- what is au pair childcare
- program costs
- why au pair care
- meet our au pairs
- getting started
- current host families
2012 Ultimate Au Pairs
Congratulations to our 2012 Ultimate Au Pair Winner, Ana from Brazil, and her host family, the Hopkins!
We would also like to congratulate the runner up, Lluvia from Mexico, and the other 6 finalists.
Au Pair Care received so many compelling and heart-warming submissions from host families about their experience hosting an international au pair. Thank you for participating and sharing your cultural exchange stories.
If you'd like to see more, you can also read about the winners of our 2011 Ultimate Au Pair Contest.
Ultimate Au Pair Winner!
Ana from Brazil
The Hopkins Family
We are nominating Ana Paes for Au Pair of the year! Even though she is our first au pair, we know we will never find anyone that can come close to replacing her.
When we first SKYPED with Ana, her patience was very evident. Her internet connection at her house was not very strong and we kept getting disconnected. Being the New Yorker that I am, I was getting very frustrated with the situation but Ana seemed completely unfazed. She would just log back on with us and continue talking. We knew her calmness and endurance were exactly what we needed for our autistic child.
Taking care of Luke could not have been easy for Ana. She had a crash course in dealing with tantrums, feeding issues, obsessions, and trying to communicate with someone that can not even look at you no less talk to you. Ana was responsible to give our son many vitamins and supplements. Many had to be 20 min before or after food. She had to feed him every bite of food because he would not feed himself. She was also responsible for doing eye exercises with him which involved putting special prism glasses on him. He often protested but she was able to get him to calm down and do it every day. She watched our in home therapists and learned very quickly how to do countdowns, and visual schedules with Luke to diminish his meltdowns. She did all of this while taking care of our other typical one year old.
Ana taught our one year old to count, not only in English but in Portuguese, to know his shapes, letters, and animal sounds. We were always on pins and needles to see if he was going to be autistic as well but with each skill she taught him she would reassure us that he was fine.
Over the past year Luke has made some amazing improvements! Ana has brought our autistic son Luke from being in diapers to being potty trained, from needing to be fed to feeding himself, from non-verbal to being able to communicate his needs. These are goals some autistic kids never achieve. He went from living in his own world to greeting us at the door and playing with his brother. I feel that Ana had a large roll to play in all of these miracles.
She is intelligent, creative, innovative, and caring. She goes above and beyond for us and the children all the time. She constantly surprises us with beautiful photos and videos of the kids. She has made us amazingly creative holiday and birthday cards with pictures of the kids involved in making it for us. She always goes the extra mile. If we needed her to watch our youngest son last minute because we needed to fly across the country to take Luke to a special autism doctor, she was there. She came to my neices Christening, took pictures, and then designed an incredible photo book for her.
Ana really kept the family glued together. My husband and I both do not have great memories and Ana was always on top of when Luke had swimming lessons, therapies, school and all his supplements. She took Ethan to pre-school twice a week and made sure he had everything he needed. Also being a control freak, I thought it would be hard to be happy with anyone else taking care of my kids but me. But with Ana I just felt completely sure they were fine. She made our children laugh and made them feel secure and happy.
When you are a working mom you have a lot of guilt about not being home with your children. When you are the mom of a special needs child, that guilt is double. But knowing Ana was with my children made it so much easier. She was an amazing caretaker for our children. She truly cares so much. We don’t see her as an employee. We see her as a family member, a friend, and an angel from heaven.
Lluvia from Mexico
The Hodgson Family
Our Family's Secret Weapon to Battle Cancer: Lluvia Jimenez
The average hourly cost of hosting an aupair may be $7.50 but the value of having an ultimate aupair, Lluvia Jimenez, in our family… PRICELESS.
When you have triplet boys (age 3) you need an energetic and dynamic aupair for your family. When you have one of your boys diagnosed with leukemia, a blood cancer, you need an angel. Lluvia was all of these things and so much more.
You cannot imagine the pain one feels to watch an innocent child fight cancer. Lluvia was already the perfect aupair in how she cared for our boys and challenged them in sports and taught them to speak Spanish. She went above and beyond our expectations in so many ways. As a mom, I was able to focus on Dylan’s battle with cancer with the confidence that she was part of our care team for our children.
