a record number of 2019 Host Family of the Year award nominations this year! Over 700 au pairs from around the world nominated their host families, sharing inspiring stories of cultural exchange and heartwarming examples of how their second families in the USA have changed their lives.

After reading every single submission that came in, our team in Boston decided it was impossible to choose only 10 finalists—so this year, we’re increasing our number of finalists from 10 to 15. Plus, with 15 Host Family of the Year finalists and 15 Au Pair of the Year finalists, it comes to 30 finalists total—a perfect number to represent Cultural Care Au Pair’s 30th anniversary this year!
Of course, every single one of our nominees is a winner in their own right—and here at Cultural Care, we’re proud to help bring life-changing experiences to au pairs from around the globe.
Congratulations again to our 15 finalists! Read on to see how these amazing host families have left their mark on their au pairs.




The Koenigs family in California
“From day one, everything has felt as if we are the PERFECT match for each other. My host mom gives me a hug every night before we go to bed. There are no nights where my two girls don’t knock on my door and give me a ‘night-night’ hug before they go to bed. Even when they picked me up at the airport they waited there with a lot of balloons. My birthday was a week before I arrived here so they even sang a birthday song when we arrived home and we’ve had a birthday/welcome cake.
My host family supports me all the time! Thanks to them I’ve had a lot of opportunities to travel on weekends and see a lot of the US so far! My biggest success is that I have found a second family here.”
—Jovana, Cultural Care au pair from Austria




The Samy family in Connecticut
“The most beautiful thing that I’m learning here with the Samy’s is the meaning of the word ‘love.’ You experience it in many different ways during your life, and of course I just got to learn few sides of it until now, but the one I discovered here has been the most powerful and extraordinary for me yet.
Every single day I can find love and joy just being around them: in my six-year-old girl who holds my hand while falling asleep to make sure I’m laying down with her, in my eight-year-old who asks for my advice despite being the most independent girl I know. In my four-year-old boy who calls me just to tell me he loves me, for any apparent reason.
I see love when my host mum tries to make everybody happy in our house, sometimes forgetting about herself in order to do that. I see it when my host dad doesn’t leave the house for work without kissing every single person of his family. And I see it when he comes back and everybody gets up from the dinner table to run towards him and give him a hug.
My host family is probably the craziest, noisiest and most hectic you can find but it will always be my happy place, which I now call home.”
—Noemi, Cultural Care au pair from Italy




The Ragade family in California
“‘Family doesn’t exactly have to be family by blood.’ That was what my oldest host kid, ma chère Lia, told me once, and since the beginning I’ve felt as part of this family. It’s about the little things: having coffee every morning, talking with them about different topics, reading books with/for my little kiddos. They always include me in family activities, but they also give me my space, and any time I go out with my friends they say, ‘Have fun Meli!’

I am lucky because I didn’t only get a new host mom, host dad or host kids. I got host uncles, host grandfathers; I am like the third kid on the family or like a niece to them. Not only do they invite me to different activities or events, they always include me as one of them (I even have a ukulele, which is something we all do in the house). My host mom knows how much I love traveling, and she’s always encouraging me to do so, she says her gift for me is to travel and I’ve been with them to so many trips.
Over all the year, there have been some ups and downs, but what matters at the end is that I will always remember all the laughs, love, advice, family trips/celebrations, and great moments I have been sharing with them since October 2017. Some days I wake up and realize how lucky I am, to be in the host family I am, to have the friends I have, and to have lived this experience that definitely changed my life. Never had I thought I was going to spend one year and nine months in the United States, and that it was going to be the best year of my life so far.”
—Melissa, Cultural Care au pair from Colombia

The Lepak family in Oklahoma
“I arrived in the United States with a lot of fear, because in Argentina I have a wonderful family that takes care of me and they are always with me, and I was afraid of not feeling that way. Fortunately, it was not like that. The Lepak family received me with a lot of love. My English was not the best, so in the beginning we posted papers on the walls with the phrases that I could not say to memorize them, and with great patience every day they taught me something new.

