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Au Pair Handbook

Welcome to Cultural Care Au Pair Dear future au pair, Welcome to Cultural Care Au Pair! Over the past 22 years we have placed more than 80,000 au pairs from over 50 countries in American families for the experience of a lifetime. We at Cultural Care Au Pair are happy that you have applied to our program and are ready to embark on the adventure of being an au pair in the USA. You will have the chance to experience many exciting new things—living in another country, making friends from across the globe and improving your English. Most of all you will experience living and working in an American family. Working with the children in your host family will be a challenging, yet rewarding way to spend your days. At the end of your year you will find that you have grown in many ways. In addition to becoming more independent and mature you will have gained new skills and experienced things that will carry you to a better future. This handbook is the next step towards becoming an au pair. It is designed to give you important information that will help you prepare for the year ahead. Please read this handbook thoroughly before you travel. It contains important rules, guidelines and advice and therefore you will be responsible for knowing and following the information it contains. We also suggest you bring it to the USA as it will be a valuable resource during your year. The best of luck! Yours sincerely,

Judd Liebman Vice President


Table of contents My important contacts


Cultural Care Au Pair


The matching process


Preparing to depart


First stop: New York!


Your host family


The Cultural Care Au Pair Team


Driving in the USA


Studying 52 Vacation and traveling


Remaining successful all year


When your year is ending


Erika Insurance


Practical information on the USA


Au pair regulations in detail


2011 International Care Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior permission of the publishers. Rules and guidelines in this handbook do not replace those in the au pair agreement. Information in this handbook may be replaced at any time.


My important contacts Home office in my country Local contact in my home area Phone: Phone: Email: Email:

My host family My LCC Name: Name: Phone: Phone: Email: Email:

Cultural Care Boston Au Pair Training School One Education Street St. John’s University Cambridge, MA 02141 500 Montauk Hwy. Toll-free number: +1-800-333-6056 Oakdale, NY 11769 Or +1-800-448-5753 for Operations Emergency phone: +1-631-433-0137 Email: ** Note: The 800 phone number listed above for Boston can be used for emergencies 24 hours per day.

Erika Insurance Aetna Student Health +1-800-783-7447 For information and claims forms For general questions To find a doctor near you

You can always find the updated contact information for your host family, LCC and Program Director in Boston by going to your Online Account at


Cultural Care Au Pair Congratulations on taking the first step to a year living and working in the USA as an au pair. This will be a year filled with challenges, adventures, successes and yes, even some difficult times. You’ve been selected because we believe that you will gain from this experience, and also because we believe that you have much to offer the children you’re about to care for.

Au pair expectations There will be times during your year when you will need to remind yourself of the reasons why you chose to become an au pair. This handbook is designed to help you prepare yourself for the experience and to ensure that your expectations will be met by our program. Through experience we have found that a successful year begins with the right expectations for all of our participants.


What you should expect: • Helpful information throughout your experience. • The opportunity to experience true American life. • The chance to grow in maturity and independence. • Significant improvement in English skills. • Support when you ask for help. • New friendships and experiences during your year. What you should not expect: • For your year to be a vacation – being an au pair is a full-time job. • Someone to check on you constantly. You will be supported when you ask for help. However, you have chosen to travel to be a responsible childcare helper and will be treated as such. • For things to be easy right away. Every major life change takes an adjustment period.

Host family expectations What they will expect: • Responsible, safe care for their children. • Up to 45 hours per week of childcare and childcare related duties. • An au pair who takes their job seriously. • An au pair who will also want to have friends and experiences outside of their work. • Open communication with their au pair. • Someone who is respectful while living in their home (cleaning up after themselves, caring for their belongings, etc.). What they should not expect: • Work over 45 hours per week. • For their au pair to know everything on day one. • For their au pair to never need help or support. • For their au pair to be a housekeeper. You may be thinking that you’ve heard this all before. However, we find that many difficulties arise from inappropriate expectations once the au pair and host family come together. Families are looking for quality care for their children and like the idea of cultural exchange. Au pairs look forward to the experience of living in America and know that they will be caring for children. It is important that both the host family and au pair understand each others priorities in order for the program to be successful.


The matching process Once your application has been accepted we will start to look for a host family for you. This section will describe the matching process.

How our au pairs are selected By this time you know that there is a significant amount of paperwork involved in becoming an au pair. This paperwork serves two purposes. First, it provides the level of screening appropriate for someone who is going to care for children, as outlined by the United States State Department. Au pairs are responsible for a family’s most valuable possesion: their children. As such, Cultural Care takes extreme care to ensure that all au pair applicants are properly screened. The second purpose for the paperwork is to provide a prospective host family with enough information on you to allow them to determine if your skills match their childcare needs, and if your personality matches their family.


In addition to meeting the basic required hours of childcare experience, Cultural Care wants to choose candidates who have the maturity and personality that will make them successful on our program. It is a big decision to spend a year away from family and friends. We want to choose candidates that we believe have a good chance at success while on the program.

How host families apply to the program All host families must submit a complete application, including references, a family essay and pictures. Once we receive a host family’s application, the Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC) contacts the family and arranges a date for a personal interview. At this time the LCC meets all host family members, and determines their reasons for wanting an au pair. The LCC informs them of what it means to be a host family, gives a review of the program guidelines, and inspects the host family’s home, including the au pair’s bedroom. An evaluation of the host family is completed by the LCC before the host family is accepted to the program.

Why families choose to have an au pair American families choose the Cultural Care Au Pair program for a number of different reasons, the main one being a need for flexible childcare. Our families also have an interest in cultural exchange. The majority of host parents have full-time jobs. As a result, there is a definite need to find safe and quality care for their children while they are at work. Host families are also very interested in giving their children access to other cultures. Needs are very different for every family. Some families only need someone to supervise their children when they come home from school. Some parents need someone available all day long—from the time they leave in the morning until they return from work in the evening. In other families, one parent may not work full-time, but needs additional childcare to assist in the daily needs of the family. Having someone to care for the children at home is a flexible and attractive option for the majority of Cultural Care’s host families. Most other types of childcare, like daycare facilities, have strict drop off and pick up times, for instance. So, having an au pair with a flexible schedule is a great benefit of this program. No matter what the reasons for choosing an au pair over other types of childcare, all of our host families place a tremendous amount of trust and responsibility in the au pair, appreciating the fact that their children are being taken care of and provided for in the comfort of their own home instead of at a family day care or childcare center.


Your au pair application Your au pair application will be reviewed by Cultural Care Matching Team. They are the experts in matching au pairs and host families together. After reviewing your application, it will be presented to host families during the matching process. What are host families looking for when they review an application? Most host families have an idea of the type of au pair they feel would do well with their children. Sometimes these factors will include: • Driving experience (many au pairs drive as part of their regular duties). • The type of childcare experience the au pair has had (how many children, ages of children). • Au pair’s interests. Many host families try to match the interests of their children to their au pair. For instance, if the children love soccer, the host family will enjoy reviewing an application of a soccer-playing au pair. • The au pair’s language and cultural background. Some host families have particular interests in certain cultures. Host families will also specify certain other details that are important to them, such as whether they need an au pair who is a strong swimmer, etc. Once our Matching Team has a sense of a host family’s wishes and requirements they will review au pair applications. This is why it is especially important that your application be well thought through and complete.


Even after you’ve been accepted to the program, please update your application with an addendum through your online account. Some of these will be very helpful in finding more possible host family matches for you. Here are a few things that will be very helpful for you to tell us about after your application has been submitted: • Additional childcare experiences. • Additional qualifications such as more driving experience, information on English courses taken, or updates on your swimming ability. • Willingness to remove some special requests. Asking to be placed in a particular geografic region or to have a very specific type of host family will seriously limit your options for a placement. We encourage you to be as open as possible. It is helpful to remember that successful au pairs always say that the most important part of their year was getting along with their host family, not where they lived.


Your Online Account – Cultural Care Au Pair has a specially designed Au Pair Online Account just for you. Upon getting accepted to the program, you should have received information on your username and password. This account has been designed to be a resource tool for you throughout your au pair experience. Keep your log in information handy and check your account often, especially during the matching process.


Personalized matching Cultural Care Au Pair has developed a unique personalized matching process. This process means that we will look through your application and also a potential host family’s application to see if your interests, background and childcare experience “match” their interests, background and childcare needs. The process begins approximately 2-3 months before your desired arrival date. Our staff evaluates all au pair applications, taking note of each au pair’s qualifications and interests. At the same time, we are reviewing the host family applications to determine their requests and needs. When the best possible match is found, we will connect your profile to a host family profile. You will then receive an email notifying you that a host family match is in your Online Account. You will see details about this host family. At the same time, the host family is seeing your qualifications for the first time.

Review of the match At this time, the host family will review your qualifications. They will discuss with the Matching Team if your skills and background match their needs. There may be times when you see a host family in your Online Account and then that family will “disappear” soon after. Try not to be too disappointed or take this personally. Usually this means that one of your skills or aspects does not match the host family’s requests. For instance, perhaps the host family forgot to mention that they would prefer an au pair from a certain country. Or perhaps they have a pool at their house and need their au pair to be a stronger swimmer. In any case, if this occurs, do not worry. We are continuing to work to find the best match for you. When a host family match is in your Online Account, you have some information on the host family to review as well. We urge you to be as open-minded as possible. Perhaps this host family lives in a state you have not heard of or is a different type of family than you imagined. Try to remain open to this and learn more about the host family’s personality and interests. If you have questions about the host family, you are welcome to contact our staff in your home country. Please note that some host families might take several days to decide if they will contact a match or not.

The telephone call If the host family, upon reviewing your application, feels that you could be a good fit for their family, they will place a telephone call to you to have a talk with you. Many families call during the weekend, in the afternoon or evening. Normally, you will have received an email that this family is reviewing your application but if you do not frequently check your email, be prepared for a call at any time. During matching, it is very helpful to check your email regularly and to check your Online Account for updates on matches. It is also very important that you update us if your telephone number or email changes so a family can reach you.


We recommend that you spend some time thinking about a potential telephone call before it happens. You should treat this like a job interview because, that is what it actually is! You should think about what questions you would like to ask and what things are important for you to know. However, you should keep in mind that the host family is also going to be looking for clues to your personality and motivations. For instance, if your first question is about the cool places to visit in their city, they might think that you are not interested in their family or the children. Be thoughtful about the impression you make but also make sure you ask enough questions to make a good decision on if this is the family for you. Once the call comes, you might be a little surprised so it might feel very awkward at first. This is normal. Try to relax as much as possible and remember that it is important for you to be an active participant on the phone. If English is not your native language, we know that it can be very difficult to speak in another language, especially over the phone. Do not be afraid to tell the host family that you are happy to talk to them, but need some time to feel comfortable speaking English. You can also ask them to speak more slowly and remember, the family is probably nervous as well. Please note that when the family calls, you may not have received their complete application, but you should have some information on them from your Online Account.

After the phone conversation Once you have spoken with the host family, we ask you to call the Cultural Care Au Pair office to discuss the match as soon as possible. We want to know what you think about the family and if you feel they would be a good match for you. If you have any questions that need clarification, we will do everything possible to get the answers you need to help you decide whether this is the right family for you.


Questions to ask on the phone Making a good first impression during the phone interview is important for both you and your host family and a nice way of getting to know more about each other. Try to be yourself, relax and enjoy the conversation! Below are some ideas for good questions to ask: About the children: • How old are the children and what are their names? • What do they like to do? • What are their personalities like? • What are their favorite games and toys? • If the child is in school, how far away is the school and how do they get there? • If the child is a baby, is she/he walking and/or talking yet? • What is your approach to raising your children? About the parents: • What is your profession? • Why are you interested in hosting an au pair? • What made you interested in my application? • Have you had an au pair before? • What are your hobbies? • Do family members or relatives live nearby? • Have you ever been overseas? • Have you ever been to the country that I’m from? • What qualities do you find important in an au pair? • What is your lifestyle like? (active or relaxed etc.) About your duties: • Will I be responsible for any household duties that relate to the children? • What kind of activities will you expect me to do with the children? • What will my schedule be like? • Are there other duties you expect me to do? • What kind of rules would you ask an au pair to follow? About their area: • Tell me about the area where you live? • Are there other families with children nearby? • Are there any other au pairs in the area? • What things are there to do with the children near your house? • What kind of study opportunities are offered in your area? 15

Selecting each other After the phone conversation it usually takes a couple of days for the host family to decide if they feel you are the right au pair for them. They may ask to either email or call you a few more times before making a final decision. After making their decision they will contact the Matching Team with their response. It is also important that you feel that this is the right family for you so if you have any questions or concerns about the family, please call the office immediately. We do advise you to consider your priorities at this time. Remember, making sure you feel comfortable living with this family is the most important thing. Our former au pairs always say that good chemistry with the host family is much more important than things like the state you live in so make sure you are being open and keeping the right priorities. The main question you should ask yourself is: “Will I feel comfortable living with this family?� Each family and au pair is unique in what they bring to the program, so it might take a few calls or emails to get the best match. If you are turned down by a host family or if you turn down a host family, it does not mean that you are a bad candidate, and cannot be placed as an au pair in the USA. You might just be the perfect match for the next host family that calls you.

Staying in touch with Cultural Care Throughout the matching process it is very important that you are in regular contact with the Cultural Care office in your home country. It is extremely important that you update us with any changes to your phone number or email. If you have plans to go on holiday or otherwise be out of reach, please let us know. Most times, if a family tries to call and cannot reach you, they will ask to be matched with a different candidate. Also, if at any time during the matching process, you change your departure date or change your mind about being an au pair, you must contact Cultural Care immediately so we can notify the Cultural Care office in the USA.


Final match After receiving word from the host family that they would like you to be their au pair, you will receive another email notifying you of this. We call this being “final�. At this time, if you have any remaining concerns or questions, you should notify us immediately through the staff in your home office. Once you and your family have selected each other, we can confirm your travel date. Cultural Care in your home country will then begin helping you with visa preparations and start sending you important information to help you prepare for your year. At this time, it is important to review all materials we send you as this will ensure that you travel successfully.

Keep in touch

We strongly recommend that you stay in contact with your host family before you arrive in the USA. Send them a postcard, write them an e-mail or give them a call to let them know how you are doing, how your preparations are coming along and that you are looking forward to meeting them. Getting to know them better in this way will make the adjustment to your new home easier.


Preparing to depart Now that you have chosen your host family, there is still a lot to do to get ready for your year. Between now and when you fly to the USA, you will need to start preparing to be the new “responsible adult� in your new home. One important step is to carefully read our Preparation Handbook which you will receive before departure. It contains helpful information about some of the adjustment issues you can expect. We also have other details that will help you get prepared for your year.

