Wendy’s Wonderful Kids: A melancholy milestone

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Anniversaries are just a little bittersweet at the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. This month, we mark 10 amazing and important years of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, yet I am keenly aware that we have not done enough.

As we honor the 4,076 adoptions that are the direct result of the work of our recruiters – people across North America who are passionate and dedicated, and who too often face overwhelming system barriers –  there were 23,000 children we failed last year; 23,000 children who turned 18 and left foster care without the families we promised them.

We are bringing our child-focused recruitment and evidence-based best practice to scale in Ohio, serving nearly every child age 9 and older who are waiting to be adopted. And while we celebrate Ohio’s leadership for recognizing that getting these children adopted using this strategy is not only good for their children, but also for the state’s budget, I remain challenged by other state administrators who hesitate to embrace change and who still believe that children are unadoptable.

Through 10 years of ever-evolving public services announcements, toolkits, social media messaging and advocacy for our most vulnerable children, and as we elevate the conversation and work to engage anyone who has an interest in the well-being of their communities, we still struggle to assure the children we serve that they will be the number-one priority for those in positions to make a difference.

From policymakers to faith-based leaders, educators to health care providers, governors to service groups, we can and must insist that children who have already suffered the trauma of abuse and neglect, who have moved too many times in transient foster care, and who simply want what Dante, a 17-year-old Wendy’s Wonderful Kids child said to his recruiter the first time her met her, “I just want a family and a home,” will have just that.

It is not only the right thing to do, it is the best we can do, and they deserve nothing less. Children don’t have 10 years to wait. Neither do we.

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