One positive that’s happened in adoption in 2008 is the activity of a creatively targeted program, funded by Wendy’s customers and the foundation started by the hamburger chain’s founder, to help kids in foster care find permanent homes.
There are over half a million kids in foster care in the U.S. By last year’s figures, 129,000 were free to be adopted. Many spend five years or more in foster care before being adopted. Children who are in the foster care system until they “age out” at age eighteen often find themselves literally on the street with nothing and no one.
Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, says that her agency queried adoption agencies across America as to the biggest stumbling blocks to moving children from foster care to adoption. They responded that they didn’t have adequate time or resources to devote to aggressive recruiting of adoptive families for specific children.
This makes sense when you think about it. Most state child welfare agencies are responsible for investigating reports of abuse, emergency child placements, running licensing classes for foster parents, supervising any court-ordered visitation, making home visits, trying to support the birth family in improving their parenting abilities, writing reports and filling out forms, and trying to decide when a birth family can safely parent their children and when to recommend that the court terminate parental rights. All this, in addition to promoting adoption and reviewing adoption applications to find the right match for each child. (My former co-blogger wrote a blog, “Social Workers: A Day in Their Shoes”, which you can read by clicking here.)
The Dave Thomas Foundation responded with a program called “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids”. The Foundation makes grants to local adoption organizations specifically to hire social workers who will focus exclusively on finding adoptive families for children in foster care, using “aggressive, child-focused recruiting”.
I had the good fortune to meet one of these adoption recruiters at a conference earlier this year. I was impressed with her dedication to matching even the hardest-to-place kids (teen-agers, children in residential treatment, various ages, sibling groups and special needs) with families.
In the past two years, the program has grown from seven recruiters to 115, and from seven states to all 50 states and the District of Columbia plus two sites in Canada. There are over 4000 children in the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, which as of last year had placed over 1200 children in adoptive homes. The program’s goal is to help eight to ten thousand children by 2010, and staff believe they will reach this goal.
To read about “Home for the Holidays”, another program funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, click here.