Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Simply Smiles Children’s Village.
Over the past decade I have lived and worked on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota and seen what to most Americans is an unknown and unimaginable reality.
On the Reservation I helped to bury a 12-year-old boy after he died by suicide. I’ve seen more instances of neglect and abuse than I care to remember or recount. And, I’ve seen families love and provide for children under impossible circumstances.
I find myself in a unique position where I understand the complex challenges faced by Native Americans and through my organization, Simply Smiles, Inc, have the mechanism to act.
Native children are the most vulnerable demographic in our society. And Simply Smiles efforts to date have made great progress where others have failed. But so much more needs to be done.
Simply Smiles has a track record of success providing brighter futures for Native children. We now endeavor to take the next step, leveraging our experience and capacity to dramatically expand our work in Indian Country.
In the prospectus that follows you will see how the Simply Smiles Children’s Village, a first-of-its-kind community of foster homes for the most at-risk Native children on the Cheyenne River Reservation, will do just that. And, you will see how your support will provide the immediate and the long-term outcomes we desire from our work - and that you desire from your generosity.
Site development (utilities), the construction of the first 6 homes, the common building, and staff housing for the Simply Smiles Children’s Village will cost approximately $2,375,000. The village will provide a generations long impact for hundreds of children and serve as a replicable model across Indian Country. The State of South Dakota has committed to funding the ongoing operations once the facility is built.
Our immediate need is to raise $150,813 to fully fund Phase 1 construction and start-up costs. Site development and construction of the first home in the Children’s Village is taking place between May and November 2019 and is being supported by 300+ volunteers from across the country working side-by-side with the local Native community. Upon completion of the first home the organization will be able to accept the first 6 children into our care.
We hope you will join us and support this new, impactful, and vital endeavor.
President & Founder
Simply Smiles, Inc.
the simply smiles children’s village
A first-of-its-kind intentional community for the most at-risk children on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.
DEFINING THE NEED
THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT
HOW A CHILD IS PLACED AT THE SIMPLY SMILES CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
THE SIMPLY SMILES CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
LAKOTA CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
ABOUT SIMPLY SMILES
LEGAL & LICENSING
COSTS & FUNDING
Guided by the principle of the Lakota kinship tiospaye and rooted in traditional values, the mission of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village is to foster Native children to become leaders, role models, and Lakota citizens of the world.
Definition: Tiospaye: [Tea-Ohsh-Pay] A Lakota word that best translates to “extended family”.
On the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota, an overwhelming number of Lakota children are unsafe in their homes*. This has left the tribal, state, and non-governmental social services infrastructure, by their own admission, insufficient to respond to the demands and complexities of this dire situation.
To protect these children, and to help them to overcome an unspeakably difficult start in life, Simply Smiles will build and manage the first-of-its-kind Simply Smiles Children’s Village in the Reservation town of La Plant.
The vision is an intentional community of Native “kinship foster families” on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation that offers a child placement option that fulfills the letter and spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act by keeping Native children who have been removed from their homes with “kin and community”.
The Simply Smiles Children’s Village provides the forum and infrastructure for Native people to intervene, protect, and help to raise the most vulnerable Native children.
The project is being executed in collaboration with Cheyenne River tribal governance and elders, with licensing from The State of South Dakota Department of Social Services, and is supported by Native luminaries across the country.
The next generation of Lakota leaders is once again slipping through our fingers. The situation surrounding at-risk children on Cheyenne River (and the Cheyenne River Reservation being a fair representation of the other reservations in Indian Country) reveals a widespread, generations-long, ongoing crisis with demonstrable far-reaching consequences that are of grave concern to the tribes — and, that should be of grave concern to all Americans.
The Simply Smiles Children’s Village is a desperately needed, scalable, and culturally appropriate response to the realities in Indian Country. We seek not only to serve the immediate need but also to scaffold a brighter future by guiding today’s most vulnerable children to become tomorrow’s most influential adults – to foster leaders, role models, and Lakota citizens of the world.
* Poverty alone rarely creates a home environment that is unsafe for a child. Living in poverty is not neglect or abuse. Simply Smiles is referring to children who are unsafe because they are at risk of acute harm from abuse.
To create the Simply Smiles Children’s Village, an intentional community of Native foster families for the most at-risk Native children on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota.
1) To offer a child placement option on the Cheyenne River Reservation that fulfills the letter and spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act by keeping Native children who have been removed from their homes, on the Reservation, with kin and community*.
