Breaking the silence and talking about (LGBT) families in early childhood settings requires understanding, commitment, and concrete tools. Powerful social forces propel the controversy around LGBT families and often lead to the fear and confusion that affect so many early childhood educators. The goal of authors and early childhood professionals, is to ensure that "all" children and their families are welcomed in early childhood settings and provided with quality care and education. Three main points of interest in this article is the importance of supporting LGBT families, the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct, and steps to including all families.
The importance of supporting LGBT families; LGBT families are pervasively rendered invisible throughout the early childhood field, from teachers' college training to their classroom practice. Without even realizing it, educators harm children and families through personal assumptions or biases and institutionalized silence. Children, who feel isolated, wrong, or bad because of ridicule or invisibility based on their identity or their families' identity, compel "educators" to work on more appropriate approaches. We do not want any child to grow up in a world that says, "You are not welcome here." As educators begin to realize the impact of invisibility on children's self-concept and connection to their family, they are moved and inspired to take action.
The NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct says, "Above all, we shall not harm children. We shall not participate in practices that are emotionally damaging, physically harmful, disrespectful, degrading, dangerous, exploitative, or intimidating to children. This principle has precedence over all others in this Code" (NAEYC 2005). Some religious traditions hold that being LGBT is wrong. Because faith and religion are such a deep and important part of so many people's lives, it can be very intimidating to do or say anything that might offend or contradict someone else's beliefs. Many educators may struggle with the tension between their own religious beliefs and their commitment to treating all children and their families with respect. It is not up to teachers to choose who is in a child's family. The NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct (2005) is very clear about the importance of respecting children within the contexts of their families.
While we live in a society that surrounds children with negative stereotypes, there are tangible and significant steps educators can take to create an inclusive curriculum. Teachers can make a difference in the self-esteem and safety of a child through the language they use and by including children's books, matching games, and puzzles that reflect diverse family structures. For example, instead of saying, "Take this home to your mother and father," we can say "Take this home to your family." In Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, Derman - Sparks and Olsen stresses the importance of supporting "all" families: Some adults mistakenly assume that teaching children about diversity in family structure devalues "traditional" families or promotes certain other family configurations. The purpose of anti-bias education is to enable teachers to support "all" children's families and to foster in each child fair and respectful treatment of others whose families are different from the child's own. Anti-bias education does not disparage or advocate any particular family structure but it does adhere to early childhood education's fundamental ethic of positively representing and supporting every child's unique kind of family. (2010, 116)
Change happens when a person steps forward to make a difference. Each step will look different and is important. These three main points of interest: the importance of supporting LGBT families, the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct, and steps to including all families each brings society further along the path that contributes to a safer and more just world for children and their families. It is up to each of us to do whatever we can do; if we don't, we inadvertently support the exclusion and harm that currently exist. As Lin Yutang wrote, "Hope is like a road in the country; there never was a road, but when people walk there, the road comes into existence."