Republicans Vote Against Preserving Families in South Dakota


February 13, 2024

Monday morning, several House Republicans voted against preserving families in South Dakota as they killed HB 1151. Rep. Peri Pourier’s legislation would have put steps in place to make sure children who are removed from the home due to abuse or neglect are placed with extended family members and that there is a plan to possibly reunite a child with their parents, guardians or custodians.

Under Rep. Pourier’s proposal, the Department of Social Services would have to use “active efforts” with a child’s parent, extended family members, and in the case of an Indian child, with the child’s tribe. Right now, DSS uses what it calls “reasonable efforts” which supporters of the legislation say doesn’t go far enough to help children and parents. The bill would have required DSS to conduct a diligent search for extended family members to figure out the best family structure and support for the child and their parent. The proposal would have also required DSS to work with the parent or custodian to find community resources such as housing, financial, transportation, mental health, substance abuse, and peer support services. Rep. Pourier’s bill put a focus “on a safe reunification as the most desirable goal”. This is especially important to keep Native American children with their family members to preserve their social and cultural conditions.

“HB 1151 aimed to elevate the standards for non-native children to match those federally mandated for Indian children, specifically by defining and implementing a higher criterion known as ‘active efforts’,” said Rep. Pourier. “Regrettably, the majority of the House Judiciary Committee did not support enhancing these standards. They deemed the proposed $3.8 million budget increase for the Department of Social Services, intended to improve support and preventive measures for our most vulnerable children, excessively costly. I urge the citizens of South Dakota to express to their legislators the importance of prioritizing children’s welfare and to advocate for strong families.”

This comes after the US Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act. ICWA protects the “best interest of Indian Children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by the establishment of minimum Federal standards for the removal of Indian children and placement of such children in homes which will reflect the unique values of Indian culture”.

A representative from CASA as well as the Oglala Sioux Tribe Vice President Alicia Mousseau and the South Dakota Indian Child Welfare Act Chairwoman Jessica Morson testified in support of the bill.

“Following the vote against Rep. Pourier’s bill, now we’d like to focus on audits of ICWA cases in the South Dakota court system,” said Morson. “The question of what ‘active efforts’ and ‘reasonable efforts’ are, this will show true transparency in how the state provides active efforts now as required by federal law. I was disheartened that the Department of Social Services weighed the cost of this bill against all children and their best interests. When it comes to families, we as South Dakotans should always provide maximum efforts in abuse and neglect cases. They are people, not just a case number.”

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |