Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Open Hearts, Open Homes

Open Hearts, Open Homes
By Governor Kristi Noem

Family is more about what’s in your heart than your blood stream. I’ve believed that for a long time. Adoption has had an incredible impact on my life. I grew up with a foster brother, and I’ve been so blessed with several adopted nieces and nephews who’ve brought sunshine and a new kind of love into our family. Adoption is beautiful. It’s a miracle. It’s life changing.

As governor, I’ve made it a priority to highlight the impact adoption and foster care can have.  The next generation cannot succeed if they don’t grow up with the support and love of a family. As we’ve drawn attention to this need, we’ve seen the number of foster families increase and more families volunteer to be part of the solution.

And I’ve heard some incredible stories along the way.

About five years ago, Blake and Rachel Schmieg of Big Stone City were considering adoption. They had three boys biologically and had always wanted a girl. After months of thinking and praying, they decided to try foster parenting. One day, they got a call asking them to take in an 18-year-old girl named Sadie who needed a safe place to live until she finished high school. They said yes.

Watch or Download: The Schmieg Family Adoption Story

Sadie quickly became an integral part of their life. Remembering back onto those first few weeks and months in the Schmieg home, Sadie said that she felt like she was part of a family for the first time in her life. She remembers when the younger boys made Christmas ornaments for all their family members at school and made one for her. She remembers having a stocking at Christmas time. She remembers reading to the boys and feeling like she belonged.

As Sadie got closer and closer to finishing high school, they started having conversations about what was next and how everything would work once she went to college. Where would she go for Christmas break? Where would she leave the things that wouldn’t fit in a dorm room?

Little did Sadie know that Blake and Rachel had been talking about the possibility of adoption. When they asked her if she wanted to become a permanent part of their family, Sadie started crying. “It was the first time I had ever felt wanted,” she said.

Over the next few months, the Schmiegs waded through legal tape and began the process of adoption, only to realize that the adult adoption law in South Dakota didn’t fit their situation. They were told there was nothing they could do and that adoption was off the table.

“We hit wall after wall, but we knew this was something God had called us to do, so we looked for doors and windows,” said Blake. Working with Representative Fred Deutsch, the Schmieg family drafted a bill to change the law, gave testimony in front of a committee, and followed the bill through the legislative process. In March, they travelled to Pierre when I signed the bill into law. It was an incredible day.

PHOTO GALLERY: Governor Noem Signs Adult Adoption Bill on March 5, 2019

On August 20, Sadie was legally adopted. They got the paperwork that told them what they’d known for a long time – Sadie was theirs and they were hers. Forever.

I love this story. Not only is it a demonstration of how a strong family can change someone’s life, but it’s also a demonstration of the way your story can shape policy. Never hesitate to use your experiences to make a difference – it can truly change the world.

During this Adoption Month, I want to reflect on the ways our state is working to create strong families – especially when they come through foster care or adoption. If you have an adoption story, would you consider sharing it on social media using the hashtag #SDAdoptionMonth? Your journey could help inspire others to open their hearts and homes to children in need.