2) To inspire and empower the children in our care to define themselves as Lakota.
3) To create a safe, inspiring, resource-rich environment for children.
4) To provide access to high quality education.
5) To foster tomorrow’s Native leaders and role models.
6) To create a scalable model that can be replicated throughout Indian Country.
*The phrase “kin and community” reflects language that is both culturally consistent and reflective of the wording found in the Indian Child Welfare Act (see section VI).
Definition: Indian Country: As a legal category, Indian Country includes all land within the limits of any Indian reservation. Colloquially, reservations in the upper Midwest are referred to as Indian Country.
DEFINING THE NEED
On the Cheyenne River Reservation there is an entrenched material poverty on a level and scale one would not believe to be possible within the borders of the United States of America.
“Native children suffer exposure to violence at rates higher than any other race in the United States. The immediate and long-term effects of this exposure to violence include increased rates of altered neurological development, poor physical and mental health, poor school performance, substance abuse, and overrepresentation in the juvenile justice system. This chronic exposure to violence often leads to toxic stress reactions and severe trauma; which is compounded by historical trauma. Sadly, Native children experience post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and at triple the rate of the general population.”
The resulting loss of life and unfulfilled possibility endured by Native children and their communities have perpetuated the suffering and disenfranchisement that are now entrenched realities in Indian Country. While the challenges and complexities are indeed great, addressing this crisis for Native children is paramount, and Simply Smiles is uniquely positioned to respond.
o The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation is geographically the 4th largest reservation in the United States and is roughly the size of Connecticut.
o The Reservation population is approximately 8,500 Native American residents.
o 33% of the population are children (ages <18).
o 46% of the population are living in economic poverty
o The Reservation has an unemployment rate of 88%
o Ziebach County on the Cheyenne River Reservation is the 6th poorest county (of 3,007 counties) in the U.S. by per-capita income.
o Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations in South Dakota comprise the counties with the highest premature mortality rates in the United States.
Current Social Services on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation (2019):
o There are just five Native foster families on the Reservation (who only accept relatives).
o There are five non-Native foster families on the Reservation.
o All ten foster families on the Reservation only accept children under 10 years of age.
o The tribe runs a short-term shelter that can accept five children, under the age of 12, until they are returned to their homes or placed elsewhere. (Shelter stay is 30 days maximum.)
o For youth ages 11-17, there are no long-term placement options on Cheyenne River.
o Approximately 16 children are removed from their homes on the Reservation each month.
o Because of the lack of sufficient placement options (short and long-term) children are subsequently:
o placed across South Dakota as far away as Sioux Falls (300 miles away)
o placed out of state with non-Native families and/or in non-Native communities
o placed in juvenile detention for their own safety
o or, intervention does not take place because the intervening authority knows there is no better option as to where to relocate the child.
To cite an empirical example from one Cheyenne River community of 22 homes, it is our assessment that the children living in six of those homes are in imminent danger of physical abuse – with no intervention forthcoming.
THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is a federal law passed in 1978 that governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian Children. The law was enacted after recognition by the federal government that (1) Native children were being removed from their homes and communities at rates dramatically higher than non-Native children, and (2) removal of Native children from their communities has a detrimental effect on their well-being and cultural identity. At the core of the ICWA are provisions that require “active efforts” be made to keep Native children in their Native communities.
The law is designed to protect Native children from the power of the states – and nationally the tribes have expressed unanimous desire for the ICWA to be complied with. Four decades after the ICWA was made law, Native children are still removed from their homes at proportions far higher than non-Natives and are being placed outside of their Native communities at alarming rates*.
In the case of the Cheyenne River Reservation, there are simply too few social services programs (family foster or group care) where children can be placed, and even fewer that are run by Native Americans. The Simply Smiles Children’s Village addresses this challenge by offering a child placement option that fulfills the letter and spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act by keeping Native children who have been removed from their homes, on the Reservation, with kin and community.
*Native children account for <9% of the child population in South Dakota, yet they represent 52% of the foster care population. (Statistic from The South Dakota Department of Social Services.)
HOW A CHILD IS PLACED AT THE SIMPLY SMILES CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
Removing a child from their family is a measure of last resort – a response to an emergency. Keeping the child in their community, placement with Native foster parents, and reunification with family should be sought in any mediation.
The Simply Smiles Children’s Village is a passive component in the removal of a child from their home. Our services are a placement option to be considered by the tribal courts when determining placement and custody.
