“The only thing that matters is that your heart matches theirs”: Arleigh’s Story

Posted on November 12, 2020

Arleigh was placed in foster care in Florida after suffering years of abuse and neglect. “I felt like I was lost,” Arleigh shares. “I gave up so many times to the point where I wanted to disappear.”

At age 16, Arleigh was referred to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

Through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Foundation funds adoption professionals, also known as recruiters, who work around the clock to find permanent homes for children who have been waiting in foster care the longest.

Arleigh shared on day one that she wanted to be adopted, and her Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Nicole, was dedicated to making that dream of a forever family come true. In building a relationship with Arleigh, Nicole learned about a special bond that she had with her former teacher, Nadeen.

“I witnessed how invested Nadeen was with Arleigh and her future,” Nicole says. “She was the family Arleigh needed.”

With Nicole’s support, Nadeen and Arleigh officially became mother and daughter. Arleigh also became a big sister to Kaydence, who is also adopted.  

“Nicole was so supportive, open and honest along our journey,” says Nadeen. “You could see that she wanted the best for Arleigh. In a way, Nicole is part of our family, as well.”

Surrounded by her new, loving family, she visited Disney World for the first time and began celebrating holidays with many new relatives. Arleigh is grateful to have the opportunity to experience life’s special moments and plan for her future in ways she never did before. 

Pictured: Nadeen, Arleigh and sister, Kaydence

Nadeen says she never considered adopting a teenager, but “the best stories have elements you never planned for.” She encourages others who are considering foster care adoption to go for it.

“Adoption can be tough, but it is also amazing, humbling, exciting and joyful,” Nadeen explains. “There are some pretty amazing kids who just need a family. My promise to my daughters is to surround them with unconditional love, wholehearted support, guidance and security.”


Arleigh’s story has a happy ending. But more than 50 young people age out of foster care in the United States every day without a forever family. If you are interested in opening your heart as a foster or adoptive parent, download our free step-by-step guide to get started on your journey.


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