Gay-Positive Daycare

by Katharine Swan

Any gay or lesbian parent knows how difficult it is to find quality daycare for their child. Not only are we faced with the same hurdles that heterosexual parents have to cross – finding childcare that provides a safe, secure, and mentally stimulating environment – we also have the added challenge of seeking out childcare that will teach our children to feel proud, rather than ashamed, of who their family is.

Unfortunately, in a society where homophobia still runs rampant, this is more difficult than it sounds. As recently as May of 2006, gay-friendly childcare still had the power to offend homophobic parents, as an Australian daycare demonstrated when it included in its classrooms a set of picture books depicting families with gay and lesbian parents.

The outrage over this daycare’s curriculum demonstrates the issues that gay and lesbian parents need to consider when they are looking for childcare. Gay-friendly childcare is about more than simply admitting the children of same-sex families; it is about creating an environment where they are allowed to feel comfortable and accepted, rather than singled out for being “different.”

Daycare Group

Where to Look for Gay-Friendly Childcare

One of the most overwhelming parts of finding gay-friendly childcare for your child is simply deciding where to start. Few daycares or nanny placement services will advertise that they work with same-sex families. In fact, many organizations will even tell their gay and lesbian childcare workers not to “come out” to the families. In this environment where teachers and nannies are coerced into keeping silent, it is even more difficult to match same-sex families up with gay-friendly caregivers.

Despite these hurdles, however, there are many childcare and nanny placement services that provide warm, accepting environments for gay and lesbian families. Simply knowing where to look is winning half the battle.

GLBT Organizations

Your local GLBT center is a valuable resource, for childcare as well as for many other community support issues. The organization’s bulletin boards, newsletters, support groups, and staff can all be valuable resources in your search for gay-positive daycare.

GLBT Publications

There are many publications dedicated to the special issues gay and lesbian parents face. Check the advertisements in the back pages of these publications, particularly those that are local to your area.

Word-of-mouth Recommendations

Sometimes the most powerful resources at your disposal are the ones you use every day: your ears and mouth. Ask friends or acquaintances how they found childcare for their children, and whether they are satisfied with it.

You might even consider a nanny share situation, where you team up with another same-sex family and share the same nanny. Although this type of arrangement will be easier and cheaper than each of you finding and hiring your own nanny, you should be sure to pay the nanny a little more than she would make normally, so that she doesn’t become resentful for doing the job of two nannies.

Old-Fashioned Hunt-and-Peck

Sometimes none of the above resources will turn anything up – or perhaps you won’t like the options you find. Either way, you may find yourself back to square one: facing a long series of Google searches, phone calls, interviews, and tours. Even if you end up starting your search from scratch, don’t worry – there are still specific questions you can ask to determine whether a particular daycare or caregiver is right for your family.

Determining If a Caregiver is Right for Your Family

Whether you found a prospective caregiver in the pages of a LGBT publication or the pages of the phone book, you still need to determine whether your family’s needs are going to be met.

One question you might want to ask yourself before you begin your search is if you would be more comfortable finding an LGBT caregiver. This will narrow your search, possibly making it more difficult, but there are resources available to help you. For instance, Culture Care Au Pair, is an organization that places foreign nannies, advertises itself as LGBT-friendly.

Interviewing a Daycare

Daycare presents an environment that you have less control over, so it is especially important to make sure your family is going to be not just accepted, but also welcomed by the staff, the other children, and their parents. There are several questions that you can ask to help you determine this point, in addition to the normal questions used to determine the quality of a daycare establishment.

  1. How does the daycare promote a gay-positive environment? Depending on your interviewing style and the number of daycares on this list, you may want to ask this question up front, as the answer may determine whether you want to ask anything further. A truly gay-positive childcare environment will not just state that they are accepting of diversity – they will also take steps to promote acceptance of diversity among the other children. Look for things like picture books that feature children in same-sex families, and a curriculum that teaches more than just the “norm” of a one-mother-one-father family.
  2. How does the daycare foster the child’s adjustment to a new environment? Again, this question is particularly important for determining how well-suited the daycare is for your child. If the center’s families are predominantly heterosexual, you should be especially concerned with how your child will adjust. Look for things that will make your child feel less ostracized and more welcomed, such as children from similar families, and a curriculum where the other children are already familiar – and comfortable – with families such as yours.
  3. How involved are the caregivers with the children? In order to answer this question, you might want to request an unplanned tour or sit-in of the class your child would be in. Observe how frequently the caregivers interact with the children. Do they play with them? Talk with them beyond giving directions and reprimands? If the class has other children who come from same-sex homes, be sure to note how the caregivers relate to them as compared to the other children.
  4. How does the center promote acceptance within the classroom? Child safety goes beyond simply preventing accidents from happening. Your child’s needs for emotional security need to be met, as well. Be sure to ask about the daycare’s policy regarding teasing and bullying.

Interviewing a Nanny

Obviously, if you opt to hire a nanny as an alternative to placing your child in daycare, you have much more control over the childcare environment. However, you and the rest of your family will also be interacting a great deal more closely with this type of caregiver, making it vital that you discuss the family dynamics in great detail.

  1. Is he or she comfortable with your sexual orientation? In order for everything else to work, your nanny will first need to be comfortable and openly accepting of who you and your family are.
  2. Is he or she comfortable with your family’s values system? The last thing you want is for your nanny to teach your child that he or she is weird or “bad” because of who his or her parents are. Your nanny needs to be able to reinforce the values you are attempting to instill in your child.
  3. Does he or she fully understand the family dynamics? It’s important to ensure that he or she understands from the very beginning how your family works. That way, if there are any compatibility problems, you are more likely to catch them before committing to a problematic arrangement.

Creating a Warm and Loving Home

Although the process of finding exactly the right childcare arrangement may seem tedious, it is necessary for the sake of your child that you find childcare that is not just accepting, but also welcoming of your family and its differences. Clearly, you cannot control society’s unfortunate homophobia. However, by providing a childhood environment that promotes acceptance of diversity, you are allowing your child to develop a strong sense of security and self-identity during his or her most formative years.

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