Times are hard for struggling parents involved in the child welfare system. Sometimes circumstances prevent children from remaining in their parents’ care. When this happens, parents have no time to prepare for the tragic upheaval. Children leave home with whatever they are wearing or can carry. Parents don’t have time to gather belongings for the children to take with them. The State (It doesn’t matter which of the 50. They all have a child welfare system.) has to quickly decide when it’s not safe for the child(ren) to be with their parents so pick up orders are carried out immediately. It is terribly traumatizing for those youth who not only have to leave their parents and the homes that they love, their school and neighborhood friends, but also often all of their belongings. They may not have anything when they enter a strange new home inside a strange new system, not even personal hygiene items.
Donations provided to foster care placement agencies to ease the transition for these children. Common items include toothbrushes and toothpaste, blankets, soap, shampoo and conditioner. What I’ve noted from donations I’ve had the honor of seeing is that they are not necessarily culture sensitive. There are general items that everyone needs; but there are some specific products pertaining to personal hygiene that minority, specifically black children, need that donors may not have knowledge. I believe people donate what they use, and maybe there aren’t enough minority people becoming foster parents or donating to foster care agencies. I was asked to come up with a list to help everyone out. It includes products that I use, have used in the past or see used in my family and friends homes.
- Moisturizing Cleansers for Clean Skin: Personal hygiene is important for kids in care and everyone else. Who doesn’t want to feel clean and fresh. Most people want to smell good. We all use soap and guess what. It’s the same soap as White people. The only difference is Black people usually by mild soaps that are infused with moisturizing agents such as shea butter, cocoa butter and aloe. Tone and Dove with cocoa butter are some of my favorites. My husband and son love Irish Spring and Zest, both with aloe. It’s not that complicated for most. Other people with more sensitive skin may use black soap, especially for their faces. Shea Moisture makes one that I would try if I needed. These soaps have a mild odor but a familiar smell can often comfort a child who has been removed. Providing the same soaps and cleansers that are used at home is small but significant way to support minorities in care.
- Moisturizing Cream for the Body: This product is for healthy skin care. It should be used after bathing to moisture our skin. Black people typically have very dry skin. I recommend this a cocoa butter cream because it works well for everyone in my family. I love it because it really seeps into my skin, keeping it soft and smooth. I suggest spending a little extra time massaging it into the elbows, knees and hands. You also want to ensure the child’s buttocks is moisturized too. That area will look abused if it is consistently dry, especially if the child has a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema. Also note that I said cocoa butter CREAM. I specifically buy Queen Helen’s Cocoa Butter Cream.It costs about $6 at Walmart and most hair supply stores but is not the cheaper ($3) cocoa butter lotion. Queen Helene makes that too but it is not effective. It’s watered down so it soaks up and evaporates leaving the skin dry and ashy. That completely defeats the purpose. Get the large jar of cocoa butter cream. It’ll last a month or two if it’s used once a day. Other moisturizers for people of color include Palmers Cocoa Butter Cream, Aveeno Extra Dry, and Jergen’s Cocoa Butter. My husband likes the Jergen’s because it doesn’t create a shine like some of the cocoa butter creams.
- Botanical Conditioners for Hair: I typically don’t use shampoo often because my hair is dry just like my skin. I “co-wash” it, meaning a cleanse with conditioner. I can do that as much as I want. I would never recommend shampooing a black child’s hair more than once every week or two if that’s what you choose. Shampoos have harsh chemicals that dry the hair out. If you notice it’s getting dry, shampoo less. Condition more. I don’t use shampoo because my curls are so tight that it’s hard to get moisture to seep into my roots. I need a ton of conditioner so my delicate tresses won’t break as I de-tangle and/or manipulate it. I have a few cheap recommendations for you. I personally use Tresemme Botanique with coconut oil the most. I’ve used it for almost three years.
- Leave-In Conditioner or Moisturizers for Hair: The key to mainatining Black people’s hair is keeping it moist, which is hard to do because the curls and coils are so tight. Some brands that my curlfriends and like include The Mane Choice, Alikay Naturals, Design Essentials, Cantu, TGIN, Kinky Curly, Eden’s Body Works, Shea Moisture, and there are many more. The key is to discover products and techniques work best with your hair. It’s different for everyone. That means you gotta experiement. It will take some time, but it is definitely worth it.
If you live in an urban location, there are likely some local hair and skin brands that you can you explore too. A lot of people in the natural hair movement didn’t have success with products found in stores. They have experimented with natural ingredients to develop a healthy alternative products that work just as well, and sometimes better, than mainstream product lines. I’ll work on a list of local Grand Rapids hair and skin product lines in the near future and suggest other natural hair communities do the same.
In the meantime, our natural hair community in the metropolitan Grand Rapids area is organizing and Natural Hair & Skin Product Drive using the hashtag #naturalhairfostercare to pledge our commitment to support to the Kent children in care by donating 250 personal hygiene kits. We’re engaging 25 local businesses and organizations to participate by serving as collection sites. We’ve created a list on amazon.com to give people ideas about the type of products we want in the hygiene kit. These are items that are commonly found in the homes where children of color reside. Click her to check them out. I want to add a disclaimer that this is not an all-inclusive list of products used by black people. These are just the ones I’m most familiar. Please feel free to share the products that you think would benefit children in foster care so I can keep my list updated.