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Weak Economy Leads to Strong Demand for Au Pairs

The Hirtensteiner family in Agoura Hills loves their au pair¾and it’s no wonder! Malin has been with them for over a year now and she gives her host mother, an attorney who works from home and in the field, an opportunity to continue her career with peace of mind, knowing her boys are in good hands. Malin has become a member of the family and it sure shows in this photo. Shannon, her host mom, values the au pair program because it gives her the flexibility and affordability she needs in these challenging times.
One consequence of the current economic crisis is that more mothers are working. More new moms are remaining in the workforce and at-home mothers who had decided to put their careers on hold need to return to work. With an increase in dual income households comes an increase in the demand for quality childcare.
In some cases, this rising demand is driving up childcare costs. According to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the price of child care is rising faster than the average rate of inflation. The report, which provides typical prices of child care in centers, reveals that over the course of a year, the average price of full-time center care increased an average of 6.5 percent, almost three times the rate of inflation and more than increases in healthcare and college costs. Escalating childcare costs are having the greatest effect on the nanny business. A recent Wall Street Journal article estimated that full time nanny hiring is down between 10-30 percent.
One childcare program, however, has been able to meet the growing demand for childcare with an affordable option for working parents. Cultural Care Au Pair is a childcare and cultural exchange program based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that places au pairs across the country including au pairs in the Ventura County, the Conejo, and west San Fernando valleys. Demand for au pairs is growing. Data from the U.S. Department of State, which regulates the au pair program, shows that nearly 22,000 au pairs came to the United States last year, up 44 percent from 2004. With hundreds of available, qualified au pairs, Cultural Care is able to meet the needs of families looking for quality childcare.
“Although the demand for au pairs is strong, we understand that affordable childcare is an economic necessity for our current and potential host families,” says David Fougere, President of Cultural Care Au Pair. “We have taken some major steps to help families in these tough economic times. While other au pair programs and other types of childcare are raising their fees, we are holding our prices at 2008 levels for 2009. We have also adjusted our payment plan and reduced the initial deposit so the upfront costs are more manageable. And, we will be offering greater discounts to both new and repeat families throughout the year so many families will be paying even less than they paid last year.”
Emily Davis, local coordinator for Cultural Care in Ventura County, Malibu, and west San Fernando Valley, has seen an increased interest in the au pair program among local families. “If you have two or three children, there really is no comparison. The cost of the program is about $320 per week and that’s per family, not per child,” Davis says. “Au pairs can provide up to forty-five hours per week of child care which works out to be less than $7.50 per hour, regardless of how many children you have.”
Davis also states that families are looking at more than just the costs. “In this current economic climate people are looking for flexibility as well as affordability. Cost conscious parents need to be creative with their childcare solutions as parents take on additional jobs or work longer hours.” The au pair program is an attractive option because it allows parents to set a schedule that works for them on a weekly basis, provides in-home care for their children and introduces children to other cultures.
The Greenspan family recently turned to the au pair program not only for the affordability but also for the flexibility and exposure to other cultures that the program offers. Jill Greenspan, a real estate executive with three school-aged children, says, “As our kids were getting older and our careers becoming more demanding, we needed more flexibility than our nanny could provide. Also, having studied abroad and traveled internationally, we recognize the importance of exposing our children to other cultures and languages.”
About Cultural Care Au Pair
Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare in the United States. Now in its 20th year, Cultural Care Au Pair has placed more than 75,000 au pairs in welcoming American homes since 1989. A U.S. Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide and more than 600 local coordinators across the U.S. 

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