Imagine a World
- Provocative Propositions
- Personal Steps
- Next Step Initiatives
- Conclusion-A Call to Action
"Imagine a world big enough for all of us."
-Mary Dispenza, Researcher
Imagine a World
Imagine a world of child care big enough for all children and families. What would it look like? This was the question that challenged the Community Summit and WAEYC Conference participants. Out of these questions emerged possibility statements, or in Appreciative Inquiry terms, provocative propositions.
Provocative propositions are one of the final steps in the Appreciative Inquiry process. They are the most exciting, bold and daring propositions that bridge the best of what is (what we have found in our stories) with our intuition of what might be. They are provocative because they stretch our imagination and vision far beyond where we have been. Aristotle said, "A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey it."
Provocative propositions answer the question: what would happen if we gave expression to our imagination about quality child care and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender parents/guardians and their children? They pave the way for recommendations for 'Next Step' initiatives to enhance the quality of child care.
To arrive at provocative propositions, we gave our Community Summit and WAEYC Conference participants the following assignment:
Imagine a world of child care where these core themes or compelling forces are present even more, or more of the time. What would that look like? What would be in place in the world of child care that encouraged these forces to flourish?
The statements that follow are in the actual words of the participants. Note they are cast in the present tense to express our vision as a reality, in the positive spirit of Appreciative Inquiry.
- Every teacher and staff member is comfortable with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families and children.
- Child care centers are very clear in word and in action that all families are welcome!
- Teachers and staff are trained in diversity and anti-bias education.
- Every center has a non-discrimination policy including sexual orientation.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers, staff and family members are out to each other and to the community.
- Children of LGBT families talk freely about their lives and families-even their donors.
- Words like partner, co-parent, guardian and extended family members appear on forms and written communication.
- Handouts are neutral using inclusive language so that every family sees themselves reflected.
- Diversity is a broad subject reflecting religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, abilities, gender and language.
- Books and images of LGBT families are in every center.
- Family pictures are displayed with pride.
- Children hear stories of great LGBT artists, musicians, inventors and leaders.
- Little boys play dress up in skirts and dresses and are not called "sissy."
- Children are validated every day by teachers and providers who recognize their family and honor their diversity.
- Workshops are offered in the evening for working parents on the topic of sexual orientation.
- S.T.A.R.S. and WAC are very clear about honoring differences and serving LGBT families.
- There are faces of color, different genders, and orientations reflected among teachers and providers.
- "Culture" is the thread of love and acceptance that integrates all families and children-not a separate domain.
- Learning World, garage sales and Target have multicultural, anti-bias materials for sale.
- Sears catalogue features two moms and two dads.
- "Visiting Specialists" have all kinds of materials to deliver.
A research project can be of immediate and direct benefit to the community. Time to allow the participants to imagine a world of enhanced quality of child care for LGBT parents and children opened their minds to new possibilities in their own lives. Participants were reminded of the power they have as individuals to make a difference and initiate change, and they made some on-the-spot commitments to taking individual action. Here are just a few examples of the participants' personal steps:
Next Step Initiatives
- "I'm going to educate myself because I don't have personal experience with LGBT families, so I can't impart the knowledge."
- "It's important for me to deal with my stuff."
- "I'm going to get training in homophobia."
- "I'm going to use more examples of gay characters and persona dolls."
- "I'm going to get the facts about LGBT persons, so I can share in a down to earth way."
- "It's important for me to be loving, warm and friendly to everyone."
- "My family handouts will be inclusive and gender free."
- "I'm going to ask the question-'Do you see yourself reflected in this?'"
- "I'm going to integrate anti-bias, diversity awareness and policies into my trainings and whatever else I do-including my job interviews and I'm going to be more visible."
- "I'm going to organize a workshop for my co-workers at the Head Start Agency."
- "I'm going to bring more specific LGBT issues into my anti-bias trainings at day care centers."
The following Next Step Initiatives are synthesized from the Community Summit. The Community Summit included stakeholders with representatives from child care providers, directors and teachers; LGBT parents, guardians and friends; Child Care Resources; Safe Schools Coalition; Seattle/King County Public Health Department; Seattle Comprehensive Child Care Program; Seattle Human Services Department; ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Program); Office of Child Care Policy; S.T.A.R.S. (Washington State Training and Registry System) and the King County Child Care Program.
The purpose of the Community Summit was to provide opportunity and a forum for stakeholders to interact with the data in order to arrive at Next Step Initiatives. This was done by reading the selected stories, identifying themes, imagining the best possible early childhood environment for LGBT parents and children, planning personal steps for change and visioning future possibilities. The following 10 Next Step Initiatives are recommended by our stakeholders as specific steps, in addition to the others identified in Core Themes and Provocative Propositions to enhance the quality of child care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and children.
