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Is Your Au Pair Agency Designated by the U.S. Government? It Should Be!

What does the Department of State designation mean?

There are 15 au pair agencies in the United States.  Au pair agencies with a J1-visa means that the au pairs coming to America will be in an au pair agency that is supervised by the U.S. government.  America's current au pair program was established by the U.S. Government in 1986 as an educational and cultural exchange program with a childcare component.State Department

The business idea was to recruit young women to spend a year abroad, learning another culture and travel, while providing 45 hours a week in childcare to their "host family."  Host families pay the agency for this service.  

The larger au pair agencies are a million dollar business.  Au pair "programs" have to meet certain requirements and once they are approved, they receive a "designation" to sponsor or "run" their program.

As designated sponsors, all current au pair agencies must operate their programs in accordance with all of the US-DOS program regulations.

The government has set working hours, admission criteria, establishes the au pair weekly stipend and stipulates other important guidelines to ensure a positive experience for all parties. 

The Au Pair Agencies

There are 15 "legal" au pair agencies in the United States.  They are considered to be "legal" in the sense they have been approved by the Department of State (DOS) and are regulated by the U.S. government.  DOS's goal is to make sure each au pair agency follows strict regulations concerning the overall recruiting, screening, training and agency monitoring of their au pairs.  

Many of today's regulations were put into place by DOS after the Louise Woodward trial that involved the death of a host parents' young infant son, Matthew Eappen in 1997. Today, au pair agencies are closely monitored by DOS to protect the safety and well-being of American children cared for by foreign au pairs. 

What are the au pair agencies responsible for? 

Agencies carry out the day-to-day operation of the au pair program:  they recruit, screen, select and match au pairs with host families.

  • They must ensure all au pairs are given a criminal background check and undergo psychological testing
  • They must also ensure the au pairs speak and understand English.
  • Host families must be interviewed also and they are required to speak and understand English and meet all the requirements of hosting an international visitor. 
  • Au pair agencies are required to train the au pairs according to US-DOS regulations and they must monitor each match by providing monthly contact with both au pair and host family.

NOTE:  Although US-DOS authorizes and monitors the 15 au pair agencies, host families must remember that they are ultimately responsible for finding the au pair that is right for their family

Because au pair agencies are a business first, they market and run their business to make a profit.

Not all agencies are the same and not all agencies have customer service as their benchmark.  Most agencies want to make a profit and will always present the positive elements of the program to host families, shunning any mention of the cons.

First, and foremost, parents should become fully informed on the au pair industry and then carefully and thoroughly interview both the agency and any prospective au pair before welcoming a stranger into their  homes. 

Finally, there is a better way to research au pair agencies and read about how to interview, match and supervise a foreign au pair.  AuPairClearinghouse does all the work for you and more - we offer host family survey reviews and ratings so you can research all 15 programs to fit the one that fits best with your family. 
 

The 15 Agencies Designated by the United States Department

The au pair program is a cultural and educational exchange program with a childcare component. Au pairs provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week for their host family while attending college or university studies.  Au pairs can participate in the program from 12 months - 24 months. 

The 15 sponsoring agencies in the U.S. have the responsibility to administer the au pair programs according to the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of State (US-DOS).

What do the sponsoring agencies do? 

They carry out the day-to-day operation of the au pair program.  They recruit, screen, select and match au pairs with host families. They must ensure all au pairs are given a criminal background check and undergo psychological testing.  They must also ensure the au pairs speak and understand English.  Host families must be interviewed also and they are required to speak and understand English and meet all the requirements of hosting an international visitor.  Sponsoring agencies are required to train the au pairs according to US-DOS regulations and they must provide monthly contact with both au pair and host family.

What does Department of State designation mean?

The au pair program was established by the U.S. Government in 1986 as an educational and cultural exchange program with a strong childcare component. Au pairs may enter the United States for 12 months to care for the children of their American host family. At the same time, au pairs are required to complete an education component of six semester hours of academic credit. At the end of one year, au pairs may extend their stay for another year or return to their home country.

As designated sponsors, these 15 au pair agencies must operate their programs in accordance with all of the US-DOS program regulations. The government has set working hours, admission criteria, establishes the au pair weekly stipend and stipulates other important guidelines to ensure a positive experience for all parties.

These are the U.S. Department of State designated agencies that have been authorized to administer au pair programs legally in this country:

  1. Agent Au Pair (www.agentaupair.com)

  2. American Cultural Exchange (www.goAuPair.com)

  3. American Institute for Foreign Study (www.aupairinamerica.com)

  4. Au Pair Foundation, Inc. (www.aupairfoundation.org)  

  5. Au Pair International, Inc. (www.aupairint.com)

  6. American Professional Exchange (LLC dba, www.proaupair.com)

  7. AuPairCare, Inc. (www.aupaircare.com)

  8. Cultural Care, Inc. (www.culturalcare.com)

  9. Cultural Homestay International (www.chiaupairusa.org)

 10. EurAuPair Intercultural Child Care Programs  (https://www.euraupair.com/)

11. Expert Group International Inc. (www.expertaupair.com)

12. InterExchange Au Pair (www.aupairusa.org)

13. USAuPair, Inc. (www.USAupair.com)

14. The International Au Pair Exchange (www.tiape.org)
TIAPE IS NO LONGER TAKING NEW HOST FAMILIES AS OF JUNE 2012 via their website - if you call them they tell you they are a "sister agency" of Pro-AuPair.  If you want to join, they will email you an application - it is very confusing and unclear why and how these 2 agencies interact. 

15.  GreatAuPair, LLC (www.greataupairusa.com)

NOTE:  Although US-DOS authorizes and monitors these 15 au pair agencies, host families must remember that they are ultimately responsible for finding the au pair that is right for their family.  First, and foremost, they should become fully informed on the au pair industry and then carefully and thoroughly interview both the agency and any prospective au pair before welcoming a stranger into their homes.  

Not all au pair agencies are the same - How do they Differ?

  • Costs - they all charge different program fees - most fall in the middle range at about $7.00 an hour of childcare, but some exceed that amount by almost double!  Others, like Expert Au Pair, are inexpensive compared to the rest of the agencies.  
  • Customer Service - there is a broad range of service, from very poor to excellent.  Host parents rate their agencies every year and we have the information you need in order to choose the best au pair and agency possible!
  • Size - there are many smaller agencies, like Au Pair Foundation, that provide the same kind of au pair the bigger agencies do, but they have the time to provide one-on-one service.  Sometimes size does matter! 
  • Quality of Au Pairs - the au pair agencies use different methods of screening prospective au pairs, and there is no one method that is required by the U.S. Dept. of State.  Some agencies, like Au Pair Care, use standardized psychometric testing, where others use inappropriate and useless "personality" tests to screen out potentially dangerous or mentally ill candidates.  We know which agencies use the industry's best screening methods and we have the ratings that support excellence in quality of au pairs.

Read Ratings & Reviews on All 15 Au Pair Agencies!



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