10,000 Children Adopted Through Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Program

Posted on February 10, 2021

The Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® program serves youth most at risk of aging out of foster care without a permanent family

Columbus, Ohio — The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity, is proud to announce that its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, has helped to find permanent homes for more than 10,000 children in foster care across the United States and Canada since 2004 including nearly 7,300 children since scaling in states began in 2012.

Every year, tens of thousands of youth age out of foster care with no permanent family and no safety net. Before the COVID-19 crisis, one in five youth who aged out experienced homelessness and only 50% were employed at age 24. Now, many are also navigating this deadly pandemic and a challenging economy — alone.

Through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Foundation funds adoption professionals, called recruiters, who are dedicated to finding forever families for the hardest-to-place youth in foster care: teenagers, children with special needs and siblings. A rigorous, five-year evaluation by Child Trends revealed that children served by the program are up to three times more likely to be adopted.

Based on this evaluation and a successful pilot of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Foundation launched an aggressive, multi-year business plan in 2017 to expand the program across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To date, 11 states ― Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington ― as well as Ontario, Canada have fully scaled the program.

“Wendy’s Wonderful Kids began as a belief that we could ― and must ― do better for children lingering in foster care waiting for an adoptive family,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “More than 15 years later, I am so proud of the life-changing impact the program has had in giving 10,000 children and counting the permanent, loving homes they deserve.”

“Thank you to the Foundation’s staff and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters for their passionate and dedicated service, and to our many partners and supporters for helping to make this significant milestone possible,” Soronen added.

Right now, nearly 500 Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters are working tirelessly to find loving, forever homes for children across the U.S. and Canada who have been waiting in foster care the longest. These adoption professionals serve smaller caseloads of 12-15 children to ensure every child receives the time, resources and support they deserve.

“The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program allows us to give kids an opportunity to hope again, to see their value in this world, and to see that they are part of changing their lives,” shared Chelsey Winegar, a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter in Utah.

Of the youth served by the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program:

  • 13 is the average age
  • 56% are part of a minority group
  • 81% have at least one special need
  • 61% are part of a sibling group
  • Prior to being referred to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, 86% had minimal or no adoption recruitment efforts on their behalf

Using an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters start their search within a child’s familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors. The goal is to find a permanent home within the network of people the child already knows and trusts.

“Wendy’s Wonderful Kids helped me want to be adopted. It changed my life because I have a wonderful, loving, caring family who will always be there for me and have my back no matter what,” said Jace Clemons, an 18-year-old from Youngstown, Ohio who was adopted through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids last year.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption was established in 1992 by Wendy’s® founder Dave Thomas, who was adopted. For nearly 30 years, the Foundation has been committed to achieving Dave’s vision that every child will have a permanent home and a loving family.

“My dad knew that having a caring, supportive family can make all the difference in a child’s life,” said Wendy Thomas, a Wendy’s franchise owner and Foundation board member. “My family and I could not be prouder of the Foundation’s work in reaching 10,000 adoptions and their continued commitment to serving our nation’s most vulnerable children in foster care. If my dad were here, there is no doubt in my mind that he would say simply, ‘Well done.’”

“The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is changing lives every day,” said Paul Hilder, chair of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada’s board of directors and Senior Vice President, Managing Director for Wendy’s Restaurants of Canada. “I am proud of the Foundation’s work in Canada and committed to supporting the expansion of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids to find permanency and stability for more of Canada’s youth who need a forever family now more than ever.”

“We congratulate the Foundation and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters across the U.S. and Canada on achieving 10,000 adoptions,” said Todd Penegor, President and CEO of The Wendy’s Company and Foundation board member. “We are so proud to support the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption as our charity of choice and their commitment to speaking up for children who need an advocate and a voice.”


About the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for the more than 150,000 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 davethomasfoundation.org.

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