Wendy’s Wonderful Kids: Finding Permanent Homes for California Youth in Foster Care

“Home is where one starts from.” These are simple words from a poem by T.S. Eliot. Home is not only where we start from, but also where we go throughout our lives – for comfort in times of sadness, for celebration in times of joy and for daily support and love. Unfortunately, home and family are much more elusive and complicated for the tens of thousands of children in foster care across the United States waiting to be adopted. 

 The hard reality is that too many children linger in care for years and age out of the foster care system without an adoptive family, which places them at an elevated risk of negative outcomes, including homelessness, unemployment, early parenting and substance abuse. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption challenges the systemic perception that these children are unadoptable. That notion is unacceptable to us.

 Through our signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption provides grants to adoption agencies to hire and train recruiters in the Foundation’s evidence-based Child-Focused Recruitment Model. The model is proven to be up to three times more effective at serving youth who have been in foster care the longest, including older youth, sibling groups and children with special needs.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, like Ivette Montejo in California, are dedicated to finding the best homes for youth. They start with familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors and then reach out to the communities in which they live.

 “Seeing the faces of children light up with joy when they meet their forever family has always been the driving force of wanting to be a recruiter,” says Ivette. “Many of the children who I work with have so many barriers, yet they are still resilient and want what at the core we all want, to matter to someone. I get to make connections happen through diligent searching and network building for every child.”

Every day, the Foundation sees a growing number of children positively impacted by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. More than 8,000 children have been adopted across North America and, as of December 2018, California’s eight Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters have found adoptive homes for 327 children and 170 additional children are being served. But we have more work to do to serve the 14,689 children still waiting to be adopted from foster care in California.

Each of us can make a difference by fostering or adopting a child from foster care; by sharing free resources to support the adoption journey, such as the Finding Forever Families: A Step-By-Step Guide to Adoption; and by giving the gift of family. Children are never too old to want, need and deserve a permanent home and loving family – it is their right. Together, we can change lives and build stronger families and communities for generations to come.

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The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national, nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes and loving families for the nearly 155,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns and innovative grantmaking. To learn more, visit www.davethomasfoundation.org and sign up for our newsletter.

 About the author: For more than 30 years, Rita Soronen, president & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children, providing leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe and permanent homes for North America’s children. Connect with Rita Soronen on Twitter at @rsoronen.

Rita SoronenCBHDA