Lluvia’s emotional support to our family was the first area where Lluvia excelled. She cried with us, cheered with us, and always supported and cared for our boys. She made sure all three boys felt loved even when one was getting more mommy or daddy time. I was so thankful when she told us that she was going to put her Masters in Mexico on hold. She wanted to stay and support us through Dylan’s cancer treatment. It gave us such peace knowing the boys would have continuity of care and we would not have a new person coming into our family during such a difficult time.
Secondly, Lluvia excelled when she proactively set up a mini pre-school for our boys after we took them out of school to protect Dylan’s low immune system during the year of his cancer treatment. She was always researching and leveraging Montessori activities as well as traditional teaching methods to ensure our boys were being challenged and not falling behind their age group.
Lluvia is also tireless and literally will go the extra mile. She will chase our very active (and at times wild) triplets around our 170-acre farm whether it is a 100-degree summer day or a 40-degree winter day. I sit back in amazement, watching her go up and down the hill to our house laughing and singing with the boys. Lluvia also loves to cook and often shares authentic home cooked Mexican food and recipes with us.
Last of all, Lluvia shows compassion not just to our family but also to the other aupairs in the Austin area. She has been known to drive an extra hour out of her way to make sure an aupair that doesn’t have access to transportation can make a meeting or a fun outing.
Lluvia has been with us almost 2 years and her smile is always there, warming the room and her heart is always caring. We are so thankful to have Lluvia Jimenez as part of our family and she will not be forgotten. She is the type of person that does not ask for recognition; she just wants to help people whether it is our family or other aupairs in the Austin area. Lluvia Jimenez absolutely deserves recognition for being the wonderful person she is and she is the Ultimate Aupair!
Eveline from Brazil
The Herzfeld Family
THE ULTIMATE AU PAIR: OUR EVELINE
You are not about to read a heroic tale of how our child was pushed aside just in time to avoid a moving car. No brave fighting off of child snatchers. No dramatic Heimlich maneuver during meal-time.
You are about to read about the everyday heroics, bravery, and endless enthusiasm that our au pair has brought into our lives.
You want to know what makes the ultimate au pair?
Try one person taking care of seven children.
One au pair having to approach and relate to seven children all at different stages of life, from our pre-teenage 12-year-old daughter, to our newborn 6-month-old son.
Our Eveline approaches each day with enthusiasm and smiles. She gets the kids ready for school, drops them off, picks them up, and takes care of them. Seven kids. No assistant. And she never loses her temper. And she never stops giving her all. She starts and ends each day with endless energy. Even when she is off, she is helpful, social, and friendly. She never turns off her amazing personality.
Our family is better with Eveline here. I yell at my children less. My husband is no longer rushing around with chores. The kids are happier, more loved, and more secure. She picks up on our needs and takes care of them. She is dependable and helpful. She has the initiative to encourage sharing, better eating habits, cleanliness, toilet training, politeness. She is creative and thoughtful in educating our children. She is an incredible role model. We have seen our children blossom and grow into lovely people in the nine months that Eveline has been with us.
She never complains. She has an amazing attitude. She claims it is easy and she makes it seem effortless. We are proud to have her in our family. But our words aren’t enough. We asked our children what Eveline does for them:
Lea(12): I am so happy Eveline is part of my life. She has done so many things for me and I am thankful. What I love most about Eveline is that she talks to me and my siblings. She tells us stories about her family and her country, and she makes us laugh. Eveline takes me shopping for clothing, and we have so much fun (and my mother hates shopping so we are all happy). She also drives me to my friends’ houses when we want to hang out. If I need something Eveline is always there. I am so glad Eveline is our au pair.
Roey(10): Eveline helps me in many ways: becoming healthier, acting nicer, and taking care of my siblings.
For example, she said, “If you want to have teeth when you’re old, you should remember to brush your teeth every day and night.”
She helps me take of my siblings and taught me how to feed the baby.
I’m a nicer person because of her. I think that’s what an au pair is supposed to do.
