SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota continues to see a need for both foster and adoptive families across the state.

Governor Kristi Noem created the Stronger Families Together initiative in May of 2021 in order to encourage South Dakota families to become foster families. Between May of 2021 and May of 2022, 304 families became licensed to foster in South Dakota, exceeding their goal of 300 families.

According to DSS Cabinet Secretary Laurie Gill, there are currently 1,644 children in the custody of DSS. GIll added that 106 children are eligible for adoption but have yet to find an adoptive family.

DSS has partnered with South Dakota Kids Belong to continue to recruit at least 300 families a year with the goal being to hit 1,200 families by 2025. So far, the initiative has completed 4% of its goal to recruit 300 more families between June 1, 2022 and May 31, 2023.

The process to become a foster parent starts with visiting the website and completing the “commit to know more” pledge according to Gill. Then, a coordinator will work with families to answer questions and help them begin the foster process. That includes training and education, a home study at no charge to families, a background check before becoming licensed.

For families interested in adoption through a private provider, Gill says DSS will reimburse costs of the home study up to $3,000.

For those that are worried about cost, there are resources available.

“There are several resources available,” Gill said in an email to KELOLAND News. “The Department of Social Services provides a monthly reimbursement to support the needs of children in foster care. Children in foster care are also eligible for Medicaid, which covers medical, dental, vision, and counseling expenses.”

There is also assistance available for child care for foster families that work or in school.

“Also, foster families are reimbursed for transportation costs associated with taking a child to school or medical, dental, vision, and counseling sessions. Transportation costs for visitation with parents and siblings are reimbursed as well,” Gill said.

For adoptive families, there’s financial assistance and subsidies available as well as Medicaid until the child turns 18-years-old.