Through its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada provides grants to child welfare organizations to hire and train recruiters in our Child-Focused Recruitment Model. A rigorous, five-year evaluation of the model in the U.S. revealed that it is up to three times more effective at serving children who have been in foster care the longest, including older youth, sibling groups and children with special needs.
The following conversation with Jocelyne, a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter in Ontario, was originally published by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jocelyne. I have been a recruiter with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids since the start of the program in my area two years ago. I am a bilingual recruiter and work mostly with francophone families in Eastern Ontario.
What made you go into social work?
My mother was my first social worker model and was the one who gave me the desire to study in that field of work. She had excellent listening skills and was a wise woman who knew when to talk, when to listen, when to keep silent, when to encourage and when to leave me to reflect on my own about things. I learned a lot from her, and later in life, I realized how valuable her way of doing things was. It just made me want to develop those qualities and help those that I could.
What made you want to be a WWK recruiter?
I spent my first five professional years as a social worker in intervention with children/youth and families. I spent another 25 years working as a manager in different social services agencies. I always wanted to go back to working directly with youth and families at the end of my career, before I retired. I wanted to relive and witness human growth and how joyful it is when a plan is achieved with the synergy of people involved.
It took me a while to notice that not all have this same opportunity. I realized that children in my neighborhood were sometimes left on their own to navigate life and others had no family at all. That is when I truly understood how fortunate I was. It also helped increase my awareness and develop my interest in wanting to help make life better for children and families that were less fortunate but also deserved happiness as well. The WWK program offered me the opportunity to do just that.
Tell us about a special memory you have working as a WWK recruiter.
It is difficult to come up with only one special memory as there are many that come to mind, but here is one:
I was working with a Haitian autistic child who was 6 years old at the time. He was living in a Caucasian foster family since he was an infant. A match was recently made with a maternal aunt. A first visit was scheduled in the home of the foster mother. When the aunt arrived with some members of her own family, the child was all excited to say to his foster mom and me, “Hey, look, they have the same skin color as me,” while showing his arm and the hands of his aunt and her relatives. That was a special moment that brought on some tears because of the child’s genuine reaction of surprise and joy in finding some commonality between him and his birthright family members. I am happy to say that he is now living with this aunt and has a permanent family of his own.
What is your dream for the children on your caseload?
My ultimate dream for the children I work with is to not only find them a permanent family but a family that will allow them to grow and become the best person that they can be.
Have you ever worked with a child who didn’t want to be adopted? How did you handle that?
Absolutely. Actually a few. First and foremost, it is important to invest time at the beginning of an intervention to build a strong relationship between the recruiter and the child/youth. Only then can we start to explore an adoption plan with them. The only thing that I ask of them in this situation is to keep an open mind.
I invest time in getting to know them, in asking questions, in trying to understand their fears and resistance. I will acknowledge the hurt they experienced in their past and invite them to move past this. To concentrate on the here and now and give them hope for the future. In other words to work on their resilience.
What makes the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids model special?
I believe what makes the model so special is the way it is built, in that the focus is put on the child. A study in the United States showed that the children served by the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program are up to three times more likely to be adopted.
The model has been proven effective. It is constructed in such a way that it gives clear guidelines, financial and human resources, time and flexibility to work around issues, and includes the support of a competent team at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption who strongly believe in their work and who transmit their passion for this cause.
What do you want people to know about children in foster care?
That they deserve a chance to belong. That they need us to love them even if they work hard sometimes to be rejected and to sabotage anything good that can happen to them. We have to see beyond the hurt and reach out to the heart of their soul.
Every child deserves to be part of a permanent family that they can call HOME.
I would like to quote Dr. Gordon Neufeld. “Hold on to your child!” It is worth it.
What would you say to a family considering foster care adoption?
That it is a very rewarding thing to do. That one needs to do it for the right reasons. You will be both giving and receiving. There will be storms to navigate but never stop believing; accept the child/youth with all of their backgrounds; read up on trauma, and just be there for them. It is one of the greatest joys.