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Some Utah families find au pairs more affordable than other childcare

Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 18, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Childcare costs are soaring across the country.

It's forcing Utah families to try an alternative — and surprisingly cheaper — option than daycare or a nanny to take care of their children.

“When we realized that we were having a third child... we had to kind of think about the different options available to us," said Megan Khater, a mother of three.

She said she and her husband tried every childcare option available.

She estimated at one point when she was early on in her career, 25% of her and her husband's income was going toward daycare for two of their children.

"I mean, it's a real financial burden on middle-income and middle-class families," she said.

She said they also tried a nanny, but that was even pricier, coming to around $22,000 per year.

“The cost of that was so astronomical that it just wasn't something that we felt was going to be sustainable long-term," said Kater.

A national study found families with at least one child under the age of five typically spend 13% of the family's income on childcare.

In Utah, a study released in January estimated that childcare issues cost Utah $1.6 billion per year.

It also highlighted that 48% of parents needed to make a significant adjustment to their school or work training because of issues with childcare like cost, availability and transportation to and from places like daycare.

For these reasons, Khater tried a different route.

“A friend of ours actually had an au pair for a couple of years and she recommended it to us, and once we kind of did our own research on it, we just felt like it was a really great fit for us," said Khater.

They hired Beaudine Phumo, who is from South Africa, to stay in their home in South Jordan and take care of the children full-time.

It's an option more than 100 Utah families have turned to in a program called "Cultural Care Au Pair."

“All the added benefits on having a cultural exchange with someone that you really trust," said Khater.

Khater said it's only slightly cheaper than daycare at around $17,000 per year, but minus the transportation costs and the risk of her children getting sick frequently.

“Being with them 24/7 is kind of good. It’s very heartwarming," said Phumo.

Phumo's room and board, phone, internet, and other amenities are covered, and she gets to experience and grow in a different country.

“You have to get accustomed to the food, the cultural, because obviously like behavioral and parental styles that you see in a different country is not usually what you're used to from back home," said Phumo.

Khater said it's a win-win for an economy not set up for affordable childcare.

“We think the moon and the stars of Beaudine, and we’re really happy with it," she said.