In the early morning hours of March 2, twenty-seven students, four teachers, one caseworker and three volunteers ventured out of Sioux Falls towards Pierre. The students were eager to see the state capital, meet with representatives and witness democracy in action.
The students first saw the state capitol building. Several marveled at the beautiful frescos and architecture of the building. The students then sat in on sessions in both the Senate and House of Representatives, where they were introduced by Senator Reynold Nesiba and Representative Linda Duba. In both chambers, the students received a standing ovation from the legislators. After watching the sessions, the students had the opportunity to speak with Senator Nesiba and Representative Duba and ask them questions.
After this, the group made their way to the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. There, they were given a tour of the museum and learned about South Dakota’s history. The students loved looking at the different items in the museum and learning more about South Dakota. Several students noted things that were similar in their countries. One student from Iraq was interested in the Lakota creation story about rock being the very first thing in creation. She said they had a similar story in her country. Another student saw an old loom used in South Dakota’s early frontier days and excitedly remarked that she had used a loom like that in Ethiopia.
After seeing the museum it was time to head home. The students had a wonderful time and chatted about the different things they saw on the ride back. Thank you to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, Adult Education and Literacy, and Lutheran Social Services, Center for New Americans for sponsoring the event.
Students, volunteers and staff speak with Senator Nesiba in the Capitol building.
Senator Liz Larson practices her Nepali with two Nepali students.
Students at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center.
Kate Harris: ESL Instructor & Career Navigator LSS Center for New Americans 300 E. 6th St., Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57104 P: 605-731-2000 | F: 605-731-2059 LssSD.org
This April, we honor the history, tradition and vision of LSS through South Dakota CARES, a statewide week of giving featuring program site tours, online giving challenges and social celebrations! Join us and be part of our vision by making a donation during our biggest fundraising event of the year! Go to SouthDakotaCARES.org to learn more or make an online gift today.
Foster Care Services up to $25,000 All donations in support of LSS Foster Care Services will be matched up to $25,000! Donations made to LSS Foster Care Services support the recruitment, training and licensing of new treatment foster families; expanding our ability to serve youth in our South Dakota communities. Donations can also support experiences for youth in foster care such as extra-curricular activity fees and equipment, birthday gifts, outings and more. SouthDakotaCares.org
Cutting Edge Care Challenge 25 donors = $15,000 25 donors to the Cutting Edge Care Fund will unlock $15,000 to support our efforts to implement trauma-informed and evidence-based practices across the board! Please consider making a donation today to the LSS Cutting Edge Care Fund to ensure that therapists, social workers and direct care staff will continue to be on the cutting edge of new treatment modalities that are proven to be successful, ultimately changing the trajectory of the lives of those we serve. SouthDakotaCares.org
Center for New Americans and Multi-Cultural Center up to $25,000 Thanks to a generous donor, your donation during South Dakota CARES to support the LSS Center for New Americans and the Multi-Cultural Center will be matched up to $25,000. Your donation this spring will go further than ever before! Please consider donating today to help create a strong path forward for a new and exciting partnership between LSS and the Multi-Cultural Center.’ SouthDakotaCares.org
Adoption and Pregnancy Counseling up to $10,000 Support services offered by LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling are critical steps in the adoption or parenting process. Birthparent counseling, educational meetings and adoption workshops equip birthparents with all of the information needed to make the best decision for themselves and their children. Please consider a donation to help support birth and adoptive parents in their journey to creating a family. All donations in support of LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling will be matched, up to $10,000! SouthDakotaCares.org
Mental Health Challenge 50 donors = $25,000 Committed to ensuring that cost is not a barrier for clients to access mental health care, LSS is one of the only providers in the state to offer a sliding fee scale based on income. Your support can ensure our ability to continue offering these services at an affordable price. 50 donors will unlock $25,000 to support LSS Behavioral Health Services! SouthDakotaCares.org
LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling Services
At age 17, a young woman found herself in a very difficult situation. She was pregnant. As overwhelming as the news was, she was excited and dreamt of her family, their future together and all of the possibilities yet to come. Unfortunately, life had a different plan in mind for her. The father was unwilling to be present in their lives.
