Over the past decade, 1,000 Florida children in foster care now have permanent homes, thanks to a pilot program focused on placing older kids who typically encounter challenges in being adopted.
Robbin Brydges is one of the adoptive parents helped by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, launched by the Dave Thomas Foundation in 2004. She and her husband wanted to adopt an older child, since they knew they’re often overlooked in the adoption process.
Brydges said the program guided them through the process of adopting Dawson, when they discovered he had a brother with special needs, named Dalton.
“My husband, his only thoughts were, ‘OK, I guess we are going to have to put in a ramp, huh?’ I’m like, ‘Well yeah,’ because we both agreed that we weren’t going to separate the kids,” Brydges recounted. “You know, the world can’t be that ugly to take and separate the kids, when they are the only person each other has.”
And so, they adopted both Dawson, who has grown into playing sports and with dreams of becoming a doctor, and Dalton, who has cerebral palsy, is wheelchair bound, nonverbal and legally blind.
Brydges emphasized the adoption was the best decision they’ve made, and credits the Dave Thomas Foundation for guiding them through each step of the process.
Brydges shared advice with others who’ve considered adoption. She tells them, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and also, “You don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it.”
She acknowledged she did not plan to adopt a child with challenges, but is grateful she did.
“For parents that are thinking about adopting children, keep an open mind,” Brydges urged. “Remember that the kids have been through some stuff. They’re entitled to have an opinion. Ask them for it, because that’s how we had to work with Dawson.”
According to federal data, more than 54,000 kids were adopted in 2021, a 6% decrease from the year prior.
Wendy’s Wonderful Kids has 14 recruiters employed by eight child welfare agencies throughout the state. According to the program, the average age of the youth currently being served in Florida is 13, and on average, they have been in foster care for more than three years.