Heights salon hosts free event for foster kids
“The thing about foster kids is they end up being like refugees in their own cities,” said Cleveland Heights resident Kevinee Gilmore, founder of the nonprofit #FosterCare (www.hashtagfostercare.org). Starting at age 13, Gilmore spent five years in foster care, giving her direct, and unique, experience being a “kid in the system.”
Many foster children, Gilmore explained, struggle to find stability and a sense of normalcy in day-to-day experiences. “For so many kids in foster care, everyday activities can feel like luxuries,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore is committed to “getting foster youth a seat at the table.” On Thursday, Jan. 23, noon to 1:30 p.m., she’ll be a panelist—along with State Rep. Juanita Brent (District 12)—at a City Club Youth Forum, “The Impact of Foster Care’s Thousands of Ohio’s Children." For information and tickets, visit www.cityclub.org.
Gilmore’s advocacy for children in foster care comprises events designed to bring them together, along with their families.
In honor of National Adoption Month, Gilmore partnered with hair stylist Bianca “Sunni” Segines, owner of Cleveland Heights’ Sunni & Co. (2122 S. Taylor Road), to host “Love My Hair, Too”—also called the “Adopt My Hair-Athon”—on Nov. 17 at Segines’ salon.
A mother of five herself, Segines opened her salon on a Sunday—normally a day off—and was honored to have her salon—just about to celebrate its first full year of business in Cleveland Heights—host the event. “I was floating all day that day,” she said.
Adopted, kinship care (those in the care of relatives or close family friends), and foster kids from all ethnic backgrounds were welcomed to the event, which offered free hair care and styling, and manicures and pedicures.
The event brought together 27 young women from Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland. They shared their stories, connecting with other kids and families, as well as the Sunni & Co. stylists who volunteered their time and services, and other event volunteers.
“We watched them transform,” Gilmore said, noting that many of the young women entered Sunni & Co. guarded, and left with greater confidence and a stronger sense of community. “Being able to meet other kids like you makes you feel less alone,” Gilmore said.
That struggle for normalcy can be harder to find for foster children living with transracial families. “It’s everyday people who help foster kids,” Gilmore said. She’d noticed African-American children with white foster parents weren’t always getting the proper care for their hair. “It didn’t always go over well when I’d say something to the white moms,” Gilmore said. “But I wanted them to know these children’s needs were different than their white children. Hair care is hygiene.”
Gilmore, who regularly collaborates with business owners to host events, hopes her work, and that of partners like Segines, will serve as a call to action to others, to support foster youth in Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, and beyond.
For more information on #FosterCare, and how to become involved, visit www.hashtagfostercare.org.
Sarah Wolf is an intern at FutureHeights, a resident of Cleveland Heights, and a graduate-level community practice student at MSASS/Case Western Reserve University.