A statement from the governor:
Foster care is an issue I’ve cared about for a long time. Growing up, I had a foster brother who made a big impact on my family and taught my siblings and me a different kind of love, compassion, and strength I don’t know if I would have otherwise understood. We learned that family is more about what’s in your heart than in your bloodstream. And those lessons have shaped how I live my life and how I now lead South Dakota.
This year, I’ve committed to using my microphone and my influence to educate people about the need for more foster families. The next generation of South Dakotans will not thrive if they don’t have a home. A place to grow up. A family to love them.
Since I began highlighting the needs of our foster system, I’ve had the opportunity to hear dozens of stories from people who’ve been deeply impacted by foster care. Just this week, I learned about a family in Aberdeen who adopted a sibling set of five kiddos on Valentine’s Day. These kids had been in the foster system for more than three years. With traumatic backgrounds, their newly formed family has had to navigate some difficult situations, but as their dad said, “Family is always worth it.” Their family now has a membership of 14 – with seven kids adopted through the foster system. They’re a beautiful mosaic of backgrounds, cultures, and most importantly, love.
Another young woman from Rapid City told me about her family. In the last 10 years, she’s had 24 foster brothers and sisters. She said this when she talked about foster care: “Being a foster family isn’t about feeling good about yourself. It’s about planting seeds of love in kids. It’s about showing them what a family is like and what love feels like. It’s not an easy path, but it is so worth it.”
I want more kids in foster care to have testimonies and families like these. I want our state to be an example of strong families who help struggling families to create a better future.
But there’s a lot of work to do. Right now in our state, 80 kids are waiting for families to adopt them. In total, 924 children are in foster care.
Sadly, life within the foster care system is difficult for many. More than half of kids in foster care experience at least seven school changes while in the child welfare system. The instability has a tremendous impact on their education, health, and outlook. The good news is that foster kids who are in stable homes are much more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and have a successful future.
While the staff at the Department of Social Services can raise awareness about the need, get the facts out, and debunk some of the myths people may believe, they can’t put children in a home if no one is willing to provide one. There’s a significant need.
If you’re interested in influencing the next generation through foster care, I encourage you to visit fosterone.sd.gov where you can learn more, ask questions, and start the process of becoming a foster family. And if you are a foster family, I’d love to hear your story. Please consider sharing your journey with me at GovernorNoem@state.sd.us.
I’m confident that South Dakota can be a leader to our nation in how we prioritize families and help kids who are the most vulnerable. Because every child deserves love, and every child deserves a home.