The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in Columbus, Ohio, has awarded a $7.5 million grant to New York City's Administration for Children's Services in support of the agency's efforts to place older foster children and those with special needs in permanent homes, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The grant will support an expansion of the foundation's Wendy's Wonderful Kids program in New York City and enable ACS to boost from two to forty-three the number of recruiters working with some thirteen hundred older children in foster care or with special needs. With the goal of boosting the number of adoptions by two hundred and fifty over the next three years, the city will commit an additional $3.8 million to the effort. The foundation's proactive model for hard-to-place children — which gives each caseworker the time and resources to do a deep dive on a child's background and "break down [the] wall of mistrust and skepticism" often found in older foster children — will be shared with nine hundred case managers at social services organizations in the city.
The adoption rate among children in the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program is about 54 percent, according to Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which was established by the late founder of the Wendy's fast-food restaurants, who himself was adopted. The current adoption rate in New York City, where there are some twenty-five hundred children waiting to be adopted, is 34 percent.
The expansion of the program comes two years after a federal lawsuit was filed against the city and the state on behalf of nineteen children who child advocates and the city's public advocate said languished in foster care, with some allegedly the victims of maltreatment.
Carlene Emanuel, a recruiter at JCCA and one of the two recruiters currently working in New York City through a grant from the foundation, described the effort of finding a family for an older or special-needs child as slow and involving extensive counseling and support for both the child and the adopting family. When meeting a new family, said Emanuel, she often has to dispel prejudices about older children being set in their ways. But the "biggest misconception," she added, "is that an older child doesn't need love."