Lynne A. Valenti
Cabinet Secretary

DSS Mobile Logo Mobile Menu Button


DSS News provides media and the public with current news and events happening within the Department of Social Services. If you need background or further information on any article, please contact Communications Director, Tia Kafka, at 605.773.3165. For a list of past news release, please visit the department News Archive.

Featured Article: May 5, 2017

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

PIERRE S.D. – This month, the Department of Social Services (DSS) is taking an opportunity to raise awareness about mental health, including being aware of risk factors that can lead to suicide and how to get help.

Dealing with a mental health concern can be overwhelming, says Department of Social Services Secretary Lynne Valenti, but it’s important to remember mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being. Mental illnesses are common and treatable, yet people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently—some individuals engage in potentially dangerous behaviors when stressors exceed their ability to cope. With recent messages about suicide through the media and entertainment, such as the series “13 Reasons Why,” the department advises it is critical to know how to recognize the signs and symptoms and get help early.

“It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness, and to know when certain behaviors are potentially signs of something more,” said Secretary Valenti. “It is okay to talk to your children, friends and relatives about suicide or other mental health concerns.”

Some behaviors to look for include, but are not limited to:

  • Talk of being a burden to others or having no reason to live
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting recklessly
  • Excessive spending or giving away prized possessions
  • Change in mood (depression, rage, irritability, anxiety)
  • Withdrawing from activities

“If you or someone you know is showing signs or symptoms of a mental illness or at risk behaviors, speak up and get help,” said Secretary Valenti. “Treatment does work and individuals are able to address mental health concerns with the help of trained mental health counselors.”

There are 11 community mental health centers across the state providing quality services and supports to adults and youth with mental health concerns. Services may be available at no charge or at a reduced rate for individuals who meet financial eligibility criteria. To find a community mental health center in your area, please visit For crisis situations, South Dakota has a Helpline Center available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit their website at

For more information about behavioral health services, please contact DSS Division of Behavioral Health at 605-773-3123, or online at


May is Foster Parent Appreciation & Awareness Month
Visit to commit to know more about becoming a foster family

PIERRE, S.D. – The Department of Social Services (DSS) has designated May as Foster Parent Appreciation and Awareness Month for South Dakota. 

DSS has seen an increase in the number of children who need a safe and stable placement while their families heal. In March 2017, there were over 800 children placed in family foster homes. DSS, along with its partners, encourages families to open their homes and hearts, and commit to know more about becoming foster parents.

“Foster parents play a critical role in ensuring children have a safe and stable home where their needs can be met while their parents are working to resolve issues impacting their child’s safety,” said state Department of Social Services Secretary Lynne Valenti. “In addition to a safe and nurturing environment, foster families provide opportunities for children and youth to stay connected with their families, friends, culture, tribe, school and community.”

There is a critical need for foster families in communities across the state to provide care for children and youth of all ages. Families who will support and care for teenagers, sibling groups and medically fragile children are especially needed. There is also great need for American Indian families who can care for American Indian children.

“Foster Parent Appreciation and Awareness Month allows us to recognize and applaud the families who have opened their hearts and their homes to make a difference in the lives of children,” said Virgena Wieseler, director of the Division of Child Protection Services. “Children and youth in foster care need foster families to provide them with the strength and stability they need to be successful adults.”

In addition to becoming a foster parent, there are several ways to help support children, youth and their families, especially those involved in foster care. Some ways to help include:

  • Volunteering as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children
  • Being a mentor or “supportive adult” in a youth’s life
  • Joining or hosting a fundraising event
  • Donating services, goods, computers, etc. to older youth in foster care
  • Lending a hand to help current foster parents and caregivers with their day-to-day needs.

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit or call the Department of Social Services at 605-773-3227.