LEAD — Whether it’s becoming a foster family or working to provide support to these families, there are myriad ways residents can help children in need. A senior man is working hard to build that support as part of Gov. Kristi Noem’s Stronger Families Together initiative.
Catlin Young was recently named a Region 1 Community Catalyst for the South Dakota Kids Belong Movement, which works to improve foster care recruitment and support the SD Department of Social Services’ efforts for the initiative. Stronger Families Together. The initiative, launched by Noem in May 2021, aims to recruit 300 foster families per year for the next four years, to meet a growing and critical need to help children across the state.
According to a recent statement from South Dakota Kids Belong, at the end of March, in Pennington County alone, there were 396 children in need of care and only 92 adoptive parents. By comparison, Young said there were 37 foster children and 57 foster families in the northern hills. In the Sioux Falls area of Minnehaha County, there are 400 foster children and 335 licensed homes.
Due to the shortage in Pennington County, many children are sent to the northern hills or other places for treatment.
Young, who has served as an adoptive parent with his wife, Kayla, since 2016, said as a community catalyst, it would be up to him to invite businesses and faith communities to help be the solution and support adoptive parents. by becoming members of the WRAP team. . He also works hard to educate potential foster families on what it means to step in and help.
“WRAP is an acronym for Words of Encouragement, Respite Care, Acts of Service and Prayer,” Young said. “(WRAP team volunteers) go out into the host family community and support them for up to six months to see if they need anything. If they need meals, encouragement, shoveling their sidewalk or mowing their lawn. So you have multiple families doing acts of service or different parts of the ministry throughout the month. We just make sure host families are seen and cared for because often they don’t have that and they burn out and don’t want to be taken in anymore. That’s a big problem for us. We want to keep that retention high so that those families stay there for the long term.”
Noem’s office recently announced that in its first year of Stronger Families Together, the state has reached its annual goal of 300 new foster families across the state. Additionally, since May 2021, 71 companies have pledged to help foster families and 31 churches have held educational sessions on foster care. A total of 177 volunteers across the state have signed up to provide WRAP support to local foster families.
But the need is still great. If the state is unable to find a foster family for children in need, they may turn to group homes or other church ministries to provide care. But children who are given a stable, welcoming and loving home to go to often have a much better chance of succeeding in life.
“When kids don’t have a family to connect with as they get older, there are so many issues,” he said. “They are more likely to be incarcerated than a child who has a family. They are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking if they have no family to which they are related. There are many social problems. I just want to see communities change, and Rapid City needs help.
Young, who has so far had four foster children at home, said while it can be difficult to care for young people who have been traumatized in so many ways by family and environmental changes, the rewards are far greater. important.
“Obviously if something serious happens in the home where their safety is at risk and they are removed from the home, we try to find them a placement and sometimes that leaves their schools, their communities and whatever. they know and put them in a place where it’s really unfamiliar. It’s a lot to digest for a child and when you go to a place where there are different adults, different rhythms and everything in life. It’s difficult and there’s a lot of trauma that comes with that,” Young said. “People say, ‘I could never babysit.’ It hurts. But the grace of God is sufficient. Each child has a unique story. Some come with trauma. So the more… you are aware of a trauma, the more you can help it recover and start growing. Our last placement was a nice boy. He had separation issues. Mom and Dad weren’t there to be healthy for him. He always wondered what we were doing. He would wake up very early. He would run into our room just to see if we were there. he always asked about dinner and where the food came from. Some of the hardest things to deal with are that you have to adapt to each child. To say that you can treat every child the same is wrong because every child is different. Your biological children are different and the adopted children are different. You have to learn to adapt.
“The reward exceeded any sacrifice I made, and any risk I think is there,” he continued. “It weighs ten times more. It’s not for everyone. But (everyone) can do something. Old people and the older generation are like ‘I can’t anymore, I’m not young anymore.’ It is very good. But you can call an adoptive parent and say, “Can I come and read to your kids while mom is napping?” We can all do something. The reward is simply to see people’s lives change. We don’t have superpowers. There may be a misunderstanding that foster parents are different. But we are just people who take care of children.
Young said there were a lot of myths that could keep people from signing up to help. This is where his advocacy and support recruitment work comes in.
“We get a lot of families saying, ‘I can’t adopt because I’m a single parent.’ It’s not true. You can be single. You can rent your accommodation. You don’t have to own your home or have a partner or spouse,” he said.
As for business support, Young said some examples of help include giving discounts for host families or providing special services. For example, Spearfish McDonalds offers homestays a 50% discount, while Reptile Gardens offers $5 family passes. Each host family receives an ID card, and businesses that provide support display a special sticker in their windows or next to cash registers. A special app also lists where host families can find discounts and support in the community.
“Part of the help I do is calling businesses every week and inviting them to be part of the solution,” he said. “When you have a truckload of kids, it helps. Financially, it’s hard to be an adult.
For more information on how to become a host family or to find out how to support these families, visit strongfamiliestogether.sd.gov, or call (605) 221-2390. Additionally, families and individuals interested in learning more about foster care can participate in a Zoom call that takes place the second Tuesday of every month at 5 p.m. The Zoom meeting ID is 949 434 5183, with passcode RFS222.
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