By Kimberly Shaw
Carmichael families are culturally diverse. So is one family's creative approach to child care paired with cultural exchange.
The Randall-Walker family hosts an au pair or “nanny” from China. In an effort to expose their daughter Leah to her culture and native language, William and Christine began taking lessons in Chinese and then opted to host an au pair from China through AuPairCare.
That’s pronounced “oh pear,” unless you speak French. It translates to mean a child care provider that is not just an employee, but has a place in the family “on par” with others. A temporary family member, you might say.
Host families are primarily concerned with quality childcare and the safety of their children. Hongxia, who uses Phyllis as her American name, arrived at the Walkers' Carmichael home in May after attending Au Pair Academy in New York, and has settled in nicely. Her duties as an au pair include assisting with daily tasks like helping Leah get bathed, dressed and accompanying her to play dates as well as other tasks related to her care like laundry and cleaning.
She also gives her a daily lesson in Chinese.
“Last night, Leah was doing her math homework, and Phyllis had her answering her subtraction problems in Chinese,” William Walker said. "She’s fluent enough to sing whole songs."
Taking a couple of classes at the community college level is just a small part of the year for au pairs. Phyllis trades her child care services for a small stipend and the chance to experience American culture. She is taking English as a Second Language and Early Child Development classes while here.
“Area families are wonderful ambassadors for AuPairCare”, said Steven Courtney, a regional manager. “They create a wonderful cultural exchange experience for the au pairs, exposing them to life in our area and often times taking them on vacation as a member of the family”.
It’s a commitment for Phyllis, as au pairs can work up to 10 hours per day or a total of 45 hours per week. For them, it’s worth the opportunity to live in the U.S. for a year and experience the culture. Many au pairs will opt to extend after their first year for another six, nine or 12 months.
The price to host an au pair is a considerable savings at $340 per week regardless of how many children they care for. And the children don’t have to be hustled off each morning to a day care center.
The hours are flexible which suits parents whose hours don’t fit with traditional day care centers. Au Pairs are highly screened, conversational in English and come from more than 40 countries. AuPairCare also has an Infant Specialized program where the au pairs receive special infant care training including soothing baby massage techniques, and baby signing.
Au Pairs gather monthly for a cultural outing and the opportunity to connect with one another. AuPairCare will be on hand to answer questions this weekend at the International Festival in Davis and the Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove Park.
The U.S. au pair program was established in 1986 by the federal government and is overseen by the state department. AuPairCare has placed more than 40,000 au pairs since 1989. For more information on hosting an Au Pair, contact Kimberly Shaw, area director at 916-670-7353 or visit www.aupaircare.com.