Supporting Diversity & Inclusion All Year Long

We recently celebrated the only United States federal holiday designated as a day of service, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Now, we’re honoring Black History Month, a time of year when many people are talking about social justice, diversity, and inclusion. To help our staff, children and families become culturally competent, we welcome these important conversations year-round. At AzCA, we model respect, empathy and support inclusion and non-biased education, work groups and services – available to our diverse staff and clients statewide.

For many years, AzCA has been providing additional resources for families who open their hearts and homes to African American and bi-racial children. We feel it is important to educate our families so that they are as prepared as possible to address the unique skin and hair care needs for the youth in their homes. These resources are a part of our “Naturally Me” program, developed to provide education and hair and skincare products for the children in their care. This program has offered trainings to teach parents how to care for the hair and skin of these youth – including free haircuts and stylings, along a book of tips and additional supports.

For most individuals, our hair is an expression of our culture and ourselves. Our choice of hairstyle is influenced by common “norms,” which are usually influenced by culture. It is important for the children to know and feel that their heritage is valued and that their hair is beautiful – a child’s hair is special to them. We truly believe that it is important that our foster and adoptive parents play an active role in their child’s hair care to not only boost their self-esteem, but create a bond between them and the child.

In honor of Black History Month, Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA) would like to highlight the incredible care and generosity of the African American Legacy Fund, support through the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, for our “Naturally Me” program. The African American Legacy Fund awarded us $6,000 to support the program and expand service delivery to our children and families in the Tucson community.

This program and the expansion of services to the Tucson community was created in partnership with the Dunbar Barber Academy, a professional haircare institution specializing in Black hair care and maintenance. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to host a free in-person workshop like we have in the past. With our children and families’ health and safety in mind, AzCA worked with Dunbar Barber Academy to modify our original program plan; instead, opting to develop individual hair and skincare kits to be distributed to foster, adoptive, and kinship families in need. AzCA utilized funds awarded by the African American Legacy Fund to purchase items needed to develop 80 kits in total. Each kit includes one drawstring bag filled with various hair care products, a comb and brush set, a promotional pen, a voucher to receive a free haircut or styling at the Dunbar Barber Academy, and a reusable face mask that each child can wear on the day of their hair appointment at the Barber Academy. AzCA also used awarded funds to update the educational booklet to distribute alongside each kit, which outlines key components of a healthy skin and hair care routine for African American and bi-racial children and youth.

In many instances, families respond to an emergency call to care for a child in need with very little time to prepare, and without receiving information regarding the unique needs of the children that will be placed in their home. Frequently, these children come into care after experiencing significant trauma, abuse or neglect, and arrive with no more than the clothes on their backs. These kits help ensure that families have the necessary items and supplies on hand to help create a greater sense of stability and security among children placed in out-of-home care. Thank you again to the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the Dunbar Barber Academy for providing us with the funding and tools to provide these kits to our African American and bi-racial children and youth in foster care.

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