Elai(9): Eveline helps me because she said I needed to eat better. She told me to drink milk so I grow taller and not be full of bones. I tried drinking milk but I didn’t like it so I put a little chocolate syrup in and it was the best thing ever. I tried eating vegetables but that didn’t go so well. But whatever because when she told me that I was 47 inches and now I am 50 inches tall.
When I eat candy for breakfast she stops me right away and that’s why I’m not full of bones anymore at all.
Max(6): One time I forgot to do my homework. I was really scared my teacher would get mad at me. So I asked Eveline for help. She helped me and when I was done she signed it. I don’t know what would have happened if Eveline wasn’t here.
Shia(4): I really love my Eveline! She gives me a snack when I am hungry , a bath every night and she plays with me. Before Eveline came I misbehaved but my Eveline taught me that if I am nice I will have more friends. Now I behave really well. I’m happy I have my Eveline in my house and she is not in Brazil now.
Kolbi(3): My Eveline buys me Dora stickers everytime I poop on the potty. I have star stickers for when I pee. Now I am toilet trained and I even have Dora underwear. Eveline made me a wall with all my toilet training stickers. My Eveline reads books to me and teaches me to count. She puts me in pretty dresses and makes my hair like a princess. I play puzzles with Eveline. I love my Eveline.
Bear(6 months): When mommy had to go back to work I was lucky that Eveline stepped up to take care of me. She bathes me, plays with me, and she makes me feel safe. Eveline bought me a present: my own sippy cup.
Our Eveline is the ultimate au pair. She makes extraordinary responsibilities seem ordinary, easy, and natural. She is our hero.
Florian from Germany
The Como Family
Last Wednesday I came home to find Florian scrambling about the house to get his costume ready for Halloween. He had insisted on dressing up as a vampire to hand out candy, and although he had to leave the house later that night, he dressed up in full face makeup, hair dye, and fake blood for an entire hour just for the kids’ sake.
Our Au Pair, Florian, has become like an adopted son to us. What began as a good match soon evolved into a relationship between him and my children that surpasses what could have ever been asked of him. Unlike anyone else with whom I have entrusted my children, Florian goes up and beyond in making their childhood a memorable one.
When we were looking for someone to help with the kids, we were concerned because of how different each of their personalities are: Sofia, our baby, doesn’t take well to strangers; Abe, our youngest boy, is incredibly sweet and very sensitive; Omar, our eldest boy, loves football and the military; and Lani, our eldest daughter, never has time to rest between her schoolwork and her schedule. Then Florian came, and it was as though he were the missing link. Florian manages to remain his sweet and unassuming self while being the friend and elder brother each of my children need and look up to. He is the heart of our house.
Every week for the past month, I have come home to a house full of pipe-cleaner spiders, tissue ghosts, and origami pumpkins. He and my boys have been decorating the house with craft ideas from the internet. On one particular day, Abe nearly toppled me over with a pumpkin he and Flo had carved that afternoon. With his own money, Florian bought pumpkins for both the boys and spent the day making them both. Given that we rarely hand-carve pumpkins for Halloween, this meant a lot to my sons. He would also make cookies for everybody when they got home, and twice has made German bread from scratch based on an old family recipe of his. He has truly brought our family closer together.
We consider Florian to be the ultimate Au Pair because he is so much more than a caregiver to this family. Florian uses his days off to take the boys to the movies or to play monopoly with them. He knocks on Lani’s door when he realizes she hasn’t made time to eat, and he spent hours hand-washing her carpets with her the first time she cleaned her car. He playfully wrestles with Omar, reads with Abe, and plays patty-cake with Sofia, providing them each with what they need in the way that they need it. During his first weekend here, at a time when he should have still been adjusting to life in the US, he asked if he could take Lani and the boys to the Fort Worth Zoo. My kids loved it, and I was touched because he had been given that time off. He doesn’t see spending time with the kids simply as his job, and this moves me to the bottom of my heart. He always makes sure he is not imposing, is gracious with the rules that we give him, and checks on everybody who seems as though they are having a bad day. He deserves so much for how much he gives and how little he asks for, and for making this home one of laughter and happiness.
