Jelani Freeman Joins Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Board of Trustees

Posted on January 11, 2023

Foundation committed to finding permanent homes for the more than 140,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems

Columbus, Ohio — The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national non-profit public charity, today welcomed Jelani Freeman as a member of its board of trustees, serving a three-year term. Freeman is an attorney for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission focusing on protecting consumers through oversight and surveillance of wholesale electricity and natural gas markets. 

Freeman aged out of the foster care system and brings with him a personal story that aligns with the work of the Foundation. Freeman was placed in the foster care system at the age of 8 and spent time in multiple foster homes, shelters, group homes and juvenile detention facilities. That all culminated with Freeman being expelled from high school and becoming homeless. However, through resilience and determination, Freeman got his life back on track and completed high school.  

Freeman not only graduated from high school, but his persistence paid off and he went on to earn three degrees, including a law degree and was sworn into the New York State Bar by the very same court system that emancipated him from foster care at 18 years old, leaving him on his own. The hardships Freeman faced in his formative years sparked a desire in him to find avenues to be a voice for the voiceless and to improve the lives of children in the foster care system. Now, he is bringing his lived experience and his passion to serve the underserved to the Foundation. 

“The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has been working for decades to raise awareness around foster care adoption and to do the work of helping to find legally permanent homes for children waiting in foster care, and I can’t wait to be a part of that,” said Freeman. “I understand the power of meaningful connections in the lives of young people and that’s why I am committed to ensuring that every child has a family and the support to reach their full potential. I hope that having my voice at the table will help the Foundation continue to carve a path forward to help more and more youth who desire to be a part of a safe, loving and permanent family.” 

“This is the first time in the history of our board of trustees that we will have a person who has experienced the foster care system firsthand and who aged out without a permanent family,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Jelani overcame every obstacle in his life to become incredibly successful, but we know that is not the usual case for youth who age out of care. Jelani’s personal journey will be invaluable to us as we continue to refine our tactics and strategies to ensure that every waiting child gets the family they deserve.” 

Through its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption provides funding to adoption agencies to support the hiring of recruiters who implement an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model. A rigorous, five-year evaluation revealed that the model is up to three times more effective at serving children who have been in foster care the longest, including teenagers, children with special needs and siblings. To date, more than 500 Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters have found forever families for nearly 13,000 children in foster care across North America.  

Freeman earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from the University of Buffalo. He has a master’s degree from American University, and he is a graduate of Howard University School of Law. He lives in Washington, D.C. 

About the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption  

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated 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

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