A few months after being here, the World Cup began. Maybe here it’s not a big deal but in Argentina it is. So the first game that my country played was at 7 AM in Oklahoma, I woke up and my family was waiting for me with typical food from Argentina, they had made for me ‘panqueques with dulce de leche and mate.’ They put on t-shirts of the color of my country, they painted their faces and watched the game with joy and nerves like me. And as I write this, my tears fall—because I realized that this way of showing love is very difficult to find and I found it here, 5,416.493 miles from my house, where every day they have a moment to ask me how I am and to talk about our day. The perfection of our relationship is that we are not perfect, and we’ve had moments where we’ve had to work as a team and family.”
—Luciana, Cultural Care au pair from Argentina




The Briar family in Maryland
“My host family is the best because with them you can feel at home, in a place where you are loved and appreciated. There are little things that made them a part of my heart—simple things like decorating my door on my birthday, when they made me part of the Thanksgiving celebration and also including me in their Christmas card. All sorts of things families do together. I never feel excluded or out of place when I am with them.

If I would need to use just one word to describe this family, I would definitely use “loving.” They have taught me not with words but with actions that family is not just about blood but about love and acceptance. I consider myself so lucky to be with them while living this awesome experience as an au pair. Besides the language and cultural exchange, I will always carry in my heart all the times Preston has said, ‘I love you Clarissa,’ and his sweet ‘I want Clarissa to sit next to me’ during dinner time. The nice feeling when Taylor gives me her giggles in the morning for sure makes my day way better. And what to say about the silly dance parties before bed with all the family! So much fun!

In this family, everyone has totally different personalities, but we respect and enjoy discovering each other’s likes and interests. I have learned a lot from them and with them. I admire the passion and commitment of my host dad Alvin about the environment and the way he is always there to cheer you up and encourage you to keep trying. He has a beautiful heart. My host dad Jay is the one you can trust and feel confident with, he is honest, open-minded and a great friend.”
—Clarissa, Cultural Care au pair from Mexico




The Donehoo family in Illinois
“Over the last year and a half, Bill and Cindy have taken the time to get to know me better than most people I know. Their trust allows me to make independent decisions when I am with the kids or on my own when they encourage me to travel the US and beyond. No matter what question I approach them with, they never hesitate to help me learn about new areas of life. I have been able to take business and management classes at college, taken part in political events and stayed active with my host mom by running races and charity runs. Bill and Cindy are a helping hand in areas where I didn’t even expect to find myself and I have broadened my horizons by living with them!

Cindy, Bill, Brenn, Finn and Teige, you have turned your beautiful house in St. Charles, Illinois into a place that I feel more than fortunate to call my home because of you in it. We are a family that can laugh and cry together, that can dress in fancy clothes but also ugly Christmas sweaters. While I call St. Charles my home now, what I really mean is the five of you—the family that I consider as much my family as the one living in Germany. That will never change no matter how far apart we are or where our paths take us.”
—Ella, Cultural Care au pair from Germany




The Straightiff family in Virginia
“My host family eagerly shares American culture with me and I love it! During my second night with them they cooked American classics, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. My host mom always teaches me recipes for cakes, cookies, muffins and my absolute favorite—mac and cheese. I am grateful that they take the time to explain their cultural values whenever I do not understand why they do certain things. They are extremely patient because I tend to ask a lot of questions.

We also spend holidays together such as Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. For Easter, they gave me a full basket of chocolates that made me really happy. On the 4th of July, we had a barbecue with friends and then I watched fireworks. For Halloween, I dressed up with Sadie and Maeve, my host kids, and we went trick-or-treating with my host mom and then ended up at our neighbor’s Halloween party. Most recently, we celebrated Thanksgiving with the entire family and I had the chance to finally meet everyone. They have a very big family! We had dinner together and of course we ate turkey and some other yummy traditional foods. Even ahead of Christmas, they taught me about their traditions and told me about the activities we would be doing during Christmas time.”
—Maria, Cultural Care au pair from Argentina




The Wynn family in Colorado
“My eyes fill with tears of joy remembering every moment here with my Wynn family. Lisa and Charles are more than the best hosts. I can say they are the best models of life that I could ever ask for, and a dream family. This couple has shown me that we reap what we sow and the result of this is two wonderful daughters, a perfect marriage, and a home full of love, peace and dreams. I love the magic that they radiate and the smiles that they always have. The fact that they are always so welcoming with everyone is very important to me. They are always watching out for me—so respectful, full of energy, and curious to know about my dreams and plans. They always support me and are motivating me to achieve my goals.