What to expect The Preparation Handbook and email updates you will receive are designed to assist you with the mental and emotional preparation you will go through as you get ready for the experience of being an au pair. However, because this transition is such an important one, we will also outline a few important tips here:


1. Making the transition to “responsible adult” Up until now, you may have been in school and may still live at home with your parents. Even if you are living on your own, you have only been responsible for yourself. However, once you get on the plane to the USA, you are making an important transition. Your host family and the host children will look to you to be a responsible adult in the home. This means you will be expected to make independent decisions, ensure the children’s safety, and take care of yourself as well as the children. It is important that you understand the responsibility you are taking on. 2. Be ready for cultural adjustment It is natural to feel out of place when you arrive in the USA. Many of you will be adjusting to a different language and all of you will be adjusting to a different culture. This will sometimes be fun, sometimes funny, but sometimes challenging as well. Don’t be concerned if you don’t feel comfortable right away! This is completely normal. Give your new surroundings and your host family some time. After 4-6 weeks, most of our au pairs are feeling right at home. If you feel overwhelmed or extremely unhappy, please let your host family or LCC know that you need some help. 3. Discuss this important transition with your parents It is important that your parents encourage you to work through the difficult times that will surely come. Discuss the probability of homesickness, difficulties adjusting and the sadness that might come from missing events at home. Your parents will worry about you but make sure they understand what you are hoping to gain from this experience. Sometimes a worried parent will encourage an au pair to come home if he/she is feeling sad or homesick. Unfortunately this is a decision that cannot be reversed so discuss this in advance and let your parents know that you are committed to working through the hard times. 4. Cultural Care in the USA Since the application process is long and complicated, Cultural Care staff in your home country have probably been in contact with you quite a bit. However, once you head to the USA you will find that your main support will be your host family and your Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC). Your LCC is the face of Cultural Care while you are on the program and will be the main support person for your year. For more information on how our support structure works in the USA, go to the section called The Cultural Care Au Pair Team on page 41. 5. Part of an au pair group Your LCC will introduce you to the other au pairs in your area and give you contact information for them. This is a fantastic resource for you. These au pairs will be at all different points in their program. They might have just arrived, like you, and know exactly how you are feeling. Or, they might be getting close to the end of their year. These experienced au pairs can really help you if you feel homesick or are having a hard day. Don’t hesitate to call or email other au pairs in your region in the USA. They have been through the same things as you and can also give you valuable advice on how they handled different steps along the way. 19

It is easy to be excited and look forward to the great experiences you will have in the USA. However, it is just as important to be realistic and know that there may be some hard times as well. In fact, most worthwhile experiences in life are not always easy. If you have realistic expectations, your chances at being successful are much higher. So, take some time to think before you travel. Consider how you process change and how you plan to overcome the challenges ahead.


Don’t forget your Online Account: After you finish the matching process, there is still more to see in your Online Account. Here you can find information on your host family, your LCC (Local Childcare Coordinator), and many more important details. Here is an outline of some things you will find here: • Flight information. • Program information including program regulations. • Details on the Au Pair Training School in New York. • Information on your Educational Component. • Important guidelines on travel while in the USA. • Insurance forms. • Information on US taxes. • And more! Please take some time to thoroughly read through everything in your Online Account. It is all there to help ensure you have a smooth transition and a successful year.

About your au pair visa Once you have a confirmed host family, you will receive a form called a DS-2019 form. This form proves that you are participating in the Cultural Care Au Pair program and are authorized to apply for the appropriate visa. The DS-2019 is a white letter-sized document and you will bring this form to the American embassy to apply for your visa. Please follow the specific instructions on how to obtain your visa. It is important that you start the process as soon as you receive the DS-2019 in order to avoid delays. Make sure you have at least one American standard sized passport picture of yourself to attach to the form. You are allowed to stay in the USA for 30 days after the full completion of your year as an au pair. Please note that your DS-2019 will indicate a 12 month period - the additional month grace period will not show on your visa or DS-2019 form but is automatically included. This form is extremely important and you must keep it for the duration of your year. When you receive this form you will also receive information from your home country office on how to get a visa appointment and what you will need to bring with you to the visa appointment. You will be applying for a J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa under the status of au pair. All au pairs must visit the American embassy for an interview in order to get a visa. 20

The American embassy will determine whether your visa application is approved. More in depth information about your visa and going to your visa appointment can be found in your Online Account.


Passport Your passport should be valid for the whole period you will be in the USA plus at least six extra months. If there is any chance that you will extend your year, please make sure your passport is valid for at least 2.5 years to avoid having to renew it while in the USA.

Your visa appointment IMPORTANT: Before going to your visa appointment, check the information sent to you by your home office to ensure you have all the required documentation.


During your appointment you will have an interview with a visa officer representing the American Embassy or Consulate. The interview will be at least partly in English. The purpose for the interview is to assess your suitability to participate in the au pair program and to assess your motivations to travel to the USA. It is imperative that you are honest with the visa officers. Also, even though it can be a stressful experience, try to remain as calm as possible to ensure that you fully understand and fully respond to the visa officers questions. Depending on the procedures at the office you visit, you will either receive your passport with visa at the time of your visit or you will receive it by mail. The actual visa will be issued by the American embassy and is a stamp/label in your passport. You should receive a multiple entry visa which allows you to leave and re-enter the USA during your first year. Please make sure your visa has the letter “M”. If you have the letter “S”, the embassy gave you a single-entry visa and you cannot leave the USA during your year and re-enter. When your visa has expired, you can no longer leave the USA and re-enter without renewing your visa. You can only renew your visa at the American embassy in your home country. IMPORTANT: Your home country office will give you procedures on notification of the results of the interview. Please ensure that you contact them immediately if they request you to do so. Your flight is dependant upon your successfully obtaining your visa.

Final paperwork Your Cultural Care home office will inform you of all the required paperwork to participate in our program. In addition to your application and references we require other documentation such as a copy of your driver’s license, Criminal Background Check, diploma, etc. Please ensure that you submit this paperwork in a timely manner according to the information you receive. Please note that you will not be able to depart if all required paperwork is not complete and approved. There are no exceptions. 21


International driver’s permit You must bring an International Driver’s Permit as well as your home country license to the USA. In most states this serves as a translation of your license and many car insurance companies will not insure you without one. You must bring this with you in order to drive legally in the USA and/or to be included on your host familys car insurance. Once accepted to the program, you should contact the appropriate organization in your home country to arrange for an International Driver’s Permit, since permits must be obtained while in your home country. In some states, you will also be required to get a state driver’s license, but regardless of this, Cultural Care requires all au pairs who will be driving in the USA to get the International Driver’s Permit.

Insurance All au pairs receive basic medical and accident insurance as part of the Cultural Care program. However, medical treatment in the USA is very expensive. For example, a standard surgery costs $20,000 US. Therefore, it is highly recommended that all au pairs purchase the extended insurance policy. ERIKA Insurance has put together a custom-designed, comprehensive travel insurance for au pairs, to complement the basic insurance coverage and to ensure that you have adequate coverage during your 12-month stay. If you decide to stay in the USA for the additional month to travel, you must either purchase additional insurance from ERIKA before your last working day or provide proof that you have appropriate insurance from another provider. You can purchase Erika’s additional month insurance from your Cultural Care home office or, if you are now in the USA by calling the Operations department at 1-800448-5753. Remember that you must have additional insurance in order for Cultural Care to book a return flight for you after your last working day. If you have purchased the extended insurance and have an accident or get sick, you will have extended coverage for all necessary and reasonable costs, including medicine and prescriptions. Transportation to your home country, in an emergency, is also included. In addition, the extended insurance covers the cost of a trip for two family members to visit you, should you become seriously ill or injured and must remain hospitalized. There is a limit of $200 US maximum coverage per policy year for any acute and necessary (nonaccidental) dental treatment under the extended insurance policy. Should you need to return home due to a serious illness or accident, or if a parent or sibling becomes seriously ill injured and is hospitalized, your flight ticket home will be covered. The extended insurance also covers stolen property up to $5,000 US, and in case your baggage is delayed from your home country, you may be reimbursed up to $200 US for necessary out of pocket expenses.


Sports supplement Au pairs who wish to participate in risky activities need to purchase a sport supplement covering such activities which normally are not covered, such as riding off-road vehicles, white water rafting or jet-skiing. The sports supplement is sold through the Cultural Care Au Pair offices before departure or within 4 weeks after arrival in the USA.

The Aetna Network Erika Travel insurance has been given access to the Aetna Network which is the largest provider network in the USA. If you visit a doctor in the Aetna network and have the extended insurance, you will pay a deductible of $35 US; with the basic insurance, this deductible is $75 US. To find an Aetna-affiliated doctor or hospital in your area, you can search the Aetna web site at Should you choose to visit a doctor or hospital outside of the Aetna Network, you will be responsible for a $125 US deductible with the basic insurance and $95 US deductible with the extended insurance. Whenever you visit a doctor in the Aetna network you should not have to pay any costs up front, so be sure to mention that Erika is partnered with Aetna if the doctor does not seem to be aware of this partnership. The deductible should either be paid upfront or you will be invoiced for this part later.

ID card and claim forms Before departure from your home country, you will receive an insurance identification (ID) card, and you can find insurance claim forms in your Online Account. Every time you use Erika insurance you must complete a claim form and send it to the insurance company in order for you to be reimbursed. For more information on the Insurance while you are in the USA, go to page 66 to the section called Erika Insurance.

Your flight to the USA Upon finalizing your host family, you will have received your confirmed departure date. Closer to this date you will receive preliminary departure details. Most of our au pairs fly on Mondays, though some au pairs need to fly earlier due to the great distances they are traveling. You will be flying into New York since you will attend the Au Pair Training School before traveling to your host family. The classes at the school usually start on Tuesday morning. We will confirm your flight once we have confirmed receipt of 1) all required documents 2) full payment of all program fees and 3) that you have successfully received your visa. Your flight details will be visible in your Online Account. If you have not received your flight information in your Online Account a few days before your departure, or if there are any problems with your ticket, please call the Cultural Care Au Pair office in your home country.



Most of our flights are submitted by electronic ticket (e-ticket). In this case you will simply bring an e-ticket confirmation to the airport. In some cases, you may receive actual flight tickets. Whatever you receive, do not forget to bring this to the airport with you the day you depart. You should call the airline the day before your flight to confirm your reservation and to make sure the departure time has not changed. If you follow a special diet, are vegetarian or have food allergies you need to call the airline as soon as you get your ticket so they can prepare the appropriate meal for you. Your itinerary will have the flight departure and arrival times on it. All the times are listed in local time. “A” means a.m. (morning), “P” means p.m. (evening) and “12:00 N” means twelve o’clock noon.

Your luggage Luggage restrictions are specific to each airline and Cultural Care cannot change or influence airline policy on luggage restrictions. You should contact the airline, or check their website, as soon as you receive your flight details to check their regulations regarding luggage and luggage restrictions. Restrictions have been changing recently, so make sure you know the current policy. One important thing is to check the airlines both for your flight to the USA and then your flight (if applicable) from the Au Pair Training School to your host family. Since one flight is an international flight and the other is a domestic flight they will likely have different restrictions. The airlines are very strict and your options are to either bring only the allowed baggage or to budget to pay for the additional bags or weight you bring with you. This is a cost you should consider when preparing for your program. If you need more than you are allowed to carry with you on the plane to the USA, look into shipping some clothing to your host family home directly.


Remember to keep your valuables, passport and visa in your carry-on. In case your luggage is delayed, you should also pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on luggage.

What to pack It is a little overwhelming to think about what to pack for a whole year away from home. But with smart planning it’s a challenge you can overcome. First, check on current luggage restrictions on the airlines, and in particular how many bags you can bring with you and their maximum weight. We encourage you to check with them before last minute packing. Next, consider what you absolutely need to take with you. Many experienced au pairs say to take into account the shopping that you will surely do in the US. You might want to restrict your clothing to what you will absolutely need in the first few weeks. Check sites like to see what the weather is like in both New York (for the training school) and in your host community before you go. 24

If you are going to live in a colder climate, you may want to consider shipping bulky items such as coats, sweaters, etc. to your host family’s home so you do not need to carry them with you. Styles of clothing can be quite different in the USA to what you are used to. One thing that we recommend is that you do not bring any clothing that is quite revealing since, in general, this is not how Americans dress and you might attract unwanted attention. Also, your host children will see you as a role model and your host parents might not be comfortable with very provocative clothing. Types of clothing that you should leave at home: T-shirts with curse words or other types of offensive messaging, shirts that are very low cut and revealing (girls), and pants that are extremely low cut. A good idea is to consider what your grandparents would say about your items of clothing. If they would find it inappropriate, leave it at home. It is always nice and much appreciated if you bring a small gift from your home country to the host family or at least to the children. This is a great way to start the year. Candy, a game that you can teach the children, something small to wear, or small typical items from your culture are a few ideas. When you arrive at the Au Pair Training School, staff will put your large luggage into storage so you should keep a smaller backpack or other bag so you can seperate out a few changes of clothes for your days at the school. You will only need clothes and personal items, you will not need to bring towels or sheets. There is more about this if you go to your Online Account at Go to the Infosource section and then check the section about the Au Pair Training School. Here is a handy checklist that can help with your packing: Your passport.


Your DS2019 form.

Some toiletries (keep it small, you can buy more later).

An ATM card or other access to money (do not carry large amounts of cash).

A small bag for your few days at the Au Pair Training School in New York.

Enough clothing for the first few weeks (plan to ship or buy more later).

Gifts for your host children.


A few photos of friends and family at home.


A list of friends and family’s email and phone contact information.

Copy of your clean driving record if you can obtain it (translated to English).

Your Erika Insurance Card and information.

E  mergency phone numbers for your Cultural Care home office, Boston office and Au Pair Training School (see page 5).

Any necessary medication, including your prescription for customs. Your International Driver’s Permit.

This handbook, your preparation handbook, and the other materials Cultural Care has sent you to prepare.


Pre-departure overview: 4-6 weeks prior to departure Receive final host family information (via your Online Account). Read through the information in your Online Account. Read through this handbook and your Preparation Handbook. Make sure you have Extended Insurance, if not contact your Cultural Care home office to purchase it. Receive and read preparation emails. Talk to your parents about your goals and how they can best support you through tough times. Maintain phone or email contact with your host family to help get to know one another. Compile any remaining documentation to your home country office (if applicable). Make any final outstanding payments to Cultural Care.

2 weeks prior to departure All required documents are submitted to Cultural Care. Check your Online Account for flight information. Decide on how you will access money until you open a bank account in your host community. Get a few small gifts for the host children. Check with the airline on luggage restrictions by visiting their website. Make a list of what to pack and what to ship.

3 days prior to departure Make any requests on special seats or meals directly with the airline. Finish packing and weighing your suitcases to be sure you are not over luggage limits. Ship any other clothing or items to your host family home (and let them know it’s coming). Read the instructions in the next section before you fly on what to do in case of a missed or cancelled flight. Make two copies of your passport, DS-2019 form and visa and leave one with someone at home for safe keeping, and the other to carry with you separate from the original documents.

