I had the unique experience this week of being a fly on the wall during a Hair-A-Thon that was organized by Parenting Across Color, and I want to share with you further evidence of the power of hair. Before we plunge into the actual event, let me give you some background.

First of all, white mothers adopting black children do not receive a visit from the Hair Fairy with gifts of combs, clips, oil, and advice. Foster mothers do not make the visitation list either. We are left to fend for ourselves and suffer the judgment of others until we master the hair of our children. I am so fortunate to have had some wonderful teachers along the way who were patient, loving, and respectful as I learned the art of combing hair. I recognize not everyone is so lucky.

So Parenting Across Color sponsored a Hair-A-Thon in conjunction with the Department of Family and Protective Services. I persuaded a salon owner to donate the use of her space on a day when the shop is normally closed. After dozens and dozens of phone calls, eight stylists were assembled to donate their time and talent to the children of color in foster care. We had the Casey Family Foundation donate several hundred dollars to create goody bags for each child that included ponytail holders, brushes, combs, clips, and toys! NaturallyCurly.com even donated samples of Mixed Chicks and wide-toothed combs. We were set!

This past Sunday, 42 children of color in foster care, ranging in age from 1 to 17, passed through the HCS Salon in Austin, TX. Every parent received a quick lesson on basic grooming. Every child left with a goody bag. Every child left with a fabulous head of hair. Every child left feeling beautiful. Everyone left with hope and I know this for sure because of the smiles on their faces.

I held the hand of a 17-year-old young lady with a foul mouth and a horrible attitude. She was absolutely gorgeous, but everything about her screamed, “I hate the world!” She chose a Rhianna-like hair style and covered her face with her hands when the first chunk of hair came off. I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand for support. She looked at me and sarcastically said, “Seriously?” I said, “Seriously.” We held hands throughout the cut and I was stunned at the transformation. She cried. Another young lady shared with me her plans to attend court the following day with a new dress and a new hair style. She hoped the judge would see how well she was taking care of herself and let her go home. This time I cried.

The experience of the Hair-A-Thon was emotional, powerful, exciting, and moving. Everyone involved from the volunteers to the stylists to the parents were blown away by the process. From little girls with puff balls and braids to big girls with dramatic cuts and styles, these children were given hope and healing at the hands of strangers. Never underestimate the power of the hair.