I can’t believe how you can have a connection and have so many things in common with someone. Every day that passes, my experience exceeds my expectations. Thank you for so many dinners together, for listening to the stories I told, for each celebration that we had, for each dance, for each song, for showing me the world and for being my family. I’m full of gratitude for these 6 wonderful people, who will be forever in my heart. I will always be a Wynn.”
—Estefania, Cultural Care au pair from Colombia




The Sumption family in New York
“The Sumption family lets me be a family member and makes me feel like a big sister or the kids’ best friend. Together we help and support each other wherever we can and whenever help is needed. Sharing happy moments and going through tough times together is what makes family.

Sharing each other’s culture is part of our daily life! Our day starts with a German ‘guten morgen‘ and ends with ‘gute nach.t’ My host parents and I really like to cook, so of course I already made a German ‘schnitzel mit kartoffelsalat’ for the kids. When you get to know each other better, you don’t just get to know the differences in families, you also find similarities and share them!
My favorite thing to do is to tell the kids about my childhood! I used to listen to audiobooks when my mom put me down to sleep, so Charlie’s and my thing is it to listen to the Polar Express and we love it! What makes me really happy is singing  ‘La Le Lu‘ to my two year old little boy when I tuck him in because it makes me feel like a kid again. It really makes me happy to share parts of my childhood with them. I also remember the first day when I brought them some German food to try, like edible candy-paper or some gingerbread.

With my two sweet little host boys Ted & Charlie and our family dog Indy, my lovely host parents Dorothy and Scott gave me a second home in New York. I am just SO lucky to be here! It is magic, like a dream come true!”
—Milena, Cultural Care au pair from Germany




The Horstmann family in Pennsylvania
“Living with my host family, I learned that it is not about the big things in your au pair year. Yes, travelling and huge gestures are great—but it‘s really about the small things. That‘s what my friend Myles once said. It’s about moments of joy and love and he was right. He was so right. It is about my three year old girl saying to her cousin she needs to hug “her Helena” only two weeks after me being with them or my five year old girl telling me “hey, ich liebe dich“ in the car which means “I love you“ in my language. It‘s about my eight year old girl and me crying on her bed together because we both miss our moms. I miss mine in Germany and she misses her mom when she is on a work trip.

In my first week in the USA, my boyfriend back in Germany broke up with me. Yup, it‘s the nightmare no au pair wants to experience. I was at the gym with my host mom so I was sitting crying in her car at the gym after being a week with her. I was basically still a stranger. But instead of making it awkward or making me feel bad about it, she gave me advice I will never forget. She told me about her first love and how people can‘t give the love that we deserve. She became my second Mom when my real one couldn’t be there for me. My host dad got me a cake that day and suddenly a horrible day turned into a wonderful one.

Oh, and how I knew they were “the one” when I matched with them? We already started to plan our Halloween costume together before we matched. We laughed about the idea of all us being Taylor Swift together and how fun it would be to craft and sew together. Spoiler alert: It was super fun.”
—Helena, Cultural Care au pair from Germany



The Roark family in Colorado
“My host parents made me feel at home from the very first moment I arrived. They brought the kids to welcome me at the airport with big hugs and big posters, and when they showed me to the room, they had printed out pictures of me and my family which they have hung on my wall. This might seem like a small thing, but it just shows their interest in my life and well-being from the very beginning.

When it comes to raising and helping my host kids, my host parents always listen and talk to me. My host parents care about what I think, say, and feel after a certain episode and it makes us an equal, united front. My host parents have never restricted my relationship with my two wonderful and crazy host kids, and I have grown into loving them as if they were my own younger siblings. For Christmas, I gave the kids pictures of all of us together, as if I really was a Roark, and my host parents gave me and themselves matching ornaments with pictures of all of us as a family—including me under the family name.