Day of your flight Make sure you have your passport, DS-2019 form, and your flight confirmation/tickets. Make sure these items are in your carry on luggage and not the luggage you plan to check on the flight. Be sure to be at the airport at least 2.5 hours before the departure time. Check in immediately to get your seat selection. You will get a boarding pass, which shows your seat number and the gate from which your plane leaves. Look out for other au pairs who may be on same flight. You can recognize them by the Cultural Care luggage tags!


Check the TV monitors for departure times and make sure you go to the gate in time– airlines do not always make boarding calls, and you don’t want to miss your flight! Have Cultural Care contact details handy and be sure to call if you experience any flight delays or changes. On the plane make sure you get the white (not green) I-94 card and fill it in completely. Make sure you complete the correct I-94 card for someone entering the USA with a visa.

What if I miss a flight? If you miss your flight, either to New York or to your host family, you should immediately contact the airline personnel to see if you can get on a different flight, either that day or the next day. The airline should be able to put you on a different flight, but you might have to be persistent in making this happen. Never hesitate to ask the airline personnel for assistance. Having local currency and a credit card for unexpected travel problems like this is a good idea. Don’t forget to call Cultural Care with your new flight information. You can either call your home country office (if you are still in your home country) or the Boston office if you are in the USA at 1-800-333-6056. Also, keep this number for the Au Pair Training School Staff by you: +1-631-433-0137. You can reach the school staff at this number at any time as well.

What if my flight is canceled? Contact the airline personnel so they can put you on another flight. They are required to rebook you. Call Cultural Care Au Pair as soon as you have the new flight information.

What if my flight is delayed? If there is a long delay, and you are on your way to your host family, it is important to call them. If you are on your way to the school, contact Cultural Care to inform them of your new flight information. If there is a group of au pairs, stay together. If it will be a long delay, ask the airline if they can give you a “food voucher.”

If the new flight is not until the next day ... If your flight is delayed or canceled until the next day, you should ask the airline to put you up in a hotel and give you a food voucher. In many cases they will do that, but if not, then Cultural Care has a food and lodging stipend (there is a limit, so please contact Cultural Care first). In this case you must keep your receipts for hotel and food to submit to the Boston office for reimbursement. Remember, most airports have free local hotel shuttles and buses. Try to share a room with another au pair to reduce expenses.

If there is a change in your flight arrival information... As soon as you have your new flight information, you must inform the appropriate people: • If you are on your way to New York, call your local office so they can inform the Au Pair School about your flight change. 27

• If you are on your way to your host family call them immediately. If you cannot reach them, call your LCC or the USA office at 1-800-333-6056. Call as soon as you have the new information to give specific details on the new flight. Give them all of the new flight details, including the airline, flight number, arrival airport (some cities have more than one) and arrival time.

I-94 card While you are on the airplane, staff will give you an immigration card to complete. Make sure you get the white card and not the green one. The white card is for people who enter the USA on a visa.

Arrival in the USA When you first arrive in the USA you will go through immigration where your passport and DS-2019 form will be stamped with the date of entry into the USA. Make sure the immigration officer returns your DS-2019 form to you. The immigration officer will also staple or give you the white I-94 card that you filled out on the plane. It is important that you complete the white card, not the green one. This is your I-94 card. You need to keep this card because you must show it when you depart the USA. It is very important not to lose this card as it is costly to replace. If you don’t have the I-94 card when you leave the USA, the American government will have no record of you leaving and you can have problems being allowed back in when you enter at a later point. Be prepared it might take quite a long time to go through immigration!

Lost, delayed or damaged luggage If your luggage is lost, delayed or damaged, you must report this immediately to the staff in the airport baggage claim area. It is important that you file a complaint before going through customs. You will have to fill out a report. Give both the address of the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School in New York (see below) and your host family address. while it is rare for luggage to be delayed or lost for a few hours, it is important to have a few extra items in your carry-on in case your luggage does not arrive on time. Usually it arrives the following day at the Au Pair school. Cultural Care Au Pair Training School St. John’s University 500 Montauk Highway Oakdale, NY 11769


If you have an extended delay or loss of your bags, this might be covered under your Erika Extended Insurance. Another great reason to make sure you have this important coverage!


First stop: New York! When you arrive in the USA and after clearing customs, you will be picked up by a Cultural Care staff member and taken to our Au Pair Training School on Long Island, NY. You will spend your first days in the USA with other au pairs at our own Au Pair Training School. Here you will learn more about child development, get an introduction to the USA, and get to know other au pairs who will remain your friends throughout your year.

The Cultural Care training school All Cultural Care au pairs initially fly into New York to participate in a mandatory training program at our own school facilities. Most of the year our au pairs are trained at the Cultural Care School at St John’s University, Oakdale. In our peak months of July and August we sometimes also use a secondary location for our largest groups. All campuses are run by Cultural Care staff and classes given by our own Cultural Care teachers. Campuses are located on Long Island outside of New York City. 29

The Cultural Care School will provide great preparation for your year. We give you practical information on how to work with the children and communicate with your host family. The course includes lessons, group work, role play and hands-on activities. You will also be able to practice your English all week with the teachers and other au pairs. During the week, you will make new friends from many different countries. Together you will learn about infant and child development, health and safety and how to be a good role model for the children in your host family. You will receive your own workbook containing information on health, safety, nutrition, positive guidance, communication and developmental activities. All au pairs leave the Au Pair Training School with well-rounded, practical knowledge of a child’s needs at each stage of development. The week will be very exciting—and intense! You will receive a certificate at the end of the week which shows you successfully completed your week at the school. You can learn more about The Cultural Care School by visiting our special school web site at You’ll find pictures, information about the curriculum, profiles of our staff and teachers along with much more!

Discover New York City On Thursday afternoon there is an optional trip to New York City. You can sign up for the trip with the Cultural Care staff earlier in the week (for a small fee). It includes a guided tour of New York City with experienced tour guides and some free time for shopping and enjoying the buzz of this exciting and vibrant city. If possible you should bring some pocket money to school in order to buy souvenirs, pay for the New York tour etc. The sight seeing tour will also give you some free time to visit famous landmarks, shop, eat and hang out with your new au pair friends in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Training school schedule Most au pairs arrive at the school on Monday, although due to long flying distances some nationalities arrive earlier. Classes take place Tuesday through Thursday. On Friday, you will depart to your host family. By going onto your Online Account and checking out the information posted about the school you will be able to see more details on the schedule and classes you will take at the Cultural Care School training week. Please keep in mind, depending on the week this schedule may change. It is very important to use the schedule you receive at the school as your reference. Being on time is very important! At the school, you will receive your own workbook which you will use in your classes. You will be able to keep this workbook with your notes from class to refer back to during your year. Don’t forget to bring the Pre-departure Workbook with you to the school as you will refer to that as well.


Facilities Our school facilities are located in typical, though small, American college campuses. The dormitories and dining facilities are similar to what American college students experience. Some aspects of the facilities might be different than you are used to. For instance, you will share the bathrooms with the rest of the au pairs on your floor. The toilet stalls have doors that do not reach the floor (this is common in the USA). The facilities are in large buildings and it is common that some rooms will feel quite warm but others cool so be prepared in your small school bag with some layers of clothing. Remember that this is your first chance to experience the differences in America. Here is where you need to start practicing your flexibility.

Photos and information on the school Want to see photos of the Au Pair Training School before you arrive? You can find some in your Online Account in the Infosource section.

Traveling to your host family If your host family lives outside of New York City, or in another state, you will either get there by bus or a domestic flight. If you are flying domestically, you should have contacted the airline prior to arriving in the USA to check on luggage restrictions. See page 22 for more information. Your host family will greet you at the local airport or bus station. If they live in the greater New York area, they will most likely pick you up at the school. Your travel costs to your host family are at no additional cost to you and are covered by your host family’s program fees. Don’t forget to account for all of your luggage when leaving the school and when leaving the bus or airport when arriving at your host family. With so many au pairs traveling, everyone must ensure that they are each responsible for their own luggage. Unfortunately, Cultural Care will not accept responsibility for luggage that au pairs leave behind at the Au Pair School or at a bus or airport.



Your host family Our host families live all over the USA and have different lifestyles but they all share two things—the need for responsible childcare and an interest in other countries and cultures. They are looking forward to welcoming you into their home and having you become a part of the family.

Arriving to your new home Meeting your host family for the first time is an exciting experience—it can be mixed with anxiety and nervousness, but will also be memorable. Even if you are a native English speaker, it will take you a little while to adjust to your new family and community. If English is not your native language, a common occurrence once you arrive is that you might be hesitant to speak with your host family. You might feel afraid to make mistakes. Challenge yourself and start the conversation, even if you risk some embarrassment. You shouldn’t worry too much, your host family will likely strike up a conversation with you 32

very quickly. You can always start telling them about your trip to the USA and your week at the school. Remember, your host family is nervous too! They want to be sure you are feeling comfortable in your new environment so keep communication open.

Expectations Your year with Cultural Care Au Pair is a wonderful cultural exchange and learning experience. One learning opportunity - and perhaps the most important - will be living with your host family. All Cultural Care host families agree to welcome their au pair into their home as a member of the family. Please keep in mind, however, that your host family in the USA will differ greatly from both your own family and other families in the USA. Each family has its own culture, set of rules, interests, and ways of communicating. Though comparison is a natural process, we strongly recommend that you go with an open mind! The beginning of this handbook covers in more detail some of the general expectations of host families.

Trusted childcare provider As a participant in the Cultural Care program, you are expected to carry out your childcare duties to the best of your ability. This requires that you use your common sense and act as a caring and responsible childcare provider at all times. You must never do anything that may intentionally, or unintentionally, endanger the children while they are in your care. You are expected to make their welfare and safety your top priority. Keep in mind that you are caring for your host family’s most valuable asset: their children.

Childcare responsibilities Your primary responsibility while an au pair in the USA, is to care for your host children. Providing childcare up to 45 hours per week is a serious responsibility and commitment. While there is time for off-duty socializing, and enrolling in educational courses, you must remember that the main focus of your year will be childcare. A host family will expect that while you are with the children you keep some things in mind: • Your attention must be on the children. While you should discuss this with your host family, for most families this means that they will expect you not to surf the Internet or have prolonged discussions on the phone while you are responsible for the children. You should be with them at all times. • Never leave a child unattended. One thing we find is that ideas on what is “OK” in terms of leaving a child unattended is different in the USA than in some other countries. For instance, an American parent will always keep a child in a stroller right by them. One does not leave the stroller in one aisle of a grocery store and go to another, for instance. Babies can never be left on a changing table even for a minute. Many parents in the USA will no longer allow their children to bike or walk to a friend’s house alone. American parents would never leave their child in the car when they run into the house for something. It is extremely important that you and your host family have an open and detailed discussion on what is ok and what is not ok for their kids regarding time alone to avoid misunderstandings. 33

• Be creative and interactive. Our host families are looking for childcare that is creative and interactive with the children. If you have babysat in the past, maybe you would watch a movie with the children until they went to bed but primarily your duties were to make sure they did not hurt themselves while the parents were away. Being an au pair is different. Since you are with them all day, host parents will expect that you play with the children and interact with them during the day. Taking them to a park, engaging in learning play games, doing sporting or arts activities are all good options. A host family will expect that you will not simply sit the children in front of the TV while they are in your care, so talk to your host family about ideas for age appropriate games and activities. • If you care for the children early in the morning, you are expected to be alert and wellrested. So, sometimes your host family will ask you to be home by a certain time the night before. This will help ensure the children’s safety. When you arrive to your host family’s home, most likely you will spend the first few days going over many rules and regulations of the home. Although this can seem overwhelming and “no fun” at first, it is the best way to be sure you and your host family do not have any misunderstandings about the care of the children. If any aspect of this is not clear or you do not understand, it is very important that you ask and get a detailed answer. This is the best way to start off smoothly with your host family.

Language difficulty There is a lot to talk about in the first few days with your host family! If you are not a native English speaker and you have trouble understanding your host family, politely ask them to speak slower. It is more important to the host parents to know that you fully understand them so do not worry about offending them. You might have some difficulty understanding the children, and the children might not understand you at first either. This is very common and every au pair experiences some language difficulty initially. In a couple of weeks, it will feel much easier. Try to be patient, and more importantly remember to laugh and maintain a good sense of humor!

Weekly schedule Your work week will be based primarily upon the needs and plans of your host family. Each week you will have a schedule that your family and you will go over. In some host families the schedule is the same each week while in others it is different from one week to the next. The best advice is simply to be flexible. This means that some au pairs will have daytime off while the children are in school, and others will have the evenings off when the parents are home from work. You will most likely also be asked to work during some weekends. We recommend that you get a calendar so that you and your host family can write when you are required to care for the children. Begin using this calendar right away to keep track of your schedule, your host family’s plans, your days and weekends off, your vacation plans, etc. Your family will also receive a Daily Communication Log which is a good tool to communicate information to the host family. 34

Hours Under the U.S. Department of State guidelines, you are legally allowed to provide a maximum of 45 hours of childcare per week, with a limit of 10 hours per day. Please keep in mind that your host family can ask you to work at any time as long as it stays within the hour regulations. Under no circumstances may you work more than the regulated number of hours. In case your host family asks for additional hours of childcare, please inform your LCC or Cultural Care at 1-800-333-6056 immediately. You are entitled to one and a half consecutive days off per week. You are also required to receive one full weekend off per month, which is Friday evening to Monday morning. In addition you will have two weeks of paid vacation. Keep in mind that the vacation must fit in with the host family’s plans as well. Discussing vacation early is a good idea. For more detail on the regulations of the program, see the chapter at the end on Program Regulations in Detail.

Household duties In addition to childcare, you will most likely do some housekeeping related to the children. This is part of the au pair’s responsibility and also on of the benefits that host families really appreciate about the program. Some things that you might be responsible for include doing the children’s laundry – your host family might need this done twice per week so you might have three to four hours of laundry work in a week. You also might be asked to do grocery shopping, cleaning up the children’s bedrooms and/or playroom and even keeping track of what supplies like shampoo or coloring paper that the children are using up.

Being a member of the family While regular housekeeping duties such as vacuuming the living room, or doing laundry for the host parents, are not part of the au pair’s duties, your host family will expect you to be considerate and clean up after yourself. You are living with them as an equal member of the family and should, therefore, have the responsibility and consideration that goes along with that. For example, if you use the last paper towel on the roll, you should replace it from the cupboard with a new roll. Since you eat meals and use the kitchen, you should occasionally empty the dishwasher. Think of it as the normal “give and take” that you probably have with your own family when you’re in their home.

