We need to give every child a strong foundation. That foundation is family.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of children across the United States are put into foster care through no fault of their own. More than 110,000 still await homes. Franklin County Children Services has 200 children waiting.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption began 25 years ago and believes every child deserves a loving family. "Unadoptable" is unacceptable.
"Children in foster care have had a tough start to life, but they are every bit deserving of the stability and love that comes with family," said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. "The adults need to genuinely believe it's worth it to give a child a home and consider the child's needs before their own. To adopt or foster, the conversation has to focus on the child."
In 2004, the foundation initiated its signature program, Wendy's Wonderful Kids, which provides grants to adoption agencies to hire specially trained adoption recruiters.
These professionals focus solely on finding permanent, loving families for the children most at risk of aging out of foster care: older youths, children in sibling groups, children with challenges and youths who have simply given up hope of ever finding a forever home.
Charlea Mayle, a Lewis Center resident, was adopted out of a foster home at age 12. Today, she is a WWK recruiter.
"I bring a unique, yet familiar, perspective to the youths in my caseload," Mayle said. "I believe my passion and belief that all children are worthy of having a forever committed family often allows me to engage and advocate with and for our youths in foster care more diligently and effectively.
"These youths experience tremendous challenges and disappointments. Despite it all, they are resilient and loving," Mayle said.
The WWK program focuses on all the people in a child's life to find them a family. Case in point: A 14-year-old boy in foster care was able to identify several friends with whom he remained close. Mayle reached out to one of their mothers, who was a past foster parent to this boy but unaware the agency obtained permanent custody of him. She adopted him.
"Being an adoption recruiter allows me to be an advocate and a trusted ally to these youths on their journey towards permanency," Mayle said.
Mayle said often youths lose hope, believing people do not want to adopt them or that they will never be adopted.
"Since 1992, the foundation has been committed to the vision of our founder, Dave Thomas: to ensure every child has a permanent and loving family," Soronen said. "Each day, we work to dramatically increase the number of adoptions from foster care. We believe that family is the birthright of every child and that every child is adoptable."
The foundation was one of the co-founders of National Adoption Day, a grassroots collaborative that is now embedded in all 50 states to raise awareness of the children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families.
Franklin County Children Services, the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at Capital University Law School and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption will celebrate National Adoption Day on Nov. 16 at the Franklin County Courthouse's probate court, 373 S. High St., 22nd floor.
Chip Spinning, executive director of Franklin County Children Services, will make brief remarks, with staff, caseworkers and families attending the private event.
Last year, Franklin County Children Services finalized the adoption of 13 children to five adoptive homes.
A total of 65,000 children have found families through National Adoption Day.
For information, call the Franklin County Children Services Adoption Division at 614-341-6060; the Dave Thomas Foundation at 800-ASK-DTFA; or visit davethomasfoundation.org or childrenservices.franklincountyohio.gov.
Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by Day column for ThisWeek News. Contact her at email@example.com.