Families are changing, and while many children live in a traditional two-parent families, in every school there are children whose families do not meet this traditional model. Students today may come from a variety of family situations and educators should be trained on Family Diversity sensitivity in order to better understand and serve the needs of each individual student.
In the United States:
Less than a quarter of American families fit the old “Leave It To Beaver” model of a married, two-parent, opposite-sex household with children
- 10 million U.S. households are headed by a single mother (a 25 percent increase since 1990)
- More than half of the children born in the 1990s will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent home
- Single fathers are the head of more than 2 million American families
- More than half of all Americans today will have been in one or more step-family situations during their lives. 1300 new stepfamilies are formed each day in America
- More than 120,000 children are adopted in America every year
- in the United States more than 16,000 children were adopted from other countries
- From 30-60 percent of students in urban schools live with caregivers other than their biological parents. (Hampton, Rak, & Mumford, 1997, cited in ERIC/CUE Digest, Number 148)
- According to the 2000 Census, transracial couples represent a large group of families in America (Hispanic/Caucasian—nearly 2 million; Asian/Caucasian—700,000; Black/Caucasian—450,000)
- Almost 4 million children in the U.S. live with a grandparent
- More than half a million children in the U.S. live with foster families
- Recent statistics estimate that more than 2 million gays and lesbians are parents in the U.S.
- There are more than 5.8 million children with disabilities in the U.S.
- Almost 18 million U.S. families speak a language other than English in their homes
- A large number of people in the U.S. belong to non-Christian religions. Recent surveys estimate that there are 5.6 million Jews, 4.1 million Muslims, 2.4 million Buddhists and 1 million Hindus living in America.
When schools are aware of the diversity in their classes they can modify assignments and social activities so that they are inclusive and don’t cause stress and emotional harm to the children they are educating. Below are some of the activities that need to be modified by schools to be more inclusive:
- Social Events (for ex Donuts with Dad could be changed to donuts with care giver)
- Baby or family photos (many foster and internationally adopted children don’t have baby pictures)
- Country or Ethnic Studies (It should not be assumed that a child will want to study a particular country because of his/her ethnic background or country of origin. Requiring students to write reports about their “homelands” may make them feel different from other students in class. This may be especially true of children who were adopted internationally and children who immigrated to the United States.)
- Educational Materials and books (consider the materials, texts, and language used in the classroom. Are there representations of families other than the traditional 2 parent, heterosexual, single race family? What family images are presented? How are different kinds of families represented?)
When educators show acceptance of family difference with clarity, sensitive language, and with inclusive lesson plans and materials, students learn tolerance and sensitivity, and students from families that do not fit the traditional family model are more likely to share information about themselves or their families, allowing educators to better meet their needs.