Guest blog by: Nanci Konopasek, a South Dakota foster and adoptive parent.

My partner, Veronica and I met in college in 1984. After college, we moved to Nebraska and began our careers. After living in Nebraska for 13 years, we moved back home to South Dakota. We made new friend who told us about the dire need for foster parents. We had more room in our home and a lot of love to give a child, so we decided to become foster parents. Over the course of four years we gave 8 children a loving and supportive home. We taught them their ABCs, how to ride a bike, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – we loved them like parents do.

In 2007, an 18 month old little boy came to us. Parental rights were already terminated.  He had been neglected and had been in two other foster homes prior to ours. He had trust issues and abandonment fears.  We loved him as our own and worked with him to heal his internal scars.  In 2009 we legally adopted him.  I was the only parent listed on his birth certificate and adoption paperwork because my partner and I were not married.

He was to be our only child. This little guy had such traumatic experiences and he needed our undivided attention. We were willing to do anything for him, he was our son. We made the decision to let our foster licensure lapse and devoted ourselves to providing the best home for him. 

In 2009 we received a call from the Department of Social Services.  A full biological sister had been born to our son.  She was barely 3 months old and had been taken out of the home due to neglect.  Our former adoption case worker asked us if we would consider getting our foster care license back, care for her, and possibly keep the two of them together.  Of course we could not let the two of them be separated so we did what we needed to do to bring her into our home.  And in 2010, we adopted her. Once again I completed the paperwork as a single parent and only my name appeared on the birth certificate and adoption papers.

We have been blessed with two beautiful children through foster care and adoption.  On October 10th of 2015, those two children witnessed our marriage.  After 30 years, we were able marry, with our children holding our rings and watching on as we professed our love for each other and the continuation of commitment as a forever family.  

This year legislators have introduced SB 149. This bill could make it difficult – or even impossible – to build strong, loving families like ours. It would allow adoption and foster care agencies to use their religious beliefs to refuse placement with loving parents like my wife and me. I appreciate and respect everyone’s right to live according to their faith. We certainly live our life according to our values. But that freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate against me, my family, or anyone else. There are so many children like ours in our state looking for supportive and loving parents. This bill could lessen their chances of finding their forever family.

I have a family that is bound together by love.  Like many other families, we deserve to be together.  This wasn’t a family that was forced or planned in any way, but we really feel that God blessed our lives in so many ways. Please join us in asking our legislators to protect South Dakota children and families and to vote no on SB 149.