Jun 18, 2013


Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) is an adoption recruitment program that utilizes a staff position (recruiter) to find children in need of adoption a permanent adoptive home. WWK recruiters engage potential adoptees through a series eight programmatic components, which differ from many traditional adoption approaches. WWK is designed to help children who are considered challenging to place due to factors such as age, sibling group membership, or disability. WWK was found to increase the likelihood of adoption for children generally, as well as increase the likelihood for adoption among subgroups of adoptees that are older (age 7 and above) and those that have mental health disorders.


Target population: Children in the foster care system seeking adoption who are considered challenging to place in adoptive spaces due to their age, sibling group membership, or disabilities

WWK is an adoption recruitment program that aims to find permanent homes for children in foster care. The WWK programmatic approach utilizes staff positions (called recruiters) to work extensively with a potential adoptee to identify potential families for placement. The WWK approach is ‘child focused’ and recruiters interact with potential adoptee at least once a month to understand the potential adoptee’s history, experience, and needs to gain an understanding of what would constitute an appropriate adoptive family. WWK seeks to have each participant adopted by a family through a series of eight programmatic components beginning with the initial referral of participants into WWK and the matching of recruiters to each potential adoptee through the development of recruitment plans and searches for potential families. These components consist of an (1) initial case referral which serves as the starting point for (2) forming a relationship with a potential adoptee. The WWK recruiter then (3) reviews the potential adoptee’s case record, conducts an (4) assessment of the potential adoptees strengths, challenges, and desires, and uses this assessment to begin (5) preparation of the child for adoption. WWK recruiters are then expected to engage in (6) network building to develop and maintain relationships with the potential adoptee as well as all associated individuals involved in the adoptee’s life. The WWK recruiter (7) develops a recruitment plan and then conducts a (8) diligent search to identify potential adoptive families that can match the child’s needs and desires. There are no limits to how long WWK recruiters can work with potential adoptees.


Vandivere, S., Allen, T., Malm, K., McKlindon, A., and Zinn, A. (2011) Technical Report #2: Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program Impacts, Child Trends, Washington, D.C.

Evaluated population: A total of 956 children were included in the evaluation sample with 474 assigned to the control group and 482 assigned to the treatment group. These children were served across 21 different agencies and by 30 distinct WWK recruiters. Seventy-three percent of the recruiters were employed by private agencies.

Among the children included the evaluation, the average age at intake was 10.2 years. Fifty-four percent were African American, while 9 percent were Hispanic, and 42 percent were female. The sample also included 58 percent of children that were diagnosed with some form of disability and 23 percent that had been in the foster care system more than once. There were only three statistically significant differences in demographic characteristics between the treatment group (WWK children) and the control group. First, the treatment group (WWK participants) had an average age at intake of 9.9 years, while the control group was slightly older (10.5 years). Second, Native Americans made up 1.2 percent of the treatment group, but 3.7 percent of the control group. Finally, 21.6 percent of treatment group children had an ‘other diagnosed condition’ at intake, where 28.4 percent of control group children had the same diagnosis at intake.

Approach: The evaluation design can be considered a randomized block design, as random assignment occurred at the WWK recruiter level. Children were referred to WWK recruiters by public agencies. The recruiters then utilized a web-based automated system to randomize pairs of potential adoptees, with one child assigned to the recruiter’s caseload (the treatment group) and the other assigned to the control group. Once assigned to the control group, a child was not eligible for WWK services for the duration of the evaluation; however, these control group children were still eligible to receive any and all adoption services available from public or community agencies other than WWK.

While attrition did occur within the sample, the researchers found that there were no significant differences across variables examined when comparing the samples before and after attrition. Therefore, they concluded that bias did not exist due to attrition.

The researchers analyzed potential WWK impact by examining recruiter-specific (or within recruiter) differences since WWK recruiters were the level of randomization.

Results: Overall, the researchers found that the WWK model did have a positive impact on adoption for children, resulting in more adoptions and a greater likelihood of adoption when compared with children receiving traditional adoption services. In addition, the researchers found that WWK led to increased likelihood of adoption among subgroups of adoptees that are older (age 7 and above) and those that have mental health disorders.

During their initial analysis, the researchers concluded that WWK participants were one-and-a-half times more likely to be adopted than control group participants (odds ratio = 1.77, p<0.01). The researchers then accounted for several characteristics and conditions that could have explained the observed difference in adoptions rates, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, whether the child had been in the foster care system multiple times, and the reason the child was removed from foster care (if applicable), differing adoption rates across agencies and across jurisdictions. After this second analysis, the researchers concluded that WWK participants were still one-and-a-half times more likely to be adopted when compared to the control group (odds ratio=1.81, p<.01).

In a final analysis, the researchers sought to determine if adoption rates varied across subpopulations, including older children and those with disabilities or special needs. Among older potential adoptees (age 15), WWK participants were 3 times more likely to be adopted when compared to control group participants. The researchers also found that among children clinically diagnosed with an emotional disturbance; WWK children are 3 times more likely to be adopted when compared to control group children. The researchers did not find any differences in adoption probabilities when examining other subpopulations, including gender, race, Hispanic-origin.


Malm, K., Allen, T., DeVooght, K., Ellis, R., McKlindon, A., Vandivere, S., and Smollar, J. (2011) Technical Report #1: Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program Description and Implementation, Child Trends, Washington, D.C.


Contact Information: 

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

716 Mt. Airyshire Blvd., Suite 100

Columbus, OH 43235


1-800-ASK-DTFA (1-800-275-3832)

KEYWORDS: Infants, Toddlers, Children, Adolescents, Youth, Males and Females, White, Black, Hispanic, High-Risk, Clinic/Provider-Based, Other Relationships

Program information last updated on 03/15/12.