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Foster system seeks more families in Native American communities as Stronger Families Together works toward recruitment goal

Foster system seeks more families in Native American communities as Stronger Families Together works toward recruitment goal

PIERRE – When children need to be placed with a foster family, staying in their own community helps minimize the trauma. That is why more foster families are needed, especially among tribal members in South Dakota.

The Stronger Families Together program, launched earlier this year, is nearing halfway to its annual recruitment goal of 300 new foster families across the state. However, administrators with the foster care system say they need more Native American families volunteering to take in children in their communities. The Department of Social Services (DSS) said the inclusion of more tribal foster families will strengthen reunification efforts for families in the system.

“We want our foster care system to be about success stories for parents and children. One of the ways we can amplify those outcomes is by placing children in communities that are familiar and with families that can provide more stable continuity of care,” said DSS Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill. “Unfortunately, there aren’t always foster families in areas where children need them, and we want to change that.”

Benefits to children of having a foster family available in their community include:

  • Generally, more frequent and quality family time with parents and siblings to support reunification efforts. 
  • Educational continuity maintained by remaining in same school.
  • Continued participation in extracurricular activities.
  • Connections maintained with friends, neighbors, extended family, and faith-organizations.
  • Additional support in the community when child returns home with parents.

Maintaining connection with family, community, and cultural traditions is especially important for Native American children. When Native American children can be placed with relatives or Native American foster families, it helps sustain continuity.

“You are needed now more than ever,” said Peter Lengkeek, chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. “Help us to shape the future of the Oceti Sakowin; become a foster parent.”

Benefits to foster parents when fostering a child from their community include:

  • Making a positive impact for children and families in your community.
  • Developing relationships with parents in your community who need support to reunify with their children.
  • Supporting children’s relationships with friends, school, church, and extended family.
  • Connecting with the child’s existing school resources to continue the child’s educational plan.  
  • Offering continued support to children and their families when children return home.

DSS launched the Stronger Families Together initiative on May 11 to recruit 300 foster families per year in South Dakota. Since the launch, 114 families have become licensed foster families through DSS and many more have inquired about the process.

Foster care is intended to be temporary with a goal of safely reuniting children with their birth family. While families work through issues that make the home unsafe, DSS tries to find a foster family in their home community. More foster families are needed all across the state with the greatest need in the Rapid City and Central South Dakota areas.

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, please call 605.221.2390 or toll-free at 844.344.9482 or visit www.StrongerFamiliesTogether.com and fill out the online “Commit to know more” card.