Holly Renken is a member of the executive board for The Foster Network in Sioux Falls. She chatted with Sioux Falls Simplified about what it's like to be a foster parent, what kids need and how to support the work the nonprofit is doing in the community.
Answers are edited for length and clarity.
Let's start by "getting smart" about you. What in your background prepared you for your work today with The Foster Network?
I have been a foster parent since 2017, and became an adoptive parent through foster care in 2021.
- From my very first placement, the Foster Network was there to provide some much-needed clothing for a placement that had arrived at 9 p.m. with just the clothes on their backs. Within 24 hours, I had several items for each child.
While the Foster Network has continued to grow to meet the needs of foster, adoptive, and kinship families in our area, I've been able to volunteer my time to help with their mission. I recently joined the board of directors in April of this year.
We're all about simplicity here. Can you explain the work of the Foster Network in 10 words or fewer?
Provide support to those impacted by foster care, trauma, & crisis.
What do you see as the biggest misconception about foster care? And if you could set the record straight, what would you say?
One of the common things foster parents hear is, "I couldn't do it; I'd get too attached." The entire point is to get attached and to give the children compassion and stability while they are with you.
Foster care focuses on reunification with parents and meeting the children's needs while their parents work on their commitments. While our current foster families are all amazing in their own way, they don't stand out because they have some superhuman ability to not get attached, they stand out because they do what they can to make a difference, despite knowing they will most definitely get attached.
Do you have a sense of how many kids are impacted by the foster care system locally?
There are currently 357 children in foster care in our region.
The Foster Network helped 140 children last month, with 89 of those being first time visitors.
What are the biggest needs you guys have right now? How can we help?
Our big Christmas drive, "Give Joy This Christmas," is starting.
- If businesses would like to host a Christmas tree or get tags to sponsor children this Christmas, we urge you to reach out. Christmas trees with tags will be located throughout the community where individuals can pick up a tag to fulfill the child's wishes. We are also looking for businesses to cover the costs of tags that might not get fulfilled prior to the December 5th deadline.
The Foster Network is always looking for volunteers to help at The Foster Closet or to volunteer at or sponsor our events.
If you could snap your fingers and add one resource for foster kids and parents to the Sioux Falls area, what would it be?
We all know how hard it is to find child care in the best of circumstances, right? Now imagine you've taken in two children who have experienced trauma one evening and need child care for them tomorrow.
- We have wonderful options in Sioux Falls for child care, but we also know how few spots there can be, especially at a moment's notice. Daycare can mean the difference between taking a placement or not, so it would be wonderful to have more options for child care, and even better for everyone to have training in trauma.
Is there anything else you want the good people of Sioux Falls to know about you, the Foster Network or foster care in general?
There are many ways to be involved.
- You can become a foster parent, but if that's not for you, please get involved with the Foster Network in all they do to provide support in the area, or connect with a foster family and find ways they might need support.
Small acts of kindness can have a great impact.