Reflecting on a Year of Progress: The RESPOND Program’s Journey Since Relaunch

One year has passed since the relaunch of RESPOND, and in this time, we’ve achieved remarkable progress in our mission to provide culturally competent homes for Black children affected by the foster care system.


Founded in the 1990s by foster/adoptive parents Howard and Vickie Denson, RESPOND, a culturally competent approach to foster care, was designed with the aim of recruiting and supporting prospective foster/adoptive/guardianship families from the Black community as they navigate the foster care system.

The necessity for RESPOND became evident due to the substantial shortage of Black foster parents in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.At the beginning of the program year, only 13% of local non-relative foster parents were Black, despite the fact that 70% of youth in foster care are Black. Additionally, twice as many Black children are placed into foster care compared to White children and spend nearly a year longer in foster care compared to their White counterparts.

Achievements in the Past Year

Over the past year, our dedicated RESPOND recruitment team, consisting of Jenny Jones and Heather Craig, has tirelessly worked on recruiting Black families for fostering and adoption. They participated in twenty-three events to raise awareness about our cause. They also had the privilege of being featured on KSDK 5 On Your Side and St. Louis Public Radio, where they passionately shared our vision with an audience of thousands!

As of October, 56% of newly licensed foster families are Black. This means that more Black families are now poised to open their hearts and homes to numerous Black children in our community, providing them with the representation and cultural competence they deserve.

RESPOND’s Impact

Hakim and Angela embarked on a journey to expand their family, and in their quest, they turned to the Coalition for guidance on fostering. Their initial intention was adoption, but after their very first meeting with the program, the profound importance of reunification and the mending of Black families resonated with them. Their objective shifted towards fostering, grounded in the desire to make a difference.

Under the gentle and expert guidance of RESPOND Specialist Brooke, they began a transformative process. Brooke led them through the initial home visit, the comprehensive assessment, and the training required to become licensed foster parents. Their journey reached an exciting milestone when they welcomed Malcolm into their lives—a sweet, 5-month-old baby, and like them, he was Black.

The arrival of Malcolm brought with it a tidal wave of questions and concerns. They hadn’t received any details regarding why he was in foster care, information as basic as his social security number, or even access to his medical records. They felt like they were navigating in the dark, unsure of the needs of their newfound son.

With their hearts full of love but their heads brimming with worry, they reached out to RESPOND again for help. The RESPOND team gathered all the necessary information, securing vital details for Malcolm’s care. In addition, they were able to obtain diapers and clothing from the Coalition’s invaluable diaper closet and ReSource store.

Their journey has been a testament to the power of resilience and unwavering support. As the days turned into weeks, Malcolm has thrived in their loving home. Hakim and Angela have found their stride, supported by Brooke’s care, advocacy, and wisdom.

Future Plans and Commitments

While we have made significant progress in the past year, our work is far from over. We have ambitious plans to expand our efforts in the coming years, continuing to engage with the community and recruit foster parents at local events, places of worship, and networking gatherings. Our commitment remains unwavering until every child is placed in a culturally competent home where they can experience a true sense of belonging.

We extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey thus far, and we hope to sustain your invaluable support as we move forward.

  • Monique Byumn
  • Dashawn Cason, Vice President of Junior Board
  • Terrence Chance
  • Representative Kimberly-Ann Collins
  • Heather Craig, RESPOND Specialist
  • Cynthia Crim
  • Kiesha Davis
  • Howard and Vickie Denson
  • Trisha Gordon
  • Andreal Hoosman
  • Carla Hughes
  • Ebony Hutchinson
  • Jenny Jones, Director of RESPOND
  • LaShonda Lambert-Howze, Coalition Governing Board Member
  • Dr. Shanté Lampley
  • Rhonda Lingard
  • Dr. Lanette Madison
  • Gisele Marcus
  • D-Lori Newsome-Pitts
  • Charlotte Ottley
  • Jackie Olinger Rochelle, Coalition Governing Board President
  • Dr. Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo

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