PORTLAND, Ore. — For Rita Soronen, every day is a worthwhile battle.
“I get to come to work every day and do exactly what I've always wanted to do: be an advocate for children, and I get to do it across the United States,” she said.
Soronen is the president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Based in Ohio, the foundation offers grants to organizations across the country to carry out their child-focused recruitment model. This month, Soronen and her staff are celebrating a huge accomplishment.
“We hit a milestone of 10,000 adoptions…10,000 children who have been adopted through the Wendy's Wonderful Kids program,” she said.
It’s a goal that’s been a long time coming, but she’ll also tell you there are about 122,000 kids in foster care across the United States. Kids that are already isolated because the nature of the system, kids that are so much more than just a number.
The Scott family—of The Dalles—adopted three siblings from St. Louis through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. It’s been about a year since they shared their journey with KGW’s Brittany Falkers.
“They had a hunger for a family and our kids had a hunger to add siblings and so it was just a bond from the very beginning,” said dad Mark Scott.
Sarah Kopplin sees it on the local level as the director of permanency services for Boys and Girls Aid, a Portland-based organization that serves the entire state of Oregon.
“Our folks work really hard and look within each child's network to see if there's an option for a potential family for them,” she said.
Boys and Girls Aid receives grant money from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption that provides salaries for staff and other resources. With the financial help, a total of 274 kids have found forever families through the partnership.
“We really believe that no child is unadoptable,” Kopplin said. “And that every child deserves to have a permanent family, no matter what their needs are.”
“We can only do this in partnership and we can only do it when the public steps forward and understands these children and care they need to be adopted and help us as well,” added Soronen.
Incredibly, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption saw more adoptions last year than in 2019.
“In 2019 we finalized about 1,060 adoptions, and in 2020 we finalized 1,097 adoptions so we actually saw what we were holding steady," Soronen said.
The work is tough, yet fulfilling for both Soronen and Kopplin. The 10,000 milestone a major reminder of the good being done for kids, but there’s still work to do.
“They need that human contact, they need the assurance that adults are there fighting for them,” Soronen said.