Still in high school, she turned to her family for advice. That’s where she learned about LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling. She started working with a team at LSS and began exploring the “how to” of making an adoption plan.
She felt the pressure and the weight of the decision ahead of her, but the support she received through LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling helped her every step of the way. Through adoption workshops, educational meetings and counseling sessions she felt more prepared day by day.
From the potential adoptive family profiles, she found a family that touched her heart. “The first time we met, I was so nervous. I knew a lot about them, but they didn’t know anything about me.” To tell her story, she gathered a tote filled with framed pictures to share with the family. “I wanted to give them a glimpse of what my life was like growing up.”
She was concerned her child wouldn’t have a male role model to look up to, but as her relationship with the adoptive parents grew, she felt at ease. Knowing that her son had a father, a good example and a positive role model to count on brought her peace.
Support services offered by LSS Adoption Services and Pregnancy Counseling are critical steps in the adoption or parenting process. Birthparent counseling, educational meetings and adoption workshops equip birthparents with all of the information needed to make the best decision for themselves and their children.
LSS Center for New Americans & Multi-Cultural Center
In October 2022, LSS began integrating the Multi-Cultural Center of Sioux Falls (MCC) services with goals of strengthening and optimizing their services. The strong overlap of resources has created great synergy between both organizations. Both LSS Center for New Americans and the MCC have a unified mission to serve and celebrate the diversity in our community.
By joining LSS, the MCC can hone in on engaging and celebrating the many diverse communities in Sioux Falls because the administrative needs like finance, human resources and information technology are incorporated into LSS’s administrative services. The MCC gains stability for long-term success and the synergy that is created by aligning together better serves the community.
Valeria Wicker began her role to lead the Multi-Cultural Center in Sioux Falls last November. She comes to LSS from South Dakota State University, Brookings, where she served as a program coordinator for work with Lakota/Dakota programming. “We are excited to have Valeria in this role. Her education, fluency in Spanish, more than ten years of experience working in education and five years working with tribal nations will be valuable for the future of the MCC. She will do a great job in community building and empowerment in Sioux Falls,” says Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen, LSS President/CEO.
“I feel very privileged to be at the helm of the Multi-Cultural Center. The vision of the MCC is very similar to my personal conviction that society is at its best when its wealth of cultures, backgrounds and experiences are valued and thriving,” says Wicker. “MCC is part of the rich tapestry of this great city.”
LSS Multi-Cultural Center
The spirit of the MCC’s mission, “to provide experiences and opportunities for all people to learn, celebrate and share through our community’s cultural diversity,” will be maintained through LSS’s vision that “all people in South Dakota will be healthy, safe and accepted” regardless of their background, beliefs or ethnicity.
In 2021 MCC’s free workforce development program helped more than 80 individuals find employment. As LSS prepares to welcome more New Americans into our community in the next two years, it will greatly benefit our growing workforce to have more resources and people available to support a growing number of those seeking employment.
LSS Center for New Americans
LSS began providing resettlement services for displaced Europeans in 1948, following World War II. Since then, we have helped thousands of individuals and families and continue to view our work with New Americans as a vital part of our mission, and essential service to our community. From the moment they are greeted warmly by their case worker at the airport, to setting up their first home, LSS Center for New Americans dedicated staff and volunteers work with New Americans every step of the way to ensure their success and to help them feel supported as they work toward self-sufficiency.
Individuals must complete 45 hours of community orientation, attend at least six hours of English language training per week in addition to workforce training to qualify for federal cash assistance. In 2021, 100% of working-age adults became self-sufficient within eight months of arrival and had a starting wage of $15.87. LSS Center for New Americans partners with local non-profits to provide fee waivers annually for services to those who have fallen on hard times and are unemployed. Services range from obtaining a state ID to obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) which allows the individuals to work.
Find Your Match
Thanks to a generous donor, your donation during South Dakota CARES to support the LSS Center for New Americans and the Multi-Cultural Center will be matched up to $25,000. Your donation this spring will go further than ever before! Please consider donating today to help create a strong path forward for a new and exciting partnership between LSS and the Multi-Cultural Center.
Amber fled an abusive marriage and used the LSS sliding fee scale to receive counseling services for herself and her son. “You helped us to get the counseling that we needed. To give my son a fighting chance to be a good man. So, thank you!”
Amber married in her early 20s. She didn’t realize the pain she would endure for the next three years of marriage until it was too late.
One month into the marriage, the abuse started—emotionally, physically and sexually. “He beat and sexually assaulted me. The abuse was so intense that I miscarried our first child because of it.” He isolated her from family and friends to gain more control of her life. She soon became pregnant again and had a son.
He convinced her she was a horrible person, wife and mother. Amber felt alone. “I was in this big black hole. A pit of despair. No one could reach me to help me. I was thinking about suicide because the abuse was that bad.”
“Even though my family was worried about my health and well-being, I felt like I was alone. And I couldn’t pull myself out.”
“Literally my son was the only thing keeping me alive at that point in time.” Her son’s safety was her first priority. “I figured if I could absorb all of the abuse and as long as it doesn’t trickle down to my son then I’m doing my part as a mother. As a wife.”
Once the emotional abuse was directed toward her son at just a year old, Amber found the strength to seek safety, file for divorce, and get the help she and her son needed.
Amber found help through LSS Behavioral Health Services. “Not only help for myself but my son too. Someone who could do youth counseling and therapy. They could help save us both.”
“Through therapy, he is able to be a happy young boy again.” After ten years, it is still difficult for Amber to tell her story. “It’s hard to relive all of that. He ripped all of my self-worth out of my soul.”
“We think we are alone. It’s not true.” Amber remembers, “I was comforted. It felt like LSS made me feel like I was at home. It was a completely judge-free zone. They made me feel like I was a person—that I could be seen. I wasn’t this scared, timid, outcast of a mother.”
“Thank you. Thank you for letting me cry and letting me feel again. Thank you for pulling me out of a black hole, out of the pit of despair. Thank you for making me feel like a good mom.”
LSS made Amber feel safe and accepted. “People should never feel the way I did. LSS was there to help me and my son. They have amazing people. They can help.”
Mental Health Challenge 50 donors = $25,000 Committed to ensuring that cost is not a barrier for clients to access mental health care, LSS is one of the only providers in the state to offer a sliding fee scale based on income. Your support can ensure our ability to continue offering these services at an affordable price. 50 donors will unlock $25,000 to support LSS Behavioral Health Services! Consider a gift today through SouthDakotaCares.org April 10-14, 2023.
After many years of struggling to start their family, Hannah and her husband turned to LSS. In the fall of 2016, they were officially licensed as a foster family and adoptive resource.
“We are thankful we chose to do this journey with LSS,” says Hannah. “We have been blessed to work with a team of people who are professional and faithful in their dedication to serving children and families. They coordinate resources and walk with us in difficult times and celebrations.”
Hannah and her husband have adopted five of their foster children placements through LSS Foster Care Services. Each child entered the family with their own stories, but there’s one who really clarifies for the family what their purpose on this earth truly is. His name is Henry.
Henry experienced traumatic injuries at just 12 days old and spent 12 days in the NICU where he was not expected to survive.
“He showed us one miracle after another,” Hannah continued. “I logged so many hours with Henry, day and night, for months. Pacing the floor with him, singing to him, praying over him. He cried and screamed his way through healing—and not just physically. He cried when someone coughed or sneezed and we found out later that his abuser had a perpetual cough. Henry would wake up screaming in the night, terrified. Many tears fell and many prayers went up in those first months.”
“As a result of the abuse Henry experienced, he is blind, has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and over half of his brain is water.”
“The reality is that Henry was lost in there and could’ve been forever, except my heart connected with his in those horrific moments of pain and healing and I became his person. Henry’s pain was that he needed someone to love him no matter how long the nights were, no matter how he screamed and how he communicated his needs. My pain is that I had nine miscarriages and had asked God for a baby so many times that I’d given up hope and hoped again for 20 years. Henry and I were the perfect match because I needed him as much as he needed me.”
Henry needed a safe and loving home to help him heal, grow and survive. He is now five years old and has a safe home, four other siblings and he is loved deeply by his forever family.
“Every child deserves to grow up safe and protected from abuse and neglect— that is our goal at LSS. Caring foster parents offer children support and stability when they need it most. South Dakota is in extreme need for foster parents who can work with us at LSS to empower children in need to become stronger and more confident individuals as they grow into adulthood,” says LSS Permanency Services Director, Jill Jensen.
“We’ve been lifted up by generous gifts that LSS has connected us with,” says Hannah. “We thank LSS, all the faithful staff and volunteers and giving partners who give so generously to make life better for so many kids. I thank you for your heart, kindness, prayers and giving. You all make an enormous difference in the lives of kids who would be lost otherwise.”
Your impact takes shape in many ways at LSS.
Supporting LSS Foster Care Services ensures a safe home and sense of security are available to help children reach their full potential.
All donations in support of LSS Foster Care Services will be matched up to $25,000! Donations made to LSS Foster Care Services support the recruitment, training and licensing of new treatment foster families; expanding our ability to serve youth in our South Dakota communities. Donations can also support experiences for youth in foster care such as extra-curricular activity fees and equipment, birthday gifts, outings and more. SouthDakotaCARES.org
LSS Foster Care Services
LSS Foster Care Services offers a safe, nurturing environment for youth statewide through treatment foster care. LSS Foster Care serves youth under the age of 18 with behavioral, emotional, developmental and medical needs. In addition to supporting youth in foster care, LSS recruits, trains and supports foster families through Resource Family Services.
The number one priority at LSS is responding to the ever-changing needs of South Dakota communities. Your support enables LSS to continue strengthening its commitment to providing the highest quality of care and services to clients seeking support. The Cutting Edge Care Fund provides broadened opportunities for specialized training to meet the growing needs of those we serve and improve client outcomes.
Last year, thanks to a generous match during South Dakota CARES, more than $32,000 was raised to support our professional development efforts. This funding was put to great use at LSS, supporting a variety of different education and training needs, including:
• Zero Suicide: an evidence-based practice utilized as an ongoing assessment and prevention framework for therapists in LSS Behavioral Health Services to use with at-risk and potential high-risk clients seeking mental health counseling.
• Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Training: including resources and tools for treatment of offenders and victims as well as addressing why victims stay and why offenders abuse.
• Brainspotting Treatment: a powerful, focused treatment method that helps youth heal and overcome struggles by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and other challenging symptoms.
• Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Training: provides assessment tools to unmask self-harming and suicidal thoughts and adapt interventions to work with struggling adolescents in LSS Residential Services for Children & Youth.
• Intensive Trauma Treatment: helps therapists and social workers identify and implement therapeutic strategies to most effectively address trauma recovery and provide better outcomes for youth served at LSS.
Twenty-five donors to the Cutting Edge Care Fund will unlock $15,000 to support our efforts to implement trauma-informed and evidence-based practices across the board! Please consider making a donation today to the LSS Cutting Edge Care Fund to ensure that therapists, social workers and direct care staff will continue to be on the cutting edge of new treatment modalities that are proven to be successful, ultimately changing the trajectory of the lives of those we serve.
In the spring of 1921, an open house and donation day marked the opening of the House of Mercy, the first service offered at LSS for young women experiencing unintended pregnancies.
The next day the House of Mercy welcomed its first applicants for admission—an elderly woman and a seven-year-old girl who needed a home. While they were not the expected clients, the House of Mercy warmly welcomed them and offered shelter and support.
This April, we honor the history and tradition of LSS through South Dakota CARES, a statewide week of giving featuring program site tours, online giving challenges, and social celebrations!
Last spring, you showed us that together, we are powerful as a community. During our 2022 South Dakota CARES fundraising drive, 289 donors came together to donate more than $282,000 in support of vital LSS services. Thank you!
We are grateful for the critical role you have played in our history and for your continued passion and belief in our mission to make our vision a reality—that all people in South Dakota will be healthy, safe and accepted.
Join us in making history once again, by making a donation during our biggest fundraising event of the year! Earmark your spring support on the enclosed pledge card, or visit Donate.LssSD.org today!
Life can be challenging, and it’s easy for families to get overwhelmed when chaos surrounds them. Often, it can be difficult to just approach a situation, let alone solve a problem or make the necessary changes.
That’s why LSS CARES Wraparound Services was created. CARES Wraparound is an early-intervention service that coordinates care based on the family’s strengths and needs.
