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“Foster Parent Appreciation Month” starts in South Dakota

A proclamation signed by Governor Kristi Noem is intended to pay tribute to those South Dakotans who lend their time, home, and energy to children in the state needing a temporary place to stay.
(WJHG)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 6:01 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KOTA) - The month of May is “Foster Parent Appreciation Month” in South Dakota, according to a proclamation signed by Governor Kristi Noem.

Typically, there are over 950 foster children in the state of South Dakota at any given time.

“There are times when families are not safe for children, and children need a place to go to keep them safe and nurtured, in that kind of environment,” said Department of Social Services (DSS) Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill. “We rely on foster parents to keep that kind of an environment for children.”

Foster parents can have children in their home for as short as a night to as long as several months.

“Foster parents step up when children have nowhere else to go, offering a safe, nurturing, and stable home during a difficult and emotional time,” said Gill. “We appreciate the caring, generosity, and flexibility of foster parents and the difference they make in the lives of South Dakota children.”

Gill says that the department is always looking for new people to sign up to become foster parents. DSS is responsible for vetting applicants and providing training.

“We have staff that can talk through it with them, we have to make sure the environment the family would have would be safe,” said Gill. “We do a check, we do home studies to make sure everything is good, and then we provide training for the foster parents.”

Tricia Johnke is a single mother of four who has fostered twenty-seven children during her time as a foster parent.

“You definitely have to be able to understand and have patience, those are probably the biggest things,” said Johnke. “Because every child comes in your home and it’s a different case every time.”

Johnke says that the experience has been incredibly rewarding, and offered her entire family a unique perspective on their own lives.

Many of the children who arrive at Johnke’s door do so in the middle of the night, with only the clothes on their back.

“The heartache seeing what these kids have gone through, no child deserves this life or asks for that situation. There are a lot of cases and situations as to what these kids have gone through, and what I love is that I am providing them a safe and loving home.”

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, or finding out more about how you can help, click here.