Role model You have an interesting role in the home as an au pair. You are not quite a parent but have more responsibility than a big brother or sister might. The best way to think about your role in the home is that the children should consider you a role model. This is why we ask that you take care of things you say and do around children and why host parents will not want you to smoke or swear around them. Usually the children love their au pair and everything they do is considered “cool”. Take this responsibility seriously and keep in mind how they view you. 35


Household rules Host families will likely have some rules to follow. Some common ones include: • No overnight guests without their permission (most host families will not allow a boyfriend/girlfriend to spend the night under any circumstances). • No use of the car for non-duty uses or, if use is allowed, restrictions will be set (distance traveled, etc). • If you have to get up with the children early, most host parents will ask you to be home by a certain time the night before. This is to ensure that you are rested enough that you can care for the children responsibly. Rules such as these are normal and to be expected. Soon after you arrive, you should ask your host family to discuss the household rules with you to avoid any misunderstandings. A good idea might also be to have the rules written down so that you can refer to them when needed. It is important that you follow your host family’s instructions carefully from the beginning. Building trust between you is important so show them they can trust you. Discipline Each parent defines the level of discipline that they want their children to have. When you arrive, go over how they would like you to handle misbehavior in the children and follow their guidelines. For instance, a host parent will not feel comfortable if you are stricter with their child than they are. Although you may not agree with the level of discipline that the parents have with the children, you should follow along with their wishes. Of course, under no circumstances should you ever hit or physically discipline the children. Driving In many cases, part of your duties will be to drive your host children to and from school and activities. Driving in the USA is a new experience for most of our au pairs! Cars and highways will likely be much bigger than you are used to. You should think about making time to practice and be comfortable before starting to drive the kids. You should discuss this with your host parents. Many host families do not give au pairs access to the car during off-duty hours. With gas costs and insurance costs rising, many families are not comfortable with this. However, if your host family does allow you to use the car outside of working hours, please keep in mind that this is a privilege, not a right. Your host family will likely outline a few guidelines such as how far you can take the car and how often.


For more detail, see the Driving section on page 48 in this handbook.


Questions to ask your host family Within the first few days, we recommend going through ”Questions to ask your host family” which you will find below. It is an excellent way to get to know more about your family and to avoid potential misunderstandings. Certainly not all of these questions will apply to every family, but these questions should give you an idea of the type of information you might want to know about your host family. Your host family might assume that you already know some of these answers. Remind them that you are in a new family and in a new country. You should not be embarrassed to ask “simple” questions. It’s a good idea to bring a notebook so you can write down instructions. The house • Could you please give me a complete tour of the house and yard? Are there any house keys hidden outside or with a neighbor that I should know about? • Could you please show me how to operate some of the appliances (the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, stove, microwave etc)? • Are there certain rooms which are off limits to me or the children? • Please show me where all the telephones are. Does 911 work from this area? • Please show me all the exits (including emergency exits, if any). • Please show me where you store household chemicals/cleaners, as well as medicines (to make sure the children do not get at them). • Please show me where you store any hazardous (dangerous) objects, tools etc. • Please outline your rules on computer and phone use, both for times I am working and during my off-hours. The neighborhood • Could you please show me around the neighborhood/town? • Do you have a map I can borrow? • Where is the nearest playground? • Are there areas the children like to visit? • Please show me the nearest post office. • Which bank should I use to open an account? • Please show me the nearest hospital. • What is the name of the nearest main street or road? • Where can I find public transportation and where does it go? The children • Please review the childrens’ medical histories with me. Please show me where I can put this information so it is in a prominent place and near a phone.



• Could we discuss any other useful information you think I ought to know about the children? • Please review with me some of your specific child safety rules, both for when we are at home and when out of the house. The meals • At what times do the children normally eat? • Do the children have a favorite food? • Do the children have any food allergies? • Please review how to safely prepare the child’s formula and food • How much should the child eat at each meal? • How can I tell if the formula or food is the right temperature? • How do I safely use the high-chair? • Please review general nutrition guidelines for the children. Play dates • Can the children go to a friend’s house to play and must I get prior permission before arranging this? • Can the children go only to certain friends’ houses? • Can only certain friends come over? • Can I bring the children to play groups with other au pairs? Bath time • Please show me the procedures for bathing the children. • What temperature should the water be? • Which toys can go in the water? • Which towels should I use for the children? • Please show me the full process of how you want me to change the baby. • Please review the safety procedures during changing. • Please show me where everything is stored (extra diapers etc). Playing indoors and outdoors • Are there some toys which require more strict supervision than others? • Are there some toys that are dangerous, and shouldn’t be played with? • Must I get prior permission each time I bring the children outside? • Can the child be left alone in a play pen? • Can I take the children for a walk? • Are there restrictions as to where we can go, when and for how long? • Please review how I properly use the stroller or carriage.


• Which toys can the child have in the stroller or carriage? • Can I take the child for bike rides in a bicycle seat? Please show me how you properly use the seat and helmet. • How long can the children stay outside? • What do the children like to do? • What are their favorite toys and games? Proper clothing • Please show me where you keep all the children’s clothes. • Which outfits are preferable for this time of year? Where can I find clothes in case of unseasonable temperatures or rainy days? • Please show me how you would dress the children when going outside. Putting the children to bed • Do the children nap? If so, when and for how long? • What time do they go to bed? • Please review the procedures for putting the children to bed. • Which toys are the children permitted to bring to bed? • How do you properly raise and lower the sides of the crib? • What do the children wear to bed and where can I find the clothes? • How do I operate the baby monitor? • Do they have a favorite bedtime story? • Any suggestions to help the children fall asleep? Driving • Do I have permission to use the car? • Can I drive using my International Driver’s Permit in this state or do I need a state license? • Can we leave a copy of my DS-2019 in the car? • Are there only certain times when I can use the car? • Can you confirm you have full auto insurance coverage for me? How much is the deductible and how much am I responsible for paying in case of an accident during offhours? Is the insurance information in the car? • Am I permitted to drive with the children and must I get prior permission each time I take them in the car? • Are there restrictions on where, when and for how long I can take the children in the car? • Please show me how to use the car seat properly. • Which toys can the children play with while in the car?


General • What are the household rules? Could you please write them down for me on a separate piece of paper? • What are my responsibilities? Could you please write down a clear list of things I will be responsible for? • Can I use the telephone? Will you give me the phone bill once a month so I know how much I owe you? • Do you have any rules regarding use of the internet that I should be aware of? • Is there an Aetna network doctor that you, or your previous au pairs have used?

Sick days Days when you get sick and can’t work are not considered vacation time and will not be deducted from your weekly stipend. Keep in mind, however, that your host family relies on you for their childcare. Be responsible in taking care of yourself to avoid getting sick. In the event you are seriously ill or injured for a long period of time, your LCC should be notified.

Weekly stipend Each week your host family will give you your weekly stipend (pocket money). This amount must be paid to you each week in full. Discuss with your host family which day of the week you will be paid on and talk about a receipt system with your host family to confirm the payments you receive. You may receive your stipend in cash or a personal check that the family writes to you. If you have questions on how and when this stipend is being paid, discuss this with your LCC. This money is yours to do with as you wish. Go to the movies, meet friends at Starbucks, save it for traveling at the end of your year. Our returned au pairs say that this was also a great way to save money. Since your host family provides you with your room and meals while you are at home, this money can go a long way! Please remember that your weekly stipend is subject to US income taxes which are paid each year in April. We recommend setting aside $10 to $15 per week to cover any taxes you might owe. You can find out more about taxes on page 74.

Family member Once you arrive, you will start to integrate into your host family. Just as your family is different than the one next door, so will your host family be different than the family you grew up with. In general, you should accept your host family in the spirit of cultural exchange, as they should accept you in the same spirit. This means that you should not unfairly pass judgment on your host family’s habits or lifestyle.


Most of our host families look forward to spending time with you as part of the family. It is nice to occasionally spend free time with them eating meals, playing games, etc. It is also fine for you to make plans with friends. It might be helpful to discuss with your family what they have in mind in terms of family time versus independent time. While you may not have exactly the same ideas, you can use open communication to discuss the best mix of time with them and time with your friends.

Privacy Concerns You will probably notice after a while in the USA, that Americans are more cautious about privacy than most other countries. Unfortunately, there have been many cases in the media of children and young people being victimized through the internet and other channels. Therefore, never post photos of your host children/host family, or their home, on any online accounts (blogs, Facebook, etc) without their permission. And never post their address or contact details online. While this may seem a little extreme to you, this is an understandable concern for parents who worry about maintaining the privacy of their family.

Changing host families You might be worried about whether or not you and your host family will get along. It is quite normal for au pairs and host families to come into situations of minor conflict and misunderstanding. Some normal types of conflict include the following: • Different attitudes on what “clean” means regarding the children’s play room. • Different attitudes on how to correct misbehavior. • Typical issues related to living together (leaving tube of toothpaste on the sink, how to fold the clothes, etc). • Cultural differences. Perhaps in your culture it takes longer or less time to be open with new people than with Americans. • Adjustment issues relating to being away from your familiar network. Maybe you wonder why your host family doesn’t eat dinner together like your “real” family does. • Host family corrections on some of your childcare habits. • Misunderstandings about the schedule. You should expect to experience some differences and minor “conflict”. These are not reasons why you would be moved to a new family, simply because you will experience the same things in a new family! So, get ready to practice open and respectful communication! If you have conflict with your host family or otherwise feel uncomfortable in your surroundings. Cultural Care policy is to take the following steps: 1. Ask yourself if you can change the situation with some flexibility and adjustments in your expectations


2. If this does not work after a period of time, speak to your host family. Remember to be sensitive yet clear about your difficulties. This does not mean announcing to your host family that you need to move. 3. If you feel you are not getting results, contact your LCC and ask for his/her advice 4. If necessary, your LCC will schedule a family meeting to see what kinds of resolution can be reached 5. After a period of time, if the issues cannot be resolved although both parties have genuinely tried, a change (called a “transition�) will be considered. A transition will always be the last resort to an issue. A transition will not be considered unless each party has made true efforts to work out an issue, or in the case of a serious emergency level issue. It is important that you try to maintain a good relationship with your host family before and during any transition process because your prospective new host families may want to have a good recommendation, or explanation of the situation, from your current host family. There is more information about the logistics of a transition in the next section.


The Cultural Care Au Pair Team You have been selected to be an au pair becasue we belive you are ready and able to be an independent, responsible care giver. At the same time, our team is ready with help and advice if you need it.

Cultural Care Au Pair Cultural Care Au Pair is the largest au pair agency designated by the U.S. Department of State. This designation allows us to legally place au pairs with American host families. The U.S. Department of State oversees Cultural Care and the other au pair organizations who all follow the regulations set up regarding working hours, pocket money, vacation and many other things. A copy of these regulations is included at the end of this handbook, but we have listed some of the most important regulations in this chapter. These regulations make sure that all organizations run well structured programs thus ensuring a successful year for host families and au pairs alike. Since 1989, Cultural Care has placed more than 43

80,000 au pairs in the USA. We have offices and agents in the USA, Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America. Cultural Care has trained representatives in all of our countries throughout the world who recruit au pair candidates.

Cultural Care in your home country In your home country, you will have worked with a Cultural Care office or one of our Cultural Care agents. Until you travel to the USA, most of your contact will be with the Cultural Care office or with our local agent. The office staff is there to help you with any questions you may have. They are in regular contact with the office in the USA regarding your application, your flight and visa. They will remain in contact with the USA office throughout your year and you are always welcome to call them before, during and after your year.

Cultural Care in the USA In the USA, there is a network of people ready to help you if you need it. In this section, we will go over the various Cultural Care staff members who will assist you once you arrive to the USA.

Local Childcare Coordinators (LCCs) Each Cultural Care au pair and host family has an assigned Local Childcare Coordinator (LCC). The primary role of this local representative is to provide you and your host family with direct personal contact, support and information throughout the year. Some other responsibilities include: recruiting, interviewing and screening potential host families, and holding monthly au pair meetings. Your LCC will be your primary contact in the USA and you should feel free to call him/her with any questions or concerns you may have. Most of our LCCs work with Cultural Care on a part-time basis. They all have a strong interest in cultural exchange and childcare. The LCCs are in regular contact with the Cultural Care office in Boston and are dedicated to making sure that both the au pairs and the host families have a successful year. Since most LCCs have other jobs too they may not be available at all times. When contacting your LCC, always leave a clear message about your issue. Your LCC should return your call within a day or so for nonemergency issues. If you cannot reach your LCC and you require immediate assistance or if you would like to talk with someone other than your LCC, please contact the Boston office at 1-800-333-6056. Your LCC will live within an hour’s driving distance from you. Since we believe that the best support is local support, your LCC will be the face of Cultural Care during the year for both you and your host family. As mentioned earlier in this handbook and in our other materials, you have been chosen to participate in this program because you have demonstrated the willingness and ability to spend a year abroad providing full-time childcare for your host family. You should be ready and able to stand on your own and work through normal day-to-day challenges. However, if any problem becomes too big 44

for you to handle alone, your LCC is there to assist you, as is your host family. LCCs make themselves available to you in a number of ways: Welcome Call Your LCC will call you and your host family within 48 hours of your arrival to your host family’s home. The purpose of this call is for the LCC to introduce him/herself to you and welcome you to the community and to answer any immediate questions you may have. Welcome Orientation Your LCC will meet with you and your host family within 2 weeks of your arrival to the host family’s home. This is to give you a little time to settle in and start to get to know your new host family and community and to start to experience life as an au pair. After you have settled in a bit, your LCC will visit you and your host family and provide a more detailed orientation for you. Here you will discuss advice on settling in and adjusting, discuss some local information on your area, and go over information on the au pair group in your LCC’s area. Your LCC will provide you with a list of the other au pairs in the area and their contact information. You can always reach out to them as well for some peer support. Monthly au pair meetings Your LCC will arrange monthly meetings for you and the other au pairs in the group. Sometimes the meetings are very informal and discussion-oriented; other times a guest speaker is invited or a social event is planned. There may be times when you all go out to a restaurant, or attend a sports event. Be prepared that you may be required to contribute $510 US for a meeting if an activity like this is arranged. This is a great time for socializing, meeting other au pairs and a good opportunity for you to get to know your LCC better and talk about any problems or concerns you may have. You are required to attend all meetings during your year, and the only exceptions to this rule are if you are sick, on vacation or if there is a host family emergency. If you do not fulfill the requirements you may lose your deposit, or otherwise be considered in violation of the terms of your visa. All of the above steps are meant to start to create a relationship between you and your LCC. You will have the phone number and email of your LCC. If at any time you need support or advice or need to talk to someone, you can reach out to your LCC. See the outline on Chain of Communication later in this chapter for more detail.

Boston office support If your year goes smoothly, you might only hear from Cultural Care in the form of your LCC. Actually, this is the way it is supposed to work! However, if you have problems that cannot be locally solved, Cultural Care has a safety net of support people who can help.


Each region of the USA has a designated Program Director who is responsible for that specific geographic area. She/he is responsible for supervising all au pair placements, and overseeing and directing a group of Local Childcare Coordinators (LCCs) in their area. Program Directors are in frequent contact with the LCCs in their region and work on ensuring that the program is running smoothly. After the LCC, the Program Director is your next line of contact if you have a serious issue that needs attention from the Boston office. Program Directors can be reached by the toll-free Boston line 1-800-333-6056 (it is a free call within the USA). You will be able to reach your Program Director five days a week during normal office hours.