The goal-setting, resources and accountability provided by LSS were exactly what Erin and Cory’s family needed recently.
When Erin’s son, Wesley, was 4 years old, he started showing signs of autism. Coupled with frequent trips to the hospital for intestinal issues, the diagnosis couldn’t have come at a more difficult time.
2018 was a year of upheaval for Erin. She had just transferred to a new role at a local grocery store after moving to Sioux Falls only a few years earlier. A budding-but-challenging relationship with Cory, her future husband, had just started. Then, her dad passed away. And now, even with help from her mother, she was solo parenting a child with autism and trying to keep herself together.
Depression, anxiety and an increasing sense of hopelessness took hold.
“I was not in the mood to deal with anyone,” Erin said.
It’s the kind of personal trouble that might sound familiar to many. And what could have come next could have been a cautionary tale with a sad or even horrific ending.
Instead, Erin and Cory were directed to LSS and its new LSS CARES Wraparound Services. And through goal-setting, accountability and a lot of work, they are now on a path to “stability so we can prosper,” Erin said.
‘It was chaos’
After six years in the Army National Guard, Cory was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and given medical discharge from his service. Originally from the Hinton, Iowa area, he moved to Sioux Falls and began working as a cook at a local grocery store.
Cory had two children of his own, who he was co-parenting with their mother. Juggling work, parenting and his medication was taking a toll.
When a new co-worker, Erin, came into his life, he wasn’t exactly in the best space to be starting a relationship.
“It was chaos,” Cory said. He had just spent a night in jail over a misunderstanding with his kids’ mom and was living out of his truck. “I was miserable.”
But annoyance led to finding common ground as parents, which led to hanging out. And the next thing Cory and Erin knew, they were moving in together.
Looking for help through hardship
Fast-forward three years, and Erin and Cory still had each other, but neither felt they were getting better. The pressures of the pandemic weren’t helping.
Wesley was having continued health issues and had to have a gastrostomy tube installed to deliver the medicine he needed. He was spending a lot of time with grandparents while Erin was working through her challenges. Cory’s children also were spending time with their grandparents while they were out of school.
Cory was experiencing severe depression. Erin felt suicidal and spent some time at Avera Behavioral Health.
Individually, and as a family, they were in desperate need of help.
‘They actually, genuinely cared’
Wesley also was seeing a therapist at school, and after a session, the counselor told Erin they could help Wesley, but it sounded like the whole family could use support. LSS and its new CARES Wraparound Services was suggested. From basic goal-setting and skill development to partnering with other providers and resources, ensuring that the family’s voice is heard is at the center of the plan.
“They actually, genuinely cared,” Cory said about starting with the program in April.
CARES Wraparound started with small goals for Erin and Cory — things like making an appointment or getting laundry done. That advanced to a week-by-week plan for everything from work to groceries and then monthly objectives. Sprinkle in daily contact through texts or calls, and being in the Wraparound program has felt like having an organized hype man in your corner, Cory said.
“It’s kind of that little angel on your shoulder,” he said. “It’s just kind of that person beside you saying ‘OK, I know you don’t want to do this, but hey, we talked about it, and we need to do it!’”
Challenges still remain, but the support of CARES Wraparound Services, along with help from Erin’s mom and stepdad, have set Erin and Cory’s family down a path toward stability and success.
“There is no way to feel better about the situation until you take that leap and do something scary,” Erin said. “It seems like they always have whatever you need. They know someone, or they have resources for the help.”
“The anxiety I felt before we started was suffocating,” she continued. “The unknown is scary, but it’s awesome to find help.”
CARES Wraparound is an evidenced-based, strength-based and family-centered model that reaches families before stressors they experience lead to child welfare or juvenile justice involvement. Referrals are made through school social workers or counselors.
An LSS CARES Wraparound team member will contact families after a referral is made to set up an introductory meeting for them to learn more about CARES Wraparound Services. Families have the choice to enroll, and there is no obligation to participate.
Email LSS CARES Wraparound Services at Info@LssSD.org or call 605-403-8038 for information or to find out if CARES Wraparound Services are available in your community.
LSS CARES Wraparound is made possible through a grant from Lutheran Services in America and is a part of Lutheran Service in America’s Family Stabilization Initiative.