by Rachel G., foster-adoptive mom and Coalition staff Resource Specialist
It wouldn’t have mattered what kind of hair any little girl placed in my home had, I have never been one for styling hair. Some people say I am lucky that I have the hair I do: straight and easy to maintain. Most days all it takes is a quick brushing to look presentable. So when I took placement of African American infant twins, a boy and a girl, I knew the topic of skin and hair care was one I would need information on sooner rather than later. Even though they are twins, my kids always had wildly different hair types. My son’s is wavy and easy to care for, while my daughter’s features tight curls and more fine strands.
Even with the best of intentions, life quickly caught up with me and my family and we were soon more concerned about doctor’s appointments, hospital stays, visits, and meetings than caring for the hair of these babies. The skin seemed easier. We found products that worked and it was easy to add moisturizing into a routine. I still don’t know how hair care – beyond washing (which has its own nuances) – slipped through the routine cracks. Another factor I never considered was that there are certain types of fabric that can break or badly damage the kind of hair my daughter has.
Fast forward to the kids’ first birthday and my poor daughter is opening presents with a “flat top” type hairstyle. I had done the research. I knew I should have been protecting her hair with silk-lined caps and non-cotton sheets. I knew I just was not consistent. There were other things that, to me, seemed more important, and that is where I was completely wrong.
Thankfully, her hair grew back in time for her adoption at 18 months . . . after much diligence in routine. Little did I know that we had only faced half the battle. Now that she had hair, I had to do something with it. This is where the help of a professional can really come in handy. After some guidance from a local salon, a lot of practice, and a lot more patience, I am more confident and successful in caring for and styling my daughter’s hair. As a spunky four-year-old, she doesn’t always like the process, but she beams with pride (usually) at the end result. When I am tired from a long day or just don’t feel like styling her hair, I just remember how she smiles in the mirror after we are done. And that helps me remember why it is important: it’s all about her self-esteem.
We all want our kids to look – and feel – like superstars. And appearance is part of that feeling. It can be challenging if you are caring for a child who is of a different race or culture than your own. This week, our Basic African American Hair Care class can help you learn about the history of African American hair care, as well as the importance. The class is only $15 per person – or $60 if you have an agency or group attending. You can come in person to our office in Milwaukee (and be entered to win a door prize!), or attend from your home or office via webinar.
Looking for more resources?
- Coalition tip sheet: Caring for the Hair of Your African American Child
- Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care website