In Virginia, 400 youth age out of foster care each year. These youth are at risk for devastating outcomes, including homelessness, drug use, unemployment, early parenthood, and even incarceration.
- Fewer than 1 in 6 will graduate from high school.
- 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within two years.
- 1 in 5 will be homeless within two years.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, finds forever families for children who have waited the longest to be adopted from foster care.
Who is the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and What is Wendy’s Wonderful Kids?
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national, nonprofit public charity dedicated to dramatically increasing the number of adoptions from foster care. Created by Wendy’s® founder, Dave Thomas who was adopted, the Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns, and innovative grantmaking.
Through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, the Foundation provides funding and establishes innovative co-investment partnerships with states to support the hiring of recruiters who implement an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model. This model has been proven to be up to three times more effective at finding adoptive homes for children who have been lingering in foster care the longest.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter Krista
In Virginia, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is operated through an agreement with Children’s Home Society Virginia. Our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, Krista, has been working to match youth waiting in Virginia’s foster care system with families for more than a decade.
Sadly, the youth who are placed on Krista’s caseload have often been moved around the most through the foster care system. Many of the youth Krista works with have had 20 or more foster placements, have significant trauma histories, and are in need of a family who can meet these unique needs.
“I am their fiercest advocate; an amplifier for their voice that is often unheard,” Krista said.
The various placements that youth can experience include foster homes, group homes, residential treatment centers, detention centers, and acute psychiatric hospitals.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Process
Once a youth is placed with Krista, they can be on her caseload for months or even years.
Typically, she works with 10-12 children at a time, which is a considerably smaller caseload than most social workers. This allows Krista to truly know the youth she serves and to understand their individual needs. This is all part of the child-focused recruitment model that focuses first on finding someone the youth knows and trusts to adopt them.
Krista’s goal is to learn about the feelings, opinions, and concerns of each of the youth.
“This often involves spending lengthy visits with each youth and doing activities that make them smile like playing laser tag, playing arcade games, getting manicures and pedicures, and of course eating yummy food together,” she said.
Ultimately, Krista wants to speak to a potential adoptive family about the child and present a whole picture of who the child really is beyond their paper file. This is often made slightly easier when a family already knows the youth and understands the challenges they have overcome.
Krista not only works to find permanent, loving homes for these youth, but she also tries to build up each youth’s support system. These people will be lifelong supporters for the youth and can send them birthday gifts or celebrate life’s milestones with them.
“I am not only a recruiter for adoptive families. I am a village builder or the president of each child’s fan club. My job is to help establish that village and watch each youth soar,” Krista said.
It’s important to make sure children get placed into families who have the unique strengths needed to parent the specific child.
For example, one of the youth Krista is currently working with has autism. Krista is in the process of moving this child into his forever home because the adoptive family has an extensive history of parenting and advocating on behalf of youth who have autism. But beyond that, this family shares a love of the same activities as this youth, which will allow them to bond over things like scrapbooking and games.
CHS Finds Families for Five Children This Summer
This summer, Krista has found specific families for five youth!
Each youth comes with a team of therapists, court volunteers, caseworkers, caregivers, doctors, and mentors.
Krista is the one who pulls together the team to decide as a group if a match is possible.
There are interviews, file reviews, video calls, and several team meetings that occur before the child knows that the family even exists.
“This has proven to be exceptionally challenging during the time of COVID, but I won’t let a global pandemic slow down my efforts to find a forever family for each youth,” Krista said.
This summer, we celebrated many adoption anniversaries. An adoption happens once the court finalizes and makes it legal. Each year, we celebrate that date!
Here are snippets from anniversaries we celebrated earlier this summer:
Brothers Richard (24) and Jeffery (21) recently celebrated their six-year adoption anniversary. They spent 874 days in foster care and were never separated. Their dad, Steven, has provided a safe home with unconditional love and both young men have very bright futures ahead! Both boys have said, “Adoption is a second chance,” and express hopefulness for their futures because they now have a strong family foundation.
July 1, 2021- Roland adopted Zack eight years ago in 2013. He had spent 2,321 days in foster care. Zack was 13 years old when the adoption was finalized.
August 1, 2021- David and Kristi adopted Scott 10 years ago in 2011. He had spent 2,659 days in foster care. Scott was 11 years old when the adoption was finalized.
August 1, 2021- Michelle and her husband adopted Jacob three years ago in 2018. He had spent 1,386 days in foster care. Jacob was 16 years old when the adoption was finalized.
August 10, 2015- Shannon and Tonya adopted Makiah six years ago after he spent 2,594 days in foster care. He was 12 years old when the adoption was finalized.
Foster Care Adoption
We need families who can provide unconditional love for older children.
“The youth served through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, along with all youth in foster care, believe based on their life experiences, that love is conditional and contingent on their behaviors. But the trauma they have survived should not dictate their chances of being part of a healthy, loving family,” Krista said.
We know that the behavior displayed by children in foster care is because of the trauma they experienced. These youth behave in ways that helped them survive in the past and they think will protect them from future hurt and rejection.
Think of the life-changing trajectory a stable, committed, loving family could provide.
If you are open to adopting an older child or teen, we will equip you through extensive training and ongoing support. Training helps parents connect with and empower youth. We discuss the importance of adult attachment style when working with children, as well as how trauma affects brain development.
“You will never be alone during the journey. There is a tremendous adoption network around you,” Krista says.
Adoption is a lifelong process, which is why we also offer post adoption services. Post adoption services and support are crucial for successful adoption and are a great source of comfort for families who are considering adoption. Post adoption services continue to serve adoptive families long after the adoption is complete.
Typical post adoption services include support groups, therapy, counseling, and respite.
Our work is all about connections, not only for each child but for each family.
Check out our wonderful kids waiting for a permanent, loving home like yours here.
If you’d like to learn more about adopting an older child or teen, please give us a call at 804-353-0191.