Wendy's Wonderful Kids® Evaluation

The Wendy’s Wonderful Kids evaluation is an unprecedented five-year study of the Foundation’s child-focused recruitment model in the United States. The evaluation represents the most rigorous empirical study of adoption recruitment practices to date, providing much-needed information about practices and policies that improve the likelihood of permanent adoption for children in foster care — especially children with whom the child welfare system has had little success using traditional adoption practices. The control group research showed that children in foster care served by the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program are 1.7 times more likely to be adopted than those not served. Older children and those with mental health challenges are 3 times more likely to be adopted when served by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is the only program in the U.S. to use this evidence-based model.

The evaluation used automated random assignment of children into treatment (WWK) and control (non-WWK) groups and administrative data from state child welfare agencies about children in the treatment and control groups. It included more than 1,200 children in 23 states. A qualitative study and interviews with parents and youth were also conducted.


Every year, more than 20,000 youth age out of care without a family. To achieve the vision that every child will have a permanent home and a loving family, it is critical to understand Americans’ awareness and perceptions of adoption and foster care.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct the 2022 U.S. Adoption and Foster Care Attitudes Survey. The Foundation first commissioned the survey in 2002 and has continued to survey Americans every five years to understand how these perceptions change over time.

The Harris Poll surveyed more than 1,400 U.S. adults, discovering several positive changes. The 2022 survey reveals that 67% of Americans believe all waiting children are adoptable, a 9% increase from 2017.

“These findings are very encouraging — more families are open to adoption in general and considering foster care adoption at higher rates than we’ve ever seen,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “We fervently believe that unadoptable is unacceptable and are excited that more and more Americans are joining us in that belief.”

While a growing number of Americans believe more should be done to help youth in care, unfortunately, more than half (51%) mistakenly believe that children are placed in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents. “The idea that these children have done something wrong, causing them to be placed in foster care, continues to permeate society,” Soronen said. “It is a misconception that we must continue to fight.”

Press release

Read the 2022 press release titled More Americans Consider Building Their Family Through Adoption.


Full survey findings

Read the complete findings of the 2022 survey conducted by The Harris Poll.