I’ve been working to find adoptive homes for children in foster care for 30 years. After 18 years working at a nonprofit that I founded called “You Gotta Believe!” which focuses on finding permanent families for youth on the verge of aging out, I moved on to become a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) recruiter. It was a job I knew well as I worked with these men and women for 18 years before deciding that I too should be a recruiter.
The job comes with many challenges and sometimes the largest challenge is convincing the employees of residential care that there really are committed families who want to give forever homes to the youth in danger of aging out. When we use our child-focused recruitment strategy we are only looking for people who care about our youth and will sign up for a lifetime commitment. Hence, the next family we recruit will have a dramatically different parenting philosophy from all the previous parents that this youth had.
One story that sticks out is a young boy who lived with his great grandparents. He wound up in a residential treatment school due to special needs that his great grandparents could not handle. They desperately wanted him back, but I had to look at the big picture – who would be there for this child in the long run? When the boy’s great grandfather died, I went to the funeral. I saw how many relatives this child had in his family. Working with the family, I introduced to them to the idea that any relative could become licensed to take guardianship of this young boy. The child’s great uncle and aunt stepped up; by placing him with a family member this young man had easy access to all the people who love him.
In two years, I’ve worked on 17 WWK cases. Every youth in foster care has certain resources focused on them. Foster care, therapeutic care, mental health care, etc. But only the WWK program focuses on getting our youth on the verge of aging out of care into a permanent family. Only the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program does that. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has created a system in which hundreds of advocates we call Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, serve thousands of youth who need permanent, loving homes. Needless to say, I am proud to count myself as one of those incredible Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters.
Pat O’Brien is a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter who works each day to find loving, permanent homes for children in foster care.