Liesel from the UK / South Africa
The Coughlin Family
Hi, I would like to introduce you to Liesel from South Africa. She was our au pair three years ago and we loved her so much that we worked to get her back again. We live in a Washington DC suburb and our children attend private school where there is no transportation. We have two children that are at the age where they fight all the time, a son age 16 and a daughter age 12. Liesel is responsible for all the normal things an au pair would do, homework assistance, driving to/from school), meal preparation, after school activities, etc. But I also have to tell you that she is able to get both children to agree almost daily on activities to do together over the summer break and school holidays. Not easy with their ages. My children are active in sports, but will just as easily sit on the couch and play video games or read a book. Liesel gets them outside bike riding, kayaking, hiking, playing water balloons, chasing the dog around the yard and numerous other things. Just motivating them to get up when there is no school is difficult at their ages as they would prefer to sleep until noon. But the real story is how she went above and beyond all my expectations. We had a family tragedy early October where my father passed away. I got the call while at my office over lunch. I came home distraught and could only think about getting to my mother and comforting her. My mother lives in Minnesota so we can’t just hop in a car and drive there from Washington DC. By the time I got home from work, Liesel had simply taken control of arranging everything. She had called the carpool for my daughter’s school , changed my children’s doctor and orthodontist appointments (scheduled about the time we expected the funeral to be held), started the laundry of clothes she thought we might need, picked up our dry cleaning (not her responsibility at all), and did a quick check of my children’s closet to see if they had outfits appropriate for a funeral (which they did not since they had both gone thru a growth spurt that summer and I had not gotten fall dress clothes yet). She even asked if she could make me and my husband something to eat when I got home (truly outside her duties). With all her help, I could concentrate on making the arrangements for our travel home and notify other family members of the sad news. We asked Liesel if she wanted to come with us as she had meet my parents several times on trips we had taken but also, because she truly was a part of our family. She thanked me for the offer, but said to save our money and that she would take care of our dog and watch the house for us. She even got up at 4:00 am the next morning to drive us all to the airport for an early morning flight. But the thing that brought tears to my eyes was when she gave each of us cards to open in Minnesota. There was a special verse written specifically for each of us that captured what we were going through. That meant more to me than anything else. I can’t begin to thank her for everything she did. I stayed in Minnesota an extra week in order to help my mother. Liesel simply took charge and got the children where they needed to go and ensured they got all their missed schoolwork and completed it on time. She escpecially helped my daughter who was really struggling over our loss. She really needed my comfort but I wasn’t there to give it to her so Liesel spent several nights consoling her before she fell off to sleep. To make matters worse, my daughter had a major school project due the day after she flew home. She had just started the project when we got the news of my father’s death, and the project was supposed to show a week’s worth of effort. Liesel picked everyone up at the airport around 2:30 and had everything ready for my daughter’s project. She helped her until 11:00pm so my daughter could turn her project in on time. I don’t know many young ladies that would have done all that, I don’t even think many adults would have thought of all the things she did. Liesel truly is an ultimate au pair and I hope you think so too.
Pamela from Mexico
The Sheth Family
Life is chaotic – juggling kids, work, personal life and relationships is no easy feat. It takes a village as we all know so well. Despite returning to work full time, my wife and I were adamant about raising our sons in a home environment as if we were present and with them at all times. The only way we felt we could somehow simulate this environment for our boys was to have someone who was part of our family take good care of our boys. For quite some time, each set of our parents (boys’ grandparents) would take turns flying from the East Coast to the West Coast and stay with us for months to help take care of our boys. We quickly realized, however, that this was neither sustainable nor practical to meet our long term needs and objectives. After doing an extensive amount of research and talking to a few friends, we discovered the world of au pairs. While at first we were very reluctant to the idea of hosting an au pair as we felt it would be a significant intrusion on our and our boys’ lives, we warmed up to it as we realized that this was a way in which we could still fulfill our desire to have our sons taken care of by a “family member” in a loving and supportive home environment.
The au pair search and interview process were daunting at first, but we quickly became familiar with how to ask the “right” questions and see if we got the “right” responses. Nonetheless we still felt discouraged as many of the candidates, despite giving the “right” responses, did not seem like a good fit for our family. That is, until we met (on Skype, of course!) Pamela. Pamela was REAL – she was funny, witty (just a gem of a quality for our family!), respectful, observant, intelligent, warm and, most importantly, authentic. After a follow up interview and exchanging a few emails, we matched with Pamela. Relief and excitement ensued.
