Ready to go back to work? Arranging childcare while flying can be overwhelming and stressful after having the bonding experience with your baby. Quality child care is a critical component of balancing work and family. Finding the right child care can be challenging, but many options are available depending on your family situation, what you fly, and where you live.
The following information and resources can assist in finding child care for your specific family situation.
The information contained herein is provided as a service to the pilot community and does not constitute an endorsement of any specific agency, business, or organization. Please note that ALPA does not promise or offer guarantees about any specific agency, and pilots should conduct their own due diligence with interviews, reference checks, and background checks before hiring anyone.
Types of Childcare
There are two types of childcare: individual providers and group providers. Individual providers are typically a family member, friend, babysitter, au pair, or nanny. Group providers include home daycare or a childcare center. Individual providers tend to be more expensive than group providers.
The important part of choosing the right type of child care is to consider your flying schedule and family situation. For example, if you have a spouse who can care for your child overnight while you fly a four-day trip, a daycare center might be right for you. If, however, your partner or family are not available to care for your children overnight, a full-time and/or live-in nanny might be your best option.
Au Pairs, Nannies, and Daycare
The au pair program is a U.S. Department of State-regulated cultural exchange program that was designated in 1989. The Department of State sets forth guidelines that all program participants and au pair agencies are required to follow—guidelines that are designed to protect the interests of both host families and au pairs. The agency typically screens applicants (including background checks), provides training, and secures the au pair’s J-1 visa and international travel to the United States.
Based on data from 2018, annual expenses are approximately $20,000, including agency program fees averaging $8,675 (infant specialized and toddler care program fees are $9,625), a $195.75 weekly stipend for the au pair, and up to $500 toward the au pair’s education.
Au pairs must be 18–26 years old, speak English, and have 200 hours of experience caring for children under age two. Au pairs can also do light housework as it pertains to the children. Special needs qualified au pairs must have experience and be willing to care for special needs children.
Host families must:
- Provide a private bedroom and meals (room and board).
- Limit the au pair’s hours to no more than 45 hours per week/10 hours per day.
- Provide at least 1.5 days off per week.
- Provide at least one weekend off per month.
- Provide at least two weeks of paid vacation during the year.
- Support the au pair in completing the educational component of the program and contribute up to $500 toward education.
- Provide transportation to the au pair’s school/education.
- Provide the weekly stipend.
Note: Au pairs are not able to care for a child less than three months old unless a parent or other responsible adult is present in the home.
There are several au pair agencies. Please ask around, conduct thorough interviews, do research, and find the agency that best fits your family’s needs.
A nanny is a household employee who assists parents in raising children. You can hire a live-in, live-out, full-time, or part-time nann
A nanny is often the most expensive option, though some pilots may not need a full-time nanny who works 40 hours a week. You can use an agency to find your nanny or conduct your own search. Check with your own state for its specific rules and regulations. You may be required to prepare workman’s comp and insurance.
Before and After School Care
Some school districts offer child development and childcare programs at their facilities for affordable rates. These may include infant and toddler care, pre-K, and school age before- and after-school care.
These programs typically run during the school year, Monday through Friday from as early as 0700 to as late as 1800. They typically require you to live within the school district and/or that your child attends the school. Check with your school district for specifics to your situation.
Note that many after-school care programs have a waitlist, so check for availability and plan accordingly. You may be able to find private before/after school care. Check your local business listings for more details.
It’s always good to have an alternate option when it comes to childcare. Au pairs get sick, daycare centers close for inclement weather, and roads get too icy for the nanny to get to work. More importantly, flights are delayed, crews get rerouted, and you may miss your commute. You need to have a backup plan for emergency child care.
Background checks are standard in the industry. Agencies typically run background checks on all their candidates, but we encourage pilots to confirm that any childcare provider you hire has had an adequate background check. Options are available to do your own background check on a potential candidate hired outside of an agency.
Dependent Care FSA
The dependent care flexible savings account (FSA) provides a tax-advantaged way to help pay for work-related childcare expenses. To be eligible for coverage, the dependent care expenses must be necessary for you and your spouse to work. You may contribute up to $5,000 annually on a pretax basis to your dependent care FSA. Sign up for a dependent care FSA during annual open enrollment.
You generally must use the money in an FSA within the plan year, but your employer may offer one of two options:
- It can provide a “grace period” of up to 2.5 extra months to use the money in your FSA.
- It can allow you to carry over up to $500 per year to use in the following year.
Please check with your company for the availability of this benefit.