Want to learn more about the world’s most experienced, live-in cultural child care program, Au Pair in America? Take a look at Au Pair in America “behind the scenes” with one of our staff members.
Meet Marina Neary, a Placement Coordinator here at Au Pair in America. We asked her a few questions about her job/about cultural exchange in general, and she responded honestly based on her own unique experiences.
Read on to get to know Marina and to take a look at Au Pair in America through the eyes of an expert.
Q. #1: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role as Placement Coordinator?
“A lot of what I do is proactive outreach,” Marina said. “I receive new families that come into the work queue and go over the matching process and program regulations. With repeat families who are familiar with the program, I make sure their needs are still the same.”
Since joining Au Pair in America in 2012, Marina has maintained close relationships with host families to make sure their specific needs are met. Her understanding of the Americanization process that au pairs go through stems from her own journey to the United States in 1992.
Of the many things she enjoys about her job, finding the perfect au pair match is one of her favorite parts.
“I love hand-selecting candidates for families whose situation might be a little complicated, that might require a truly exceptional au pair with the right balance of maturity, compassion and humor,” she said.
Q. #2: Why do you think cultural exchange is so important in this day and age?
“Cultural exchange is more important than ever because there are still so many misconceptions and stereotypes,” Marina said.
Au Pair in America seeks to change that, however, by creating a culturally enriching exchange experience through a large selection of diverse au pairs.
“If you look at our au pair pool, some of our applicants defy all expectations,” Marina explained. “For example, you can find a young woman from Brazil, who has a Japanese last name, who is of mixed descent, who practices Buddhism. There is so much diversity already built into the countries we recruit from.”
Q. #3: What would you say the biggest differentiator between Au Pair and other childcare options is?
As a mother herself, Marina said that one of the best things about an au pair is their flexibility and commitment to the host family.
“Many women that work as nannies have their own children and grandchildren who usually take priority,” she said. “There are endless benefits to hosting an au pair… who is not going to call you at 6:30 am and say, ‘Sorry, my kids have the flu – I’m not coming in today.’”
Another benefit is that an au pair exposes children to a new language and culture. Marina compared au pair childcare to a typical daycare environment, saying, “[At daycare] you do not always get exposure to other cultures or languages.”
If you’re looking to expose your children to a different language, Marina said, an au pair is the way to go.
Q. #4: What advice would you give host families to ensure a successful year?
One of the best pieces of advice Marina gives host families is to focus on the big picture.
“As Placement Coordinator, it is my job to help families think critically about their search criteria,” Marina explained. “I have families that are looking specifically for skiers. I always ask them, ‘Realistically, how many days out of the year will she be spending on the ski slopes?’”
Even when focusing on the big picture, host families’ needs may still be very specific. However, Marina said she loves the more complex cases because finding a “needle in a haystack” match can feel like a miracle.
One of the most rewarding parts of it all, though? “Thank-you notes from host families, telling us how much they love their au pair,” Marina said. “That is very rewarding.”