The Scale of the Problem
Of the 117,000 children and youth in foster care waiting to be adopted each year in the US, approximately 50,000 face especially great obstacles in their quest for permanent homes. Those who are age nine or older, have special needs, and/or are part of a sibling group linger the longest in foster care and suffer the worst outcomes—with many never finding a permanent home. This human tragedy costs society billions of dollars every year.
A Promising Solution
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, uses a unique model of adoption professionals as recruiters to match the hardest‐to‐place children with appropriate adoptive families. Their approach has been shown to be 1.7x to 3x more effective than conventional placement models and can become the standard practice in foster care systems across the country.
Without an intervention, the number of children languishing in and eventually aging out of foster care will likely continue to rise, further exacerbating costs, human and financial. For young adults aging out of foster care today, the outcomes are bleak.
45% of former foster youth have dropped out of high school
25% of former foster youth are homeless
States spend on average $30,000-$50,000 per year per child in foster care
Finding permanent families for hard‐to‐place children not only improves their well‐being and odds for future success—it also generates net savings to states by reducing the number of children in costly foster care.
$1.7 billion in estimated net savings to states’ child welfare budgets
Children are 23% more likely to complete a GED or high school education
Blue Meridian’s Investment
Our investment supports the first phase of the 12-year scaling plan for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA). This plan aims to significantly increase adoptions nationwide and transform the way the foster care system serves hard-to-place children. This first four-year phase will demonstrate DTFA’s capacity to achieve full scale of WWK in multiple states, while laying the foundation for nationwide growth. Key markers of success include the following:
$35 million over 4 years
Reach full scale in 5 states―NY, WA, KY, NC, and LA
2,170 finalized adoptions
Why We are Excited about Wendy’s Wonderful Kids
Every organization in our investment portfolio is ready to embark on significant scaling and displays a multitude of strengths. Here are some highlights of the tremendous potential we saw in the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids’ scaling strategy that motivated us to invest:
Focus on the Most Vulnerable
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is working with some of the most vulnerable children and youth in the U.S. – those who are already in the foster care system, in need of permanent homes, and are least likely to be adopted. Without an intervention, they would languish in foster care for years, resulting in a host of negative outcomes that severely limit their future prospects.
Strong Evidence of Results
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has been evaluated at the most rigorous levels and found, on average, to be nearly twice as effective as conventional practices at finding permanent homes for the hardest-to-serve children, including those age nine and older, sibling groups, and children with physical and emotional challenges, and up to three times more effective for older youth. Instead of relying on past success, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is committed to ongoing improvement and evaluation of its model.
Value Proposition to Government
DTFA has already demonstrated it can take WWK to full scale in one state and deliver significant savings for state budgets. In DTFA’s home state of Ohio, the program has achieved nearly full scale and saved the foster care system $32 million. Ohio anticipates savings of well over $100 million from future adoptions.
About Wendy's Wonderful Kids
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, uses a unique recruitment model to match the hardest‐to‐place children—those aged 9 or older, those with special needs, and in sibling groups—with adoptive families. Since launching in 2004, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids now has recruiters across the U.S. and Canada and has found permanent homes for nearly 8,000 children.
The story of one mom and her son who became a family with the help of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.
President and CEO
Rita Soronen is President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Leading the Foundation since 2001 and a national child welfare advocate for 30+ years, she is dedicated to increasing the number of adoptions from North America’s foster care systems. Previously, she served as Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (Franklin County, Ohio) and President of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio CASA/GAL.