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South Dakota:
Under God, the People Rule

Strengthening Families

Strong families have always been the backbone of South Dakota. The kitchen table is where we learn our values. The backyard is where we learn to respect each other.

President Reagan once said this: “Our families nurture, preserve, and pass on to each succeeding generation the values we share and cherish, values that are the foundation for our freedoms.” Today, more than ever, it’s important that we work to strengthen families.

As governor, I have the opportunity to support and champion legislation that can create real opportunities for folks throughout South Dakota. I’m proud of legislation I’ve signed into law to strengthen families.

Furthermore, because I recognize that strong families are key to a stronger future, I’ve committed to using my microphone and my influence to educate people about the need for more foster families.

Foster care is an issue I've cared about for my entire life. Growing up, I had a brother who joined our family through foster care. He made a big impact on my family and taught my siblings and me love, compassion, and strength that I could not have otherwise understood. We learned that family is more about what's in your heart than in your blood. And those lessons have shaped how I live my life and how I now lead South Dakota.

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. There are over 900 children in foster care in South Dakota. We need more foster families to provide a support system for parents who are working to reunite with their children. When foster families engage in a supportive relationship with birth parents, it’s more likely that the parents will be able to reunite with their kids. In turn, those kids will have even more caring adults in their lives to keep them safe.

We also need more families to adopt children who need a permanent home. Sadly, life within the foster care system is difficult for many. More than half of the children 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 children in foster care who are in stable homes are much more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and have a successful future.

On May 11, 2021, I launched the "Stronger Families Together" initiative, a call to action to recruit, prepare, and support foster and adoptive families based on the principles that:

  • All children deserve to grow up in a family where they are loved and protected;
  • We need foster families to care for children and support their birth families when they are experiencing challenges that cause an unsafe environment for children;
  • Parents, kinship families, foster families, and adoptive families all need encouragement, support, and services so that they can provide the best care possible for children; and
  • We need families that can provide all children with a safe, stable, and permanent forever family if they cannot return home.

“Stronger Families Together” is a partnership among businesses, the faith community, and state government. Businesses can provide family-friendly work environments and discounted goods and services. Faith leaders can take action by helping to recruit, retain, and maintain enduring relationships with current and prospective foster and adoptive families from their congregations. And in my administration, the state will always look for ways to improve policies and programs to better serve children and families.

I encourage each of us to explore how we can be involved in “Stronger Families Together” at www.strongerfamiliestogether.com.

Strengthening families is a key element to every decision I make as governor, and I’m committed to keeping it at the center. Because strong families create strong communities. And strong communities create a stronger South Dakota.

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