Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®

Through our signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Foundation supports the hiring of adoption professionals, known as recruiters, who are dedicated to finding permanent families for children in foster care who are too often overlooked. That includes teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

The priority of the foster care system is to keep families together. But when a judge has ruled that it is unsafe for a child to return to their family of origin, they need someone to step forward to adopt them.

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters use an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model to find the right family for every child. A rigorous, five-year national evaluation revealed that children referred to the program are up to 3x more likely to be adopted.


While other types of adoption recruitment can be successful, child-focused recruitment has been proven to be the most effective approach to achieving permanency for children in the Foundation’s focus population.

Focused on finding the right family for the child 

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters begin their search within a child’s familiar circles of family, friends and neighbors and then reach out to the communities in which they live. Permanency may take the form of adoption, legal guardianship or family reunification when it is a safe option.

Respects a child’s voice, privacy and dignity 

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters are committed to building a trusting relationship with the young people they serve, helping them unpack fears and misconceptions about adoption.

Rooted in the belief that every child is adoptable 

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters work with smaller caseloads of 12–15 children to ensure that every child receives the time, resources and support they deserve.

Explore research showing the impact of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and the Foundation’s evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model.

Who We Serve 

Of children currently served by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in the United States and Canada:

  • 89% are older than age 8
  • 35% have had six or more placements
  • 23% have been in foster care more than four years
  • 85+% had minimal or no adoption recruitment efforts on their behalf before being referred to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids  

Find a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids partner agency in your area.

Our Impact

  • In 2004, the Foundation began piloting the program in seven cities across the United States.
  • In 2006, the Foundation expanded the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program in Canada with the first grant issued in Ontario.
  • In 2012, backed by rigorous evidence of the program’s effectiveness, the Foundation secured a significant public-private partnership with the state of Ohio to scale Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. The model for this partnership has led the way for the Foundation’s scaling expansion across the United States and Canada.
  • In 2017, the Foundation launched an aggressive, multi-year business plan to expand the reach of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
  • In phase one of this plan (2017–2020), statewide expansion began in Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington, while continuing to support the scaling in Ohio and the hiring of adoption recruiters and build momentum across the nation.
  • In phase two (2021–2026), the Foundation is currently working to deepen and sustain our impact in phase one scaling states and pursue expansion in at least 10 more states in the near term. To date in phase two, new scaling states include Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas and Vermont.