How to Find an LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Daycare

Experts share what to look for when deciding on a queer-friendly child care center. Intersectionality and inclusivity are key.

Lesbian couple with their baby

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If you’re looking for a daycare for your child, finding one that is the best lifestyle fit for your family can feel like a huge task. There’s so much to consider when selecting a child care facility: size, accreditation, security, cost, location, waitlists. LGBTQIA+ parents, especially Black queer parents, often also need to do extra research to avoid facing discrimination that may range from microaggressions to emotionally harmful situations. 

Queer parents are already on edge with the ongoing bans on books that portray content around gender and sexuality. And laws limiting LGBTQIA+ rights, specifically gender-affirming care and access to athletics for trans youth, are beginning to creep into reality for adults.  While folks looking to find daycare for younger kids may not experience the impact of state laws that public schools are facing, the pressure of finding the right child care is even higher than just a few years ago. Depending on the state you live in or if you are looking at church-based care, affirming care for your children and your family may be hard to find. 

Ahead, experts share how LGBTQIA+ parents can find a queer-friendly daycare or preschool—and how queer families and cishet-parent allies can encourage inclusivity when there's room for improvement (and there probably will be).

Screen Daycares Before Visiting

For most parents, the first introduction to a daycare center will be a website or application. The images and language you see in both places will be helpful signs of inclusivity (or a lack thereof), explains Abbie Goldberg, Ph.D., the creator of Teach All Families, which helps parents and teachers make schools more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ families. Regarding images, look for "explicit attempts to be inclusive and to signal that inclusivity,” she says. "Is it always parents with a mom and a dad, for example, who are white and physically attractive?”

The application should use inclusive language, ask for pronoun usage, and refer to parents and caregivers in gender-neutral ways. Joanna McClintick, LCSW, economic initiatives manager at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (The Center) and author of the children's book 'Twas The Night Before Pride also recommends checking whether a daycare’s values or philosophy statements acknowledge diversity, equity, or inclusion.

Judging a daycare or preschool by its paperwork isn't foolproof, however, as parents Ashir and Caitlin Coillberg of Wheaton, MD, explain. The couple has a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. "A lot of places are really, really bad at that sort of bureaucracy, and the forms sometimes lag behind a decade or more," says Ashir, who is nonbinary trans. Caitlin also points out that some government-funded programs must use the standard forms they're given.

Fellow queer parents in your community can provide valuable input. "We reached out to our local LGBTQ parents listserv and social media groups [for] recommendations," says Corey Westover, senior director of equity and learning at The Center, located in New York City. "Local nonprofits or LGBTQ centers may also have some ideas."

Find Out How Staff Handle Intersectional Inclusivity

Inclusiveness surrounding gender roles, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and bilingual families can suggest how a daycare or preschool engages with queerness. Find out whether staff and children celebrate Indigenous Peoples' Day rather than Columbus Day, or whether the holidays that the daycare recognizes go beyond Christmas and Hanukkah by including holidays like Eid al-Fitr and Diwali

The ways a daycare models gender roles can also clue you in to whether staff will respect family members' pronouns or accommodate gender-expansive parenting. The Center's Westover says her family sought child care that presented often-stereotyped activities such as dress-up or playing with trucks as appropriate for all children. "We recognize that gender stereotypes are something our kids will have to face in the world but don't want that to be a driving force in their formative educational experiences," she says.

Dr. Goldberg suggests additional things to investigate, including color schemes (for example, do they use pink nametags for girls and blue for boys), materials, songs, and staff members' language, for example, using gender-neutral words like "children," "kids," or "people" vs. "boys and girls."

Accommodating languages other than English can be another green flag for potential queer inclusivity, says Mia Cooley, creator of xHood, a community for Black queer parents and intended parents. She, her partner, and their 5-year-old daughter live in an area of Northern Virginia with a large Latine/Hispanic population. "So if I'm only getting things in English, [it's] automatically, 'OK, you're not trying to serve the community that you're in,’” she says. "Am I seeing that you're trying to include parts of the community that may be underserved or underrepresented?"

Ask Staff Direct Questions About Queer Inclusivity

While you can glean a lot from a staff member's tone of voice and body language when you're out as queer parents, pointed questions reveal even more.

Westover, McClintick, and Dr. Goldberg suggest asking:

  • What kinds of training do staff receive around LGBTQIA+ inclusion?
  • Do you have any books featuring queer families, including transgender parents and siblings? 
  • Do you have any openly queer staff willing to be the representation my family needs?
  • How do you make sure that your program is safe, inclusive, and respectful of people from a variety of different family dynamics and backgrounds? 
  • Have you had many lesbian-, gay-, bisexual-, or trans-parent families at your school? Can I speak to any of these families for a reference?  
  • How would you handle a family who complained about the use of inclusive language and books featuring queer families?
  • Is your inclusivity policy clearly outlined in the school handbook? 

Advocate for a More Queer-Friendly Space

Unfortunately, as Cooley says, it can be impossible for some queer families to find a child-care setting in their community where they feel safe. "I've seen families have to relocate because they need to be somewhere that is more inclusive of their family," she says. "So if that is what you have to do, think about ways that you can plan to get your family to safety."

Cishet parents and caregivers can do their part to push for a more welcoming environment, and McClintick and Westover suggest several ways to do so:

  • Read queer books at home.
  • Donate queer books and diverse toys to your kid's preschool.
  • Organize with the school to march at Pride.
  • Advocate for staff training around LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
  • Ask—and remember—what particular kids call their parents. Some parents may not use gendered names at all. 

Westover emphasizes intersectionality as a key part of requesting greater inclusivity. "It's important for cis LGBTQIA+ families to advocate for the inclusion of families with trans or gender-nonconforming parents or kids, and white LGBTQIA+ families to advocate for inclusion of BIPOC families," she says. "Showing up for communities who experience marginalization … is really important to ensuring we're building a more supportive community."

Explore More

As the cost of raising a child in 2023 continues to skyrocket, caregivers are leaning on their communities more than ever. Read more of Parents' deep dive into what child care really looks like for American families—plus tips to create your own child care village.

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  1. Well Duh, That’s How You Raise a Kid”: Gender-Open Parenting in a (Non)Binary World, LGBTQ+ Family. An Interdisciplinary Journal. 2022.

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