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Health and Family Services Cabinet
Louisville Adoption Recruitment Efforts Funded by Wendy’s Grant; Child-specific program established in every state

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, February 07, 2007  
Contact Information:  Anya Armes Weber, (502) 564-6180 or Vikki Franklin, (502) 564-7042  

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 7, 2007) – A grant from a popular restaurant chain’s charity foundation is making a big difference for children awaiting adoption in Jefferson County.

The $63,000 grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) funds recruitment efforts – including the salary of a new staff member – in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ (CHFS) Jefferson County Region.

The late Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s restaurant franchise, was adopted. He started the foundation to promote adoption nationwide for children in foster care.

DTFA’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) program, which dedicates funds raised by Wendy’s restaurants directly to finding adoptive homes for children in foster care, supports recruitment efforts and staff in all 50 states.

Since 2004, almost 2,000 children have been served by WWK nationally, and about half of those have been matched with or adopted by their forever families.

Tom Emberton Jr., CHFS undersecretary for Children and Family Services, called the WWK grant an excellent resource.

“It’s through collaborations like this that we can achieve good outcomes for more children,” he said. “We hope to continue this partnership with Wendy’s for years to come.”

Kentucky’s WWK funds are targeted to Jefferson County because one-third of the children awaiting adoption are from that region, said Mike Grimes, manager of the CHFS Adoption Services Branch. The funds pay for administrative costs, recruitment materials and the salary of child-specific recruiter Tori Mack, who started her work last October.

Grimes said the grant helps recruit families for children who may not have relatives or others waiting in the wings to adopt them.

“Most of the children in our care will be reunited with parents or join a relative’s family, but for many of them, there is no obvious, permanent solution,” he said. “This WWK grant lets us specifically search for families who would be a natural fit for them. Tori’s efforts are a real advantage.”

Mack, a former state caseworker, said she understands the pressures social workers are under and hopes she can bring some relief to them as she finds homes for kids.

“I know the many demands and expectations that workers have,” she said. “I believe WWK is critical because the program is designed to help take some of the load off of workers. My time is to be spent for child-specific recruitment. I sincerely hope that I can help and we can work together to find adoptive homes for children.”

Mack is responsible for locating families for about 20 to 25 of the state’s Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP) children. WWK’s model requires caseworkers to spend sufficient time with the children so they are better able to assess their needs and find the home that’s right for them.

Mack said she conducts diligent searches on children’s backgrounds and tries to get in touch with extended family and people who have a history with the children who might not know they are available for adoption.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean one of these people will adopt, but it does give me more insight into the child,” she said.

Mack said Wendy’s is a great supporter of states’ adoption recruitment efforts, with its various fundraisers and constant advertising of adoption in its restaurants.

Mark A. Washington, commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, said the cabinet is fortunate to receive the annual grant.

“Finding lasting and loving homes for children is one of our top priorities,” he said. “WWK’s child-centered focus fits right in with our efforts to recruit families with each child’s needs and family in mind.”

Many SNAP children, whose parental rights have been terminated because of abuse or neglect issues, may be considered more difficult to adopt because they are older, have medical needs or are part of a sibling group. About 340 children are in SNAP.

Mack said she’s helped four families get connected with CHFS to begin foster and adoptive parent training in her three months as WWK recruiter.

She said she wants people to see that the cabinet and the WWK program are committed to finding families for all the state’s waiting children.

“I hope to make a positive impact,” she said. “I hope that families truly see that there are children who really need a permanent and safe home. It's not just talk. It’s a reality.”

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Last Updated 2/7/2007