Understanding the Concept of the Au Pair Program

Whether you’re an au pair or a host family, it is essential to understand the basic concept of the program. This will help you to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts during your stay.

The Au Pair Program

An au pair is an international student between 18 and 26 who travels to your home as a temporary family member. In return, they receive a room in the home, meals, and pocket money. But what is au pair program?

The au pair program is a cultural exchange that allows young people from other countries to live and work in America while participating in family life. Au pairs help host families with childcare and light housework while taking classes, experiencing American culture, and pursuing other personal goals. While the au pair program is widely known, it has faced scrutiny from labor and human rights groups in recent years. Many au pairs have complained of being underpaid and treated as servants. A 2018 report by the American University International Human Rights Law Clinic and other groups found that structural problems in the au pair program foster labor abuses.

Despite these challenges, the au pair program remains popular among hosts and au pairs. The program is free for both au pairs and host families, with only a small fee paid to an agency to assist in finding an au pair. This fee covers the recruiting, screening, paperwork processing, and visa costs. Host families provide a private room, weekly stipend, and other benefits. Many host families keep in touch with their au pairs beyond their year together and plan visits in the US or abroad.

The Host Family

Host families are an essential part of the Au Pair program. They provide students with a home, food, and a room in exchange for help with the family’s children. Host families and au pairs often develop a strong bond that lasts long after the program ends. Au pairs can experience a new culture in the United States by living with their host family. This can be an incredible learning experience, providing a firsthand look at another nation’s foods, customs, and traditions. While some au pairs are placed with families who treat them poorly, most host families are incredibly kind and respectful. Au Pairs are given a lot of autonomy in their placements and a great deal of freedom to pursue their interests while still providing the families with much-needed child care.

Traditionally, agencies in the au pair’s host country are an intermediary between young people looking to become au pairs and families seeking help with their children. The agencies charge a fee to both the au pairs and host families and typically take on some of the processes of screening and evaluating potential au pairs before making matches. They also assist with some of the other paperwork involved in the program.

The Au Pair’s Role

The responsibilities of au pairs focus on providing childcare to their host family’s children and also on doing some light housework. These tasks are outlined in their official contracts and must be part of their daily schedule. In exchange for this help, au pairs receive their hosts’ pocket money and free room and board. Many young people who become au pairs take on the program to get immersed in a new culture. This experience can be life-changing and give them a completely different outlook on their lives back home. Being part of a host family allows them to learn another country’s language, traditions, and customs firsthand. However, the au pair program has its challenges. News reports and nonprofit investigations that quote au pairs comparing their treatment to slavery can drain many people’s warm and fuzzy feeling of this opportunity. But, overall, the au pair experience is still good for both host families and au pairs.

The Au Pair’s Benefits

The perks of being an au pair can be substantial. Aside from the room and board and monthly pocket money, au pairs also enjoy the opportunity to travel. They’ll also have a sense of purpose and stability. Compared to simply traveling or living abroad, working as an au pair means they’ll have a job with a specific goal and feel more secure about their financial situation.

For au pairs who are placed with good families, the experience can be life-changing. As a member of the family, they’ll become more rooted in the local community and have an opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world. They can participate in holiday celebrations, local outings, and other family activities. They’ll be able to share their own culture with the family and, in turn, learn more about their host country.

Unfortunately, not all au pairs are matched with good hosts. Some are paired with abusive, exploitative families. Au pairs must know their rights and how to report bad situations to the agency. Sadly, many au pairs don’t report bad family arrangements and stay in terrible situations out of fear of being sent home. 

Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.