For this guest blog, Foundation staff interviewed Karen about her foster care adoption journey and her daughter, Monarika, who was adopted through the Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.
When Monarika’s adoption was finalized in April, 2017, her new sisters surprised her with custom t-shirts that said “Team Hedges.” Everyone in the court room wore one, and when the judge announced the adoption was official, they took off their jackets to reveal the wording on the back: “Lifetime Member.” They wanted Monarika to truly know that this was her forever family.
Today, Monarika is thriving. She works at her local Wendy’s restaurant, where her manager refers to her as their best worker. Monarika says she’s proud to work for a company that is so invested in helping to get children adopted from foster care.
When Monarika and her mom first met, there was an immediate connection. “I knew the instant I met Karen that I wanted her to be my mom,” Monarika shared.
Karen says Monarika was 17 and had just entered a residential program for teen girls. Teen girls are often placed in these programs because it can be hard to find a foster home that will take an older child. Karen happened to work at the facility where Monarika was now living. As they worked together, Monarika began to trust and confide in Karen – more than anything, she wanted to be adopted. Monarika moved in with Karen and her family the following summer – she fit right in.
“A lot of people want to adopt younger children, but what they don’t realize is that teenagers need families too. They need to know that they are safe, loved and accepted,” Karen shared. “People asked me why I would want to adopt a teenager. Just because she is almost 18 doesn’t mean she doesn’t need and want a family!”
Monarika is just one of more than 110,000 reasons why Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, is so important. Through this program, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption provides funds to adoption agencies across the country to hire specially-trained adoption recruiters whose sole mission is to find loving, adoptive homes for children like Monarika. And, the program works. Since 2004, the Foundation has facilitated more than 6,500 adoptions. But the work is far from done. There are more than 110,000 children waiting in foster care who, like Monarika, simply want to be a “lifetime member” of a family all their own.