Despite assurances that the exchange is „stronger than ever,“ State Department documents also suggest that the government is aware of some of its key problems. The analysis of the 2014 program, also obtained by Politico Magazine, does not include the specific complaint numbers of au pair agencies, but it does state that in „many audits [au pair companies must submit to the government],“ Au Pairs said they work overtime. What counts as working time? What counts as free time? What tasks do I have to take on as an Au Pair? These are all issues that need to be discussed and agreed upon by the Au Pair and the Host Family. If no clear agreement has been reached or communication has been inadequate, this can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. But in fact, the vast majority of au pair complaints seem to disappear into a bureaucratic black hole where they are not thoroughly investigated or even reported publicly. A State Department spokesman told Politico Magazine that it received 62 complaints from au pairs and families in 2015. But according to an internal State Department analysis of the program received by politico Magazine, this is inaccurate: au pair agencies have received and reported more than 3,500 incidents to the government this year. There are rules that apply to Au Pairs. Au Pairs receive a private room, meals, a full weekend per month, two weeks of paid vacation, up to $500 to go to college, and a cash scholarship tied to the U.S. minimum wage. You are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day and no more than 45 hours a week. They are not expected to perform routine household chores, but are expected to perform child care duties. Au pairs must register for at least 6 semester hours at a post-secondary institution.
but classes cannot check the credit if they wish. Au Pairs cannot be accommodated in a family that has a baby under three months of age, unless a parent or other responsible adult is at home; in homes with children under two years of age, unless the Au Pair has at least 200 hours of documented experience in childcare; or in families with one or more children with special needs, as indicated by the family, unless the Au Pair has identified their previous experience, skills or training in caring for children with special needs and the Host Family has reviewed and acknowledged in writing the Au Pair`s previous experience, skills or training. And what happens to families involved in an au pair complaint? Bitting claims that they are rarely removed from the program. She says her company has even given au pairs to families, she said they shouldn`t be hosts. „The company said it was a waste of time“ to prevent abuse. (Cultural Care denies this, saying it eliminates families who break the rules. „We have ended relationships with foster families, especially if there is a flagrant violation of the regulations or rules of the program,“ he says.) Without Cultural Care`s help to solve exploit situations, Bitting says, „my hands were tied.“ The au pairs „would ask me not to go back and talk to the family“. They feared reprisals. But this comfortable, family source of childcare is now at risk for the household. A Federal Court of Appeals decision earlier this month ordered that au pair salaries be increased to the state`s minimum wage of $12 an hour, leading hundreds of Massachusetts families to question how they can afford to take in the au pair they – and their children – depend on. to be kept. The U.S.
Department of State sponsors the au pair program, where foreigners receive a cultural exchange visa and are placed with host families to provide child care during their post-secondary studies in the United States. You will receive a minimum allowance of $195.75 per week to work up to 45 hours per week and get accommodation and food from the family. „I made the decision to be an au pair because I wanted to be a family member, to have someone around me to show me your culture, to show me everything,“ Kruse said at a lobbying event on the changes in early January. „Now, with the law, it destroys the relationship“ and the potential to be a family member. Cultural Care Au Pair, an agency that places au pairs in the U.S. and is a plaintiff in the 1st Circuit case, said in a statement to the Monitor that it plans to challenge the decision in the U.S. Supreme Court. „We will continue to seek to reverse the decision and hope that the comprehensive federal regulations governing the program will be recognized as controlling and exclusive,“ the statement said. It should be easy for au pairs to complain to their agencies about this type of exploitation, through monthly meetings with local consultants.
(The State Department also has a complaint channel, although au pairs are more likely to go through their businesses.) However, the au pairs I spoke to say that when they raised issues, they came to nothing. In an annual review, Itzel Reyes, an au pair who used her real name, told Cultural Care that she regularly works more than 45 hours a week. Their program director apologized but did nothing. Then the company is annoyed by the assessment, „as if my answer could change the second time,“ Reyes says. The au pair program in the U.S. is fraught with pitfalls — and new documents show that the State Department may know more than it reveals. Delis Silva, a Brazilian au pair who works in Natick, said three of her friends had to return to their country because their host families dropped out of the program as costs rose. But these attempts at reform do not solve the biggest problem of the program.
The au pairs I spoke to told me that a raise would be nice, but the real problem is that some hosts ignore pre-existing regulations – just like au pair companies that are supposed to be responsible for their well-being. A few extra hours at the family dinner may not seem so bad. But from there, it only gets worse. Jessica of AuPairCare – another au pair company – says her foster father „Steve“ monitored her birth control and questioned her when she asked his wife to give her a contraceptive injection. „I had to explain my period to him,“ she recalls. Jessica says he was angry with her for spending her free time with her boyfriend and not with her family. After Steve accused her of sleeping with her boyfriend in his house, he fired her and told her she had to leave the house in a few days. When she called AuPairCare, they didn`t offer her any accommodation or even a ride from home.
„Call an Uber,“ she said, she was told. She says the company also denied her the chance to be placed in a new family. Employee representatives cite lobbying by corporate sponsors as the reason for the lack of increased protection for au pairs despite years of litigation and media coverage. The American Institute for Foreign Study, which manages the Stamford, Connecticut-based sponsor Au Pair in America, and Cultural Care have reported lobbying for the program for years and continue to do so in the first quarter of this year, the latest period for which disclosures are available.