Stories to Inspire

Wendy’s helps one of its Wonderful Kids get a job

For most teenagers, getting that first job is a rite of passage. But for a child in care, there may obstacles in the way, such as a lack of transportation or parental permission.

Luckily for Joel*, a foster child who is currently waiting to be adopted through the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, he had an in.

After sending out dozens of resumes to retail outlets across the city with no success, Joel was frustrated. His Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter, Laura Wilson from the General CFS Authority, stepped in, sensing that Joel was perhaps being overlooked.

Wilson made a call to Wendy’s head office manager Ron Ragoo in Winnipeg. Ragoo then called the manager at a south Winnipeg Wendy’s—and within days, Joel had an interview and was subsequently hired to bus tables and start learning the ropes behind the counter.

Joel was ecstatic to be given the opportunity, says his foster dad, Paul.

“He was trying and drew a blank with trying to find a job on his own. Laura said to him, ‘You can work at Wendy’s for many years to come.’ It’s a big break for him.”

As a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter, Wilson’s work is to help find a permanent, forever home for Joel—and to do that she first needs to establish a relationship with him.

“Building trust and having kids buy into the program means starting out with something they feel is important to them. In his [Joel’s] life, one of the things that was really important was getting a job, so that’s part of the relationship building,” says Wilson.
“He sees that ‘She cares about me, she hears what’s important in my life,’ so it is not such a leap to the adoption process,” adds Wilson.
While Joel was so nervous he couldn’t sleep the night before his first day, he has become much more comfortable with the job and the kind-hearted staff at Wendy’s who have taken him under their wing.

“It’s like a family here,” says the teen with friendly blue eyes during a meeting at the restaurant where he works. Though he admits that most of his paycheques are going toward Wendy’s food, he’s also saving up for bigger items—perhaps a car in the future, and adding to his large Transformers collection.

“He seems to be in really good hands with the lady there, [manager] Kimberly—she’s wonderful,” Paul says. “She’s ready to work really slowly with him and just encourage him and he’s just really lucky.”

Joel has been in foster care for four years, all with his foster dad Paul, since his biological mother died. However, he is now 17 and in Grade 11 and will soon age out of the system. It’s children like Joel that the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program has their sights set on—many times, they are older children who have been in several foster homes and have a need for a permanent family and the support that brings.

The program began in the United States, launched by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas as the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, in 1992. It expanded its reach into Canada in 2003 and began hiring adoption recruiters here. In 2004, the foundation created what is known as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, a child-focused recruitment model designed to help adoption professionals and agencies work together to find permanent, adoptive families for foster children. Recent research showed that children served by the program are up to three times more likely to get adopted.
In Canada, 911 children are currently being served by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, 536 have been matched, 55 are in pre-adoptive homes and 256 children have already been adopted. The program exists in Manitoba and Ontario as well as every state in the U.S.
Wilson says she has been building a relationship slowly but surely with Joel, helping to convince him that adoption would be a great outcome for him. “He is such a nice young man. I just know there is a family out there who would love to have him.”

For most children, Joel included, the thought of being adopted is frightening. But the reality is, most foster kids cannot stay at their placement forever.

“I’ve said to him, this sounds like it might be good for you in the long run. You should really think about it,” says Paul.

“You will always be welcomed here, but I’m not positioned for it—I’ve had 39 other foster kids. I’d like to adopt all of them, but I can’t do that.”

Wilson is currently working on recruiting a family for Joel. The process takes time as building a trusting relationship with a child, and then preparing a family for adoption, takes months and sometimes years, Wilson notes.

And Joel is moving forward—having just got his beginner’s driver’s license, he’s able to drive with his foster dad. He’s got a girlfriend now. And he’s less nervous about the prospect of being adopted.

“I can’t say enough about him,” says Paul. “He’s a great kid and he has a very good sense of humour.”

“He is a wonderful young man who would bring joy to any parent and the safety net of a forever family will be invaluable to this young man’s life,” says Wilson.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.