When Pamela arrived to the U.S. and in our home, we immediately breathed a sigh of relief. My wife and I felt like we shaved off a few years (if that’s at all possible with children!)… Pamela WAS as described. On day one, she woke up with our boys (who, by the way, wake up painfully early) and observed. On day two, she asked if she could give it a go on her own and we intervene only if and when necessary. Pamela was clearly eager and ready to be independent. We did not know what to do! Our boys took to her immediately. For example, our younger son fell ill the first week that Pamela arrived from Mexico and we had to rush him to the emergency room. Pamela singlehandedly took care of our generally suspicious older son at home as if she had known him for years. In her free time, Pamela spends time educating herself on child development and researching developmentally appropriate games and activities that she could play and work on with the boys. Most days Pamela spends time with our one year old while our older son is in school. Our one year old has learned many words in Spanish as well as English and learned sign language. (On a side note – she also teaches us those same Spanish words so that we know what our little guy is saying!). Moreover, because she is not able to spend as much time with our older son, she often spends time with him after hours reading or playing or doing art projects or baking or sharing the Mexican culture with him to make sure he never feels excluded and rather feels completely secure and comfortable with her.
There are too many examples of what makes Pamela so special that she has seamlessly fit into our family from day one. But honestly it is not even what she does for us that makes her special. It is the way in which she carries out her responsibilities. While we always felt strongly that she went beyond what was ever asked of her on a daily basis, it was not until we hit a few rough medical patches with our youngest son that the “real” Pamela fully surfaced. This past summer our little guy had to have surgery. Pamela was calm, reassuring and our rock since the day we found out that he needed surgery to the day he went in for surgery to the end of his recovery period. And then this past fall, we decided to return to Cleveland to visit family and my wife and I decided to have the grandparents and Pamela watch over the kids so that we could sneak in a little getaway for two nights. While we were away our youngest developed a very high fever and would not go to anyone but Pamela. He was irritable, not eating, and was eventually diagnosed with an infection. Throughout the whole time we were away, Pamela did not leave his side – she stayed up with him night and day and was with him for over 24 hours straight despite our parents’ insistence that she take a break. Pamela simply could not bear the thought of our younger one being sick again and feeling helpless. She rose to the occasion and did everything in her power to try and help him feel better until we got back – from sleeping next to him to consoling him, to making sure he stayed hydrated to giving him medication as indicated to even finding ways to keep our older son engaged – we still do not know how she did it all. When we returned home, Pamela broke down. She told us she was worried and that she could not bear to see our son in this state, that it was not fair to him. It was then that it hit home for us – Pamela was more than an au pair or a caretaker for our children. She was truly a family member, she was one of us – no strings attached.
Pamela reminds us of how refreshing it is to find the goodness, sincerity, and love in other people. We do not feel we need a contest to tell us that we have the ultimate au pair. We already know that. What we need is this contest to tell others that we have an ultimate family member – one that we are eternally grateful to have in our lives.
Paola from Spain
The Mullen Family
Not long ago, I, like many other families, received a notice about Au Pair Care’s Ultimate Au Pair Contest.
I knew immediately that our au pair, Paola Huarte Perez-Alfaro was THE ultimate au pair and deserved to win this contest. But then, I faced the daunting task of having to write an essay explaining WHY.
I thought of all of the things Paola does for us, that makes us work better as a family. How she is always ready for work with a smile on her face. How she jumped into our single parent household without a second thought and rolls with the punches – like jumping in to hurricane preparations, loading sandbags and finding open gas stations without a second thought. How she helps smooth over the rough edges of difficult days – making left-overs into great meals on the fly, finding silly you tube videos to cheer us up or just making a nice cup of tea. How she holds firm with house rules even when the children try hard to test boundaries as all children do. How she manages to get protein into my fussy eater for breakfast with shakes and exotic “Spanish” treats. How she helps get my middle schooler past his anxiety so he can do his homework. How she helps my high schooler navigate her many after school activities and new friendships. How she helps my son with his daily medical routine for a chronic disease. How I can give her almost any instruction and she will execute it without fail. How she can take feedback willingly and give it as well, in a way you feel cared for, not criticized.
