Many central Ohioans are turning to the international option of an au pair for child care.
Au pairs are not just child care providers but also students looking to learn more about the world. They are usually young, foreign visitors employed to take care of children and do light housework in exchange for room and board.
Sofie Lindqvist is an au pair working in Dublin helping to care for one-year-old Tommy Bonasera.
“It’s been great,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have a great family.”
She met her family about a year ago, when Tommy was two-months-old.
Tommy’s mother, Gretchen, runs her own catering company attached to the family home.
“That’s really why I went with the program,” Gretchen Bonasera said. “I can dip out and see him, when I need a break. They’re just right there.”
There are nearly 100 au pairs working with central Ohio families. They come to American on a one-year VISA through an exchange program run by the U.S. Department of State.
Carol Cimicula coordinates families and au pairs for Cultural Care Au Pair. It’s one of three au pair agencies in central Ohio.
“The beauty of it is they can work 45 hours a week, but it can be any 45 hours,” Cimicula said. “You can have them in the morning to get the kids ready for school and be there to get them off the bus.”
Michael Bonasera, Tommy’s father, said that the au pair option really made sense for their family.
“The high variability of Gretchen’s schedule made regular day care just not tenable for us, even just a regular nanny, because they have set hours and so forth and can change her schedule if things come up,” he said.
Au pairs earn a weekly stipend of nearly $200, paid by the host family, which also provides them a bedroom and meals.
There is an up-front cost of about $8,000 to cover agency registration, selection and program fees, she said.
In addition to child care, the exchange program allows the au pair to experience life in America and improve their English.
Sofie says she will take great memories with her when she returns to Sweden.
“If there’s something I want to do, I can just tell them, and they’ll try to work it for me,” she said.
Tommy’s parents say it will be hard when Sofie has to return home.
“It’ll definitely be hard, because they do have a bond,” Gretchen said.
The au pair experience has made such a positive impact on the Bonasera family that they already have found Tommy’s next au pair.
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