How to Choose the Perfect Agency for You and Your Children
Choosing an Au Pair Agency is a very important decision that will affect everyone in your family. But it doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful. By doing your research and taking the right steps, you can hire an agency that will find the perfect au pair for you and your children. Our Au Pair Agency Selection Guide is designed to make the process simple, painless and even fun! Simply follow the tips below to start your search and find the right au pair for you.
Have immediate questions about choosing an Agency?
Call 949-903-2348 and a PROaupair representative will be happy to provide answers.
Au Pair Agency – What Does It Do?
Using a Department of State designated au pair agency is the safest and easiest way to find an au pair who can provide the right level of care for you and your children. It is very important to understand what kind of au pairs an agency specializes in, and how they recruit their candidates. Also, the only way for an au pair to legally work in the United States is to be affiliated with a designated agency that requires background checks, references, and a level of experience commensurate with that agency’s requirements. PROaupair’s requirements are incredibly stringent and only those au pairs with exceptional experience, references and personal interviews are considered for our program.
“9 Most important questions to ask when hiring an au pair Agency”
- Do you serve my area (ZIP-Code)? You want to first find out if an agency services your area, because if not, you need to move on and find an agency that does.
- How many of your candidates have either one year of full-time experience or a degree in a childcare-related field? You need to understand the depth of qualified candidates. It’s easy to have a large pool, but most agencies only have very few really experienced candidates.
- When will we have access to all your available candidates? You need to know before you spend hours completing an application if the agency has candidates available who meet your minimum criteria.
- How do you recruit your au pairs? You want to understand if they do in-house recruiting or if they rely on external agents in foreign countries who are paid on commission. At PROaupair, our au pairs are personally recruited and screened by our staff.
- What are your criteria to accept an au pair applicant to your agency? You want to understand if the agency requires more than the minimum Department of State standards. The Department of State has very minimal requirements when it comes to childcare experience so you need to understand what each agency requires. PROaupair has the most rigorous standards of any agency in the U.S.
- How many of your au pairs who entered the U.S. last year stayed with the same family for the entire 12 months? This gives you an idea of the agency’s success rate in matching and what you can expect.
- What are the three most common reasons for au pairs and host families wanting to make a change(re-match)?
- Do you have a dedicated Infant Care or Special Needs Care Program? If you have a child under the age of two or if you have children with special needs, this will help you understand if the agency will have candidates who have the experience your family requires.
- What is your refund policy? You want to understand what your options and financial obligations are if a match doesn’t work out. Most agencies offer a very limited refund if the match doesn’t work out, regardless of the reason. Be sure to understand what their polices are and what your potential risk is if, for any reason, your au pair leaves the program or you are not satisfied with the level of care she is providing.
First of all, you need to make a decision about the type of experience your au pair should have and if you need a traditional au pair (Mothers’ Helper with limited childcare experience) or a Professional Au Pair, which is someone who has at least one year of experience working in a childcare-related field and/or a degree in a childcare-related field. Most au pairs have never worked as a full-time childcare provider and are not prepared for the demands of full-time childcare. Know what type of experience you are getting and if it will meet your needs and standards of care.
Most au pair agencies recruit only regular or traditional au pairs, most of whom are high school students who are looking for a gap year experience in the U.S. before starting their university studies. The difference between a traditional/regular au pair and a professional au pair is reflected in their experience and average hourly cost.
While there are many online matching platforms available, especially in Europe, most first-time host parents in the U.S. don’t know that hiring someone from abroad without the use of a Department of State designated au pair agency is illegal, because your au pair needs a J-1 visa to legally enter the U.S. as an exchange visitor and to perform childcare duties for your family.
Think about it. Without the extensive screening an agency provides, you don’t have any reliable way to know who the person is that you’re inviting into your home or what their true qualifications are. Do you really want a complete stranger looking after your children and your home?
A Professional Au Pair Agency gives you peace of mind by screening au pairs for you. They do the work of finding caregivers who have extensive experience with children, professional training, great references, and clean backgrounds, among many other requirements. You do not have to make a blind decision or endless international phone calls or Skype interviews to find someone yourself. An agency will do everything for you. You’ll get to choose from a pre-screened list of candidates that meet your needs, and you’ll interview only the au pairs that you’re interested in.
What is an Au Pair?
An au pair is a young person from a foreign country, usually a woman, between the ages of 18 and 26, who lives in your home and provides childcare, as well as taking on light household childcare-related household responsibilities.
