Through her nonprofit salon, Styles 4 Kidz, Tamekia Swint teaches foster and adoptive parents about their kids’ textured hair.

Tamekia Swint never thought she'd end up doing hair for a living, but after being inspired by two mission trips and a local family in Oak Park, Illinois, she founded an organization called Styles 4 Kidz in 2010. Its purpose: serving compassionate haircare services and education for parents of kids with textured hair in biracial and transracial adoptive and foster families. In addition to a brick-and-mortar salon—which offers basic hairstyling; cornrows, braids and twists; and one-on-one lessons for parents—Styles 4 Kidz last year launched an online program with monthly training sessions and product recommendations.

Styles 4 Kidz styling team gathered in front of wall for photo

What was your background in hairdressing?

TS: I've always loved to do hair. While studying at the University of Illinois, I would drive to Chicago at night to go to hair school and then drive back to Champaign a couple times a week. I never thought once I graduated from school that I would end up doing hair, but there was something about those mission trips to Poland, where I taught hair-braiding, that challenged me to step into what I love the most.

Styles 4 Kidz gala woman embracing child both smiling at camera
Credit: Hawa Images

After you got back, a stateside family ended up sparking Styles 4 Kidz. What happened?

TS: Though my local church, I learned of a woman who had transracially adopted two African American girls. I don't think anything could have prepared me for the moment when I met [the three of them]. I had never seen a parent so desperate for help [in doing her childrens' hair], and wanting to learn, but not having the training or the resources available. It was through that relationship and her desperation that I was inspired to start this organization. It was originally Styles for Girls, but as I built more relationships with the families, I learned there were a lot of boys who also needed services. We changed the name a few years later.

Styles 4 Kidz in-process photo of child getting hair styled
Credit: Hawa Images

You launched an online training portal for parents in 2022. What does that entail?

TS: We took all our training [from the salon] and put it online. We release a new training every month, along with tips on basic hairstyling product usage. We keep the cost low ($7.99 per month) to encourage parents to make an investment in themselves and their children to get the education that is going to change their lives. 

You're now entering your 14th year as an organization. What's something you've learned?

TS: I'm witnessing the kids who have grown up in our space experiencing the greatest transition into adulthood. They're thriving because they've developed healthy self-esteem and a positive Black identity. That confidence comes not only from how they look, but in having that connection to their culture and being able to have open conversations with their parents who want to learn.

Styles 4 Kidz gala parents embracing child
Credit: Hawa Images

How does your mission go beyond hair?

TS: Hair care is a bridge. We are creating an environment where learning can take place, where kids can be encouraged, and where they can experience their culture in a safe and loving environment. A lot of the kids we're serving are growing up in communities where they don't see a lot of people who look like them. It's bigger than the hair because we're creating positive bonding experiences between the parent and child. 

What's next? 

TS: We would like to highlight the Styles for Kidz salon model in several locations in other states, so we are currently looking for partners who would be interested in helping us pilot this in their communities. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.