Children's Home Society gets a new CEO

RAPID CITY, S.D, (KEVN) - Eight months ago, Black Hills Children's Home was scrambling trying to get Serenity Dennard back after running away from the home.

Michelle Lavalle talks to a teacher at the Black Hills Children's Home Society in Rockerville. (KOTA TV)

She is still missing.

It's a challenge the new CEO will have to deal with as she assumes the role Monday.

White walls and an empty seat is what Michelle Lavallee is walking into as the new CEO of the Children's Home Society.

Lavallee is replacing Bill Colson after serving in the position for 10 years.

But Lavallee is going to take on a challenge coming into this role with an ongoing search and investigation for Serenity Dennard.

"It is all about the kids and we do have one missing still. And I have to tell you I could just see that everybody's hearts are still broken here," Lavallee said.

Lavallee said she will continue to enforce the new protective policies like calling 911 immediately if a child runs away.

See related story Black Hills Children's home: Serenity 'caught us a bit off guard'

"When you're in this kind of business there is a lot of oversight. And all of that has been corrected and we are in very good standing with all of our licensing," Lavallee said.

Though some may say the organization's good name for 126 years was hit after this case, she said they are still standing strong.

"They're record of achievement of being a safe, caring place for kids, I think that still prevails," Lavallee said.

She said since the incident, no changes in referrals or in donations have occurred, including the 55 million dollar donation by T. Denny Sanford.

See related story Black Hills Children's Home Society receives a small portion from $55 million donation

After campaigning for a year beside Billie Sutton in the 2018 general election, she plans to push for Medicaid expansion. Especially, since 45 percent of the home's income comes from Medicaid.

She will use her marketing skills to highlight the child advocacy program, the shelter and adoption and foster services the organization offers.

"So you're going to be hearing a lot more about Children's Home Society in the future," Lavalle said.