This article was originally published in the Lifestyle section of local Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania newspaper, Citizen’s Voice.
Erin Yurko, 40, and husband, Kevin, 41, of Harveys Lake, are dynamic parents with four beautiful children ranging in age from 18 months to 10 years, two demanding careers, and a busy after-school calendar. As juggling their daily demands became increasingly challenging, Erin fleetingly considered an au pair. “I didn’t really know where to begin, but when I came across Bonnie’s message on a community page and reached out to her, hiring an au pair became the obvious, best choice for our family.”
Bonnie Witkosky, 61, of Wilkes-Barre, serves as the area director of AuPairCare. Working out of Mountain Top, Witkosky matches qualified au pair candidates with local families desiring alternative childcare services, as well as exchange students for host families.
“I love what I do. At AuPairCare, we have a rigorous process and exacting standards to ensure that we are matching the proper au pair with each family. I, personally, am always available for any needs that might arise — from the moment a family begins researching whether an au pair is the right choice for them, until the au pair returns to her or his home country after their two years in America,” explained Witkosky.
Per AupairCare, an au pair is a young adult between the ages of 18-26 years from another country who fully integrates with the host family, “providing in-home childcare on a J-1 visa through the U.S. Dept. of State in a cultural exchange program.”
“This program is not only good for our local families, but also good for the local economy. In the last year alone, we have brought 80 flights into the Wilkes- Barre/Scranton Airport,” explained Witkosky.
Camilla Centine, 26, from Brazil, feels very fortunate to be a part of the Yurko family as their au pair.
Eleanor, “Ella,” 10; Rowan, 8; Henry, 6, and Sloane, 18 months, flock to Centine. A sweet, fun bond clearly exists. They climb on her, posing happily, laughing, feeling special as she attends to them. The girls wear beautiful hair bows that are handmade specifically for them by Centine’s mother in Brazil.
“Our children are already becoming bilingual, speaking some Portuguese thanks to Camilla; and we look forward to Brazilian night every Wednesday for dinner. Camilla cooks her favorite recipes from home and we all enjoy it,” said Erin.
“It is a job, but the au pair should feel like your cousin coming to live with you,” explained Witkosky. “It isn’t just an employee living in your home, it is someone who becomes part of the family.”
The Yurkos knew immediately that Centine was the right person for their family. “It has been a very easy process for us to integrate Camilla into the family. She has been with us for nine months, but it feels like forever,” exclaimed Erin with a smile to a beaming Centine.
“We interviewed two au pairs, Camilla, and one more scheduled interview; however, we knew that Camilla was the right person for our family. Her English was excellent. She was organized, and prepared with questions for us,” Kevin explained.
“Camilla also has experience teaching and caring for children with special needs, something that is important to our family,” explained Erin. “Having Camilla’s help puts me at ease knowing she is home with Sloane, emulating the care that we give her, and Sloane has a shorter day in daycare.”
Centine clearly enjoys the experience, and enhances the joy in this bustling home.
“I was nervous to live in someone’s house, but it was an amazing feeling on the first call, and it has only grown from there,” Centine offered. “I want to improve my English. I speak with tourists at home, but being immersed in American culture and English is very different. The children help me — Henry likes to correct me,” she says with a laugh. “This program has been great for me. I worried about being homesick, and while I miss home, of course, I feel great. I am very happy that I chose to be here.”
“It is not as financially intimidating as we expected. Truly, it’s not much more than multiple children in daycare, but we have the advantage of in-home care and the cultural aspect,” explained Erin. “We love it.”
AuPairCare’s au pairs arrive in the US with 300+ hours of childcare experience and pre-arrival training, ready to care for children, and help with child-related duties such as children’s laundry, driving kids to school and activities, prepping kids’ meals, and helping with homework.
Au pairs are an advantageous option because first and foremost, they offer childcare in the child’s home, emulating the care and parenting style observed daily by being immersed in the family’s household. Working 45 hours per week, au pairs work no more than 10 hours per day, have one weekend off per month, and 1½ days off per week. They do everything that a parent does, caring for the children as if they are family, on a mutually agreed upon schedule.
Au pairs come for one year with an option to renew for a second year. Many stay for two years with the same family, while some move on after the first year if they can find another family looking for their services.
Currently, there are 21 au pairs in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties from countries such as Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, El Salvador, Germany, and the Czech Republic. While most are female, there are males, as well.
For information on the au pair program, contact Bonnie Witkosky at 570-417-3418 or email@example.com.