When children are removed from their home by law enforcement or through a court order to ensure their safety, the Department of Social Services is granted custody of the children and they are placed with a safe and stable resource. The Division of Child Protection Services works with the family to resolve the issues resulting in their children being unsafe while providing supervision and support to the children and their placement resource.
When children are removed from their home by law enforcement or through a court order due to safety concerns, placement resources available to care for the children until they can either safely return home or a another permanent placement option is ordered by the court include the following:
Below are resources available to the state for the placement of children who come into our care:
When children cannot remain with their birth parents, relatives who can provide a safe and nurturing environment need to be considered before any other type of care. Whenever possible, and in the best interest of a child, either in an initial, on-going or permanent placement, relatives are the most appropriate choice secondary to the birth parents. South Dakota has a relative preference law, SDCL 26-7A-19 which dictates the need for placement preference to a qualified relative.
The practice of relatives or “Kin” parenting children when their birth parents cannot is a time-honored tradition in most cultures. The raising of children by relatives is a very strong tradition within Native American culture. Within the child welfare system, children have the right to be with people they know provided that they will be safe and it is in the child’s best interest. Relative placements assure children will have connections to their families and their culture.
Foster Care: Foster care is a protective service provided by the Division of Child Protection Services for children and families who must be separated from one another because of safety concerns related to abuse or neglect. This service is provided by relative or non-relative foster families on a temporary basis, and for a planned period of time. The Division uses foster families licensed by the Division of Child Protection Services, private child welfare agencies and by tribes that have a State-Tribal Agreement.
Group Care: When youth are unable to live in a foster care or kinship setting because of emotional or behavioral needs, the Department of Social Services utilizes group homes for placement. Group homes are licensed facilities that have trained staff, provide 24-hour care, ongoing counseling, and provide a structured environment for youth who need this type of care. Group homes also utilize community-based resources to supplement the treatment of these youth.
Psychiatric Residential Treatment: The Department of Social Services utilizes Psychiatric Residential Treatment as a placement resource for youth who are unable to function in a family or group setting because they are experiencing significant mental health challenges. The youth require intense professional assistance and therapy in a highly structured, self-contained environment for stabilization and treatment. A referral to the State Review team is required to determine if a youth meets the criteria to be placed in a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF).
Situations may occur where children are unable to return home and plans are developed for a family or individual to become the child’s legal guardian. Legal guardians can be relatives, foster care providers, or other adults who have a connection to or significant relationship with a child and are willing to accept legal responsibility of them. When a legal guardianship occurs, the court grants the guardian custody and the Department of Social Services is no longer involved. When a family or individual is granted guardianship of a child who was in the custody of the Department of Social Services, a subsidy to care for the child may be available.
When efforts to address family challenges that caused children to be unsafe resulting in removal from their home cannot be alleviated and the court determines the least restrictive alternative is termination of the parent’s rights, the Department of Social Services is granted adoptive custody. The Department will match the needs of the child with the strengths of an adoptive family and work with both the child and the selected adoptive family through the adoptive process.