How to Assess Your Childcare Needs: Part 1 of an Exclusive 3-Part Nanny Series

Sometimes parents make the mistake of beginning the childcare selection process without first assessing their needs. Finding childcare can often be a daunting and overwhelming task and parents are often pressed for time. However, if parents meet candidates, without having first outlined their childcare needs, they could waste a lot of time or end up selecting the wrong match for themselves and their children.

Taking the time to clearly outline what they need for themselves and their children can be one of the most helpful and productive parts of the childcare selection process.

From my work helping parents find the best childcare, I created something called a ‘Family Needs Assessment’, which allows parents to better understand what they need physically and emotionally in their childcare provider. The physical piece represents the logistics of the childcare job (hours, days, times, salary) and the emotional illustrates what kind of emotional environment a parent wants for their child.

Below are the questions parents have to ask themselves while they assess their childcare needs.


• How many hours a day will I need? Do I need 9 to 5 or 7 to 7? Perhaps overnight?
• How many days? Will I need Mon to Fri or Tues to Saturday?
• How much flexibility do I need? Will there be days I need to leave the child there longer? Or will I work part-time some weeks and full-time other weeks?
• What is my budget? What do I prefer to pay and what would be the maximum?
• Does the care need to be close to your home? Close to your work?
• How will your employer handle it if you need to take a day off if the caregiver is ill?
• If you have in home care do you need some other help around the house, like doing the child’s laundry or fixing his/her meals?
• Do you prefer in-home care, residential or commercial day care. Does this work with your current schedule?


• What educational experiences are important for my child?
• What developmental experiences are important for my child?
• Is my child ready to be socialized?
• Does my child need a caregiver with any specialized training or experience?
• Do I want the caregiver to have a child care education? Or is experience enough?
• What are my goals with childcare? (For example, how early do you want your child to be exposed to a formal education?)
• Do you want your child with other children of the same age or with a variety of ages?
• Do you prefer more individualized care for your child or more of a group environment?
• What size of a group do you prefer for your child to be in? (For example, do you mind there being 20 other children in a class or would you rather it was a very small class – like 5? Maybe you would prefer your child to be with his siblings most of the time and then have play times with other children?)
• Do you want a structured environment or one that is more flexible?
• Do you want your child in a homier atmosphere or a more school-like environment?
• Do you want to provide meals for the child or have a caregiver provide them? Do you mind packing a lunch every day? Or would you rather your child had lunch made for him?

Once these questions have been answered, determine your top priorities from this list. In my book, Secrets Of The Nanny Whisperer, I ask parents to create what are the MUSTS for their childcare selection process and what are their PLUSES. For example: if we have a nanny she MUST have infant care experience and it’s a plus if she speaks Spanish. For our daycare center it MUST be within 5 minutes to our home and it’s a PLUS if they have dance activities.

Once you have figured out your priorities, pluses and musts, you are now ready to begin the actual childcare selection process. Armed with an outline of their needs, parents can begin sourcing and screening daycare centers, nannies, babysitters or Au Pairs to flesh out who will be an initial match. Asking friends and family and looking online are great ways to find local childcare suggestions and obtain childcare references. In an effort to save time, I recommend doing the screenings over the phone or via email and checking references prior to do in person interviews.

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Tammy Gold is a Licensed Therapist, Certified Parent Coach, and Founder of Gold Parent Coaching. As a National Parenting Expert, Tammy appears regularly on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Fox and CBS News. Tammy has worked with families and nannies for over a decade, while also running parenting groups and giving lectures. Her revolutionary “Nanny Whisperer Communication Techniques” were created from her work counseling couples and her “Gold Standard Nanny Hiring Process” is based upon the work of Developmental Psychologists John Bowlby and Erik Erickson. Tammy is one of the first therapists to marry psychotherapy and childcare. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her graduate degree from Columbia University. She lives in Short Hills NJ with her husband and three daughters Braydin, Presley and Gemma.

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