Kids in foster care need and deserve ‘forever families’ of their own; 

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
June 21, 2015  Sunday

Wendy Thomas, For The Columbus Dispatch

This weekend’s Father’s Day celebrations will be bittersweet for me, just as they are for all of us who have lost our dads. I celebrate my Dad’s life and good humor, and I remind my kids about everything they have to be thankful for because of him. But I also miss him tremendously. .

And then I feel selfish, because I know that I had something that hundreds of thousands of American children never experience: the simple joy of calling someone Dad. For the 400,000 children in the U.S. fostercaresystem, Father’s Day is just another day.

My father thought this was simply unacceptable, and he used his success as the founder of Wendy’s to raise national attention for fostercare adoption. Dad was adopted when he was six weeks old and his adopted mother died when he was 5 years old. His father worked long hours and often he and his dad ate their meals in restaurants and diners. It was there that Dad saw families spending time together. It was a lonely life, and he yearned for a family like he saw in the restaurants.

When he became an adult, this translated into a passion for three things: building a family of his own; creating a restaurant company where “everyone would think I was a good boss”; and fulfilling a calling to value children’s lives and serve the universal human need for family.

Of the children in foster care today, more than 100,000 can never be reunited with their birth families and are eligible for adoption. But adoption from foster care is only a dream for most, because their plight is either unknown or misunderstood by most.

We know from research that half of Americans believe children in foster care entered the system because of juvenile delinquency — because of something they did wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Children languish in foster care because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Because they have no safe and loving place to go. Because as a society, we abandon them.

As my father would tell anyone who would listen: These children are not someone else’s responsibility. They are our responsibility. Yet each year, more than 23,000 children age out of foster care without ever being adopted or finding a family to love them. They aren’t unadoptable. They simply haven’t been adopted.

Every American can do something to care for these children.

First, you can open your eyes. Get the facts and understand that hundreds of thousands of children in foster care need and deserve our compassion and support. We can and must do better.

Second, you can embrace the notion that “Unadoptable is Unacceptable.” You can support local adoption recruiters in your area through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, where even pennies can help a child find a home. Through the Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, child-focused adoption recruiters work on the most difficult cases, including older children, children with special needs and sibling groups. This has resulted in more than 4,800 children finding their forever families in the last 10 years.

And finally, for a few special individuals, perhaps this Father’s Day you already are considering adoption. Or perhaps it has never crossed your mind but you feel a space in your heart to welcome a child into your home. Maybe this could be the last Father’s Day that a child spends without a dad, or a mom, or a family.

It’s been 13 years since I lost my dad, and I know that his influence shaped my path and my values. I miss my dad today and every day. But I also hear his voice, urging me to continue his mission to help children infoster care find their forever families. Because every child deserves to call someone Dad.

Wendy Thomas is the daughter of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and namesake of the brand. She serves as a trustee and secretary of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

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