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29 Seasons of SD Focus


This article is from the September 2023 edition of SDPB Magazine. See past issues HERE.

In July a report titled “The Growing, Annual Cost of the Infant-Toddler Child Care Crisis in South Dakota” indicated the impact of the crisis could cost the state $329 million each year. A failure to strengthen the nation’s fragile childcare infrastructure, the report concludes, will lead to more and more economic damage to employers, workers, and taxpayers, not to mention the developmental impact on the children themselves.

South Dakota is faced with more news every day that impacts the well-being of children, and how those issues affect the state now and in the future. A backlog of teacher certification approvals, a growing number of teacher openings left unfilled, questions about teacher pay, pre-natal care availability in rural areas, Special Education access, and how a low unemployment rate feeds the lack of childcare resources in the state are just a few of those covered recently. This all leads to the central question: what does South Dakota need to do to address the issue of childcare now to ensure the state can offer an able and educated workforce in the future?

That is the central theme that South Dakota Focus will address this season.

"My big hope from the season and future seasons is that my work can be used for showing a path to make our state as great as it can be." - Jackie Hendry

Entering its 29th season, and third with Jackie Hendry as host, the show is pivoting to a new presentation style. Always known as a public affairs program that speaks about issues that matter to South Dakota, South Dakota Focus gathers legislators, business leaders, tribal members, experts, and citizens to discuss various topics in-depth. Focus is taking that approach one step further this season by examining the topic of children’s issues from a variety of angles throughout the season.

“We're experimenting with having an overarching topic for the whole season to do a deep dive,” said Jackie. “The focus is on children's issues in South Dakota. I'm really excited to examine that arc because my interest in journalism started with a desire to do more documentary-style, deep-dive things. I feel like we're on the cusp of getting into that kind of work.”

Jackie was one of 15 journalists chosen for the National Press Foundation Future of the American Child Fellowship. For four days, she heard from child and maternal healthcare experts and met with reporters from around the country. The goal of the fellowship was to help journalists cover the nuances and complexities of public policies that affect children and the changes in child well-being

“It was a good chance to get out of [my] routine and learn new information. Also, to have that connection and network of experts outside of South Dakota. It really got my wheels turning and made me eager to look for those stories. Being a former education reporter, in particular, I had that lens on it. All kinds of complicated issues arise and exist in a system together. The thing about childhood issues is that these things kind of snowball depending on if it's a health issue, a home issue, or an education issue; those different things determine the outcome of a kid's life onward. Successful adults start with successful kids, and successful kids start with successful adults. It's the cycle we have to recognize.”

Discussions about maternal, prenatal, and birth-care access will kick off the season. It will continue with topics ranging from childcare, education, juvenile justice, and foster care, and conclude with the next steps for young adults as they decide what is next for them. Jackie shares one of the most anticipated topics.


“November's show is about child trauma and how we can serve child trauma victims. November will be the 50th anniversary of the Gitchie Manitou murders. The victims of those murders ranged in age from mid-teens to 18, and the lone survivor of that was 13 at the time. We talk with the author of the Gitchie Girl book, who is close friends with one of the murder victims, about his experience losing a friend. Fifty years ago, if you heard an announcement on the radio, people were upset but the teachers were like, ‘Just stop talking about it. Let's get back to normal’. That was just the mode at the time. That author has just retired after decades of being a teacher at the high school level, and it's totally different now. Now, if there's a death in a high school, you bring in counselors. There's change, but there are things that we have yet to do to protect kids and help them after a trauma.”

After a discussion with Dr. Marcy Drew, Director of Education for SDPB, Jackie shared some helpful insight surrounding the difficulties that pair with conversing about more severe topics.

“We're trying to tell a story here that grasps the truth of what is happening in our state and the people trying to solve problems. Marcy said the secret is that the story isn't just about these kids. The story is also about what we do as a state and community to set our young people up for success. It's hard to think of anything more important than our kids. When it comes to struggles in South Dakota, with childcare, with anything else, you're finding people in a vulnerable state.”

Jackie continues, explaining her enthusiasm for the mission: “I'm in this because I recognize that South Dakota is not perfect and that we do have issues, but I truly believe these issues are solvable, and I know that people are working on them. I want to tell the story of things going wrong, and the story of the people working to help. The power of storytelling is seeing the problem solvers and thinking, ‘Maybe I can join along in that effort.’ Then resolution may be possible.”

The future for South Dakota Focus will include town hall-style events, which will involve a handful of meetings related to this season to encourage community conversation. Town hall discussions will offer an opportunity to connect our Sioux Falls and Rapid City spaces with our statewide audience and bring experts and the community together to discuss childcare challenges.

South Dakota Focus premieres Thursday, Sept. 28 at 8:00pm Central, 7 MT on SDPB1, and repeats the following Sunday. Focus generally airs the last Thursday of the month.

Join Jackie Hendry as she hosts the South Dakota Focus Childcare Crisis Town Hall live from SDPB's Black Hills and Sioux Falls studios on October 3rd at 7:00 PM Central, 6:00 PM Mountain. The event is free, but seating is limited – visit to reserve a seat. SDPB will also stream it online on, and on the SDPB Facebook and YouTube pages.