Wendy's Wonderful Kids

a program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

Find permanent homes for children in foster care waiting to be adopted, in pursuit of “making unadoptable unacceptable.”

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—with many never finding a permanent home. This human tragedy costs society billions of dollars every year, and outcomes for youth aging out are often bleak.


of former foster youth have dropped out of high school


of former foster youth are homeless


spent by states for each child in foster care on average each 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, creating net savings to states.


in estimated net savings to states’ child welfare budgets


increase in likehood of children placed in permanent homes 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.

$35M invested 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.

Learn more about Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

Rita Soronen

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.

Adoption Profile

The story of one mom and her son who became a family with the help of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

Other Nationwide Solutions Investments