LA PLANT, S.D. — Past a gravel road lined with old white wooden buildings is a new, 8-acre village dotted with colorful houses, tepees, and a sweat lodge.

The Simply Smiles Children’s Village, in this small town on the Cheyenne River Reservation, is home to a program aimed at improving outcomes and reducing trauma for Indigenous foster children.

All foster programs seek to safely reunite children with their families. The Children’s Village goes further.

“We want to make Lakota citizens of the world,” said Colt Combellick, who oversees mental health programs at the village. “If we can help them relearn their culture and their heritage and connect them to the resources that they need to thrive moving forward, we’re going to try to make that happen.”

The program is an example of the growing nationwide effort to improve services for Indigenous children, after generations were routinely traumatized by being separated from their families and cultures. While the Indian boarding school era is over, and improvements have been made to child welfare systems, Indigenous families remain overrepresented in the foster care system.