If you don’t reach your Program Director immediately (they do most of their work on the phone so they may already be on another call), it is important that you leave a message for them including: • Your full name. • The state you live in. • Your full telephone number, including area code. • The reason for your call. Our goal is to return all non-emergency calls within a 24-hour timeframe. Of course, in any emergency we will return your call right away. The Operations Team is the department in Boston responsible for issues regarding visas, flights, deposits, insurance, and other similar details. This team also provides back up support for the Program Directors so you can try to call your Operations Manager if you do not reach your Program Director. You can reach the Operations department in the USA at 1-800-448-5753 (free call) or by e-mail at Cultural Care’s Matching Team is made up of a group dedicated to matching au pairs and host families. Although you may not speak to them directly during your matching process, they are working to ensure that you get the best host family match. Cultural Care employs two Program Counselors who are on-call to provide extra support to au pairs in unusual circumstances. In cases of severe homesickness or a death in the family for instance, we can provide the service of speaking to a professional counselor specifically trained on the au pair program.

Emergency answering service In case of an emergency (such as a very serious problem with the host family, severe injury or accident, or death in the family) and you are unable to reach your LCC, Cultural Care has an emergency answering service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is the regular Boston toll-free number: 1-800-333-6056. Please note that if there is an accident


or injury, fire or other similar emergency, you should first call 911 to contact the police, ambulance or fire department. If you call after office hours for any non-emergency issue, the service will prompt you to leave a message for when staff returns to the office

Transitions In the Host Family section on pages 30-40 we discussed the process of changing host families (called “transitions”). As we outlined there, a transition is always considered the last resort and we require all au pairs to make sincere efforts in their host family to make things work in all but the most serious of cases. We ask the same of our host families. If you do, for some reason, go into transition, here are a few details on how the process works: • If after going through mediation between an au pair and host family, facilitated by your LCC, it is determined that the match between the two will not work they will look at the possibility of a transition. • The LCC will evaluate both the au pair and the host family to see if they are still suitable for the program. Their behavior and motivations are reviewed. If either the au pair or the host family is no longer considered suitable for the program, they will be removed from the program. For an au pair, this means he or she will need to return early to his/ her home country at their own expense. • If the au pair and host family are deemed suitable to continue on the program, they are both put into the matching process and the Matching Team will try to work on new matches. • The au pair will stay in their original host family home for up to two weeks while in transition. • During those two weeks, if a new host family is found, the au pair will move to their new home. • If no new host family is found for the au pair, she/he may need to return home early to the home country. • If you opt to return home early rather than transition to a new host family, you will be responsible for your return flight home and may forfeit your deposit. During the matching process, au pairs must remain flexible in terms of geographical area and requirements. If an au pair requests very specific criteria, he/she likely will not be able to be matched again and this will result in needing to return home early. Whenever possible, Cultural Care recommends working out disagreements within the existing match. If Cultural Care staff feels that an au pair has not committed to trying to work out differences and maintain flexibility, they may opt not to pursue another host family for that au pair and end the program. Since all of our placements require flexibility on both sides, this is a necessary element in remaining on the program.


Chain of communication As we outlined in this section, there is a large safety net in case you have problems during your year. However, since this is a safety net, it is normal not to speak to anyone from the Boston staff if your year goes well. This graph shows how different experiences might go during an au pair year: Au Pair has a smooth year with normal adjustment issues: Au Pair

Host Family

LCC (Local Cildcare Coordinator)

Au Pair has a difficult experience needing to escalate the issue past the LCC:

Program Director

Program Counselor (if extra support is needed)

Matching Team (if transition is needed)


A word about your parents During this year, you will likely have frequent contact with your parents at home by email or phone. When you go through difficult times it is natural to want to share this with your parents. However, please keep in mind that your parents will be sure to worry about you being far from home. Consider trying to take some time thinking about an issue before discussing with your parents. Many times, a homesick au pair has called her mother while upset and cried in a weak moment. The next morning the au pair feels better but her mom is now extremely worried and perhaps tries to call the Cultural Care office to find out how to help her daughter. Of course you are able to talk to your parents, just remember that they too are having a hard time with you so far from home and try not to worry them too much. Also, since you are our customer, except in cases of medical emergency we are unable to discuss the details of your program year with other parties, including your parents. Therefore, we will not be able to discuss issues you are having with your parents or friends at home. Updates on your program year should come from you directly.


Driving in the USA Driving in the USA can be both fun and challenging. The highways are big with many lanes. The cars are usually bigger than the average car in other countries, and they take a while to get used to. Be sure you are ready for this new experince.

Driving license Before traveling to the USA, all au pairs must have a national driver’s license as well as an International Driver’s Permit. In addition, some states and insurance agencies in the USA require that, in order for you to drive legally, you must obtain a driver’s license from that particular state. Once you have settled in with your host family, ask them to help you contact the Registry of Motor Vehicles (in some states also known as Department of Motor Vehicles) for more information on how to obtain the state driver’s license - the cost is usually around $50 US. Your LCC can also let you know if you need one. You must always carry your valid Driver’s License with you anytime you drive a car. 50

International Driver’s Permit In addition to your home country license, you should have brought an International Driver’s Permit to the USA which is valid for the entire year. This Permit must be obtained in your home country. In many states this serves as a translation of your license and some car insurance companies will not insure you without one. You must bring this with you in order to drive legally in the USA and/or for your host family to include you on their car insurance. As noted above, in some states, you will be required to also get a state driver’s license. This will vary and your host family and LCC can help you process the necessary paperwork. Make sure your home country driving license and the International Driver’s Permit will be valid for the duration of your program year and will not expire during the year.


Driving privilege Not all au pairs will have access to a car. If your host family will have a car available to you for personal use and/or for driving their children, be sure to ask for permission before taking it anywhere. Let the family know where you are going and when you will be back so that they will not worry about you. Please remember to be careful—it is their car, not yours!

Car insurance If the host family plans to let you drive their car at any time, the host family MUST add you to their auto insurance policy. It is the host family’s responsibility to add you to their insurance but you should also make sure they have done this before you use their car the first time. Keep the information handy in the car in case of an accident. Please be aware that the basic and extended medical and accident insurance policies DO NOT include car coverage! Because your host family will put you on their insurance policy to drive, it is extremely helpful if you can get a copy of your driving history translated to English. If you can obtain proof from your home car insurance company or driving authorities that you have a good driving history then this might help your host family get a better driving policy for you.

Financial obligations Your host family will pay for gas, and for the entire deductible resulting from any loss, for the vehicle(s) used by you when you are on duty or when driving to/from your meetings and/or classes which are requirements of the program. In case of an accident while you are off-duty, you will be required to pay the deductible (not to exceed $500 US) and for gas you use. We strongly advise that you confirm (in writing) your financial obligations with your family before using their car(s) the first time. Remember to ask what your obligations are in terms of paying and filling up the car with gas after using it in your free time.



Getting accustomed to driving In the beginning you might find it challenging to drive in the USA, as there are many different traffic rules, and the pace can be quite hectic in major cities. Ask your host family if you can go for a drive together so that you can get accustomed to the car and traffic before starting to drive the children around. American cars and highways will likely be bigger than you are used to, and most American cars have automatic transmission which may be be new to you. Therefore, we recommend that you practice before driving the car with children. If you do not feel comfortable while driving, explain this to your host family and ask them to work with you to find some practice time. It is better to be honest with them than to pay the price of a car accident later.

Rules of the road Even if you do not need to get a state license, you should still obtain a copy of the Driver’s Manual for your state from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The Driver’s Manual will give you all the necessary information on the rules of the road for your state. You will be expected to obey all the local and federal laws regarding driving in your state. Below we have listed a few of the things that may be different from your country. It is the responsibility of each au pair to familiarize themselves with the rules of the areas in which they drive.


It’s important to be aware that many states do not allow mobile phone usage while driving or at least require an earpiece. Make sure you find out the rules of the road in your state. Regardless, Cultural Care recommends that you never use a mobile phone when driving and especially when the children are present in the car. Seat belts and car seats Almost all states have laws requiring the use of seat belts and car seats. Always remember to use the car seat for young children and make sure that older children use their seat belts properly. You will be expected to wear a seat belt when driving. Ask your host family for more advice and for instructions on proper use of the car seat. Drinking and driving Do NOT drive if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In all states your driving privileges will be suspended, and you can also be put in jail. In most states there is even a severe penalty for driving with containers of alcohol in the car if you are under the age of 21. Remember that some medications such as some cough syrups, allergy medications, etc may cause you to become sleepy and driving while using those medications is not advised. It is most important to remember you will be jeopardizing your life and the lives of others if you drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.


Road signs Remember to obey all signs and traffic light signals, under all circumstances. It is important to be familiar with road signs so that you understand their meanings. A ‘STOP” sign means that you are required to stop until the intersection is clear and you can proceed safely.

A “YIELD” sign means that you must stop unless you can enter the intersection safely without interfering with any other traffic.  A red traffic light with a green arrow means that you can continue with caution in the direction of the arrow but not in any other direction, and stop if there are pedestrians or any other hazards in the intersection.

Remember to take extra safety precautions driving in the USA – the roads, traffic rules and vehicle are all new to you. Speed limits The basic speed law is that the speed of a car must be safe for pedestrians, road conditions, and other traffic. This means that even if the posted speed is 35 miles per hour, you are expected to go slower if the road conditions are dangerous (ie. limited visibility, high traffic volume, wet or icy roads). Always look for signs indicating the speed limit. Please refer to your state’s Driver’s Manual for speed limit guidelines on roads without signs.


Studying Are you interested in learning more about America during your year? When you travel as an au pair you must take college or university classes, which is a good way to learn more about America and also to get new friends! Make the most of this and learn about something you have always been interested in.

Educational component The U.S. Department of State which regulates the au pair programs wants to ensure that you have an opportunity to study during your au pair year. Included in the regulations is an educational component by which all au pairs and host families must abide. Attending courses will give you an invaluable experience and you are expected to take full advantage of the opportunities in your new community. Also, it will give you the chance to meet Americans your age! Your host family and your LCC will help you in finding an appropriate school and in selecting and signing up for the courses. Take this opportunity 54

to study something you can use in your future career, and have fun while doing it. This is your chance to experience American college life! Part of the au pair program is to fulfill your educational requirement of 6 credits during the year. Attending a local community college or university is a great way of meeting new people and getting good educational experience. You are free to select which courses you would like to participate in as long as they are within the required regulations. As program regulations change from time to time, check with your LCC or the main office of Cultural Care before confirming which classes you will take to make sure your educational requirement will be adequately fulfilled. You can also find up to date information in your online account. Your host family will contribute up to $500 US towards these courses. If the courses you have chosen cost more than the $500, you must pay for the extra amount. If your courses cost less than $500 then the host family’s responsibility is only for the cost of the course. Keep in mind that the educational component, though important, is secondary to your responsibilities as caregiver. Your classes will need to be scheduled around your time working with the children. When you arrive, you and your host family will discuss educational opportunities in your area and when this will fit into your schedule.

Credit hours During your year, you must get at least 6 academic credits. A credit is basically a unit that measures the number of hours that you are in class, and your school will assign credits to the classes that you take. If you take a non-credit course, Cultural Care has determined that one academic credit hour equals 12-15 actual hours of class time. Therefore you will need to complete between 72-90 hours of class time to complete the equivalent of six credits. Cultural Care will only count classroom hours if you take a non-credit course. If you’re thinking of extending for a second year, you will need to have completed your six credits before applying for the extension program so it’s a good idea to start your classes as soon as it is convenient for you and your host family.

College or university You may fulfill your education component in a post-secondary accredited college or university setting. This may also include community colleges in your local area. Here you can study a variety of subjects part time, for example: Media, Graphic Design, Languages, Photography, American History, TV courses, Drama, and Journalism. Your LCC is a great resource to find out about good cost-effective options in your area.


Educational Component documentation It is your responsibility to submit documentation proving that you have successfully fulfilled the requirements of the Educational Component. As the educational component is a required element mandated by the U.S. State Department, failure to attend classes will jeopardize your participation in the program. If you have any questions or concerns about fulfilling the educational component, contact your LCC.

Continuing Education Program Cultural Care has developed the Continuing Education Program (CEP), a series of seasonal units that provide you with information to prevent unintentional injury to children. Your LCC will be going through these at your monthly meetings. In addition, the units include follow-up to the Training School in New York. Examples of topics discussed at the CEP meetings are bike safety, communication skills, and water safety. Your LCC will dedicate a number of the 12 monthly meetings to the CEP. This is not considered part of your 6 credits, but is a valuable part of your program.


Vacation and traveling During your year as an au pair, you will have two weeks paid vacation plus one month to travel after you have completed your year. Use this time to explore the USA with your new friends. Crossing state borders can be like visiting a whole new country!

Vacation & holidays You are entitled to two calendar weeks of vacation time, which is equal to a total of 14 days of paid vacation during the year which, including weekend days. The two weeks do not have to be taken all at once and should be taken at a time mutually agreed upon by you and your host family. The goal of vacation time is to allow you designated time to be able to go out and experience the USA. In this spirit, it’s not meant to be broken into single days, but would ideally be taken as one week at a time (including a weekend). However, if you and your host family would like to break up some of your vacation time into smaller increments (for example, taking a Friday and Monday off to make a long weekend), you certainly can as long is it mutually agreed upon. 57

Regardless of how long you are planning to take off, we recommend that you wait at least three months after you arrive in the USA before scheduling your first vacation. Be sure to discuss your vacation plans with your host family before you make any travel arrangements. Most au pairs take one week of vacation during the first six months and one week during the second six months. Some families will want you to take your vacation during Christmas, when they travel to visit relatives. Others might invite you along. If you are joining the family on their vacation, make sure it is very clear whether it is your vacation or your working time. Some families might ask you to go away with them and expect you to take care of the children during that time. In this situation, you are required to work up to 45 hours per week, and your family is responsible for paying all your travel arrangements and this would not be considered part of your vacation. If you do work for your host family while on vacation, you are still entitled to a separate vacation in which you do not have to work. However, try to be flexible about planning your vacation - the key is to find a time that is suitable to both you and your host family! If you have any questions about traveling while in the USA, please contact or call 1-800-448-5753.

Traveling outside the USA Before traveling outside the USA, there are some important details to remember so that you can re-enter the USA without problems. The two most important things are that you must get your DS-2019 signed, and you must check if you need a visa for the country you are traveling to. The J-1 visa should be a multiple entry visa, which means that you are permitted to visit other countries during your year (check your visa to see if it has an “M” indicating multiple entry. If it says “S”, contact You must check with the embassy of the country you are planning to visit to see if you need a visa to visit the country. When traveling outside the USA your DS-2019 form must be signed by the Cultural Care office in Boston indicating that you are still with the program and allowed to re-enter the USA, and you must carry your signed DS-2019 form with you during your travels. You should submit this form to the Boston office no later than six weeks before your date of travel and include the specific dates and location of travel. Always enclose a self-addressed, pre-paid express mail envelope which the Boston office will use to return the signed form to you. Always bring your passport and the DS-2019 form with you when traveling outside the USA. If you are planning to travel outside the USA towards the end of your first year, or during your 2nd year if you are extending, please make sure to contact Cultural Care for updated information as special rules apply.


