Belen Elizondo is a bilingual teacher from Costa Rica. For the past 18 months, she has been in San Francisco helping the Jackson family care for their three children.
"I'm happy to be here being an au pair. It's a great program to come here, be with the family, learn the language, learn about the culture and gain experience," she told ABC7.
The Jacksons used to have a part-time nanny, but decided on an au pair after their youngest child Amanda was born.
"Certainly with a nanny, especially with three children, the costs add up pretty quickly. So, the au pair option is attractive because of that," explained Kathleen Jackson of San Francisco.
The average cost of an au pair is about $340 a week. That breaks down to $8.50 an hour based on a 40-hour work week. The cost is the same no matter how many children the family has.
"Actually, that's one of the benefits of the program," said Heidi Woehl, the vice president of Au Pair Care. "Regardless of how many children you have, the price remains the same."
To hire a nanny, the rates through an agency can range from $16 to $23 an hour. The price depends on the nanny's experience and in part, the number of children.
In the six-county Bay Area, the average cost to put a preschooler in a day care center is $208 per week per child. In a child care home, the cost is just $171 per week per child, making it the most inexpensive option for families who have only one child. But, for larger families, an au pair may be the way to go.
"If you have a big family, it's a great way, very affordable, very flexible child care option and I think that's one of the reasons families elect hosting an au pair," Woehl said.
Of course, cost is not the only factor when choosing child care. Au pair hosts must also provide meals and a private room.