Statewide News Youth

MDHHS and Dave Thomas Foundation to help kids in danger of aging out of foster care

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is getting a boost to its efforts to find loving adoptive homes for children more quickly from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

MDHHS and the foundation, a national nonprofit started by the fast food chain founder, are announcing Michigan’s participation in the foundation’s signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, which focus on finding adoptive homes for children who have been in foster care the longest and cannot safely return to their families. The partnership funds 37 adoption professionals to serve youth at highest risk of aging out of foster care, including teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

“Each day a child spends in foster care waiting for a permanent family is too long,” said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency within MDHHS.

“Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has demonstrated success at finding families for children who have waited in foster care the longest, and we are thankful for the opportunity to expand this program in Michigan,” Chang added.

Also participating in the project are two existing MDHHS child welfare partners –Orchards Children’s Services and Judson Center Child & Family Services. Those two partners will employ adoption resource consultants who are being trained to implement the Dave Thomas Foundation’s evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model. The model focuses on finding an adoptive family from the child’s known network.

“We look forward to working with the state of Michigan as well as Orchards and the Judson Center to serve more children in foster care who are often overlooked and need our help more than ever,” said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

“No child should face the COVID-19 crisis, or any other, without the stability and support of a permanent, loving home,” Soronen added.

A rigorous, five-year national evaluation found that a child referred to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program is up to three times more likely to be adopted. Based on this evaluation and a successful pilot of the program, Ohio became the first state to expand Wendy’s Wonderful Kids statewide in 2012. In 2017, 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.

To date, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has helped to find adoptive homes for more than 9,500 children across North America, including 195 youth in Michigan.

“We are dedicated to finding forever families for children in foster care,” said Rhonda Parker, director of development for Orchards Children’s Services. “

Partnering with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in these challenging times will allow us to help even more children and adoptive families,” Parker added.

Khadija Walker-Fobbs, chief strategy officer of the Judson Center added: “Judson Center is elated to be able to expand the crucial work of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. Any time we can deepen supports for children in Michigan through partnerships, it is cause for celebration.”


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