URBANDALE, Iowa -- Over 40 percent of adopted children are adopted by parents of a different race, according to a study published by the Institute for Family Studies. While that adoption is out of love, there can be bumps and bruises along the way. With transracial adoptions, that can be especially true.
A local family faced an unexpected adoption hurdle, hair care. Now they're working to tackle it for families everywhere. Usually, when you find out you are going to be a parent, you have about nine months to prepare, but for Derek and Jen Swoboda they had about 48 hours.
“We bought a car seat. Went from Madison to Milwaukee two days later and we brought home our daughter,” Derek Swoboda said.
Now living in Urbandale, the Swobodas were just trying to figure out how to take care of a baby, let alone one that's a different race, with different hair texture.
“We had people approach us in the grocery store. We had people say, ‘do you need help with her hair?’ and that's when we kind of said ‘yea, we do need help. We need to figure this out,’” Derek said.
That's when they found Kanisha Tillman and her cosmetology company, Tutus and Tennis Shoes that helps transracial adoptive families.
“A lot of time adoptive families are going into it because of love and I think what gets lost in thinking, ‘well we are building a family out of love. That's all it's going to take.’ But there is the little nuances,” Tillman said.
Hair is one of them for more than one reason.
“Hair holds uniqueness, history, community relevance, strength,” Tillman said. “Some of our despair has come from our hair care. Our hair has always been more than just hair.”
That's why, with the help of Derek, Tillman recently released a new Crown Care Kit to help families just like the Swobodas with hair care.
“If you become a transracial adoptive family, being able to get a kit that has all the products, all the tools, and all the education in it to try and reduce the learning curve for other families,” Derek said.
They are partnering with organizations and adoption agencies around the country, including Iowa, to help kids.
“‘Oh this is just vain’ or ‘oh this is just appearance.’ It's so much deeper than that. The kids' confidence, the kids' cultural connection, the kids' identity also gets tied up in hair care, so when you neglect that you are also neglecting those other things,” Tillman said.
“Haircare is a big part of it, but it's not the only part of it,” Derek said. “There's all kinds of things that families can do to help with the culture and identity, to help their black children be their best selves.”
The Crown Care Kits are $79 a piece. Families can purchase a kit on their own, but the ultimate goal is to have these available for adoptive families right away at adoption agencies or foster homes. To help make that possible companies and individuals can also sponsor a kit for a family.
You can find more information at Tutus and Tennis Shoes’ website. The need is there, according to the Swobodas. The kit launched only a little over a month ago and already they have over 150 kits that families and companies want, but Derek said they need those sponsorships to be able to send them out.