Regulations require that au pairs be hired through a Department of State designated au pair agency, such as PROaupair. There are many regulations in place that an agency must adhere to, such as host family and au pair screening, providing health insurance to the au pair while she is in the U.S., monitoring and support of the host family/au pair relationship, working hours and conditions, etc. Au pairs are also required to enroll in educational classes while they are in the U.S. and fulfill an education component required by the Department of State (they must take the equivalent of 6 credits or 72 hours of classes in a classroom setting at a community college or other accredited post-secondary institution).
Benefits of hiring an Au Pair:
- Exceptional level of childcare
- More affordable than a full-time nanny
- Less expensive than daycare
- More personalized, full-time attention than a daycare center can offer
- An agency will help you find someone with the exact skills and qualifications you’re looking for
- A specialized agency, like PROaupair, has au pairs who are experienced in caring for children with special needs, such as Epilepsy, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, and Down Syndrome.
Tips for Choosing an Au Pair Agency
When selecting an agency, you must look carefully at what the agency’s minimum requirements are for the au pairs they accept. While all agencies must follow the requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of State, not every agency requires the same level of experience and maturity. PROaupair has the most rigorous requirements in the industry, accepting only the most qualified, experienced candidates.
Be sure that your au pair agency provides information on:
- Age of the au pairs
- Detailed childcare experience
- Level of education
- Professional training
- English-speaking ability
- Experience with special-needs children (if applicable)
- Background checks
- Driving experience
A Typical Au Pair Agency vs. PROaupair
PROaupair is unlike a typical au pair agency in that it offers highly educated au pairs, primarily from Germany, providing a higher level of service and personalization than other agencies can offer. While PROaupair’s total average costs are somewhat higher than the traditional au pair agencies’, our fees are still much lower than the cost of hiring a domestic nanny or daycare in most U.S. metropolitan areas. PROaupair has the highest standards for experience and training of any au pair agency, and can offer both traditional au pairs (with at least one year of childcare experience) and professional au pairs (at least two years of childcare experience and/or specialized training in a childcare related field such as occupational, physical or speech therapy, pediatric nursing, special education, and teaching.
PROaupair’s Requirements for its au pairs:
For candidates to be accepted into the Professional Au Pair Program at PROaupair, they must:
- Meet all the “Regular” Agency requirements
- Be 19+ years old
- Have 2+ years of full-time childcare experience and/or have a degree in fields like:
- Early Childhood Development
- Occupational / Physical / Speech Therapy
- Pediatric Nursing (Baby Nursing)
- Elementary School Teaching
- Nursery / Kindergarten Teaching
For candidates to be accepted into the Regular Au Pair Program at PROaupair, they must:
- Have 400+ hours of experience in childcare
- Be between 18-26 years old (on the projected date of arrival in the U.S)
- Speak English proficiently
- Have completed secondary school
- Provide 3+ references with a minimum of one related to specific childcare work experience
- Pass a criminal background check
- Pass a psychometric test
- Pass a physical exam
If an agency is unclear about this information, or if its requirements are not as strict as those above, then you should STRONGLY consider another agency. PROaupair was founded by a host mom who, like you, went to great lengths to find the very best care for her children and now runs an agency dedicated to providing the highest level of quality, experienced, international childcare.
Process of Working with an Au Pair Agency
When deciding on an au pair agency, another important thing to consider is the selection & interview process. You don’t want an agency that is slow to answer your emails and calls, or one whose placement team is overwhelmed with a large caseload. It is typical for a traditional agency to have their placement managers working with 70-100 families at any given time. This does not allow for any kind of truly personal attention or understanding of a family’s needs.
A typical application process should take about 6-8 weeks, mostly due to the requirements of obtaining a J-1 visa. If an agency does not respond to your requests and questions promptly, this process could easily be dragged out several more months.
Quick, Simple & Hassle-Free
In contrast to other au pair agencies, PROaupair offers a simple, step-by-step process that makes it easy to find the perfect au pair for your family.
- You fill out a short application to make sure your family qualifies to host an au pair.
- You identify what types of training and experience you want your au pair to have; review candidates’ profiles and begin interviewing by phone or online via Skype.
- Our Area Director will meet with you for a required personal interview in your home.
- Once you’ve selected a candidate, we help you complete any required materials and steps outlined by the Department of State
- Au pair will apply for her visa.
- Finally, the au pair will complete 38 hours of childcare training before arriving to your home.
Take the Next Step: Start your Family Profile at our Professional Au Pair Agency to Find the Right Person for Your Family
For official government information and to get more details about the Au Pair Agency Visa program in the U.S., visit the Department of State’s website.
If you’re looking for the highest level of childcare and lower costs than domestic care, contact PROaupair at 949-903-2348. PROaupair will help you secure the au pair that is right for your family, and show you how easy it is to work with a professional Au Pair Agency.