How a child is placed at the Simply Smiles Children’s Village:
THE SIMPLY SMILES CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
On the prairie in the heart of the Cheyenne River Reservation, in the town of La Plant, Simply Smiles has secured eight acres of land for the Simply Smiles Children’s Village. The Lakota name for this area is Naca Wakpa, which means Leader Creek. On this land, historic and legendary Lakota leaders would meet. Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse… they were safe here as they discussed the grave challenges facing their people, and the prospects for the future. What better place for the current generation to find their refuge and to determine their futures?
Inspired by Madonna Thunder Hawk’s Survival School in the 1970s (a home for Native youth), the children in our care are raised as family. Our commitment to each child is equal to the commitment we have to our own children. We don’t endeavor to provide the minimum. This is not a warehouse for children. Rather, we seek to provide the maximum that we, that the Lakota culture, and the world have to offer.
The Children: The first Simply Smiles Children’s Village will have the capacity to serve 36 children at one time and will serve generations of children in need. Children up to 17 years-of-age are accepted. Residents who turn 18 while in our care are supported to pursue further education, job training/placement, or may be offered employment at the Children’s Village or at another Simply Smiles location.
Placement: Children come to live at the Simply Smiles Children’s Village via placement by the Tribal Court of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation. Because of the Village’s capacity to provide long-term care, the tribal court endeavors to place with Simply Smiles cases that are projected to be extended or permanent interventions.
The Facility: A circle of six brightly colored houses, each home to a cohort of no more than 6 children and their “kinship parents.” Doors face into the circle forming a communal area where you will find open space, picnic tables, a playground, and a basketball court. A garden behind each house. A common gathering building with an event hall, counseling areas, and offices. Lakota art and sculptures. The facility is the physical structure representing and reflecting the love and potential found within its walls.
Kinship Care Parents: Native people raising Native children is the central component of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village. We call those responsible for the care of the children “kinship parents” as this language and concept is consistent with Lakota tradition and culture.
On Cheyenne River there are many whose hearts swell with capacity to care for children in need and who are therefore potential kinship parents for The Simply Smiles Children’s Village. And off the Reservation resides a diaspora of thousands of Lakota people, many of whom are willing to come home, bringing their experiences and worldliness with them, to care for the next generation.
Director / Social Worker: Services provided by The Simply Smiles Children’s Village are managed by a licensed clinical social worker.
Mental Health Care: Mental health services are provided for the children and staff. Culturally appropriate, professional, consistent, personalized, long-term mental health care is a vital component of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village.
Education: Located less than a mile from the Simply Smiles Children’s Village, K-12 education is provided by the tribally-run Tiospaye Topa School. Simply Smiles has partnered with Tiospaye Topa to help provide the best education for the children in our care. In addition, extensive after school, tutoring, extracurricular, and summer supplemental educational programs are provided. Youth are encouraged, prepared, and supported to pursue higher education or a trade.
Nutrition & Health: Native people suffer from diabetes, heart-disease, and obesity at rates far beyond their non-Native counterparts. 25% of Native children ages 2-5 are obese. Lack of access to healthful foods, health education, and exercise opportunities are the primary contributing factors. The Simply Smiles Children’s Village teaches healthy living with a focus on traditional Native food-ways. Preventative and responsive healthcare is provided by Indian Health Services, Tribal Health, and third-party providers.
Elders: The presence of Lakota elders is a powerful feature of The Simply Smiles Children’s Village. Through their wisdom and collective experience, elders bring healing and inspiration while they reveal the paths traveled and the paths forward to a brighter future.
LAKOTA CITIZENS OF THE WORLD
Permeating every aspect of The Simply Smiles Children’s Village is an effort to inspire and empower the children in our care to define themselves as Lakota.
The village is on the Reservation, the diet incorporates traditional indigenous foods, the rules are based on traditional values, the kinship parents are Native, even how one chooses to braid their hair – all of these components create an environment that instills confidence through definition.
Girded by pride in who they are, children raised at the Simply Smiles Children’s Village are led to see themselves as a valuable part of a wider humanity; as individuals who can leverage what a plurality of people and cultures have to offer and who can navigate their lives as Lakota citizens of the world.
ABOUT SIMPLY SMILES
Simply Smiles, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization uniquely qualified to create and manage The Simply Smiles Children’s Village on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
Founded in 2003, the organization has been involved in the construction and management of three similar facilities for indigenous children in Mexico and has been working on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota since 2008, where it currently manages over 20 successful programs including new home construction, youth programming, and educational initiatives.
