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Unadoptable is Unacceptable

A DTFA Public Service Announcement



  • Jessica Jackson and Husband Photo

    newsroom-icon NEWS STORIESFeb 17, 2017

    “Foster care is where kids go when their parents don’t want them anymore.”

    From the mouth of babes. A stunning realization washed over me as I stood in front of my classroom telling them I’d be out the next day volunteering with children in foster care. Foster Care. Two words. So much meaning and confusion. Children, who don’t know other children in foster care, don’t understand what it means. As an elementary school teacher and devoted volunteer helping children in foster care, I was devastated to learn that a child in my class had these misconceptions. He didn’t mean any harm, he didn’t mean anything, he simply didn’t know.

    But that’s where we can change things. As the reigning Mrs. Arkansas International, I’ve made it my platform to educate my state about foster care adoption and I spend my free time working with children in foster care. I want to start the education process with children. If we can learn when we are young that children in foster care want what any child wants, love, a hug, someone to depend on, we can start eliminating the myths that these children are troublemakers or unlovable or worse, unadoptable.

    The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption parallels my path with their initiatives to find forever families for children in foster care. The grants they provide to adoption agencies allow agencies to hire adoption recruiters who can take on smaller caseloads and they use a child-focused recruitment model. It means they get to know the child. Foster care adoption is not a solution to parentless children, or childless adults. It’s critical that we focus on the child’s needs.

    Our opportunities to educate about foster care adoption are everywhere. At school, at the park, in a restaurant, or on the job, children who have never had a second thought about foster care, will interact with someone who is living in it. We need to open our hearts and minds to the stories of these children.
    Here are just a few ways that your child can become more familiar with the foster care system:

    1. Learn – By talking with our kids and teens about the myths and facts of foster care and adoption, we can prevent bullying situations that all too often occur with children who have been adopted or are in the system. There are many information meetings that adults and children can attend to learn more. Check with your local department of children and family services office to see what is available in your area.
    2. Volunteer – If you have older children (teens) find a way that they would like to give back, whether it is tutoring a foster child, mentoring, or helping a local foster care/adoption event.
    3. Give – Help your child organize a clothing drive, bake sale, or car wash to raise funds for local nonprofit adoption organizations. I always tell my students that even though they are children, they are not to be underestimated. You can also contact the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption if you’d like to make a gift that can help find a child their forever home. Just click here.

    No matter how young, or small, we can all do our part.
    Until every child has a forever home.

    Jessica Jackson is Mrs. Arkansas International and her platform is raising awareness about foster care adoption. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband Brian. She just finished her first full year teaching elementary school and he just completed nursing school. The couple is focused on helping children in foster care find their forever homes and the connection runs deep. Jessica had a friend growing up who lived in the foster care system and from a young age was moved to help. While serving as Mrs. Arkansas International, Jessica plans to tour the state raising awareness and helping more families open their hearts to adoption.

  • newsroom-icon NEWS STORIESJan 26, 2017

    After 30 years of working in child welfare not much surprises me anymore, until I met one 18 year old young man.

    For simplicity sake, let’s call him John. John was living in a group home and was about to turn 18. In most cases that meant that he’d age out of the system without being adopted. It’s a sad reality in child welfare, but many 18-year-olds will tell you they aren’t too keen on the idea of moving in with a family so close to adulthood. Most of those feelings are based on years of hearing that no one would want to adopt them, so the defensive walls go up.

    John was making strong connections in his group home and during a meeting where we discussed ideas for a forever family, he mentioned he was taking guitar lessons. We all assumed he was learning from a fellow teen, but through happenstance we discovered much more.

    I worked my way through college by teaching guitar, so I asked John who was teaching him. He told me he met his guitar teacher at church. I kept asking questions…and discovered his teacher was the director of worship at a very well-known church. This led to a path through the church administration that led to a program run by a church member that helps teenagers who essentially have no one. After meeting the family who ran that program, I was able to find John his first family placement since he was 12 years old. He graduated high school in June of that year. He got into college and decided he wanted to live on campus. I was worried that the bonds that were fresh and new wouldn’t last, but this family had it under control. They understood what unconditional commitment is and stayed very connected to John. He came home on Friday nights, spent the weekends with them and they continued to go to church on most Sundays.

    Things were going well, but as we know, young people who have lived through trauma can be triggered into rash decisions. Someone at school triggered John and he chased that student down with his car. It was caught on camera and John was expelled for the semester.

    This is the part where many families might say, “Enough!” or where a child from foster care falls on his face, but not this time. His family, found for him through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, opened the door and welcomed him home. They did not condone the behavior, but they understood what happened. They suggested he even live in their home while attending college to help with the adjustment of more intense schooling. John had his safety net.

    This is what we work for as WWK recruiters. We want every child in danger of aging out of the system to have the safety net of a family who loves them unconditionally, who will help them grow into well-adjusted adults, who will dust them off when they fail and help them succeed.

    Pat O’Brien is a former WWK recruiter in Connecticut and also the founder of “You Gotta Believe!” an organization that also focuses on finding families for children about to age out of foster care.

    The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated exclusively to finding permanent homes for the more than 130,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. 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. To learn more, or to make a donation, visit or call 1-800-ASK-DTFA.

  • newsroom-icon NEWS STORIESJan 9, 2017

    Columbus, Ohio – Does your company offer adoption benefits to its employees in the form of financial reimbursement or paid time off? If so, you are working for an adoption-friendly workplace. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption wants to recognize your company in its 2017 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplace survey that is open now.

    For 11 years, the Foundation has surveyed the nation’s employers to reveal those that offer the best adoption benefits to families looking to expand through foster care adoption, private infant adoption and international adoption. The 2016 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplace is Ferring Pharmaceuticals, which offers $25,000 in financial reimbursement and more than five weeks of paid time off to employees who adopt.

    “Ferring is committed to helping build families. Ferring is proud to be recognized as the nation’s most Adoption-Friendly Workplace by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption,” said Aaron Graff, Chief Executive Officer, Ferring Holding Inc.

    “We are continually searching for employers who offer the most competitive adoption benefits in the country to highlight as examples of what we hope all organizations will consider for their employees,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “Employees often rely on company benefits to even consider adoption as an option to grow their family. We appreciate the employers who are leading the way in this arena.”

    The survey is first based on financial reimbursement, but also recognizes companies that offer paid time off only, along with industry breakouts and employers who offer time off to foster parents.

    Here is how to apply:

    • Go to
    • If you completed the survey last year, use the same login information from 2016
    • If you are completing the survey for the first time, click on “create your password”
    • Only fields marked with an asterisk are required

    The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption will reach out to all applicants with results later this year. To learn more about the benefits offered by our 2016 winners, visit

    Mary Ellen Smalley

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