National Adoption Day helps find kids a forever family

National Adoption Day is a collective effort to raise awareness of the more than 120,000 children waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States.

A coalition of national partners — the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network — founded National Adoption Day.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated solely to finding permanent homes for the children waiting in North America’s foster care systems, created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, who was adopted.

The foundation, a national nonprofit public charity, is expanding its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, to find adoptive homes for children in Indiana’s foster care system.

According to nationaladoptionday.org, on Nov. 18, 2000, the coalition and the Freddie Mac Foundation encouraged nine cities to open their courts on or around the Saturday before Thanksgiving to finalize and celebrate adoptions from foster care.

Today, these annual events take place in 400 cities across the United States. Due to COVID-19 protocols, many National Adoption Day events Saturday will be virtual or in a hybrid format this year.

More than 75,000 children in foster care have found permanent homes as part of National Adoption Day events.

The public-private partnership between the Indiana Department of Child Services, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and The Villages of Indiana will fund adoption professionals to serve children and youth at risk of aging out of foster care without a family, including teenagers, children with special needs and siblings.

“Every child, no matter their age, deserves the love of a family. We never want to see children waiting to feel that love and the stability a family provides,” said Shannon Schumacher, president and chief executive officer of The Villages. “Through the generosity of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and our partnership with DCS, our dynamic team of adoption professionals will have staffing resources across the state to support older children and youth to be adopted.”

Team members will work with the people most connected to these foster youth with a goal to find a safe, loving and caring home. Schumacher said The Villages team has done a tremendous job growing partnerships with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and DCS so they can positively impact youth and families in Indiana.

“We have a long and successful history working with The Villages, which has been implementing our Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program for the past 14 years,” said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “We look forward to expanding this program statewide to ensure that there are enough adoption professionals to serve Indiana’s most vulnerable youth waiting in foster care, who need the security and support of a permanent family now more than ever.”

Jodi Stockdale, office director for the Jackson County Department of Child Services in Seymour, said local adoptions take place on a more routine schedule here.

“Around the country, they set a national adoption day, but in each county, that looks a little bit different,” Stockdale said. “For us, we have adoptions set regularly on the schedule, so for Jackson County this year, we don’t have a day designated solely for adoptions.”

In some counties, they will set all of their adoption hearings on that one special day in the month of November.

“One county will have their adoption day next Wednesday, and all of their adoption hearings are set for that day, so they will do special activities, take pictures and things of that nature,” Stockdale said. “Our court sets adoption dates every other Tuesday, and that’s why we do what we do, and that’s to help kids find permanent homes and their forever families.”

She said the adoptions that are associated with their department are children who are in foster care, and those adoptions are the ones facilitated through Jackson County DCS. There is a special unit assigned to the foster children that have a plan of adoption.

“Dave Thomas founded and established the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, and they help locate adoptive placements for children across the country,” Stockdale said. “It’s an amazing organization that works independent from the Department of Child Services.”

People who aren’t ready to adopt can still help a child by becoming a foster parent.

“We are always in need of foster placements within our community for whenever we have children come in who are in need,” Stockdale said. “We have licensing specialists within our office, and they have all of the information and can take it from there.”