1. The Seattle City Council:
2. Early Childhood and School Age Organizations and Agencies:
- Continue to support the work of the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities and consider recommendations put forth in Our Families Our Children.
3. The State Training and Registry System (S.T.A.R.S.):
- Encourage the early childhood lobbyist to advocate for legislative inclusion of LGBT families and issues.
4. School Age and Early Childhood Trainers:
- Include sexual orientation and related issues such as homophobia as an essential part of curriculum.
- Provide consistent training across the state in teaching and increasing understanding and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and children.
5. Office of Child Care Policy:
- Include sexual orientation and understanding LGBT families as a part of all trainings for school counselors, health care providers, child care providers, licensors and others who work in the field of child care.
6. Child Care and Community Centers:
- Incorporate revisions in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) with specific attention to the connection between anti-bias and cultural relevance, including focus on sexual orientation.
7. Child Care Providers, Preschools and Centers:
- Plan events that bridge LGBT families with other families and the community.
8. Early Childhood and School Age Employers:
- Advocate for more specific information on LGBT families to be included in the anti-bias curriculum, state mandated trainings and licensing orientation sessions.
- Display welcoming and inclusive signs and posters.
- Have resources such as books and pictures reflecting LGBT families.
9. The Lesbian and Gay Child Care Task Force:
- Seek candidates who value and reflect diversity of every kind-including sexual orientation.
- Provide release time to child care providers and teachers to receive anti-bias training with emphasis on sexual diversity.
- Include the topic of sexual orientation at meetings and in-services for employees.
10. LGBT Families and Friends:
- Work with the African American Child Care Task Force, Latino Child Care Task Force, Asian Pacific Islander Child Care Task Force and communities of color to actively address the specific needs and challenges of LGBT families of color for inclusion and acceptance.
- Publish a resource guide including materials, trainings and resources that are available and accessible to parents/guardians and child care providers.
- Provide technical assistance to providers wanting to make changes to create a more welcoming center.
- Provide sample Commitment Contracts that providers may adopt as a part of their enrollment process to ensure mutual agreement between the child care center and families in support of open communication and honoring diversity.
- Design Inclusion Packets for directors and child care providers which provide samples of non-discrimination policies, enrollment forms and procedures using language that is inclusive and supportive of LGBT families.
- Design Traveling Packets that child care providers and LGBT parents have on hand to give to friends and other families about LGBT families and child care.
- Develop a Speakers Bureau to inform and educate parents and the community about LGBT families and how we can support one another.
- Provide workshops for Head Start Agencies, ECEAP (Early Childhood Education Assistance Programs) and providers at convenient times and places to inform and educate about LGBT child care issues and concerns.
- Form a Review Committee to evaluate and recommend materials and resources for inclusive language, anti-bias views and the inclusion of LGBT characters, issues and concerns.
- Design a Website to continue communication and broadcast stories of the "Best" that is happening for LGBT families in early education and child care.
Conclusion - A Call to Action
- Continue to educate, inform and network with other cultures and groups to work for inclusion.
- Give voice to the importance of including curriculum, materials, etc. in the child care or educational setting that reflect Our Families Our Children.
- Volunteer to join child care boards, task forces, parent groups, etc. to provide representation and increase understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and concerns.
- Come "out" and tell your story whenever possible to your child's care provider or teacher.
"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
Life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly -
Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams go,
Life is a barren field, frozen with snow."
- Langston Hughes
Our Families Our Children is both a catalyst and an invitation. As a catalyst it gives us snapshots of the future - snapshots which inspire us to develop more stories of success for providers and LGBT families. Initially the study was an invitation to child care providers, LGBT parents and guardians, community leaders and child care professionals to come together, think strategically and imaginatively about the future quality of child care for LGBT parents and children.
Now the invitation calls to all of us who care about children to act upon the Core Themes, the Provocative Propositions and the Next Step Initiatives included in this study. The information reveals the many strengths of child care when it is working at its best.
The Lesbian and Gay Child Care Task Force is committed to the call to action and the on-going challenge of giving life and spirit to the 10 Next Step Initiatives. We invite you to join us in this exciting moment in our history. Please help us keep the dreams and stories alive by sharing this report with your co-workers, colleagues, families and friends.
For further information regarding Our Families Our Children, the on-going work of the Lesbian and Gay Child Care Task Force and how you may get involved, please contact us at Child Care Resources-(253) 852-1908 ext. 201 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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