Many moms with young children are familiar with the au pair program. This program, run by the U.S. State Department, connects U.S. families with young women from other countries who provide child care in exchange for the opportunity to live in and experience U.S. culture. Families provide room and board, cover other living expenses, and pay au pairs a stipend. 

This program has recently come under attack; the Biden administration has proposed a set of regulations so draconian, they would likely result in the end of the program. 

But rather than restrict a program that has proven helpful to so many U.S. families, we should expand the program to a new demographic: elderly Americans in need of care. Heidi Crebo-Rediker proposed this idea on the Council for Foreign Relations blog, and IWF will publish a forthcoming policy focus on the topic this spring. 

This proposal could help avert a caregiving crisis that is coming our way as Baby Boomers age. We have a shortage of caregiving labor in the U.S., and what is available is often too expensive for many families. It could also keep more Americans in their homes—where they can be more comfortable than in facility (nursing home) care. 

Expanding au pair care to elderly Americans would also help many Americans in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who are currently managing care for their elderly family members. This family-oriented care, while extremely important and meaningful, takes time and sometimes precludes income opportunities, undermining the financial security of many women in this age range. 

If Americans could welcome a caring au pair into the homes of their elderly family members, they could experience the same benefits that families with young children have come to enjoy through this program: dependable, affordable care, long-term relationships (au pairs typically stay for at least one year), and the chance to connect across cultures.

Look for more details about this proposed expansion of the au pair program in an IWF policy focus coming soon.