Every time I travel they always give me a big hug and say: “Have a great trip, text us when you land so we know that you are safe”—which means that they really care. Earlier this year, they also came into the kitchen where I was sitting, where they had a small surprise for me. They gave me a family shirt and said: “We made this for you because you are a part of our family.”
—Simone, Cultural Care au pair from Denmark



The Ramirez family in Tennessee
“When our new life together started, everything was going very well because we have very good communication. But obviously, some days can be difficult. I remember one. I was sick, the children were acting very bad and I had some other small problems. Above all, I was far from my own family so everything looked worse. But fortunately, I have a wonderful host family who cares a lot about me and how I feel. I told the mother about my very bad day, and she saw I was feeling bad. I decided to go to my dance class to take my mind off of it. When I came back home, I found a note on my bedroom door telling me that I was doing a wonderful job and that they were very happy to have me as part of their family. And just these few words from my host mom made me feel better.”
—Marion, Cultural Care au pair from France



The Colvin family in Massachusetts 
“During my 22 months, the Colvins have not only been my support system, but they’ve also given me the opportunity to be a sister and pillar of support to my host kids. Being an au pair can be difficult sometimes (from homesickness to kids not listening), and when those dark days come you need people who can hold your hand and talk to you. My host parents have been there for me since the beginning. No matter how busy they would be I knew that one of my host parents would make time to talk and listen to me.

I have never felt out of place with my host family. They have included me in their family dinners, events, movie nights, travels and even my oldest host kid’s high school graduation ceremony. Being a part of a family that made me feel appreciated, comfortable and valid really amplified my au pair experience and made me feel like I belonged. It is amazing how total strangers can leave a mark in your heart just by being welcoming and opening their doors not just to their au pair, but also to the friends I made here in the USA. The Colvins have shared with me the most beautiful things—time, patience, and most of all, love.”
—Vanessa, Cultural Care au pair from South Africa



The Pennington family in Washington
“The Penningtons are extremely supportive with everything I want to do—getting my 6 credits, choosing my university classes, or even wanting to travel to new places. They not only provide me with support, but my other au pair friends as well. Whenever any of them are having a tough time and need space to escape, they always ask if they can come over to my house because of how my host family makes them feel better and gives them advice, encouragement and support. No one ever leaves my house feeling down and out, including me.

My host parents are beautiful social butterflies and have allowed for me to spread my wings along with them—my host mom and I have had memorable dance battles and I have had tears running down my face from seeing my host dad’s ugly Christmas TRACKSUIT at an ugly Christmas sweater party, ha ha!

The Penningtons are not only insanely kindhearted and loving, they’re also hilarious. They have made this the best experience I have ever had in my entire life. I felt as though I was a part of the family from the very first day I had arrived. They had so much trust and confidence in me that it made me feel as if I could achieve anything here in the US.”
—Natasha, Cultural Care au pair from South Africa




The Ericsson family in California
“Before I came to the USA, I knew that my time here would be good—but I did not know exactly how good it was going to be. I did not know that I would see my host family as my real family. I did not know how much you could love three small children that are not your own. And I did not know that this was going to be the best time of my life so far.

Both my host parents are big inspirations to me for a lot of reasons, but specifically their lifestyle and how they prioritize family and take the time to work out. Before I came here, I had been riding for 12 years—and when I got here, I did not know what to do with my life. I had never done any other sport. So when I got an email from Cultural Care about the New York City marathon, I was thinking “this is it, this is what I am going to do.” I asked my host mom Adrienne and without hesitation she said she would run the marathon with me. So suddenly we were training for 26.2 miles. And Adrienne helped me with everything from the training schedule to what kind of food I was going to eat. She was pushing and believing in me when I thought I couldn’t do it. Early mornings and late nights we would run side by side and we talked a lot about life. Those hours on the road made us closer. Of course my host dad was also amazing—he helped us with literally everything!
In November, the whole family flew to New York City and we had an awesome time with their relatives, old au pairs, their friends and my friends. The day before the race we went to the United Nations. I was so nervous but it was actually really fun. The marathon was an amazing experience and I will remember that weekend forever!”
—Mathilda, Cultural Care au pair from Sweden