Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids

About This Program

Target Population: Children 9-18 years of age that have been freed for adoption or with a plan for adoption with an emphasis on older youth waiting to be adopted; also appropriate for younger children with special needs, part of a sibling group, or with mental or physical challenges

For children/adolescents ages: 9 – 18

Program Overview

Child-Focused Recruitment is a prescribed model of foster care adoption recruitment that addresses the individual needs, circumstances, and history of children waiting to be adopted and provides the foundation for searching for appropriate families for children, particularly children most at risk of aging out of care (e.g., older youth, youth with mental challenges, sibling groups, children already in care for significant periods of time and in multiple placements). The program is currently managed by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Program Goals

The goals of Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are:

  • All foster care adoption recruiters practice child-focused recruitment
  • Children at risk of aging out of care secure a permanent placement
  • Significantly increase the adoptions of older youth and reduce the number of children aging out of care

Essential Components

The essential components of Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids include:

  • Three sections: Model Components, Child Components, and Caseload Components:
    • Model Components: Unlike general or targeted foster care adoption recruitment practices, the tactics of the Child-Focused Recruitment strategy include:
      • Initial child referral: Contact the child’s caseworker to introduce the role of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, gather initial referral information, establish date to begin case file review and schedule initial meeting with child
      • Relationship with child: Meet with the child monthly, at a minimum, to develop trust and openness, preferably in person and one-on-one
      • Case record review: Conduct an exhaustive record review of the existing case file which may take several days during which the recruiter will develop a system to document:
        • Date and reason child entered the system
        • Child’s most recent profile/assessment
        • Chronological placement history
        • Significant services provided currently or in the past
        • Identification of needed services
        • All significant people in the child’s life past and present; including caseworker, foster parent, attorney, CASA volunteer, teacher, therapist, relative, mentor, faith-based representative, extracurricular activity leader, etc.
        • Next court date
      • Assessment: Determine the child’s strengths, challenges, desires, preparedness for adoption, and whether the child has needs that should be addressed before moving forward with the adoption process
        • If so, work with the child’s caseworker to assure these needs are met
        • Develop a written assessment initially and update quarterly to enhance the Child-Focused Recruitment plan
      • Adoption preparation: Assure that the child and the adopting family are prepared for adoption; including discussing any particular needs the child has during the matching process
      • Network-building: Meet with significant adults and maintain regular and ongoing contact (caseworker, foster parent, attorney, CASA volunteer, teacher, therapist, relative, mentor, faith-based representative, extracurricular activity leader, etc.)
        • Keep regular and ongoing contact with persons close to and knowledgeable about the child which will facilitate recruitment activities; monthly contact with the child’s caseworker is essential
      • Recruitment plan: Based on the file review, interviews with significant adults, and the input of the child, develop a comprehensive recruitment plan or enhance the existing recruitment plan
        • Customize the recruiter’s plan for each child as defined by the child’s needs
        • Review the plan quarterly and update as needed
        • Diligent search: Conduct a diligent search of potential adoptive families and identified connections to additional resources
          • Conduct aggressive follow-up with contacts identified, with the knowledge and approval of the child’s caseworker
    • Child Components
      • Children on the caseload must:
        • Be in the public foster care system
        • Have been freed for adoption, have a permanence plan for adoption, or a plan to be freed for adoption; this may be a concurrent plan
        • Be without a current identified adoptive family
      • Children on the caseload may:
        • Be members of a sibling group
        • Have had previous recruitment efforts
        • Have had unsuccessful adoptive placements
        • Be in varying stages of adoption preparedness
        • Be opposed to adoption
        • While on caseload, rescind their consent to adoption
        • Have special physical, emotional, developmental, and educational needs
      • No child may be denied access to Child-Focused Recruitment services based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and any other characteristics protected by applicable law
    • Caseload Components:
      • Recruiters must be committed to finding a safe, permanent adoptive family for all children in need on their caseload
        • Caseload size: The recommended number of children is 20, with a maximum of 25
        • Caseload composition: Children may be at different levels of adoption preparedness, may have had different levels of prior recruitment, and may have been waiting for adoption for varying lengths of time
        • Status of children
          • Active status: At any given time, the recruiter should be intensively, actively recruiting for 12-15 children
            • The remaining children on the caseload may be in a less intensive phase of the recruitment process, for example:
              • A child that has been matched with a family who is in a pre-adoptive placement
              • A child who requires greater adoption preparation (e.g., incarcerated, hospitalized, having special needs which must first be addressed, adjusting to disrupted match or adoption, or opposed to adoption)
          • Inactive status: A child may be considered part of the caseload, but inactive if he or she has runaway, or is physically unavailable for adoption due to long-term incarceration or hospitalization. NOTE: The recruiter must have periodic contact with all children on the caseload regardless of status.
          • Removing children from the caseload: Placement in residential, therapeutic, or other congregate care does not require removal from the caseload
            • A child should be removed from the caseload under the following circumstances:
              • Child's adoption finalized
              • Court granted legal guardianship (this outcome will be tracked, but not reported as a finalized adoption)
              • Child’s permanency goal changed by caseworker, and the recruiter no longer has access to child and child’s files
              • Child ages out of foster care and their case is closed

