“Sarah was very opposed to getting adopted and had been the whole time she was in the system,” Saldivar said.
Lisa Carlin, a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter who works in Montgomery County, worked on Dyke’s case.
“She was a hard kid to crack,” Carlin said.
Carlin said that working for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids means her caseload is a lighter, so that she can focus on building relationships with the kids she is assigned and let them get comfortable. This lighter caseload also ensures each child gets the resources and other support they need and give the recruiter time to investigate possible connections to adopt the child.
“(Carlin) was there as an outside person for Sarah to talk to. She gave her hope that there was possibility to have a forever home,” Saldivar said.
Saldivar said she has five sons and hadn’t considered adopting more children, but when Dykes and Carlin approached her about adopting Dykes, she agreed. Dykes moved out of Robin’s House and into Saldivar’s home.
“Kids just need somebody that’s ‘theirs,’” Saldivar said.
Saldivar said things haven’t “been all roses,” but Dykes is doing well. She’s now a senior in high school and may graduate on time. She also recently had a seasonal job at Kohl’s.
“No kid should ever be put in the ‘unadoptable’ category,” Saldivar said. “Sarah didn’t need to shut out a world of possibilities, she didn’t need to shut off to being adopted. There are so many kids out there that need homes.”
Of the kids served by the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program:, 56% are part of a minority group, 81% have at least one special need, 61% are part of a sibling group and prior to being referred to Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, 86% had minimal or no adoption recruitment efforts on their behalf. The average age of kids served by the program is 13.
“Wendy’s Wonderful Kids began as a belief that we could ― and must ― do better for children lingering in foster care waiting for an adoptive family,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
Ten thousand adoptions since 2012 is no small feat, Carlin said. Carlin said in Montgomery County, there are typically 80 to 100 adoptions per year. And the kids that she and her coworkers place are typically harder to find homes for.
“A lot of our youth come with a lot of challenges, whether it’s mental health issues, they’ve been in care for an exuberant amount of years, or we get a lot of those older teenagers that are just, historically, in every child welfare setting a little bit harder to find forever replacements for. And so to have that high of a number in the short of years, knowing the population that we are assigned to and we work with, is no small feat,” Carlin said. “Needing someone to care about you and to support you doesn’t stop just when you turn 18. Even as adults we need our moms and dads.”
Carlin said when people think of Wendy’s, they typically think of cheeseburgers. But the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption does so much work to hep children in the foster system, she said.