Au pairs have helped satisfy the need of working parents to find care for their children at a reasonable cost while enabling young foreigners to visit the U.S.
American mothers traditionally worked within their homes. However, after the United States entered World War II in 1941, the growing needs of the national labor force and new economic demands on families led many women to take jobs outside their homes and to seek alternative arrangements for their child care. Parents who lacked available assistance from extended family members sometimes arranged for daycare services. However, a preferred arrangement among families in the middle and upper classes was to provide substitute care within their home. In-home services allowed children more continuity and permitted parents more flexibility in their schedules.
The pool of available live-in child-care providers generally included local college students, young women from midwestern states, and immigrant women. Caregivers from foreign countries, who often did not have proper working papers, afforded reasonably priced choices for child-care services. The initial legal provision for immigrant child-care workers was limited to visitor’s
In 1985, the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) received a proposal from the American Institute for Foreign Study requesting the addition of a new category, “au pairs” (from French au par for “equal to”), to the exchange visitor program. This new classification was added to the list of opportunities available under the
Under the official au pair program, which was overseen by a bureau of the U.S. Department of State, authorized agencies evaluated potential au pairs and host families and partnered the two. In contrast to
Federally authorized au pairs are in the United States through an exchange program that is intended not to lead to
Bloodgood, Chandra. Becoming an Au Pair: Working as a Live-in Nanny. Port Orchard, Wash.: Windstorm Creative, 2005. Griffith, Susan. The Au Pair and Nanny’s Guide to Working Abroad. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press, 2006. Miller, Cindy F., and Wendy J. Slossburg. Au Pair American Style. Bethesda, Md.: National Press, 1986. Wrigley, Julia. Other People’s Children. New York: Basic Books, 1995.
Foreign exchange students
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986