Why We Support Foster Care Adoption

Dave thomas as a young boy

When we introduced this blog last week, I touched on Dave Thomas’ upbringing.  While it was far from privileged, Dave persevered to become one of the most successful American businessmen and philanthropists of all time.  And it was because of personal challenges he faced during his early years that he developed a lifelong empathy for children who lived without the loving support of a family.  

With his childhood as inspiration, he made adoption the signature cause of The Wendy’s® Company. And in 1992, he gave the cause a national platform by founding the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

The Foundation is an independent organization that maintains a very strong partnership with the Wendy’s system of restaurants and franchisees, and its singular mission is to find forever families for children in foster care. It’s a mission we share – we believe that Unadoptable is Unacceptable.

So let’s talk about adoption, and specifically foster care adoption. While most of us know someone who has been adopted or who has built their family through adoption, the issue of foster care adoption is not well understood in our society. Many people aren’t even aware that this issue exists, but today in the United States, approximately 400,000 children are living in the foster care system. And of these children, 100,000 are eligible to be adopted. 

Two teenagers in foster care

Two teenagers in foster care

If you’ve ever been to Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia – the stadium has the capacity to fit a little more than 50,000 people.  If you would fill two of those stadiums, that’s how many children in foster care have no legal ties to their biological parents, and have no family members that are suitable to care for them. They are wards of the state and they are simply waiting for a family to love them.

Imagine what that’s like for a moment. Think of your home. Perhaps it’s the place you grew up, or where you built your family, or simply a safe place where you rest and find comfort.

Fence

For a child in foster care, home is an elusive concept. Children “in the system” often move frequently, shuttled from foster home to group home and back again with all their belongings gathered in a plastic garbage bag.

Garbage Bag

Sadly, more than 20,000 young adults age out of the foster system each year without ever finding a family to call their own. 

I often think about how different my own life would be if I had been forced to navigate from childhood, through high school and into adulthood without a family to call on for advice, support and comfort.  It’s no wonder that children who “age out” of foster care face incredibly difficult challenges for the rest of their lives, and the statistics on their education, homelessness, and substance abuse patterns as adults are alarming.

More disturbing is that public attitudes about children in foster care are often unkind and unfair. Half of all Americans believe that children arrive in foster care because of something they did, which creates a stigma of children in foster care as “bad kids.”

 In fact, foster care results when a child is abused, neglected or mistreated such that they cannot safely remain with their families.  According to a report from the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 3.2 million children were the subjects of at least one abuse and/or neglect report throughout 2014 alone. 
(Click for source).   

At a time in our history when no one was advocating for these children, Dave Thomas took action and said, “These children are not someone else’s responsibility. They are our responsibility.”

Wendy's support of adoption awareness programs reached new heights when the U.S. Postal Service released a postage stamp celebrating adoption in 2000.

And since 1992, we’ve remained committed to Dave’s mission.

Yes, we sell cheeseburgers and salads, and by doing that, we help fulfill our Founder’s purpose and a promise that we made to him to speak up for the children who need us most, just like he did.

We support The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption as our charity of choice and are continually looking for new ways to raise funds and awareness for the cause.  Some of the ways we do that are through a variety of fundraisers we host in our restaurants throughout the year.  In fact, you may have noticed our recent national cup promotion featuring stories of four different children who were matched with their forever families.  Take a moment to listen to their stories and see their artwork here: www.wendys.com/adoption.

Fundraising is critically important, but ultimately, money alone cannot help these children. For that, people must be willing to open their homes and their hearts to a child who desperately needs and deserves to call someone Mom or Dad.

The good news is that there is a model that works. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has a proven, child-focused model that provides grants to adoption agencies to hire dedicated adoption professionals who focus exclusively on the children who are the hardest to adopt – older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs. The child-focused model means they try to find a family to fit the child, rather than finding a child to fit a particular family. And to date, more than 5,500 children have found their forever families through this approach.

Yes, that is a number we can celebrate, but there’s still so much to do, and we hope you’ll visit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to learn more. 

We’ll speak often about this topic, because it’s near and dear to our hearts. And we know that these children deserve more.

Do you have an adoption story to share? We would love to hear about it.  Sound off in the comments section or send us a note to squaredeal@wendys.com.

Talk to you soon!

Liliana 

Dave Thomas poses in new york city with children in foster care

Dave Thomas poses in new york city with children in foster care