Creating Inclusive Spaces: Supporting LGBTQIA+ Families and Staff in Child Care Settings

Every child deserves to grow and learn in an environment that celebrates diversity and individuality. Educators play a vital role in fostering positive attitudes and values among children by embracing and teaching respect for all types of families, including those with LGBTQIA+ parents or guardians.

Following are some great inclusion practices that celebrate the value of developing diverse communities, and can help to ensure LGBTQIA+ families and individuals feel valued, respected, and supported in early education settings:

Providers can ensure that enrollment forms and administrative processes are inclusive and affirming, allowing families to self-identify and provide accurate information about their family structure. By acknowledging and using inclusive language when addressing families and their diverse compositions, child care providers can create an atmosphere of acceptance.

When providers and child care centers share that their policies explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, they send a strong message of support to LGBTQAI+ families.

By incorporating LGBTQAI+ inclusive books, materials, and discussions into the curriculum, educators can help promote understanding and empathy among children. Child care settings that actively work towards creating a welcoming environment for LGBTQAI+ families are communicating their belief in the power of inclusion and diversity through meaningful action.

What we know for sure, is that when providers strive to engage in ongoing professional development to increase their knowledge and understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues, the chances that they will be able to better meet the needs of all families and respond appropriately to any challenges that may arise, increase significantly.

Supporting LGBTQIA+ staff members is equally important in creating inclusive early education and child care environments. According to a research article in Catalyst (LGBTQ+ workplace issues: Quick Take (2023). Catalyst), almost one quarter of LGBTQAI+ employees in the United States experienced discrimination at the workplace. LGBTQIA+ child care workers deserve to feel safe and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

Following are some recommended practices that can help to ensure LGBTQIA+ staff members feel valued, respected, and supported in early education settings:

Providing training and professional development opportunities designed to educated and inform, can help staff to understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals and families.

Creating support networks, such as LGBTQIA+ employee resource groups or mentorship programs, can further enhance the sense of belonging and support for LGBTQAI+ staff members.

Collaborating with local LGBTQIA+ organizations and sharing the resources available through these organizations, can be a powerful step in creating inclusive early education environments. These organizations often provide valuable guidance, training, and resources to support child care providers in their efforts to create LGBTQIA+ inclusive spaces. By partnering with such organizations, child care providers can access expertise and develop ongoing relationships that foster a more inclusive environment for all.

Inclusive early education settings that support and welcome LGBTQIA+ families and staff members are essential for promoting a sense of belonging, acceptance, and respect for all individuals. By embracing diversity, promoting acceptance, and implementing policies and practices that support LGBTQIA+ families and staff, child care centers can create a positive and nurturing environment for everyone involved.

At Early Care & Learning Council we are actively working towards inclusivity to help shape a brighter future where child care environments serve as beacons of support and empowerment for LGBTQIA+ families and staff members alike. We believe it is our collective responsibility to ensure that every child and adult feels valued and accepted for who they are.

We recommend viewing what LGBTQIA+ employees are looking for at an organization and what makes current LGBTQIA+ staff feel that they belong—this video presentation is a recent addition to ECLC’s Learning Café webinar series. The session was facilitated by Lydon Cudlitz, who has 20 years of experience in LGBTQ+ services and education.

Jessica Havens

ECLC Community Education Coordinator