Explore the USA Bask in the warm sun of California’s beaches, enjoy the beautiful sunsets of the Grand Canyon, visit vibrant cities such as Las Vegas and Chicago, or wander the famed halls of learning at inspirational Harvard University in Boston. The possibilities are endless, the destination your choice. But wherever you choose to travel, it is certain to be an adventure full of discovery, interesting people, and memories to treasure forever!

Discount with Trek America There’s a lot to do and see in the States and it can be difficult to know where to begin. Trek America is a touring company that offers inexpensive and interesting alternatives to sightseeing. The Trek America trips are designed with young people in mind - whether it is camping, hiking or touring interesting cities across the nation, there is a tour specially designed for you. All Cultural Care au pairs and their friends receive 10 percent off! With 60 different tours ranging from seven days to nine weeks and prices starting at less than $40 US per day, there is no better or more affordable way to take home the memories that can last a lifetime. The Trek America groups are never more than 13 travelers, all young, from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities. If your parents come to visit the States and you decide to travel with them, ask about the Footloose Tours. Perfect for adults of all ages. Whether you like nightlife in an urban setting or the glorious landscape of the West, Trek America has the tour for you! Check out their website

National holidays There is no set rule regarding national holidays for au pairs. However, in the beginning you should discuss with your host family which holidays you will have off. Some au pairs get American holidays off, particularly if the host family has the day off from work. If you would prefer to have your country’s national holidays off, please discuss this with your host family ahead of time but keep in mind that if the host parents need to work they may need you to as well. Keep in mind that the family is not required to give you holidays off, so try not to ask for too many. An open discussion about holidays in the beginning can prevent larger problems later. When you have reached an agreement, you should write down what holidays you will be expected to work, so there is no confusion in the future.



ays and Days of Observan

Dates of American Holid

January y Da r’s Yea New ebrated on the 16th Martin Luther King Day is cel

February ruary d on the third Monday of Feb President’s Day is celebrate d on February 14 Valentine’s Day is celebrate

March d on March 17 St. Patrick’s Day is celebrate

April r ste Ea on April 1 April Fool’s Day is celebrated May the second Sunday of May Mother’s Day is celebrated on on the last Monday in May d ate ebr cel is y Da ial mor Me

June schools close. Summer vacation begins and the third Sunday of June Father’s Day is celebrated on

July d on July 4 Independence Day is celebrate

September first Monday in September Labor Day is celebrated on the

October October 12 on d ate ebr cel is y Da bus Colum October 31 Halloween is celebrated on r be vem No d on November 11 Veteran’s Day is celebrate ember d on the last Thursday of Nov Thanksgiving Day is celebrate er mb Dece d. and Christmas are celebrate Chanukah (a Jewish holiday) New Year’s Eve


Remaining successful all year We hope that your year is one of learning, growth and positive challenges. As we’ve described in the previous sections, our goal is to prepare you and support you to make this year a success. However, it is important to understand the rules surrounding the program to ensure that you do not unnecessarily risk your program. For more information on this, make sure you thoroughly read your Au Pair Agreement form and the Program Regulations at the end of this handbook.

Keeping the right attitude You will encounter many things in the USA that may seem very strange to you. The best thing is to remain open-minded and flexible. You may not think that certain ideas or customs are “right” but remember that you have chosen to come to the USA to experience what it is really like. So, try to remember “It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different!” We have more suggestions that might help you in the Preparation Handbook. 61

Dive into your year At first, you will feel nervous about a lot of things. If English is not your native language, you will feel nervous to speak in English. You will feel nervous while settling in with your host family. You will feel nervous trying to meet new people or try new experiences. It won’t be easy but the best thing to do is to jump right in! Start conversations with new people and with your host family. Ask other au pairs or Americans your age to meet up for coffee or activities. After the first few times it will get easier and next thing you know, you’ll have a busy life and no time to feel homesick!

Don’t give up There will be times when you are homesick or find this new life difficult. You may even think about going home early where things are familiar. If you return home early, the decision can’t be changed due to visa restrictions. Before you make a choice you might regret, get help. Talk to your au pair friends, you host family or LCC. Difficult times will pass but choosing to leave early is a choice you can’t change. Try to get help and keep going!

Respecting the law There are many fun and great new experiences to have during your year. However, it can all be ruined by making a bad decision. We want you to have the best year of your life so make sure that you are aware of the laws in your area. Ask your host family and/or LCC if you have any questions on what might be illegal in your area. Below are a few of the laws that could have quite serious implications for our au pair participants: • Driving under the influence of alcohol – under no circumstances should you drive if you have had any type of alcohol. Call a cab or call a friend to come get you. If you are caught by the police, they will arrest you. • Using illegal substances (drugs including marijuana) – any use of such substances could result in your immediate arrest. • Shoplifting (stealing from stores) – stores in the USA mostly have a “no tolerance” policy which means that they will ask the police to arrest you and take you to court for stealing even the smallest of goods. Do not risk it. • Posting or taking inappropriate photos – it might seem funny to take a photo of the kids in the bathtub but photo labs are required to call the police if they see any photos of naked children which could be seen as exploitive. • Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 – most likely the laws in your country are more relaxed but this is a serious law in the USA and you could be arrested. While this is not a complete list of the laws you need to consider, it gives you an idea of some of the ones that could most commonly impact our au pairs. Whether or not you are arrested, participating in any illegal activities could result in your immediate dismissal from the program. While we want you to enjoy your year we ask you to be respectful guests in the USA and in your host family and respect the laws.


When your year is ending A year goes by so quickly. Before you know it, you will already be on your way home again. The fun does not have to end here though! If you want, you can stay in the USA for an additional six, nine, or twelve months. It is all up to you. Before you travel home, we have a few tips for you to consider.

Stay longer—extend your stay! You may now choose to stay in the USA as an au pair for up to one additional year! The U.S. Department of State has given Cultural Care Au Pair the authorization to request program extensions. Under this program, you can choose either to continue the au pair program with your current host family or to experience life in a new host family. You can also choose the length of time you wish to stay in the USA as an au pair. We now offer 6-, 9-, and 12- month extension programs. In order to stay in the USA as an au pair you must complete a brief “Extension Program Application”. You will receive necessary information 63

well before the end of your first year, and you can also find information in your Online Account at any time. All applications must be sent to Cultural Care Au Pair no less than 60 days before the end of your 12th month, or 75 days before your first year is up in case you choose to go to a new family. Please remember that you must have completed your educational component in order to submit an application. A big decision As you consider extending your stay in the USA, please speak with your current host family openly about your intentions. Some au pairs may wish to remain with the same host family and continue the year ahead together. Others may want to enjoy a new experience with another family in the same or a new community. In either case, you will need to keep the lines of communication open with your current host family. We recommend a family meeting in which you openly discuss your thoughts on the subject. Your LCC will also be a great resource in this important decision. How does it work? You will have the same benefits as your first program year including paid vacation, your weekly stipend and support during your stay from your LCC. When you decide to stay in the USA on your extended program, 6-, 9-, or 12- months you are committing to the same terms and conditions outlined in the au pair agreement form you signed before your departure from your home country. A non-refundable program extension fee of $246 US payable to Cultural Care Au Pair is required to process your program extension through the U.S. Department of State. Cultural Care also requires you to submit a certificate, letter or transcript from the school(s) you attended as proof that you completed the required 6 credits for the educational component. Please note that you need to have completed the 6 credits and send proof of completion of the credits to Cultural Care before the end of your first year in order to be allowed to extend. Whether you choose to stay with your current host family or join a new family, very little additional paperwork will be necessary. You and your host family will simply sign and return necessary forms and submit the program extension fee. Insurance during your extended stay If you decide to extend your stay as an au pair you have to purchase the extended insurance before your extended stay starts. You will automatically have the basic insurance if you decide not to purchase the extended insurance. If you have already purchased 13th month insurance and decide to extend your stay as an au pair with us, the 13th month insurance can be delayed and used for the extra month after your extension stay is over.


A “13th Month” in the USA Upon successful completion of your au pair program you are entitled to remain in the USA for a “grace period” of up to 30 days. This grace period is only applicable after completing the full program duration, and does not apply to applicants who choose to end their program early. This 30 day period comes at the end of your au pair program; either at the end of your one year program, or if you decide to extend your stay as an au pair, your 30 day grace period is moved to the end of your 6, 9 or 12 month extension term. During these 30 days we encourage you to travel or visit with friends and family, but please remember that you are not allowed to work. In addition, the multiple-entry status of the J-1 visa is only applicable during the 12-month program period so you must stay in the continental US or Hawaii (you cannot travel outside of the US or to Alaska). If you leave the continental USA during the 30 day grace period, you will be denied re-entry into the USA. Cultural Care reserves the right to make travel arrangements prior to the 30th day of your program grace period.

Insurance during your 13th Month The Basic Insurance as well as the Extended Insurance have a coverage period of 12 months. If you choose to take advantage of your additional month and remain in the USA, you must either purchase the additional month insurance from Cultural Care before the end of your program, or provide proof of sufficient coverage from another insurer. You can find more information on page 67.

Travel home After you’ve successfully completed your program term, Cultural Care is responsible for booking a departure flight back to your home country. In order to book your flight home Cultural Care will ask you to choose a preferred week for your departure that includes a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday within 30 days of your scheduled program end date. Approximately 3 to 4 months before the end of your program term, you should receive an email for Cultural Care asking you to login to your online account and submit your preferred departure week via the flight request form. If you do not receive an email, you should still login to your account to request your flight home. We cannot provide you with a ticket to return home later than 30 days after the end of your program term under any circumstances due to your legal visa status. • The Au Pair will provide CCAP with a preferred week of departure. • The date of departure is most likely to be a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. • Wishes to depart from alternative locations and/or dates may be met, but at an additional fee will then be charged. • There might be dates where departure opportunities are limited/not possible.


Deciding on your return week Before you submit your flight request form online you should discuss your departure plans with your host family, so that they can make appropriate childcare arrangements. Once you have submitted your flight request form, there will be a fee charged if you need to change your flight. It is important that you choose your return week carefully! Generally your flight will be booked between Tuesday and Thursday of the week you have provided. Cultural Care reserves the right to make travel arrangements that fall outside your preferred travel week. Please do not make any arrangements such as vacation or airport pick-up until we have confirmed your flight information via your online account.

Special requests Often you might want travel on a preferred date, airline, flight, different gateway or even with a friend or relative. We will do our best to accommodate any special request made for your return flight home. Please understand there may be fees for any special request made by you for your return flight home. Cultural Care cannot guarantee that we will be able to accommodate your special request, but we will do our best!

Check your flight In your Online Account you will be able to see your return flight itinerary once we have booked it for you (approximately 3-4 weeks after you submit your flight request). Therefore please make sure to visit regularly to view whether your flight has been booked yet and to see your flight route home. Please note that if you change your flight after you have submitted your flight request, you must pay a change fee as well as any fees from the airlines.

Reconfirm your reservation Your ticket or electronic ticket confirmation will be issued to you approximately one month before your departure from the USA. We recommend that you call the airline a week before your departure to confirm your reservation and make sure the flight times and numbers have not changed. You can ask the airline at that time about baggage weight restrictions. You should reconfirm your reservation again 24 hours before your departure. When leaving the USA, you should arrive at the airport at least 2 ½ hours before your international flight departs. Don’t forget to call home to arrange for someone to meet you at the airport.

Getting to the airport Ask your host family if they will be able to take you to the airport on the day of your departure. If not, they must make other transportation arrangements for you to ensure that you get to the airport in time for your departure.


Getting ready to leave There will probably be a number of things you’ll need to do before your departure. Some of these will necessarily have to wait until the very end of your stay, but you can definitely take some of the stress out of your departure by planning ahead. Here are a few details to think about: • You’ll likely have collected a lot of new things during your year like clothing, souvenirs, etc. In order to get everything back home you’ll have to think strategically! For example, you might be able to send things back over the year if you have visitors – if your family visits in the spring, why not send some of your winter clothing back with them? Are there current au pairs in your group that might be able to use some things that you’ll not need back home? • At the end of the year you may want to ship some belongings home rather than carry them with you. Airlines are charging higher fees for baggage in general and are getting stricter with overweight bags as well as the number of pieces you’re allowed. The U.S. Postal Service can send boxes anywhere in the world, with several cost and time options available – just check at your local post office for more information. • Be sure you have discussed with your host family any costs that may come in after you leave. Will there be a final phone bill? Do you have any outstanding credit card bills, etc.? Discuss how these will be paid for or forwarded to you. • Do not wait until the last minute if you want to have anyone write you a letter of recommendation or get a certification of any educational courses, etc. Plan this ahead. • The children are going to be anxious about having you leave. Start talking about it and reassuring them in advance. Think about leaving them with some photos or something to remember you by.

Saying goodbye On the day you leave, expect to shed a few tears. It will be very difficult to say goodbye to your host family after a whole year together. You will have many wonderful memories to bring back home. Do everything you can to reassure the children that you will write to them and come back to visit them. The children need to know that they are not losing you forever.

Readjusting after your return You will be very excited about returning home. However, be prepared for some reverse culture shock as well. When you come to the USA, you expect everything to be different, so you can prepare for it. However, when you return, things will seem different once again. You will have an unusual feeling that everything is the same, but also very strange.

Invaluable experience When you get home, try to make use of all the skills you have learned. Spend some time examining all the challenges you have successfully faced over the past year. Write down all the things you have learned about yourself. Think of all the new skills you have developed, including perfecting your English. With a little time and reflection, you’ll discover that you now have incredible and unique experiences to share and a wealth of new knowledge!


Contact with Cultural Care At the end of your year you will be asked to complete an evaluation form online. We appreciate having your input, and we use the information to continually make improvements to our program. If you have had a great experience, you should tell others about it! We are always looking for dedicated, responsible and serious au pair candidates. If you know someone who might be interested, tell them to contact us. Many au pairs help us to interview and inform prospective au pairs about the Cultural Care Au Pair program. You can be on a list of people that potential au pairs could call or you could also participate in our Screening and Orientation Meetings to tell candidates about your experience. Contact the Cultural Care Au Pair office in your home country for more information.


Erika Insurance We hope that you have chosen to take the Extended Insurance package with Erika. This important insurance will supplement the Basic Insurance included in your regular program to offer you much better coverage. Here are some details on using the Erika Insurance and we also have Erika Insurance information in your Online Account.

Finding a Doctor To ensure the easiest billing and lowest costs to you, we recommend finding a local doctor within the Aetna Network. To find an Aetna-affiliate doctor in your area, you can search their web site at There are doctors available in most all regions of the USA and in all major medical specializations.

