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Foster youth, families finding support in public-private partnership

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Media Contact: Steve Long, steve.long@state.sd.us or 605.773.5465

Foster youth, families finding support in public-private partnership

PIERRE – The public-private partnership between the Department of Social Services (DSS) and charitable organizations, businesses, and faith leaders in South Dakota – Stronger Families Together – is benefiting foster and adoptive youth and their families in significant ways. But more help is needed.

 “The goal of the Stronger Families Together initiative is not just to recruit more foster parents in South Dakota but to create a statewide network of support for foster and adoptive families,” said DSS Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill. “Businesses, faith leaders, and community partners know the importance of building strong families. We challenge everyone to consider what they can do to help.”

 Since the launch of the initiative in May, 56 businesses, churches and non-profit organizations have signed up to provide support.

 There are numerous ways businesses can support foster and adoptive families, such as providing family-friendly work environments or discounted goods and services. Backroads Coffee House in Watertown is one of many businesses willing to help youth in foster care. They paid for a new laptop for a youth who needed one for school.

 “The thought of helping others feel accepted and having a place where they belong is what we do at Backroads,” said owner Melissa Hericks. “The feeling of acceptance is a human need and through this pandemic I can't help but feel pulled to do something ‘outside’ of my world. We worry about our own small businesses and our employees but there is need beyond our doors now more than ever." 

 South Dakota’s faith community has been instrumental in helping to recruit, retain, and maintain enduring relationships with current and prospective foster and adoptive families. South Dakota Kids Belong, one of the main partners in the Stronger Families Together initiative, works alongside faith leaders and their congregations.

 “Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but we can all play a part in helping children,” said Damen Woolsey, president of South Dakota Kids Belong. “Even the smallest of gestures can mean the world to those families who are caring for children in need.”

 Wrap Around Services are provided by individuals to provide some relief to foster, kinship, adoptive, and birth families. To date, 135 individuals have volunteered to do things like bringing foster families a meal, providing respite care, or just simply offering up a prayer or word of encouragement.

“While we are making great strides in helping children and families, we need more people to get involved,” Gill said.

To find out more about becoming a foster parent or helping support foster parents in your community, visit www.StrongerFamiliesTogether.com and fill out the online “Commit to know more” card.