Marc Chase

Marc Chase

Nothing lays bare the shortcomings of a 40-something white guy like the tangled, corkscrewing terror of a little African-American girl's hair styling.

I break out in cold sweats just thinking about it.

It's an issue more and more parents are dealing with these days as transracial adoption, foster and biracial families grow in number.

So much so that an Illinois-based nonprofit has emerged. The group aids families throughout the Midwest, including Northwest Indiana, untangle the mysteries — at least for parents like me — of styling black children's hair.

It's a true example of how selfless people can build services around need — in this case saving clueless white men like myself.

Seven years ago, my wife and I became the proud parents of Izzy, a little girl who was born into our family through adoption, and who happens to be black.

She's truly one of the great lights in my life.

But my darkest hours have come in the years when a cute and trendy hairstyle begin to matter to a little girl.

I'm no stranger to life's pitfalls.

In a journalism career spanning more than two decades, I've gone eye to eye and toe to toe with corrupt government leaders, been Maced and tear-gassed covering street riots and arrived at homicide scenes before police, literally tripping over a dead body once in an urban alleyway.

None of those things caused nearly the levels of angst that caring for and styling my little girl's hair causes.

You can condition it five times over and spray it with detangler, but the result is usually the sensation of moving a leaf rake through a briar-patch.

The net result usually amounts to me fleeing the room the minute my wife begins to talk about the need for Izzy's hair to be redone — for fear I'll be asked to help.

I've been in that play, and it didn't end well.

Dirty looks, tears and distrust are issues I didn't think I'd really be dealing with in such high volume until Izzy's teen years.

But I get both barrels, regardless of how careful I think I'm being, when I try to style her hair.

And then the end result is pedestrian at best.

I can do what would pass for two tangled poof-balls on either side of her head — or maybe four poof-balls if I'm feeling adventurous.

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But my daughter got tired of looking like Minnie Mouse or Princess Leia — and no doubt became interested in some of the elaborate braided, beaded fanciness she sees with regularity at school in the Region community.

Enter Oak Park, Illinois-based nonprofit, Styles 4 Kidz.

My wife, a consummate researcher for all things related to our four children, tracked them down.

They offer help with African-American hairstyling both at their Oak Park location or via a traveling program.

The salon styling services they offer, though for a fee, are 100% tax-deductible.

That's because what they're really trying to do is teach mothers and fathers — in our case, mothers — how to perform the same styling techniques at home.

The group specifically targets parents waiting to adopt or foster, with classes offered for beginners and advanced stylists.

There are no doubt numerous support groups available for adoptive parents.

But Styles 4 Kidz offers real-life training for skills that are very important in the heart of a 7-year-old girl named Izzy and her follicly insecure dad.

In the coming weeks, The Times feature writers will be telling you more about this wonderful service.

It's the brainchild of Tamekia Swint, who founded Styles For Girlz, NFP, in 2010 after teaching a braiding class during a mission trip to Poland.

After returning to America, Swint became acquainted with a Caucasian mom who had adopted three girls with afro-textured hair. That mom ended up referring Swint to a network of adoptive parents.

It all snowballed into a 501(c)(3) serving more than 500 people throughout the country.

My wife has taken Izzy to hair appointments twice in the past couple of months in Oak Park.

Each time, my daughter emerged with a radiant new hairdo and a smile for a style that breaks from the 1990s.

My wife, already astronomically better at this than me, is gaining valuable knowledge.

And the dirty, bitter looks from Dad's inept hair pulling have stopped.

It's an emerging service worth its weight in hair detangler.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.