In 2012, the founder and president of Simply Smiles, Bryan Nurnberger, was given the Lakota name “Kind Hearted Man” by tribal elders and with it, the charge to help be a voice for Native children.
In 2018, the Lakota people and Simply Smiles entered into a 99-year lease of deeded/non-trust land in the Reservation town of La Plant. It is on this property that the children’s village is being built.
The mission of Simply Smiles is to provide bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create environments from which local leaders can emerge. It instills hope and removes obstacles, empowering indigenous peoples to chart their own course to self-determination and a brighter future.
It is a core belief of Simply Smiles that each smile we create is a stepping stone on a child’s path to a bright future. The organization now applies this philosophy, as well as their considerable experience and resources, to the creation of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation.
LEGAL & LICENSING
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is engaged in an agreement with the State of South Dakota whereas the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) provides social services for children living on the Reservation on behalf of the tribe.
Within this arrangement, a child living on the Reservation can only be physically removed from their home by: a law-enforcement officer or a DSS agent. All removals are processed through the state Department of Social Services, which has offices in the Reservation town of Eagle Butte.
Once an intervention has taken place, the Tribal Court of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation is the only body that can determine custody of a child.
Simply Smiles is licensed by the South Dakota Department of Social Services as a “Child Placement Agency.” (See Appendix C) This designation allows Simply Smiles to license and manage individual homes as “residential foster care facilities” and “therapeutic foster care facilities.”* Collectively, homes licensed and managed by Simply Smiles will make up the Simply Smiles Children’s Village. The state will audit the organization’s records and renew our Child Placement Agency license on an annual basis.
Formal endorsement and legal authorization for the Simply Smiles Children’s Village has been provided by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe via duly adopted tribal council resolution.
*The designation of a foster facility as “residential” or “therapeutic” is based on the level of care provided for the children living there. For example, a home where a child is receiving more extensive mental health care would be considered a “therapeutic foster care facility.”
Child Welfare Agency License for Simply Smiles from the State of South Dakota:
Resolution from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation authorizing the Simply Smiles Children’s Village:
PROJECTED TOTAL BUDGET
TOTAL COST TO BUILD AND OPERATE THE FULLY DEVELOPED SIMPLY SMILES CHILDREN’S VILLAGE
Construction of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village will cost approximately $2,375,000, will have the capacity to house and raise 36 children at a time, provide a generations long impact for hundreds of children, and serve as a replicable model across Indian Country – a replicable model that has the capacity to serve thousands of children.
The State of South Dakota has committed to funding the ongoing operations of the Simply Smiles Children’s Village once the facility is built.
Private Donors: For Phase 1 construction and start-up the organization is seeking funding from private donors.
Grant Funding: Funding from foundations will be actively sought. Foundation/grant funding is much more likely once a program has been established (i.e. after Phase 1). In addition, the timeframes for seeking and receiving foundation funding are often long. Reliance on foundation funding for Phase 1 would certainly delay our launch timeframe. It is our intention to fund a significant portion of future phases of development with foundation/grant funding.
Government Funding (State and Federal): Simply Smiles has not found an example of State of South Dakota funding being provided for the construction of a child services facility. However, it is the intention of the organization to work with the members of the South Dakota State Legislature, and the congressional Native Caucuses to pursue and eventually secure state & federal funding.
Tribal Funding: There may be the opportunity to secure funding from tribal programs, in small amounts.
o Children who are unsafe will be placed in a safe, loving, nurturing environment.
o By July 2020: 6 children will be in the care of the Children’s Village.
o By 2023: 36 children will be in the care of the Children’s Village.
o The Simply Smiles Children’s Village will continue to care for children in need for generations to come, serving hundreds of Native children.
o The next generation of Lakota leaders, who will determine a brighter future for themselves and for their people, will be cultivated – breaking a generations long cycle of suffering and dependence.
o Your support will address the immediate need, and through the fostering of future Native leaders, create systemic and lasting change.
Lakota activist and artist, Frank Waln, when speaking to the children of Cheyenne River, reminded them that they are the survivors. That just to be alive today, they had to be strong, and smart, and resilient. That he was inspired – by them.
These children possess the talent needed to finally break a generations-long cycle of suffering and dependence. To do so, they need our support.
The Simply Smiles Children’s Village is an incubator for that talent. It protects and provides for Lakota children. When they arrive at our door, they are at their most vulnerable. With your backing, they will leave at their most influential. They will have become strong Lakota men and women. They will have vision and confidence. They will be leaders.