How to file a claim When you visit a doctor, make sure to bring your small folded Erika Insurance card. When visiting an Aetna affiliated doctor you will not have to pay for the visit up-front if you can show your Erika card. If the doctor asks you for payment up front, please inform them that Erika is affiliated with Aetna and have them call the Aetna Student Health phone number on your card. However, if it is not an Aetna doctor, in most cases, you will have to pay first, then complete the claim form and send it to Aetna Student Health. In turn, they will reimburse you with a check minus your deductible. Please be aware that the reimbursement process can take up to two months. Remember to save all receipts. If you visit an Emergency Room at a hospital there is an additional deductible of $50 US (extended insurance) or $150 US (basic insurance).

Hospitalization and medical emergencies Erika Insurance partners with two assistance companies that will help you if you have a serious medical emergency. If you have to have surgery or are hospitalized, you must notify the appropriate assistance company as soon as possible. You can find your emergency assistance contact on the back of your Erika Insurance card. These emergency assistance offices are open 24 hours, and must be involved in all cases that involve hospitalization or surgery.

Stolen property If you have purchased the extended insurance, you may be eligible for reimbursement if any of your property is stolen or damaged due to external forces. You must report the loss or theft to the police immediately. Contact the local police station where the loss or damage occurred, and complete the appropriate forms. The insurance company will not reimburse you without such a police report.

Insurance booklet and card It is recommended that you always refer to the insurance booklet for details on which conditions/situations are covered by the policy or call Erika’s claims agent in the U.S., Aetna Student Health at 1-800-783-7447, Monday- Friday, 9:00-5:00pm.


Your Erika Insurance folded card has the contact information for your claims agents while in the US and for emergencies. If you have misplaced your Erika Insurance card or handbook, you can contact the Cultural Care Operations Team at 1-800-448-5753.

Personal emergency information We recommend that you always carry a small card containing your host family’s and your parents’ name, address and phone number (including the international code for your home country). You should clearly list any allergies and/or medical problems you may have. Carry your insurance card along with this “Personal Emergency Information” in your wallet. In the event that you are in an accident, this information will be very helpful for the doctor attending to you.


Practical information on the USA The USA is a diverse and fascinating country with many things to explore. You might feel you know a lot about America and its culture from watching TV or movies, or from visiting as a tourist. However, chances are that the realities of living in the culture will be quite different than what you expected. In this chapter, we will provide a general overview of the many aspects of your new home.

General information There are 50 American states including Hawaii and Alaska covering an area of 9 million square kilometers. To gain an idea of the size, Alaska is the largest state and Texas is the second largest. Alaska is twice as big as Texas, and Texas is larger than France! The USA stretches 4500 km from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west. A fast railroad train, traveling at 96 km an hour, takes more than 45 hours to cross the entire country. By plane it takes about 5 hours to cross from East Coast to West Coast. The population of the USA is exceeded only by that of China and India. A recent census figure shows that the population is over 300 million. About 75% of the people live in urban and suburban areas. New York City alone has approximately the same population as Sweden, so the country is quite large in population as well as in size. New York City is the largest city in the USA, Los Angeles is the second largest and Chicago, the third. Washington D.C is the capital of the USA and is the 19th largest city.

Banking services Banks offer a variety of services to their customers and it is fairly easy to open a bank account in the USA. Your host family and/or LCC will help you find a local bank and open an account. Most likely you will want to open a checking account or savings account. Most banks are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Many are also open on Saturday mornings, and some may be open late Thursday or Friday nights. Most banks offer 24-hour banking through an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).

Checking accounts Personal checking accounts allow you to withdraw the money you have deposited by writing checks. Personal checks are still commonly used in the USA for many bills such as cell phone bills, etc. Be sure to look for an account that includes free checking (no service charge is deducted from your account for processing checks). Remember that if you write a check to pay for a purchase, you will need proof of identification - your passport is good for this purpose, but the best is to get an American driver’s license.


Climate The USA is an extremely varied land of forests, desert, farm lands, high flat lands and mountains. Temperatures vary with some areas having cold snowy winters and warm summers while others are warm throughout the year. Almost every kind of climate can be found in the USA.

Credit card Carrying large amounts of cash can be risky. Therefore we recommend that before leaving your home country you should also obtain a credit card if possible. Credit cards are the most common form of payment in the USA. Try to use the card for large purchases and emergencies. VISA, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted throughout the USA.

Education School is mandatory until age 16. About 70 percent of the nation’s youth choose to finish the last two years of schooling and graduate from high school at about 18. The literacy rate in the USA is among the highest in the world. Following graduation from high school, many choose to attend one of the nation’s thousands of state and private colleges and universities for two, four or more years. Others continue their education further and graduate once their university studies are completed.

Food Due to the mixture of cultures in the USA, there is an incredible variety of cuisines available, many of which might be familiar to you (including Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Japanese, French, etc.). There are plenty of “chain” and fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s and Hard Rock Cafe throughout the USA. In every shopping mall you will find a food court with a variety of restaurants. Coffee houses, like Starbucks, are also very popular places to get together, drink coffee, eat etc. You will also enjoy the variety and the number of restaurant options you will find. You may find the meal portions quite large, but it is acceptable to ask for a “doggie bag” to bring your leftovers home with you.

Government The United States is a federal union of 50 states, with the District of Columbia (Washington D.C) as the seat of the national government. The Constitution outlines the structure of the national government and specifies its power and activities. Other governmental activities are the responsibility of each of the individual states, which have their own constitutions and laws. Within each state are counties, townships, cities and towns, each of which has its own elected government. Unlike in many other countries, some major laws will differ from state to state. For instance the rules for getting a Driver’s License can be quite different from one state to the next. All government in the United States is democratic, “of, by and for the people”. Members of Congress, the President, state officials and those who govern counties and cities are all elected by popular vote.


Language English is the predominant language throughout the country and the form is commonly called “American” English. Variations abound in the spoken form. For example, those living in the southern states have an accent easily distinguishable by a “drawl”, and those in the eastern areas sometimes have an accent identified by very clipped, precise pronunciation. In addition many other languages are spoken by over 100 other cultures throughout the USA. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the USA, and in some places like parts of Florida, is heard more often than English.

Legal drinking age The legal drinking age in the USA is 21. You are required to obey all state, national and local laws while in the USA. This includes laws regarding under-age drinking and driving after drinking alcohol. You are expected not to excessively consume alcoholic beverages or engage in any illegal use of drugs. It is important to note that police in the USA are extremely strict in the laws regarding both under-aged drinking and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Letters, postcards and packages You will probably want to write a lot of letters and postcards to your friends and family back home. Ask your host family to show you the nearest post office. The cost of mailing an international letter will depend upon its weight, and you can ask about standard costs at the post office. Be sure to mark the envelope “Air Mail” so that it is sent first class. Do not forget to clearly indicate the country you are sending a package or letter to on the envelope. You can send packages by regular mail through the post office. It usually takes a few weeks for overseas delivery. Inquire at the post office for more details and information. The U.S. Postal Service offers express mail delivery of packages overseas. Federal Express, DHL Worldwide, and similar companies also have this service. It can be quite expensive, but it allows you to send packages overseas in as little as two days.

Living in the USA There are a variety of different housing opportunities throughout the USA, including single family homes, two-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, apartments, studio apartments, duplexes etc. The majority of the population in the USA is centered in and around cities. Although, the majority of Cultural Care host families live in cities or suburbs of cities, we also have many families who live in small towns and villages around the country.

Money One thing you may find confusing is that all bills are the same size and color (green), so you need to read the amount on each bill. Common bills are $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50. Some stores will not take bills larger than $50, because they do not keep large amounts of cash on hand for security reasons. Coins are useful for many things - they are used in public telephones and for local bus and train fares. 73

When preparing to travel to the United States, we recommend that you keep some money in a bank account at home and use an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) until you open a bank account in the USA.

Personal safety tips Remember that when you are in the USA, as in any other country, it is important to be careful. As a courtesy to your host family, we suggest keeping them informed as to your whereabouts, particularly if you are using your host family’s car. When you are driving alone at night, especially in the city, keep the doors locked. If you are lost, try to find a busy area to stop and ask for directions. Always lock your car, even if leaving it just for a minute. Do not stop to assist motorists stranded on the side of the road. If you find yourself stranded in your car, put the hood of the car up to indicate that you are having engine trouble, and then remain inside the car with the door locked. Wait for the police to come to help you. Americans keep their homes locked when going out and sometimes even when they are inside the home. We recommend that you review your host family’s preferences for safety practices with them and follow the customs that they outline. Many of our au pairs enjoy going out with friends at night. When you go out at night, you should always go with another person. It is extremely important to remember to practice caution at all times. Never accept a ride or go with someone you do not know. Unfortunately, many parts of the United States have a higher rate of crime than other parts of the world. If you are coming home late at night, ask your host family if it is safe to take public transportation, or if you should take a taxi. It is more expensive to take a taxi, but it is worth it to be safe. If you are walking home late at night, keep your keys ready so you can get into the house quickly, if necessary. Walk confidently and always trust your instincts, no matter how silly it may seem. If you feel nervous about someone who is walking near you, cross the street immediately. Avoid talking on your mobile phone to remain alert to your surroundings. Try to stay in busy, well-lit areas. Don’t ever go home with someone that you have just met, and never give out your host family’s phone number to strangers! Try not to carry more than $50 US in cash at any time. If you need more money than this, carry your credit card. In some major American cities, street crime is common, and the best protection is to be careful. Women should have purses with strong shoulder straps, and men should not carry their wallets in their back pockets. If you have a jacket, carry your wallet in the inside pocket. If you are ever involved in any kind of street crime, the best strategy is simply to cooperate. Remember that you are only losing money.

Phone card We know that you will want to keep in touch with your family and friends back home during your year in the USA. Cultural Care has phone cards that help au pairs keep in touch with friends and family in an inexpensive and easy way. With these phone cards you 74

can call from anywhere—from your host family’s home, from your friend’s home, from a phone booth - with no need for cash. You can purchase the phone cards from Cultural Care in your home country, at the Cultural Care Training School or during you year in the USA either via the Internet or by calling our Operations Department at 1-800-448-5753.

Population The USA is a true “melting pot” of many nationalities. Most of the people in the USA are descendants from settlers who came from all over the world to make it their new home. The first immigrants came from Great Britain and the Netherlands, and since then many others from different countries came because they heard reports of great economic opportunities and religious and political freedom. Most immigrants arrived between 1880 and 1914 and almost all Americans claim ancestry of another culture or race. The multi-cultural background of those settling in the U.S. can be seen in the names of cities like Manchester, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lafayette, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh.

Recreation and sports Americans live very busy lives. On the weekends, Americans often participate in sports, watch movies, read, go dancing, attend cultural events, cook, and socialize with their friends. Many families also go to church, and their social life often includes attending activities organized by their church. American football, baseball and basketball are the major spectator sports; professional and collegiate competitions are regularly watched in large sports stadiums or on television. Other popular sports are tennis, running, lacrosse, golf, bowling, cycling, skiing and racquetball. Soccer (European football) is more popular with school aged children. After school activities are common and most children participate in activities outside school such as soccer, piano and ballet lessons.

Religion There are many religious groups, beliefs and practices in the USA, and these differences are part of one of the founding principles of the USA, freedom of religion. As you travel throughout the country, you will notice a variety of churches, cathedrals, synagogues, temples and other religious places of worship (in both cities and towns). Many different religions are represented in the USA. Due to this diversity of people, it is often said that America is the great “melting pot”, where personal freedom and equal opportunity for all are guaranteed regardless of race, color or creed. The majority of Americans are Protestant although it’s interesting to note that there are also many types of Protestantism such as Episcopalian, Unitarian, Lutheran, Baptist, and Mormon. Many other Americans are Catholic and Jewish. However, there are also significant numbers of worshippers of Islam, Hinduism, and many other faiths in the USA. There are also many people who are non-religious.


Smoking Smoking in the USA is a sensitive personal, political and cultural issue. A large majority of the American population does not smoke and prefers not to be in the presence of smokefilled areas. In fact, smoking has become something of a taboo in many parts of the culture. Culturally, this can be a sensitive issue of which you should be aware. A host family will expect that you have been honest about smoking in your application. If the family asks for a non-smoker (which is the case with most of our host families), you will not be allowed to smoke in the house, in the presence of the children or while on duty. Some families may also have a medical problem with smoke, and therefore you will not even be allowed to smoke when you are off duty and away from the house because of the smell. It is extremely important that you obey the host family’s rules!

Social security number To open a bank account you may have to get a social security number. This is an identification number in the USA. Your Online Account will have information for when you get to the USA on how to get your social security number. Once you arrive to your host family you will receive a letter from the Boston office which you need to bring together with your DS-2019 form to the Social Security office. If for some reason you have problems obtaining the social security number, check your Online Account for helpful information or contact your LCC or the Boston office.

Stores Retail stores generally open at 10 a.m. and close anywhere from 6 to 10 p.m., six or seven days a week. Most stores are open on Sundays. Grocery stores open as early as 7 a.m. and close as late as midnight. Many convenience stores and larger grocery stores are open 24 hours a day, on Sundays and American holidays. Towards Christmas time, most stores open for extended hours, sometimes opening as early as 5 a.m. Almost all towns and even most rural areas will have some sort of small store section or mall area within a short drive.

Taxes The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does require au pairs to file a tax return showing their income received from their weekly stipend. Cultural Care Au Pair is not able to advise au pairs and host families on their requirements to file taxes at the local, state and national level. We ask all au pairs to check with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service regarding federal tax filing requirements at their website (search term “au pair”).

Telephones In the USA, a complete phone number would look like this: 1-222-555-1111 or they can also look like this (222)555-1111. The “1” is the country code for the USA but the 1 is also usually included when dialing within the USA. The “222” is called the area code and indicates what part of the USA or state you live in. How you will dial within your local area can depend on the region of the USA. Your host family will clarify this for you. Some calls 76

within the same area code are long-distance and require that you dial the “1” before the seven digit number. For calls outside of your area code, you must dial a “1” before the three digit area code and seven digit number. When dialing locally, usually you just need to dial the seven digit number but sometimes the area code is required even locally. If you have trouble with the phone system, do not be afraid to ask your host family for help! Be sure to check with your host family on costs to call your home country. These costs can be extremely high in the USA and you are expected to pay for these calls.

Tipping Tipping in the USA is different than almost any other country. Tipping is expected in restaurants, bars and hotels, as well as by taxi drivers, hairdressers and baggage carriers. Unlike elsewhere, in American restaurants, waiters are paid less than the minimum wage and rely upon tips to make a living. It is expected to tip 15 – 20% unless the service is bad. Never tip in fast food, take-out or buffet-style restaurants where you serve yourself. Normally restaurants will not itemize the tax separately on a bill for groups smaller than 8 people so you are expected to tip on top of the bill (you do not need to include the taxes when calculating your tip). Taxi drivers expect 10 percent and hairdressers get 15 percent if their service is satisfactory.

The family Due to the increasing number of single parent families, some sociologists say that the standard American family consisting of two parents and two - four children is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless, the “average” family of two parents and two children is still the most common among our host families.

