When discussing childcare, it all comes down to one main question: can I trust my childcare provider with the health and wellbeing of my children?

This is a question that Susan Asay, president and founder of PROaupair, the only au pair agency that specializes in professional au pairs, understands very well. Asay had the same concerns when she began looking into childcare options for her first baby. Her search led her to start PROaupair in 2006.

What made you decide to start PROaupair?
I was working at an asset management firm when I became pregnant. As a first-time mom with no local family support and a very demanding career, I knew I needed help with childcare. I wanted a pediatric nurse who spoke German and there were no au pair agencies that offered that type of candidate. As I’m originally from Germany, I tapped into my network of contacts and quickly found that there was a huge demand from German care professionals to come to the U.S. Soon my American working mom friends were asking me to help them find a professional au pair too and that led me to start PROaupair. We are now designated by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor J-1 au pair visas and operate in over 50 cities in the U.S. and Australia.

What makes PROaupair unique?
PROaupair is the only au pair agency with a focus on recruiting trained and experienced childcare professionals. Our candidates have degrees and/or experience working in their chosen field – be it pediatric nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, early childhood education and teaching, or special needs education. We primarily recruit German professionals through our own network in Germany which includes our partnership with the German Red Cross.

What types of families do you work with?
We work with three main types of families: families who have children with special needs, families with infants (including multiples) and families like mine with school-age kids who want a professional childcare provider versus a recent high school graduate. Most families are working parents and about 75% of our families have children with special needs – ranging from ADHD to autism to Down Syndrome to epilepsy – who are looking for a care giver who is experienced in these areas. Our customers really value the flexibility in scheduling, like split shifts and coverage on sick or snow days.

What are the program fees?
The cost of host a PROaupair averages about $12 an hour. Due to their experience, our professional au pairs receive a weekly stipend of $250 per week. We’ve also structured our program fees so that our families can pay on a monthly basis throughout the time their au pair is there, versus having to pay a lump sum upfront. Since many of our families require professional help, they find that hosting a PROaupair is an economical option for them.

What are the benefits of a professional au pair?
Hiring a professional au pair gives working parents the confidence that their children are receiving the best possible care. Our candidates have dedicated their careers to caring for children and being a professional au pair for 1-2 years provides them with international experience they can add to their resumes. When you compare what you’d pay a domestic professional or nanny versus a professional au pair, you can’t beat the value.

Tell us about your family’s experiences with au pairs.
We’ve become very close with all of our au pairs and I appreciate the support they’ve provided in raising my children to be bi-lingual. Many have stayed two years and my kids love it when they come back to visit us. We’ve also visited them during some of our trips to Germany. At the beginning, it’s a little odd to have a new person living in your home. But, the flexibility is unbeatable. Very quickly our au pairs have become members of the family and it’s been fun to share our American culture and traditions with them.

What do you love most about what you do?
I get great satisfaction from knowing I’m helping other working mothers like myself to balance personal, family and professional commitments. Raising children is not easy – but I’m happy to be able to make it a little bit easier. I truly believe that our professional au pairs make a difference.