- All About Au Pairs
- Au Pair Agencies
- Agency Ratings & Reviews
- Edina's Blog
- Writers Block
- Members Only
- About Us
- Contact Us
Is Your Au Pair Agency Designated by the U.S. Government? It Should Be!
What does the Department of State designation mean?
There are 14 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.
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 14 "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 14 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 14 programs to fit the one that fits best with your family.