Ways to include diverse families
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Ways to include diverse families

by Samantha Williams and Lara Speirs, Inclusion Professionals, Community Child Care Association

December 08, 2022

In 2022 and entering 2023, there is no longer a ‘default’ family type. Children may have two parents at home, one parent, queer parents, parents who speak English as a second language, may not live with their parents at all, or have a family structure or home life you’ve never seen before. 


Diversity is a concept we hear a lot about, but how do we truly embrace and reflect diverse family types in our learning environments? Here, Sam and Lara share some simple but powerful ways to ensure inclusivity for all children and their families in education and care settings.


Inclusive practice can look like seeking to ensure that what matters to each child and their family is represented in our programming (e.g., the culturally diverse celebrations we engage in). It can also be seen in the resources we provide, which are hopefully as colourful and unique as the diverse range of children in our classrooms.


We’ve come up with a few ideas you can use to support the inclusion of all family types at your children’s service. As well as a selection of practical activities to get you started.


Get ready to include the wonderful diversity of your families in your learning environments!


  1. Evaluate whether your events are inclusive of all family types


Reflection: Consider the sorts of families who attend your service. Are there children with multiple sets of parents? Children who are in foster or kinship care? Children in multicultural families? Children whose parents are in the LGBTQIA+ community? Children in single-parent families?


If you answered yes to any of the above, consider how the event you’re planning might be welcoming or excluding these diverse family types. What can you do to enhance their visibility and representation at your event?


Action: A good first step might be to offer families a private forum, such as a suggestion box, to voice any ideas or concerns around upcoming celebrations, or any matter that affects their belonging in the community.


  1. Regularly communicate with families to better understand their needs


Reflection: No one knows what your families need better than they do. Consider having open and honest conversations with families and asking them what you can do to build a safe, inclusive environment for their family type.


Actively seeking feedback when programming and planning events will help to build a sense of belonging for every community member. For example, this may be as simple as reframing ‘Father’s Day’ to ‘special persons’ day’. Although your activity or event may fall around Father’s Day, renaming it allows all children and families to participate, regardless of their family structure.


Action: Surveying families about what type of celebrations and events are important to them could easily form part of your enrolment process. You could even be more specific by asking what cultural events or meaningful awareness days they recognise. Ramadan? Diwali? Pride?


This information can then be used to create a calendar, listing all the dates important to your community and how your service might recognise these special days.


  1. Communicate using inclusive language and processes


Reflection: It’s important to remember that every family is unique, and communication should be tailored as such. Consider identifying and mitigating any communication barriers families might experience, such as access to the internet or guardians’ ability to read and comprehend the information provided by your service.


You might also consider the way communication is sent out for children living across multiple households, to ensure all parties have equal access to information about their child or upcoming community events. Make sure to consider if any of your families might require translation, cultural or otherwise.


Action: Try addressing communication to ‘families’, ‘guardians’ or ‘adults’, rather than ‘parents’ or ‘mums and dads’. This is a very easy way to include the broad family types that may attend your service.


  1. Ensure paperwork reflects the modern families we see in our services


Reflection: Consider if your current administration forms, such as enrolments, are meeting the needs of all your families. Forms should be open-ended and easily personalised to reflect each individual family structure.


By choosing forms that follow a default family narrative of two parents, male and female, you may be missing out on other information that is critical for your service to know. Forms should steer clear of default gendered language (e.g., ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ sections for guardians) and be inclusive of all genders.


Action: Include an open-ended section in your forms for families to opt to share their preferred pronouns and the pronouns of their children. Respect preferred pronouns and take them into account in future communications with the family and child.


  1. Provide representative resources


Reflection: What children, families and educators see – on shelves, on walls or even in the toy area – says a lot about what stories are valued at your service. It’s important that the resources in your room reflect the diversity of experiences, family types and cultures that make up your community.


When you look around your learning environment and at your resources, what stories are being told? Who are the ‘heroes’ and who are the ‘villains’ of the stories? Are the stories representative of the wider community? What do the families represented look like? Do your resources query or reinforce stereotypes?


Ultimately, are the stories being told in your environment representing each child in a manner that empowers and encourages them? Every child wants to see themselves, their family and those they love in the stories they see. Representation matters. It could encourage children to tell their own stories.


Action: We urge you to collect resources that allow you to open conversations with children about diversity, acceptance and equity, and share stories that question biases. This prompts children to explore their own ideas and be curious, and empowers them to share their own identities more freely. When all children feel they are safe and belong at your service, their families will soon feel the same.


This article first appeared in Embrace magazine Summer 2022

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