In 2020, our world changed in ways we could never have imagined. It has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us. But for children in foster care waiting to be adopted, who have endured abuse, neglect and often countless layers of trauma in their young lives, the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis have been profound.
Through the darkness, there has been reason to hope.
When the pandemic hit, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption quickly changed how we worked, in an aggressive pursuit to serve children through our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids® program without pause or interruption. We simply could not stop, with thousands of vulnerable youth in urgent need of a permanent, loving home.
Because of the unceasing dedication of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption professionals, the Foundation reached a major milestone this year: more than 10,000 children have now been adopted through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids — including more than 1,300 young people since the start of the pandemic.
“Before I was adopted, I felt like I wasn’t enough,” shared Daisy, who was adopted in 2020 after spending the first two decades of her life without a permanent place to call home. “I had this hole in my heart, and I never really knew why. There is no hole in my heart anymore.”
You will read more about the Foundation’s signature programs, partnerships and awareness-building efforts that are helping to make the dream of a forever family come true for youth, like Daisy, Cameron, Jermesha, Floyd, Jermain and others featured in this year’s annual report.
In January 2021, we launched phase two of the Foundation’s multi-year business plan to expand the reach of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. As part of this effort, we are working to deepen and sustain our impact in the first 11 states to scale the program and pursue expansion in at least 10 more states in the near term.
With support from our partners and generous donors, we are working to ensure that there are enough Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters to serve the number of youth in our focus population of teenagers, children with special needs and siblings. Over the last year, we trained more than 100 new recruiters virtually to implement the Foundation’s evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model and served nearly 9,000 children through the program.
And, we continued raising awareness and support for foster care adoption through public service announcements, social media, digital advertising and partnerships. We also secured earned media coverage on TV and radio stations, podcasts and in newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In a year filled with so much uncertainty, I am grateful for the Foundation’s staff, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption professionals, adoptive parents, donors and partners across the country who have helped to move thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable children in foster care into loving, adoptive families. But our mission is far from complete.
We know that the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on youth in foster care will linger for months and years to come, making the Foundation’s work more important than ever.
Together, we can give more children in foster care a forever family and the foundation for a brighter future. Thank you for your ongoing support.
With deep gratitude and all good wishes,
Rita L. Soronen
President & CEO
This letter was featured in the Foundation’s 2021 annual report (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021).