Transportation Most families own at least one or two cars (unless they live in the center of a large city, e.g. New York City). Public transportation varies from city to city, but overall is not common outside city areas. Even within cities it ranges from being excellent in some areas to being non-existent in others. Car, bus and air travel are the most common forms of transportation. Taxicabs are also common in cities, though they can also be quite expensive.

Work Although the 40-hour work week is still predominate, schedules now vary considerably from the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day. Many Americans currently work more than the traditional 40 hours a week. To compensate, some companies offer flexible hours that accommodate the employee’s travel, educational obligations, or other activities. Working some hours from home is becoming more common practice in the USA.


Au pair regulations in detail While it might be difficult reading, all au pairs should fully review and understand the rules of the program. All participating au pairs will: • Work up to 45 hours per week with a maximum of 10 hours per day. • Take educational classes at an accredited institution for not less than 6 credit hours which is approximately 72-90 classroom hours. • Attend monthly meetings with their LCC. • Not take care of a child under the age of 3 months unless a parent or other responsible adult is present. • Not take care of children under the age of 2 unless the au pair has 200 hours of documented infant experience. • Stay a maximum of 2 years in the USA. 78

• Be placed within 1 hour’s drive from an LCC. All host families will • Interview the au pair by telephone prior to the au pair’s departure from his/her home country. • Remain in the home for the first 3 days after the au pair’s arrival, or have another responsible adult in the home during these days. • Not require the au pair to work more than 45 hours per week and not more than 10 hours per day. • Pay the au pair a weekly stipend per standardized guidelines. • Provide the au pair with a private bedroom. • Pay up to $500 for the au pair’s classes. • Give the au pair a minimum of 1.5 days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month. • Give the au pair two weeks paid vacation.

Complete State Department regulations Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(J), 1182, 1184, 1258; 22 U.S.C. 1431–1442, 2451–2460; Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, Pub. L. 105–277, Div. G, 112 Stat. 2681 et seq. ; Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1977, 3 CFR, 1977 Comp. p. 200; E.O. 12048 of March 27, 1978; 3 CFR, 1978 Comp. p. 168; the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996, Pub. L. 104–208, Div. C, 110 Stat. 3009–546, as amended; Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT ACT), Pub. L. 107–56, Sec. 416, 115 Stat. 354; and the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107–173, 116 Stat. 543. Source: 58 FR 15196, Mar. 19, 1993, unless otherwise noted. Redesignated at 64 FR 54539, Oct. 7, 1999. Editorial Note: Nomenclature changes to part 62 appear at 64 FR 54539, Oct. 7, 1999, and 67 FR 17612, 17613, Apr. 11, 2002. TITLE 22--FOREIGN RELATIONS CHAPTER I--DEPARTMENT OF STATE PART 62--EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM Subpart B--Specific Program Provisions Sec. 62.31 Au pairs. (a) Introduction. This section governs Department of State-designated exchange visitor programs under which foreign nationals are afforded the opportunity to live with an American host family and participate directly in the home life of the host family. All au pair participants provide child care services to the host family and attend a U.S. post-secondary educational institution. Au pair participants provide up to forty-five hours of child care services per week and pursue not less than six semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent during their year of program participation. Au pairs participating in the EduCare program provide up to thirty hours of child care services per week and pursue not less than twelve semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent during their year of program participation. (b) Program designation. The Department of State may, in its sole discretion, designate bona fide programs satisfying the objectives set forth in paragraph (a) of this section. Such designation shall be for a period of two years and may be revoked by the Department of State for good cause. (c) Program eligibility. Sponsors designated by the Department of State to conduct an au pair exchange program shall; (1) Limit the participation of foreign nationals in such programs to not more than one year; (2) Limit the number of hours an EduCare au pair participant is obligated to provide child care services to not more than 10 hours per day or more than 30 hours per week and limit the number of hours all other au pair participants are obligated to provide child care services to not more than 10 hours per day or more than 45 hours per week; (3) Require that EduCare au pair participants register and attend classes offered by an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution for not less than twelve semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent and that all other au pair participants register and attend classes offered by an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution for not less than six semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent; (4) Require that all officers, employees, agents, and volunteers acting on their behalf are adequately trained and supervised;


(5) Require that the au pair participant is placed with a host family within one hour’s driving time of the home of the local organizational representative authorized to act on the sponsor’s behalf in both routine and emergency matters arising from the au pair’s participation in their exchange program; (6) Require that each local organizational representative maintain a record of all personal monthly contacts (or more frequently as required) with each au pair and host family for which he or she is responsible and issues or problems discussed; (7) Require that all local organizational representatives contact au pair participants and host families twice monthly for the first two months following a placement other than the initial placement for which the au pair entered the United States. (8) Require that local organizational representatives not devoting their full time and attention to their program obligations are responsible for no more than fifteen au pairs and host families; and (9) Require that each local organizational representative is provided adequate support services by a regional organizational representative. (d) Au pair selection. In addition to satisfying the requirements of §62.10(a), sponsors shall ensure that all participants in a designated au pair exchange program: (1) Are between the ages of 18 and 26; (2) Are a secondary school graduate, or equivalent; (3) Are proficient in spoken English; (4) Are capable of fully participating in the program as evidenced by the satisfactory completion of a physical; (5) Have been personally interviewed, in English, by an organizational representative who shall prepare a report of the interview which shall be provided to the host family; and (6) Have successfully passed a background investigation that includes verification of school, three, non-family related personal and employment references, a criminal background check or its recognized equivalent and a personality profile. Such personality profile will be based upon a psychometric test designed to measure differences in characteristics among applicants against those characteristics considered most important to successfully participate in the au pair program. (e) Au pair placement. Sponsors shall secure, prior to the au pair’s departure from the home country, a host family placement for each participant. Sponsors shall not: (1) Place an au pair with a family unless the family has specifically agreed that a parent or other responsible adult will remain in the home for the first three days following the au pair’s arrival; (2) Place an au pair with a family having a child aged less than three months unless a parent or other responsible adult is present in the home; (3) Place an au pair with a host family having children under the age of two, unless the au pair has at least 200 hours of documented infant child care experience. An au pair participating in the EduCare program shall not be placed with a family having pre-school children in the home unless alternative full-time arrangements for the supervision of such pre-school children are in place; (4) Place an au pair with a host family having a special needs child, as so identified by the host family, unless the au pair has specifically identified his or her prior experience, skills, or training in the care of special needs children and the host family has reviewed and acknowledged in writing the au pair’s prior experience, skills, or training so identified; (5) Place an au pair with a host family unless a written agreement between the au pair and the host family detailing the au pair’s obligation to provide child care has been signed by both the au pair and the host family prior to the au pair’s departure from his or her home country. Such agreement shall clearly state whether the au pair is an EduCare program participant or not. Such agreement shall limit the obligation to provide child care services to not more than 10 hours per day or more than 45 hours per week unless the au pair is an EduCare participant. Such agreement shall limit the obligation of an EduCare participant to provide child care service to not more than 10 hours per day or more than 30 hours per week. (6) Place the au pair with a family who cannot provide the au pair with a suitable private bedroom; and (7) Place an au pair with a host family unless the host family has interviewed the au pair by telephone prior to the au pair’s departure from his or her home country. (f) Au pair orientation. In addition to the orientation requirements set forth at §62.10, all sponsors shall provide au pairs, prior to their departure from the home country, with the following information: (1) A copy of all operating procedures, rules, and regulations, including a grievance process, which govern the au pair’s participation in the exchange program; (2) A detailed profile of the family and community in which the au pair will be placed; (3) A detailed profile of the educational institutions in the community where the au pair will be placed, including the financial cost of attendance at these institutions; (4) A detailed summary of travel arrangements; and (5) A copy of the Department of State’s written statement and brochure regarding the au pair program. (g) Au pair training. Sponsors shall provide the au pair participant with child development and child safety instruction, as follows: (1) Prior to placement with the host family, the au pair participant shall receive not less than eight hours of child safety instruction no less than 4 of which shall be infant-related; and (2) Prior to placement with the American host family, the au pair participant shall receive not less than twenty-four hours


of child development instruction of which no less than 4 shall be devoted to specific training for children under the age of two. (h) Host family selection. Sponsors shall adequately screen all potential host families and at a minimum shall: (1) Require that the host parents are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents; (2) Require that host parents are fluent in spoken English; (3) Require that all adult family members resident in the home have been personally interviewed by an organizational representative; (4) Require that host parents and other adults living full-time in the household have successfully passed a background investigation including employment and personal character references; (5) Require that the host family have adequate financial resources to undertake all hosting obligations; (6) Provide a written detailed summary of the exchange program and the parameters of their and the au pair’s duties, participation, and obligations; and (7) Provide the host family with the prospective au pair participant’s complete application, including all references. (i) Host family orientation. In addition to the requirements set forth at §62.10 sponsors shall: (1) Inform all host families of the philosophy, rules, and regulations governing the sponsor’s exchange program and provide all families with a copy of the Department of State’s written statement and brochure regarding the au pair program; (2) Provide all selected host families with a complete copy of Department of State-promulgated Exchange Visitor Program regulations, including the supplemental information thereto; (3) Advise all selected host families of their obligation to attend at least one family day conference to be sponsored by the au pair organization during the course of the placement year. Host family attendance at such a gathering is a condition of program participation and failure to attend will be grounds for possible termination of their continued or future program participation; and (4) Require that the organization’s local counselor responsible for the au pair placement contacts the host family and au pair within forth-eight hours of the au pair’s arrival and meets, in person, with the host family and au pair within two weeks of the au pair’s arrival at the host family home. (j) Wages and hours. Sponsors shall require that au pair participants: (1) Are compensated at a weekly rate based upon 45 hours of child care services per week and paid in conformance with the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act as interpreted and implemented by the United States Department of Labor. EduCare participants shall be compensated at a weekly rate that is 75% of the weekly rate paid to nonEduCare participants; (2) Do not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day, or more than 45 hours of child care in any one week. EduCare participants may not provide more than 10 hours of child care per day or more than 30 hours of child care in any one week; (3) Receive a minimum of one and one half days off per week in addition to one complete weekend off each month; and (4) Receive two weeks of paid vacation. (k) Educational component. Sponsors must: (1) Require that during their initial period of program participation, all EduCare au pair participants complete not less than 12 semester hours (or their equivalent) of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions and that all other au pair participants complete not less than six semester hours (or their equivalent) of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions. As a condition of program participation, host family participants must agree to facilitate the enrollment and attendance of au pairs in accredited U.S. post secondary institutions and to pay the cost of such academic course work in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for EduCare au pair participants and in an amount not to exceed $500 for all other au pair participants. (2) Require that during any extension of program participation, all participants ( i.e. , Au Pair or EduCare) satisfy an additional educational requirement, as follows: (i) For a nine or 12-month extension, all au pair participants and host families shall have the same obligation for coursework and payment therefore as is required during the initial period of program participation. (ii) For a six-month extension, EduCare au pair participants must complete not less than six semester hours (or their equivalent) of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions. As a condition of participation, host family participants must agree to facilitate the enrollment and attendance of au pairs at accredited U.S. post secondary institutions and to pay the cost of such academic coursework in an amount not to exceed $500. All other au pair participants must complete not less than three semester hours (or their equivalent) of academic credit in formal educational settings at accredited U.S. post-secondary institutions. As a condition of program participation, host family participants must agree to facilitate the enrollment and attendance of au pairs at accredited U.S. post secondary institutions and to pay the cost of such academic coursework in an amount not to exceed $250. (l) Monitoring. Sponsors shall fully monitor all au pair exchanges, and at a minimum shall: (1) Require monthly personal contact by the local counselor with each au pair and host family for which the counselor is responsible. Counselors shall maintain a record of this contact; (2) Require quarterly contact by the regional counselor with each au pair and host family for which the counselor is responsible. Counselors shall maintain a record of this contact; (3) Require that all local and regional counselors are appraised of their obligation to report unusual or serious situations or incidents involving either the au pair or host family; and


(4) Promptly report to the Department of State any incidents involving or alleging a crime of moral turpitude or violence. (m) Reporting requirements. Along with the annual report required by regulations set forth at §62.17, sponsors shall file with the Department of State the following information: (1) A summation of the results of an annual survey of all host family and au pair participants regarding satisfaction with the program, its strengths and weaknesses; (2) A summation of all complaints regarding host family or au pair participation in the program, specifying the nature of the complaint, its resolution, and whether any unresolved complaints are outstanding; (3) A summation of all situations which resulted in the placement of au pair participant with more than one host family; (4) A report by a certified public accountant, conducted pursuant to a format designated by the Department of State, attesting to the sponsor’s compliance with the procedures and reporting requirements set forth in this subpart; (5) A report detailing the name of the au pair, his or her host family placement, location, and the names of the local and regional organizational representatives; and (6) A complete set of all promotional materials, brochures, or pamphlets distributed to either host family or au pair participants. (n) Sanctions. In addition to the sanctions provisions set forth at §62.50, the Department of State may undertake immediate program revocation procedures upon documented evidence that a sponsor has failed to: (1) Comply with the au pair placement requirements set forth in paragraph (e) of this section; (2) Satisfy the selection requirements for each individual au pair as set forth in paragraph (d) of this section; and (3) Enforce and monitor host family’s compliance with the stipend and hours requirements set forth in paragraph (j) of this section. (o) Extension of program. The Department, in its sole discretion, may approve extensions for au pair participants beyond the initial 12-month program. Applications to the Department for extensions of six, nine, or 12 months, must be received by the Department not less than 30 calendar days prior to the expiration of the exchange visitor’s initial authorized stay in either the Au Pair or EduCare program ( i.e. , 30-calendar days prior to the program end date listed on the exchange visitor’s Form DS–2019). The request for an extension beyond the maximum duration of the initial 12-month program must be submitted electronically in the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Supporting documentation must be submitted to the Department on the sponsor’s organizational letterhead and contain the following information: (1) Au pair’s name, SEVIS identification number, date of birth, the length of the extension period being requested; (2) Verification that the au pair completed the educational requirements of the initial program; and (3) Payment of the required non-refundable fee (see 22 CFR 62.90) via (p) Repeat participation. A foreign national who enters the United States as an au pair Exchange Visitor Program participant and who has successfully completed his or her program is eligible to participate again as an au pair participant, provided that he or she has resided outside the United States for at least two years following completion of his or her initial au pair program. [60 FR 8552, Feb. 15, 1995, as amended at 62 FR 34633, June 27, 1997; 64 FR 53930, Oct. 5, 1999. Redesignated at 64 FR 54539, Oct. 7, 1999; 66 FR 43087, Aug. 17, 2001; 71 FR 33238, June 8, 2006; 73 FR 34862, June 19, 2008] United States Department of State Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation ECA/EC/PS - SA-44, Room 734 301 4th Street, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20547

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AP Handbook  
AP Handbook  

This is the Cultural Care Au Pair handbook.