Disclaimer: I am white. I am still learning. I haven't styled a wide variety of hair types. You need to find your source of wisdom that is not this white woman. Having someone "on call" is a fantastic idea. Please, any women of color reading, comment and correct me. But I have gleaned a great deal of advice from Black women about basic styles that will help your foster child look cared for. I have thanked those women outside of this blog because of confidentiality issues; they have been incredible.
The main idea is to fall in line with what is in your Black community, however small or large it may be. In my community, the majority of Black girls* do not have free hair or hair just held back with headbands. Where I live, I see that style almost exclusively with daughters of white adoptive parents or biracial daughters with white moms. With daughters with Black parents, hair is commonly parted in medium or large sections and in twists or puffs, it is in box braids with beads, or it is in cornrows, possibly with beads. If you've never paid attention to your community, be very intentional and do so. And if it's anything like mine, starting with large sections in puffs or twists will get you through your first day. Then you can build on that and get hands-on help or have someone braid for you.
Step 1: Prepare before placement with some supplies. I base these on keeping hair from getting too dry using the LOC method and on the simple, surrounding-community-appropriate styles I want to achieve. I'll put pictures of my examples (click the image to read labels more easily) but of course there are many, many options. Go for cheap and basic, and you can always get more fancy and all-natural later.
- leave-in conditioner
- olive oil (you already have some, right?)
- fine-tooth comb
- wide-tooth comb
- boar brush
- clips for holding hair in sections
- small rubber bands
Step 3: Spray wet and detangle the hair in sections. Use the clips to keep track of what you have detangled. Comb the hair with a generous amount of the leave-in conditioner using the wide-tooth comb. Rub a small amount of oil on your hands and run your fingers through the hair. Then rub the cream on your hands and run that through the hair, with your fingers like a comb. Later, you'll want to do an entire washing routine, but this is day one or two, so I would skip that unless the hair is visibly very dirty. Cricket came with hair that was fairly clean but in need of re-styling. I thought washing was a priority and she was very upset about having her hair washed, as I did it differently than she was used to. I wish I would have just held off a few more days.
Step 4: Part the hair using the wide-tooth comb in one long swoop, then put some grease on your finger and cover the part with it. Go over the part again with the fine tooth comb.
Step 5: Apply the grease to the section you've created. Brush through the hair with the boar brush. Spray again as needed. Apply gel at the base of the section, then comb into a ponytail. Wrap the rubber band (or two or three if it's a large section) around the hair.
Step 6: Repeat until all hair is in sections.
Step 7: Put on "ballies." I do it the second way.
Step 8: Now you can twist each section or leave them as puffs, depending on the length of hair and what you want to do. A puff is just a ponytail left loose. I saw a school-age girl with one puff on top and the back split into two puffs, which is incredibly simple if you can just detangle, part, and secure it. This also works well for babies (and don't forget to look at your community for how babies' hair is styled!). But twists are very popular in my area, which involves just dividing the hair into two sections and twisting them together. It can get more involved than that, but this will work for Day 1.
See the YouTube channel in the link above for some more examples. You can secure those with ballies at the bottom, or I find barrettes better for the length of hair I was working with.
I know this sounds like a lot of steps, but it will get easier, and it is worth the time. You don't have to be perfect, but you can't just randomly attack with ponytail holders and barrettes or leave it free if that's not common in your area. Take it from someone who had to face "you don't know how to do her hair" as the first words from biological family.
*I have less experience with noticing hair of Black boys, but most have hair cropped short, though some have cornrows.