SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

There are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care nationwide, including thousands across South Dakota.

“Unfortunately, every year that number continues to grow, which means we need more foster families,” Foster Care Clothing Closet President Holly Christensen said.

“It’s a chance for us to raise awareness for children in foster care and also the foster families that are taking care of them,” Volunteer & Secretary Kristen Rhoades said.

Kristen Rhoades is a volunteer at the Clothing Closet and knows first-hand that foster families need your assistance.

“We used to do foster care and we don’t anymore, but when we did the families who would step up and drop off a meal or help us with carpool or help us with getting kids to appointments or babysitting, those families were really valuable to us,” Rhoades said.

During Foster Care Awareness Month people can nominate a family or parent for the Foster Family of the Year award.

“It’s just basically to recognize a foster family that’s gone above and beyond in the past year. Maybe they’ve taken on a really big sibling group to keep them together so they’re not spread out or maybe they’ve been mentors to other foster families,” Rhoades said.

East River Foster Parent Network is also hosting a foster family picnic for the first time since 2019.

“Have dinner together, give out our Foster Parent of the Year award, and also just a chance for the kids to play and get to know other kids and other families that either does foster care or other kids that are in foster care,” Rhoades said.

“The families will receive a certificate and a gift in a show of appreciation for all the hard work they’ve done,” Christensen said.