polo sport luggage Foster kids get royal treatment at Florence’s Dreametts Children’s Salon
And why not? Inside these walls Linda Smith has created a place children can call their own. A beauty salon just for children, as the name suggests, the staff of Dreametts strives to enhance the lives of children one braid at a time. For a kid, it’s clearly a lot of fun.
For some kids, it may be the first real fun they’ve had in awhile.
Most of Linda Smith’s customers are regulars, who pay for the work she her staff perform just like the patrons of any salon. But sometimes, very early in the morning, a small girl or boy may arrive at the salon needing a bit of extra attention.
Part of Smith’s business it’s a ministry really is to improve the lives of children entering the county’s foster care program. Foster care is a necessary program, but a traumatic experience all the same said Smith, a foster parent for nearly 10 years.
“Many times these kids are pulled from their homes late at night,” Smith said. “It’s often dark, they don’t know where they are going and although they will arrive in a safe foster home, their fears continue.”
Foster kids have lots of issues. In that situation, who wouldn’t? But in the years she and her family have provided foster care, Linda noticed that children arriving for the first time often hadn’t had even their most basic needs met.
Worn out shoes, tattered clothing . and certainly no professional styling or cutting for their hair. Smith, a long time professional stylist, couldn’t help with all of that, but she could do something about that last part.
“It’s heartbreaking to think that any child has to be removed from their home, but it’s even worse to see that many children don’t have many clothes, and many have never had their hair done,” Smith said.
“The first 48 hours of foster care can be critical. These kids are in a new place with new people, and they’re scared.”
So, Smith opened Dreametts last March.
Soon after, she recruited Cheri Augustine, a fellow parishioner at Lamb’s Chapel, a west Florence church, to help her move the dream along. With the two of them working together, the idea just grew.
“I saw her passion for children and wanting to help them,
and I just wanted to help her,” Augustine said.
The two women hit yard sales, flea markets and the like collecting furniture, chairs and other supplies they needed to create a fun, child friendly place. That’s good for business. And, it’s good for foster care kids, too.
Children entering the foster care system have often seen, and suffered, more in their short lives than many people will in a life time. They may be made fun of because their clothes aren’t good enough, or because their hair looks like it’s been combed with the proverbial rake.
James and Debra McKnight have been on the receiving end of the late night emergency placement phone calls from the Department of Social Services many times in the nearly 30 years they have cared for foster children.
“Sometimes it’s very late when you are needed,” Debra said. “Especially in emergency situations.”
Smith and McKnight met many years ago through the foster program. Since Smith has opened the salon, the McKnights have brought three girls to Smith for a little bit of tender loving care.
“(The children) had never even been to a salon before,” McKnight said.
During a visit to this salon, children can watch movies, play games or relax while their hair is braided, cut, styled or otherwise fixed up (Smith offers haircuts for boys and girls, but most of her clients are girls). It’s through the experience, as much as the end result, that little changes start to take place.
“They start to feel good,” Smith said. “You can see them change. They start to feel pretty, maybe for the first time ever in their lives.”
Smith and McKnight agree that fixing the outside can’t heal all wounds, but for many of these children a few kind words, a caring touch, and a new set of braids can make a huge difference in how they feel.
“Their self esteem really gets pulled down with everything they have been through,” McKnight said.
And sometimes a little something special can lift them up.
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