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U.S. Agency Loosens New Rules on Au Pairs

February 17, 1995|ANNE GEARAN | ASSOCIATED PRESS

FAIRFAX, Va. — The federal government has eased tough new rules regulating foreign nannies.

Many Americans who hire live-in baby-sitters from other countries under the government-sanctioned au pair program had complained the rules were an overreaction to exceptional cases such as the death of Brenton Scott Devonshire. The Virginia newborn died from being violently shaken.

The U.S. Information Agency received about 3,500 letters from host families who complained that raising the minimum ages of au pairs and increasing their pay 50% would kill the program.

USIA spokesman James Morgan said Wednesday that the agency would have no comment beyond a four-page news release outlining the rules.

"The regulations include a number of revisions . . . and are the result of extensive consultations," with nanny agencies, families, Congress and others, the statement said.

A 19-year-old Dutch woman is scheduled for trial next month in the death of the 8-week-old boy in Loudoun County last August. Anna-Corina Peeze, who lived with the Devonshires for two weeks before the death, has denied harming Brenton.

USIA Director Joseph Duffey denied that the boy's death prompted the tougher rules. But Duffey said last fall that the death showed that the program the agency had overseen since 1986 needed tighter controls.

On Wednesday, the agency reversed a policy announced in December barring nannies younger than 21 from caring for children younger than 2.

The weekly stipend that nannies receive will increase from $100 to $115, instead of the proposed $150.

The USIA also scaled back its requirement that a parent remain home during the nanny's first week of work. Instead, a parent or other responsible person must be on hand for the first three days.

As proposed in December, the USIA will no longer allow a nanny alone to care for children under 3 months old. But instead of a parent, someone else the family chooses, such as a grandparent or friend, may join the nanny.

The USIA will require eight rather than 16 hours of child-safety training for new nannies, and will not require families to attend quarterly seminars.

The rules take effect immediately.

The program brings about 13,000 young, mostly European women to the United States annually for a one-year stay.

"We're real pleased," said Bill Gertz, spokesman for Au Pair in America, the largest of several private groups that match families with nannies. "Basically USIA listened to what the families were saying . . . and came to a very reasonable compromise."

Congress is expected to consider changes to the program in September.

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