Au pairs act as cultural role models for families who adopt internationally
Atlantic City, NJ- November 02, 2011— Since November was officially hailed as National Adoption Month in 1990, it has become a time for families, adoption advocates, policymakers, judges and volunteers to come together and celebrate adoption in communities across the nation.
For parents who adopt internationally, this holiday is also a reminder to support multi-culturalism and help children identify with their birth culture. There are many suggestions as to how to do this, but according to one of the largest studies of transracial adoptions, released by the Adoption Institute in 2009, “Positive ethnic identity development is most effectively facilitated by ‘lived’ experiences such as travel to native country, racially diverse schools, and role models from their same race/ethnicity.”
LaClaire and Bobby Stewart of Spartanburg, SC—who adopted son Josh from Guatemala as an infant—have taken this to heart and make integrating his culture into their every day lives a priority. LaClaire, a fluent Spanish speaker, talks to Josh and her biological son Gray in Spanish regularly, and they are both bi-lingual as a result. The family is planning a trip to Guatemala next year. And, the Stewarts have hosted three au pairs from Central and South America since Josh’s arrival. Their au pairs not only provide 45 hours of live-in childcare per week, they bring their Spanish language, cuisine and games into the household.
Says LaClaire, “Having an au pair supports the effort Bobby and I make in bringing Latin American culture into our home. Our au pairs help Josh and Gray improve their Spanish because they only speak Spanish with them during the day. Our first au pair cooked tamales for us at Christmastime, and our other au pairs have brought fairytale books and games from home—ones that we might never come across in the U.S.”
Guy Petinga, Local Childcare Coordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair who supports local families in South Jersey, says, “Seeing how impactful the program has been for adoptive families in South Jersey, I advocate for any adoptive family to investigate the au pair program.”
Just weeks after Kristi and Bob McKeown brought their adopted son Spencer home from Guatemala; their first Latin American au pair arrived to join the family in Raleigh, NC. They’ve hosted three additional au pairs since, all from Colombia. Kristi shares, “The au pair program has worked beautifully for us. Our au pairs have helped enabled ties to Spencer’s heritage and development in three ways: intellectually, socially and academically.”
“Transracially and transculturally adopted kids need more than loving parents, more than culture camps, more than ethnic art and books. They need people like themselves in their lives,” says Jana Wolff, bestselling author of Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother, who adopted her multiracial son at birth. Jana adds, “Hosting an au pair gives adoptive families the opportunity to enrich their lives with a positive and personal multicultural experience.”
Lara Peterson of Bellevue, WA is also an adoptive parent—to three girls from China, Gwenn, 12, Ella, 9 and Lucy, 6. She has been a long-time host parent with Cultural Care Au Pair welcoming a total of 8 au pairs into her family’s home. Although one of those au pairs was from China, the rest have hailed from Finland, Poland, Sweden and Germany. Her current au pair is 19-year old Sophie from Berlin.
Says Lara, “Having a diverse family has always been the norm for us and our au pairs have enriched our multi-cultural experience even further. Although it was exciting to host our one au pair from China, it’s just as important that my daughters see that we can welcome people from all around the world into our family, regardless of their race or cultural heritage.” To ensure her daughters are exposed to their Chinese roots, the Petersons are very involved in Families with Children from China, a support organization for families who have adopted children from China.
The number of adoptive parents who are inquiring about au pairs is rising according to Melissa Fredette, Executive Vice President for Cultural Care Au Pair, the nation’s largest au pair agency. “We’ve had more and more interest in the program from adoptive families in the past few years. For them, hosting an au pair fulfills two needs: affordable childcare and exposure to a different culture.”
Adoptive families interested in learning more about the au pair program in South Jersey can contact Guy Petinga, Local Childcare Coordinator at 609-705-5842 or by email at guy.petinga@
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Cultural Care Au Pair is the leading provider of intercultural childcare and educational exchange. Since 1989, Cultural Care Au Pair has placed more than 85,000 au pairs in welcoming American homes. A division of EF Education and a U.S. Department of State regulated program, Cultural Care Au Pair is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., with an extensive network of recruitment, screening and orientation offices worldwide. For more information about hosting an au pair, visit http://jpetinga.aupairnews.com or call 609-705-5842
Adoption Institute, Transracial Adoption Study
Jana Wolff, Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother
Families With Children from China
Cultural Care Au Pair
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