Wendy’s Wonderful Kids:
Finding Permanent Homes for Louisiana Youth in Foster Care
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids: Finding Permanent Homes for Louisiana Youth in Foster Care
By Rita L. Soronen, president & CEO
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
“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.
The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services has had incredible success in increasing foster care adoptions this year. With even more to accomplish, we are proud to partner with the Department through our signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, and co-invest to support adoption agencies across Louisiana 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. The adoption recruiters, dedicated to finding the best homes for youth, like Latrell of Louisiana, start with familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors and then reach out to the communities in which they live.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Kerri, became aware of a relationship Latrell had with his teacher, Cody. “My husband, Cody, and I had thought about adoption for a while. But adopting a teenager was never the plan, until it was,” says Latrell’s mother, Sadie. “While Latrell was already a teenager when we met, his experiences had been so limited. It was heartbreaking at first, but we realized that it allowed us to experience a lot of the typical ‘firsts’ with him that are often missed when an older child is adopted. We got to teach him how to drive and gave him his own room for the first time in his life. We bought him his first plane ticket for his first trip out of state. We gave him his first dog, helped him secure his first job, and more. It has been an incredible journey.” More about Latrell’s story.
Every day, the Foundation sees a growing number of children positively impacted by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in North America. As of December 2018, Louisiana’s eight Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters have found adoptive homes for 103 children and 128 additional children are being served. And we are committed to continuing this partnership to serve the 1,297 children still waiting to be adopted from foster care in Louisiana.
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.
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.