A recently released report by the independent research group, EurekaFacts, shows that the U.S. Department of State’s Au Pair Program is a valuable win-win arrangement for au pairs and families alike. This first-of-its-kind report surveyed program alumni from the past five years, securing responses from over 15,000 program participants. The report provides the most robust and accurate portrait of the program as experienced by au pairs and host families, and the findings are unquestionably positive!
Au pairs were overwhelmingly positive about their experience! More than 84% said that they were “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied” with the program, and 87% would recommend the program to their friends and family. In fact, one-in-five had heard about the program from a former au pair who had spoken highly of the experience. Au pairs report that their main motivations for joining the program are their desire to “gain new or improved personal skills”, “experience daily life in a different culture” and “improve their English skills”. While the au pair program provides a great opportunity for au pairs to earn money to pay for travel and activities, only 25% of au pairs ranked this as being a very important motivating factor when considering whether to participate in the program. More than eight-in-ten au pairs say that they developed greater confidence in communicating with others (83%) and almost all (96%) au pairs say that they are applying the skills and experience they acquired through the program to their professional pursuits.
The unique relationship between au pairs and their host families is also illuminated by the report. More than 90% of host families say they had “good” or “very good” experiences establishing personal connections with the au pairs living in their homes. Au pairs overwhelmingly describe being welcomed warmly by their families and that they were able to participate in various family events and holidays. Fully 83% report that they were able to build close personal connections with their host families. The ability to build these close personal connections had great impact on both personal and professional levels for au pair alumni. 86% of au pair alumni say they have stayed in touch with their host family after returning home. It is evident that the au pair program can be a life-changing experience that leads to lifelong relationships.
The cultural diplomacy aspects remain one of the key long-term benefits of the program. Au pairs’ attitudes towards American life are now more positive upon completion of the program. About two-thirds have a more positive view of the “American people” (66%), “American culture” (65%), and the “U.S. in general” (63%), and a half (50%) are more positive about the “American family structure.” Even au pairs who already had a high opinion of the U.S. report that the program increased this affinity. Au pairs report that they made friends with Americans and 93% plan to stay in touch with them after they return home. In this way, long-term cultural bridges are being built. Host families report that they feel more connected to the wider world and have learned from their au pairs.
Now more than ever, American families are seeking dependable and caring childcare as they navigate the realities presented by COVID-19. In fact, 71% of families reported that if the program were no longer available, it would affect them at least “a fair amount,” including the majority (55%) who say it would affect them “a great deal.” Given the multitude of concerns families have right now, hosting an au pair may be one of the safest childcare options available into the foreseeable future.
Unlike previous investigations into the au pair program which focused on a handful of au pairs who had had bad experiences, this report relies on the responses of thousands of au pair and host family alumni to inform its findings. In doing so it has created the most accurate and reliable assessment of the au pair program to date. Overwhelmingly, the findings demonstrate positive program outcomes for both families and au pairs by providing valuable opportunities for personal and professional growth, family enrichment, and child development, all while strengthening the U.S. image, local economies, and views of Americans in the process.