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Written by: Grace Sawyer

Programs serving children ages birth through twelfth grade may want to become more inclusive to support the diverse needs of students and families in their care. Developing a program-wide philosophy of inclusion is an essential step to making a school-related program more inclusive; a shared inclusive philosophy is an indicator of a high-quality program (Cate et al., 2010). Programs can use the following recommendations to create a shared philosophy statement of inclusion.


  • Involve all relevant constituents. While administrators are important decision-makers when creating a philosophy statement, they are not the only ones with relevant opinions and ideas. Administrators should involve their personnel, families, and community partners (e.g., military command) in the development of an inclusion statement.
    • Conduct surveys or forum meetings. Document constituents’ perspectives on the benefits of inclusion and how inclusion should look for children in the program.
    • Eliminate barriers to participation (Illinois Action for Children, 2023). Offer surveys and statement drafts in multiple languages. Host forum meetings at varied times and provide childcare and transportation for those who need it.
    • Share drafts of the philosophy statement with constituents and incorporate feedback in revisions.
  • Brainstorm to find shared understanding. Working with constituents, answer the following questions to comprehend perspectives on the program’s inclusive goals (Healthy Children Manitoba, 2009; Wisconsin Department of Children & Families, n.d.).
    • What are the benefits of inclusion?
      • How does inclusion benefit: a) all students in the program, b) families, and c) the program and staff?
    • How will the program provide access to all students?
      • How will the program enroll students with and without disabilities?
      • How will classrooms be set up to eliminate barriers?
    • How will the program promote meaningful participation for all students?
      • What are ways staff will adapt and individualize activities to support student’s varied needs?
      • How will the program cultivate a sense of belonging for students and families?
    • How will the program support and involve families and staff?
      • How will the program partner and communicate with families
      • What training and resources will the program provide for staff
  • Write. After hearing from all constituents, it’s time to write! Philosophy statements may range in length from a paragraph to a page, depending on the level of detail used.
    • Use inclusive, strengths-based language in the philosophy statement. For example, instead of saying, “We help students with disabilities participate in activities,” say, “We help all students participate in activities by scaffolding interactions and giving individual support.” The latter example is more specific and emphasizes the practice as being important for all students, not just students with disabilities.
    • Seek constituent approval in between drafts and incorporate feedback. Programs may specifically ask if the statement is easily understood, or if they need to revise to define terms or remove jargon.
    • Programs may consider writing a policy statement as well. Policy statements differ from philosophy statements in that they indicate specific practices the program will follow for inclusion. ChildCareBC provides an inclusion childcare toolkit that includes a policy template (British Columbia, n.d., p. 28).
  • Display the program’s philosophy. Philosophy statements should be available to all constituents, so programs must be intentional about displaying the final statement for easy access.
    • Display the philosophy statement in classrooms and at program entrances. To indicate a sense of pride and professionalism, programs may choose to frame the statement.
    • Include the statement in program materials such as pamphlets and the program website.

A program’s commitment to inclusion does not stop once they have developed a shared philosophy. Administrators should support practitioners through training, ongoing conversations, and instructional coaching on inclusion. Practitioners should communicate the benefits of inclusion to all constituents and implement practices that help students access and participate in the classroom.

You can find links to helpful tip sheets and resources in this document.


British Columbia. (n.d.). Inclusive child care toolkit: Supporting children of all abilities.

Cate, D., Diefendorf, M., McCullough, K., Peters, M. L., & Whaley, K. (Eds.). (2010). Quality indicators of inclusive early childhood programs/practices: A compilation of selected resources. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute, National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center.

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, & National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations. (2020). Indicators of high-quality inclusion.

Healthy Children Manitoba. (2009). Writing an inclusion policy: A guide for child care centres and homes.

Illinois Action for Children. (2023). Engaging stakeholders in your early childhood collaboration.

Wisconsin Department of Children & Families. (n.d.). Creating an inclusive program: Developing your philosophy and policies.