Richard & Linda Harrell were foster parents of high-risk African American teenage girls for over 20 years. They began being foster parents out of a need for placement of two girls that attended their church. By meeting this need their long history with the Department of Human Services (DHS) began. After being certified to become foster parents they soon became aware of the lack of placements available for African American teenaged girls. Thus, they sought certification and ongoing trainings to foster high risk teens and have parented more than 30+ foster daughters.
Richard and Linda’s greatest desire while serving as foster parents was to ensure that those children placed in their care would not have to be concerned about having to move from placement to placement. Their greatest goal while fostering these young ladies was to help them graduate high school and prepare them for college. While many were not long-term placements with the Harrell's all the girls can attest hearing over and over, “You can be anything you want to be, if you just put your mind to it.”
Even though the Harrell’s term of available placement was ending after 20 years, their relationship with DHS continued. Richard became a PS MAPP trainer (Partnering for Performance and Safety: Model Approach to Partnerships and Parenting) which is an organization that provides training to become a foster parent, and both he and Linda became cultural liaisons for the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Associations. They also continued to be very active in their church Corinthian Baptist Church.
Richard died in 2015 but Linda continues to be involved by mentoring foster parents, serving on the model court board, as well as serving as an ambassador for the Des Moines Police Department, being actively involved in their East High School Breakfast program where they serve breakfast to over 800 youth.
The death of Richard sparked a desire in the heart of Brittany (Overstreet) Beard, a former foster child of the Harrell’s, to leave a legacy of encouraging and supporting African American high school graduates of foster care to attend college and universities in hopes of providing a better livelihood for themselves. Brittany, who now works as a college academic advisor, was richly influenced by Richard and Linda after being placed in their home. The love and support that she received from the Harrell’s is the same love and support that she wishes to spread to others…thus the development of the Richard & Linda Harrell Foster Care Scholarship.
Executive Board Members
LaTonya P. Calderon
R. Kendall Harrell
Advisory Board Members
Lenola Allen- Sommerville
Larry D. Davey
Robin N. Jenkins