I recently met with several childcare providers in Sioux Falls to discuss challenges their industry faces. One of the biggest challenges to filling the available jobs across our state is the lack of available childcare, and I knew that our childcare providers would be best at finding solutions to increase access and affordability. We had a fantastic discussion about streamlining regulations that are currently placed on our childcare industry and how to start fixing the broken business model. I was so moved by these folks’ insight and passion. And I loved their emphasis on helping South Dakota families.
That’s at the heart of everything I do as Governor: helping families. Building stronger families leads to stronger communities. In turn, stronger communities build a stronger South Dakota. With every action I take, and every policy I pursue, I focus on making South Dakota safer and stronger for our kids and grandkids. That’s what family is all about – setting our next generation up for success.
In the past few years, we have promoted families in South Dakota by extending paid family leave opportunities to state employees. In my budget for next year, I will include resources to help expand these opportunities to private employers across the state.
I will continue to work on increasing access to childcare. We have awarded numerous grants to childcare providers across the state to help them cover costs and continue to help families, but we have more work to do. One of their biggest challenges is that they can’t provide benefits to their employees, so I will be working on a solution that will make employment in childcare more attractive for potential employees. We will also overhaul our child care rules and regulations, in partnership with the industry leaders.
And we will continue our work to recruit more foster families in our state. All kids deserve to grow up in a family where they are loved and protected, and foster families help provide that opportunity to many of our precious South Dakota children. We met our goal this past year of recruiting 300 new families to help kids who are in crisis, and we will continue working to meet our new goal of recruiting 900 families over the next three years.
So many of the folks moving to South Dakota are doing it for family reasons. Their kids didn’t have the opportunity to learn in the classroom. They couldn’t take their families to church. When governments closed these families’ small businesses, it became harder to put food on the table. Some of them were prevented from saying “goodbye” to a loved one in their final days. For all of these reasons and more, they were moved by South Dakota’s Freedom, and they chose to make our state their home.
Bryon and I love our family. The honor of our lifetimes has been raising three children who love their family and have an even deeper love for the Lord. And as a new grandma, I’m once again being reminded of the joy that children bring into the world. I want to continue to promote strong families for the sake of my grandchildren – and for kids and grandkids across the state of South Dakota.