PIERRE- More foster families are needed to care for South Dakota teens and support their families when conditions make it unsafe for youth to be at home. The teenage years are an important time in a young person’s development. Older youth need just as much love, attention, and security as younger children but are sometimes more difficult to place.
“You feel so alone and so unwanted, because people only see your age and the mistakes you’ve made,” says Cherokee, a young woman in Sioux Falls who was once a teen in foster care. “They don’t want to, or can’t, see that hurting kid hiding underneath.”
Providing stability for older youth and modeling a healthy family life can inspire a future full of hope in a young person’s life.
“Opening your homes to those teenagers, you could be the person that changes the course of their life,” Cherokee says. “You could be the ONLY person giving them that chance to grow and become a wonderful human being.”
Governor Kristi Noem’s Stronger Families Together initiative launched in May 2021 with the goal of recruiting 300 new foster families each year through 2025. Stronger Families Together successfully met that first year goal. Now, in year two, additional families are stepping up to help, but there is a need for more families to do the same.
Despite all of the challenges they face, 70% of youth in foster care desire to go to college. Research shows the positive connection provided by foster parents enhances the outcomes of youth in foster care in education and employment, making this dream a reality for these teenagers. The positive relationship between foster parents and youth in foster care enhances psychological well-being, physical health, and decreases the youth’s participation in unhealthy behaviors.
“Kids are not as bad as they seem on paper,” says Caleb, formerly a teenager in foster care. “Deep down inside they really do have good intentions and good hearts.”
The impact of opening your home to become a foster family for a teenager can be profound. Older youth, like younger children, benefit greatly when someone is there for them, believes in them, and helps them through what may be a rough time.
Foster care is intended to be temporary. Foster families encourage and support the entire family as they work to make the needed changes for youth to safely return home.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a foster family, the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) has information and resources to help determine if it is right for you. DSS also offers new foster parent classes and can guide you through the steps to becoming licensed.
For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, please visit StrongerFamiliesTogether.sd.gov and fill out the online “Commit to know more” card.