Public-private partnership aims to find forever families for longest-waiting youth
Jackson, Mississippi — On April 27, 2022, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption kicked off a new partnership with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS). This partnership expands Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The two organizations share a key belief: every child deserves a permanent, loving home.
“The expansion of this program is tremendous news for our state and will make an incredible difference in the lives of foster care youths. Mississippi will continue to do everything possible to support these children and give them a hand-up in life,” said Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. “Thank you to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for sharing that vision, supporting these kids, and expanding this program in Mississippi!”
This unique public-private partnership will support the hiring of adoption professionals, known as recruiters, who serve children and youth most at risk of aging out of foster care without a family. This includes teenagers, children with special needs and siblings. Over the next five years, the number of recruiters in Mississippi will grow from one to 10. This effort will include a new model for recruiting adoptive parents, and MDCPS will no longer recruit based on photos and videos, but will focus on the individual child and their specific story. This follows the Foundation’s child-focused recruitment model, focusing on the child’s known network of family and friends to find an appropriate adoptive placement. To make this change, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is providing $1.7 million and their training and support program to MDCPS. The Foundation is committed to being here until every child in Mississippi has a permanent home.
“The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has been a long-standing partner in Mississippi,” said MDCPS Commissioner Andrea Sanders. “We are fortunate to be able to build on this relationship and scale it for even better outcomes.”
One youth who has been impacted by the work of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is Lauryn. She was resigned to believe she would never have a permanent home, but thanks to the dedication of her Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Lauryn now has the love and safety of a forever family. “I had given up hope that I would ever be adopted by a family because I already had three failed adoptions. But my recruiter was amazing and gave me confidence that everyone deserves a place to call home.”
A rigorous, five-year national evaluation revealed that a child referred to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is up to three times more likely to be adopted. Based on this evaluation and a successful pilot of the program, Ohio became the first state to scale Wendy’s Wonderful Kids statewide in 2012. In 2017, the Foundation launched an aggressive business plan to fully scale the program across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Mississippi is joining previously scaled states, including Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington.
“When the Foundation approached the state of Mississippi about scaling Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, they were eager to learn more,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Mississippi is a key part of our strategy to expand nationally. We are thrilled when these partnerships come together because it means more families for youth who have been lingering in foster care the longest.”
To date, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has found permanent homes for more than 12,000 children across the United States and Canada, including 126 youth in Mississippi. To learn more about the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, visit davethomasfoundation.org/wwk.
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 140,000 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.
About the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services
The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services serves to protect children, support families, and encourage lasting family connections.