But I knew these were all part of her job and just “things” she did. How did this amount to being the ULTIMATE au pair – a very lofty title indeed!
Then she handed it to me this morning. I received an email from her entitled “Happy.” I often get emails from Paola throughout the day, letting me know what is happening at home, how the kids are doing and what is needed at home, but this one really made me understand exactly why I feel that Paola is the ultimate au pair and has in such a short time become a truly valued member of our family.
Her email told me this:
Just want to make you as happy as I am letting you know that the boys are making me SO HAPPY today!
They are doing what I ask them to do without complaining!!! And I let them know how happy I am and N. said to G.: Did u realize how easy is to make Paola happy? :D:D
What I realized from this email, is that it is Paola who is making our family happy. Under her care, my children are growing, stretching, learning, developing. They are growing in their ability to handle responsibilities and relationships. They are stretching beyond their comfort zones and finding self reliance. They are learning respect for others and themselves. They are developing teamwork skills. They are becoming more and more the wonderful young adults they are meant to be. They are finding happiness.
So, I realized, it is not in Paola’s performance of her assigned job duties that make her the ultimate au pair. It is in the little things she does. She connects with the children. She engages with our family. She blends guidance, discipline, love and humor to help the children grow and develop. She makes jokes and brings us smiles every day. She sees the positive, not the negative and always brings us her best. She is integral to the happiness of our home, and we are so blessed to have her.
There is no doubt in my mind that Paola is the ultimate au pair. She is our ultimate au pair.
Regina from Germany
The Grunner Family
Regina - The Miracle Worker!
Amazing! Remarkable! Phenomenal! There just aren’t enough praising words to describe Regina. She has been with us almost a year now and she is more than just an AuPair, she is part of our family and always will be. Regina takes wonderful care of our 4 sons (two sets of twins – ages 3.5 years and 22 months old…that within itself deserves an award!). The boys absolutely love her! She not only takes care of them, she fills their day with education, arts and crafts, and all sorts of activities to build their skills and meet their developmental milestones. She has helped us build their “toy room” and our family room into functional, kid-friendly, learning centers that will help them over the next several years. This is especially beneficial for our oldest son (Jason) who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Regina has worked with Jason over this past year and the changes we see in him are truly extraordinary! He now laughs, smiles and plays with his brothers where before he wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone, including me! He still has a long way to go, but she has definitely made a huge impact on his life and has helped him overcome many of the obstacles he faces. In addition, our youngest twins (Jacob and Jordan) have been diagnosed with speech delay. Before Regina arrived last year, the boys had not said any words. They have their own “twin language”, but had only attempted to say “Dada” and “go.” Today, they can say a variety of words, can count to 13, and they know the alphabet and all letter phonics! The progress they have made is truly incredible and it is all credited to Regina.
In addition to the educational activities, Regina has take time to let the boys explore their artistic side, to include baking cookies and brownies! She has let them help mix the dough and roll/cut/decorate cookies. This is one of the boys’ favorite things to do and even though it makes a big mess that she has to clean up, Regina happily lets them have fun! The giggles and smiles I see on their faces are absolutely priceless.
My husband and I both work full time away from the home and with the commute to/from work, we are away from the house 10 hours a day. I can honestly say that I do not worry about the boys throughout the day because I know Regina is taking great care of them. Knowing that they are safe and happy is worth more to me than anything else in the world and Regina makes that possible! Being away from the boys for so long is very hard for us, but Regina even helps make that easier too! She takes pictures and video clips of them throughout the day while they are playing, singing or doing art projects and emails them to us at work! This way we can share in the fun they are having and experience the milestones they are achieving even if we can’t be there in person. We never miss a minute of fun with them and it is all thanks to Regina.
Again, I just can’t say enough wonderful things about Regina. She has made such a tremendous impact on our lives and there really is no way to ever thank her enough! We will miss her terribly when she leaves, but she will always be part of our family and we will stay connected forever.