Statistics show that the longer kids are in foster care, the harder it is to place them permanently in a loving home. Now, based on the track record of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Michigan is joining the growing number of states partnering with the national nonprofit to help tackle the problem.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that the foundation will fund 37 adoption professionals to serve youth at the highest risk of aging out of foster care without family support. The foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program focuses on finding adoptive homes for children who have been in foster care the longest and cannot safely return to their families – teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.
The foundation, established in 1992 by the late fast-food magnate Dave Thomas and founder of Wendy’s hamburger chain, has helped to find adoptive homes for more than 9,500 children across North America, including 195 youth in Michigan, HHS said in a news release. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is its signature program.
Two of Michigan’s existing child welfare partners – Orchards Children’s Services and Judson Center Child & Family Services – will also participate.
Those organizations will hire adoption resource consultants who are being trained to implement the Dave Thomas Foundation’s evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model. Under that model, adoption specialists dig into a child’s known network to find an adoptive family. Until now, the department said, there were three such specialists already in place at Spaulding for Children and St. Vincent Catholic Charities.
Ohio was the first state to expand Wendy’s Wonderful Kids statewide in 2012. In 2017, with the help of a major investment by Blue Meridian Partners, the Foundation launched a 12-year business plan to fully scale the program across all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Nearing the end of phase one of the plan, statewide expansion is underway in Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington and now, Michigan.
An impact study conducted by the nonprofit Child Trends found that a child referred to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is up to three times more likely to be adopted than comparable peers in foster care. Just over half the children the program has placed with an adoptive family have been in foster care for more than four years.