“Unadoptable” is Unacceptable

Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, was adopted as a child. He carried that experience with him throughout his life and was committed to the vision that every child will have a permanent home and loving family.

In 1992, Dave created the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national, nonprofit public charity with headquarters in Central Ohio, to dramatically increase the number of adoptions from foster care. The Foundation implements evidence-based, results-driven national service programs, foster care adoption awareness campaigns and innovative grantmaking.

In the United States alone, more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care system without a family every year. Through its signature Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, the Foundation provides grants to adoption agencies to hire and train adoption recruiters in its Child-Focused Recruitment Model, which is up to three times more effective in finding adoptive families for children who have been waiting in foster care the longest. The Foundation’s successful pilot of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids in Ohio led to the launch of a 12-year business plan in 2017 to expand the program in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To date, nearly 8,000 children have been adopted as a direct result of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

In Ohio, 54 adoption recruiters have found families for 853 children. One of those children is CJ.

In 2011, Dee Marks decided she was ready to adopt a second child. She felt strongly about adopting a child with special needs from foster care. Dee knew that doing so would lead to some difficult moments, but she was ready to take on the unique challenges that adopting CJ would bring for her family.

A Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter contacted Dee about a young boy, CJ, for whom they were trying to find an adoptive home. The recruiter said many felt like CJ was “unadoptable” due to the severity of his needs. Dee hated the word “unadoptable” and agreed to look at his file. She fell in love with his face and his red hair the moment she saw him. From there, the adoption process began. Dee adopted CJ when he was eight years old. He was non-verbal and had severe behaviors like throwing tantrums for long periods of time. He had not been taught how to play with toys, color, feed himself appropriately or use the restroom. Today, CJ is 15 years old, talks all the time, and attends classes with his peers at his middle school for most of the day. CJ also plays percussion in the school band, performs in the annual school musical, runs track and is a member of the cross country team.

“I fell in love with my son immediately, and he has made a world of difference in my life,” Dee said. Dee’s greatest joy is knowing that CJ has an opportunity to experience a full life. He now has a family who loves him, an education system that supports him and a community that accepts him.

“All children should have the chance to be happy, feel productive and have quality of life.”

Learn more at davethomasfoundation.org