DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A program aimed at finding adoptive families for older foster children in Ohio is expanding thanks to contributions by the state and a nonprofit adoption foundation
The Columbus-based Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption created by Wendy's restaurant founder Dave Thomas contributed $1.2 million and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services committed $1.1 million last year that is helping expand the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program, the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/XbiLm9 ) reported.
Dave Thomas, who died in 2002, never knew his mother and was adopted when he was six weeks old.
Ohio's contribution enabled Thomas' foundation to expand its existing program and add 32 sites.
The program also has been able to hire 24 professional recruiters covering 51 counties to find adoptive families for foster children who fall into the hard-to place category, which includes those children who are older than 8 and who have been in foster care for two or more years.
Foundation officials say recruiters with adoption expertise each focus on 15 to 20 children. They get to know them and help them overcome fears of rejection and disappointment so that they're open to adoption. The recruiters also contact family members, coaches, teachers or other responsible adults from the children's past to see if they'd be interested in adopting them.
The recruiting method is more effective than using public service announcements to ask the general public to consider adopting a foster child, said Rita Soronen, president and chief executive of the foundation.
The foundation has committed $10 million a year to the effort across the nation, with its largest program in Ohio. Nationally, the funding pays for 164 recruiter sites in 49 states and Canada.
"It seems like a lot up front but this lays the foundation for not only significant human success but significant savings for the state down the road," said Soronen.
Youth who age out of foster care without being adopted face multiple challenges, and finding adoptive homes for older children in foster care reduces the long-term costs resulting from poverty, unemployment, poor health care, and incarceration, said Ben Johnson, a state Job and Family Services spokesman.
"Finding loving, adoptive homes for these children will help them grow up to be healthy and successful and will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in foster care costs," Johnson said.
For each child adopted out of the foster care system, the state of Ohio saves $27,480 a year.
Tova Rose, a foundation recruiter assigned to Montgomery County, said she has placed 14 children with permanent adoptive families in the past seven years.
"No child is unadoptable," she said.
One of those helped was Akiya Carter, of West Carrollton. Carter was 17 and just about to age out of the foster system when the recruiter connected her with Natasha Carter, a foster parent who decided God wanted her to consider adopting kids as well. Natasha Carter began fostering the girl and then permanently adopted her two years ago
"It really changed my life a lot," Akiya Carter said. "It gave me hope. When I was in foster care, I didn't have any hope about what I can achieve. Now that I'm adopted I have a family who is behind me in life. "
Akiya, now 20, works at Goodwill Industries and is studying hospitality at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center.
An estimated 12,000 children in Ohio are in foster care, including about 1,900 in the hard-to-place category.
Information from: Dayton Daily News, http://www.daytondailynews.com