Discovering A Mother’s Love, the Wendy’s Way

Linda with her daughter Katie and grandson Landon.

Linda with her daughter Katie and grandson Landon.

An Adoption Story from a Member of the Wendy’s Family

The Square Deal welcomes Linda Bussell to the blog! Linda joined the Wendy’s family this past April as our Director of HR, Diversity & Inclusion, and HRIS. Soon after, she transitioned to Sr. Director, adding Talent Acquisition to her portfolio. Aside from spending time with her daughter Katie and grandson Landon, Linda enjoys travelling, gardening, and a Wendy’s chocolate Frosty. We’re honored that Linda chose to share her family’s adoption story with us in celebration of National Adoption Month.

I first met my daughter, Katie, a few days after her twelfth birthday. She had been sitting in the living room of a group home, telling other children not to come near her so she wouldn’t get dirty or messy before meeting me, concerned I might reject a messy child. Katie was quite familiar with rejection. By the time I met her, she was living in a group home in downtown Pittsburgh. She’d been removed from her home at age seven, having been neglected by a heroin addicted mother. After two other placements hadn’t worked out, at age 12 she was on her fourth foster home and was prepared to never have a forever family.

Fortunately, Katie had a tenacious and seemingly inexhaustible social worker named Dawn, who, despite her caseload of 30 kids, always found time to be there for Katie. She worked diligently to find her the right family, but with large caseloads and slow processes, it took nearly a year of Katie living in a group home before the two of us were matched. From the first time I heard about Katie, I knew I wanted to adopt her. But six months after meeting her social worker and after multiple phone calls hadn’t been returned, I thought she’d been placed elsewhere. 

Luckily for me, my patience and persistence paid off and we were finally matched. This is one reason why the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s work is so important. After three moves and many years of uncertainty, Katie shouldn’t have had to wait another whole year wondering if she’d ever have a parent to love and care for her. I wish she’d had a Wendy’s Wonderful Kid’s recruiter to speed up the process.

Katie says she first knew I was her mother the day we met, but not in the way you might expect. Katie, her social worker and I had gotten into my car to go to lunch and when I looked in the rear-view mirror I saw she’d tucked the seat belt shoulder strap behind her back. I casually said, “put your seat belt on right.” She did, and I gave it no more thought. Such a little thing that parents do every day. But years later, she told me that to her it was the first indication that I cared about her and her well-being – something that had been missing for many years.

Katie’s life is on track now and moving forward, but the journey to get here hasn’t been easy. All those rejections took their toll on her ability to trust. She packed her bags dozens of times that first year, telling me I’d be better off without her and stomping around till the early hours of the morning and finally collapsing in tears. But, she stayed, and I’m so glad she did.

Today, Katie is 28. She has a son who just turned six and she’s a wonderful mother, giving her son all of the love and security she was missing at his age. She’s beautiful inside and out and she’s learned to love herself and trust others, even though she never had to learn to love others. Despite all that’s been taken from her, she is one of the most giving people I know. 

Katie has worked as a medical assistant and phlebotomist for the last five years and loves to work in service of others. Moving to Columbus with me a few months ago was an upheaval, but she’s just been offered a new job and is enrolling at Columbus State’s Imaging program. I know she and Landon have a bright future ahead of them.

When I first tell people I adopted a 12-year-old from foster care, I usually get the same general reaction – how wonderful it is that I’d do something like that. I try to explain that it’s not any more wonderful than anyone who has a child biologically or who adopts an infant. When we have a child we all just want them to be happy and successful and we know that some kids, whether biological or adopted, will have more challenges than others. The secret all parents know is that, no matter how hard parenting may be, we get far more in return than we give. We as parents are the lucky ones and when we see a kid who’s had a lot of challenges grow and thrive we feel even luckier.

There is one memory from the time I adopted Katie that has always haunted me and I want to share it now. In the days before Katie came to live with me, I’d visit her in the group home each weekend. One day a little boy, not much older than my grandson is now, came up to me and started tugging on my arm saying, “take me, take me, I’ll be a great kid.” He was really selling himself and trying to convince me I should adopt him instead of my daughter. I had no idea what to say to him. He was eventually whisked away by a caseworker, but that incident has always stayed with me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t adopt two children and never knew what happened to him.

I hope he found his forever family, but this is also why the work of the DTFA is so important to me and it’s why I feel so good about working for a company like Wendy’s that supports foster care adoption. No child should ever have to beg someone to take them home and every child should know they are wanted as part of a family. I’m so grateful that the 8,000 plus kids the DTFA has helped match are now part of great homes and I truly appreciate the work the DTFA and Wendy’s is doing to ensure that all children in foster care find their families, too.

Linda and Katie.

Linda and Katie.

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