Father's Day: Shining a Light on the Fatherless

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Father’s Day: Shining a Light on the Fatherless


By: Governor Kristi Noem

June 14, 2024


This week I had the opportunity to spend time with a group of people who are involved with our Foster Care system and some of the young people who participate in it. Our Secretary of Social Services invited me to attend, as the day was facilitated by his wonderful staff. When I walked into the gym, I was suddenly stuck by the number of young people in the room who were 14-17 years old and were there to learn how to prepare to live independently. Some had foster families caring for them, but many are currently living in group homes in communities throughout the state. I could tell that many of them must have been thinking, “this lady has no idea who I am or even cares.” I saw crossed arms, hard faces, and even some anger.


I started to speak to the group about how I had no idea what their current situation was or what challenges they had faced already in their young lives. I knew many of them have suffered loneliness, loss of family, addiction, or even abuse. Some may never return to their homes for different reasons and may never be adopted before turning 18 years old.


I told them I had no idea what it was like to be them or what their days were like, but that my name was Kristi, I have a husband named Bryon, three kids, and three grandbabies. I told them I grew up with a foster brother, had spent a lot of time with kids in their situation over my lifetime, have spent more years living without my dad than I had with him, and have faced family conflict and difficulties. The room started to grow quiet as I began to tell them the story of a pearl.


Years ago, I met a women named Shari who owned a pearl store. When I asked her why, she informed me that pearls are the only precious gem that is created by a living creature. That makes it unique and special. Pearls are created by oysters who get sand or grit into their shell, and it begins to irritate the soft tissue inside. It can be hurtful, painful, and very uncomfortable for the oyster. But over time, the oyster goes through a process where it takes that hurt and turns it into something beautiful – something precious.


I told them that my prayer was that whatever hard thing they had faced in their lives, whatever challenge they have gone through or will go through, that they will work to turn it into something that can be for good. Maybe even beautiful or precious. That it would build in them a compassion for other people and encourage them to serve others, which is what God created us all for.


When we are focused on other people, we are often happier and have better perspective on our own problems.  All these kids have dreams, and I encouraged them keep going – that their success, despite the hard things they have gone through, will be a source of incredible hope to others who find themselves in similar situations. Hope is what people need. Hope is not wishful thinking – it is optimism with a plan.


After I spoke with these young people, I spent some time with their caseworkers and caregivers. I’m so grateful for every one of these adults who dedicate their lives to working with these kids. Hearing their stories at times was heartbreaking, but I thought of how one person could impact their lives by mentoring, spending time, being a friend, or even a mom or a dad to them. I left with a lot of “what ifs” running through my mind. “What if” they each just had one adult who decided to be there for them besides their case worker?  “What if” they could go home to a healed family? “What if” a church, or better yet, ALL churches, decided this was their mission, to be fathers to the fatherless, wrap their arms around these kids, love them, and show up? It would be miraculous – life changing!


This Father’s Day, I am grateful for the wonderful father my children have been blessed with and all the fathers in our family. But I am also going to do all I can to try to shine a light on what every person, including myself, can do this Father’s Day for those who may not have one. May God richly bless you and your family and give you a heart for those around you who need you in their lives.