One consequence of the current economic crisis is that more mothers are working. More new moms are remaining in the workforce and at-home mothers who had decided to put their careers on hold are having to return to work. With an increase in dual income households comes an increase in the demand for quality childcare.
In some cases, this rising demand is driving up childcare costs. According to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the price of child care is rising faster than the average rate of inflation. The report, which provides typical prices of child care in centers, reveals that over the course of a year, the average price of full-time center care increased an average of 6.5 percent, almost three times the rate of inflation and more than increases in healthcare and college costs. Escalating childcare costs is having the greatest effect on the nanny business. A recent Wall Street Journal article estimated that full time nanny hiring is down between ten to thirty percent.
One childcare program, however, has been able to meet the growing demand for childcare with an affordable option for working parents. Cultural Care Au Pair is a childcare and cultural exchange program based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that places au pairs across the country including approximately 300 au pairs in Long Island. Demand for au pairs is growing. Data from the U.S. Department of State, which regulates the au pair program, shows that nearly 22,000 au pairs came to the United States last year, up 44 percent from 2004. With hundreds of available, qualified au pairs, Cultural Care is able to meet the needs of families looking for quality childcare.
“Although the demand for au pairs is strong, we understand that affordable childcare is an economic necessity for our current and potential host families,” says David Fougere, President of Cultural Care Au Pair. “We have taken some major steps to help families in these tough economic times. While other au pair programs and other types of childcare are raising their fees, we are holding our prices at 2008 levels for 2009. We have also adjusted our payment plan and reduced the initial deposit so the upfront costs are more manageable. And, we will be offering greater discounts to both new and repeat families throughout the year so many families will be paying even less than they paid last year.”
Lori Brust, local coordinator for Cultural Care in Long Island, has seen an increased interest in the au pair program among local families. “If you have two or three children, there really is no comparison. The cost of the program is about $320 per week and that’s per family, not per child,” Brust says. “Au pairs can provide up to 45 hours per week of child care which works out to be less than $7.50 per hour, regardless of how many children you have.”