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SD’s first lady leads drive for foster families

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Linda Daugaard, South Dakota’s first lady, is traveling the state hoping to recruit more foster families. On Thursday, Daugaard — wife of state Gov. Dennis Daugaard — was in Mitchell to talk to the local Rotary Club about her foster family recruitment campaign, FosterOne. “These children need someone to open their hearts and their homes,” she said, addressing a group of about 35 people at the event. “Will you be the one?”

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So far this summer, Daugaard has spoken to Rotary Clubs in Brookings, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Spearfish, Watertown and Yankton about her FosterOne initiative. Her goal? To find and recruit more foster families to help children across South Dakota.

“We need a variety of foster families to meet the needs for every child,” Daugaard said.

Anyone with children, she said, knows parenting can be a gratifying, though often demanding, experience.

“Foster parenting can also be a challenge,” she said, “but it can be another very rewarding experience as well.”

There are 664 children in foster care in South Dakota, including six in the Mitchell area, according to statistics presented at the event.

Four of the 10 licensed foster families in the Mitchell area are at capacity, which means they’re no longer accepting more children.

Each foster family is allowed to decide how many children they’re willing to take on at once, according to South Dakota Department of Social Services spokeswoman Kristin Kellar.

In all, there are 683 licensed foster families in South Dakota.

Licensed foster parents must be at least 21 years old and able to pass a criminal background check. They must also be able to care for children, provide a safe home and finish 30 hours of training and a home study through the DSS.

Foster parents receive monthly financial support from the DSS to help support the needs of children in foster care.

Anyone younger than 18 is able to be placed in foster care if law enforcement or a judge deems it necessary. Most children placed in foster care are coming from unsafe and often abusive environments, Daugaard said.

Teenagers in need of foster care can sometimes have a difficult time finding a parent willing to accept them, Daugaard said.

“They need love and limits just like the younger ones do,” she said. “And they need the courage and motivation it takes to become a mature adult.”

About 80 percent of children placed in foster care are returned to their parents within 12 months.

“We are not an adoption agency,” Daugaard said. “Our goal is to get those children back with their family.”

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