About Us

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is the only public nonprofit charity in the United States that is focused exclusively on foster care adoption. Through its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, the Foundation provides grants to adoption agencies to hire recruiters who use an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model to find loving, permanent homes for children waiting in foster care.

The Foundation works closely with child welfare advocates and policymakers, provides free resources about foster care adoption and raises awareness through social media campaigns, public service announcements and events.


Dramatically increase the number of adoptions of children waiting in North America’s foster care systems.


Every child will have a permanent home and loving family.

Core Beliefs


Every child deserves a safe, loving and permanent family.


No child should linger in foster care or leave the system without a permanent family.


Every child is adoptable.


Our story began in 1990 when Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, accepted President George H.W. Bush’s invitation to be the spokesperson for a national adoption awareness campaign. However, Dave knew he could do more. In 1992, he established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Over the years, Dave’s modest charisma and simple sincerity helped spread the word about adoption. In 1997, he testified before Congress to support an adoption tax credit that aimed to make adoption more affordable. He also appeared in public service announcements, expanded his reach to Canada and led the initiative to create an adoption stamp, which was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2000.

On January 8, 2002, Dave passed away and the world lost one of its greatest advocates for children. Dave Thomas was respected for being a talented businessman and a caring philanthropist; his unceasing desire to improve the lives of North America’s most vulnerable children was arguably his greatest contribution to society. Learn more about Dave’s legacy and his lasting impact.

For more than 25 years, the Foundation has continued its pursuit of Dave’s goal of finding forever families for children in foster care.



The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption celebrates 25 years.


The Foundation launches an aggressive 12-year plan to scale Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in all 50 states.


The Foundation receives a one-year planning grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation to take Wendy’s Wonderful Kids to scale.


The Foundation celebrates 5,000 Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoptions.


The Foundation with its partner, Children’s Action Network, receives an Adoption Excellence Award for A Home for the Holidays from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.


The Foundation’s President and CEO, Rita Soronen, testifies before Congress in support of increasing adoptions from foster care.


The state of Ohio commits to an innovative public/private partnership with the Foundation to take Wendy’s Wonderful Kids to scale across the state.


The Foundation implements the “Unadoptable is Unacceptable” campaign, with the release of a groundbreaking 5-year rigorous evaluation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids that shows children served by the program are up to three times more likely to be adopted.


The Foundation rebrands its efforts to reflect its activities and children served.


The Foundation celebrates 1,000 adoptions through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.



Wendy’s Wonderful Kids wins an Adoption Excellence Award the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.


National Adoption Day celebrated at the White House and all 50 states and D.C.; DTFA CEO moderates White House panel on Compassionate Initiatives for Vulnerable Children and Families.



The Foundation launches the 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces List.



Wendy’s Wonderful Kids grows to include all 50 states and D.C.


The first Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Summit, an annual gathering and training of adoption recruiters, is held in Columbus, Ohio.


The Foundation’s signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, is created and launched in seven pilot cities.


The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada is launched.


The nation mourns Dave Thomas’ passing, but the work of his Foundation continues.


The Foundation engages Harris Interactive to survey American attitudes toward adoption, driving messaging, marketing and communications over the next decade.


A collaboration led by the Foundation launches National Adoption Day in seven states.


Dave Thomas partners with the U.S. Postal Service to create and promote the Adoption Stamp that is issued nationwide the following year.


A partnership with Children’s Action Network and CBS Television creates the first A Home for the Holidays, featuring top Hollywood talent and successful adoption stories; the prime time program celebrates the joys of foster care adoption and generates thousands of inquiries from viewers.


Dave Thomas testifies before Congress in support of an adoption tax credit that aims to make adoption more affordable.


The White House holds an Adoption Month event, hosted by Dave Thomas, the Foundation and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.


The Foundation issues its first national grants.


The Foundation partners with Wendy’s to create a foster care adoption Public Service Announcement, featuring Dave Thomas.


The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is founded.


Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s Restaurants and an adoptee, accepts President Bush’s invitation to be spokesperson for a national adoption awareness initiative.