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • In foster care and freed for adoption as a result of abuse/neglect/abandonment, lack of identified parent/adoptive home
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Current foster parents, potential adoptive parents, and fictive kin and others known to and supportive of child are involved in the program by giving the child support as they go through the recruitment process.

Recommended Intensity:

Minimum of monthly in-person contact between recruiter and child, recruiter and child’s caseworker, recruiter, and other relevant players in the child’s case

Recommended Duration:

Until the child is adopted, on average 18-24 months

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency
  • Foster/Kinship Care
  • Residential Care Facility
  • School


This program does not include a homework component.


Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has materials available in a language other than English:


For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Ability to house and support a full-time employee and the resources necessary; access to children assigned and their case files

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Social work experience; a Master’s in Social Work or a related field is preferred.

Education and Training Resources

There is not a manual that describes how to implement this program ; but there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

Grantees are provided with three orientation online training modules, a two-day classroom training on the model, scheduled site visits, and technical assistance from grants management staff, quarterly webinars on relevant topics and an annual summit of all grantees.

Number of days/hours:

Grantee orientation takes two hours, classroom training takes two days, site visits take a full day, quarterly webinars are typically 90 minutes long, and an in-person annual gathering called the “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Summit” lasts 2.5 days.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Permanency

Vandivere, S., Malm, K., Zinn, A., Allen, T., & McKlindon, A. (2015). An experimental evaluation of a child-focused adoption recruitment program for children and youth in foster care. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 9(2), 174-194.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 956


  • Age — Mean=10.2 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 53.8% African American, 49.7% White, 9.3% Hispanic, 2.4% Native American, 1.6% Asian, and 0.5% Pacific Islander
  • Gender — 41.6% Female
  • Status — Participants were individuals involved in the child welfare system.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This article describes evaluation of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) adoption recruitment program [now called Child-Focused Recruitment – Wendy’s Wonderful Kids] on the adoption of children in foster care. Outcome data for the evaluation came from Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) databases maintained by the local public child welfare agencies with custody of the children in the study. Eligibility criteria for the evaluation were the same as those for receiving WWK services. Specifically, children were in foster care with a permanency goal of adoption and had no identified adoptive resource. Children could be in any type of out-of-home care placement setting and could have varying degrees of interest in being adopted. Participants were randomly assigned to either the intervention or the control group. Results indicate children served by WWK are found to be 1.7 times more likely to be adopted than children in the control group. Impacts were larger among older children, and children with psychological disorders, than other children. Limitations include attrition, reliability of data entered into the local SACWIS databases and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Child Trends. (2012). A national evaluation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids: Fact sheet. Retrieved from

Child Trends. (2012). A national evaluation of Wendy's Wonderful Kids. Retrieved from

Contact Information

Angela Marshall, LPCC
Title: Director
Agency/Affiliation: Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Phone: (614) 764-8487
Fax: (614) 764-3077

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: January 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2016

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2012