Engaging Children in the Adoption Process

Older children and those in sibling groups are especially difficult to place in adoptive homes, and have traditionally had little say in their adoption processes. To support a program in six North Carolina counties that gives children an active role in selecting potential adoptive parents, The Duke Endowment committed $1.4 million from 2006-2010 to the Children's Home Society in North Carolina.

A new four-year, $1 million grant to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is helping increase the adoptions of children in the North Carolina and South Carolina foster care systems.


In North Carolina and South Carolina, thousands of children are in the foster care system waiting for adoptive families. Older children and those in sibling groups are typically harder to place in adoptive homes than infants and younger children. Some older children have been in the child welfare system for years.


The 2012-2016 grant to the Dave Thomas Foundation will fund two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters in North Carolina and two more in South Carolina. They will serve children in two North Carolina counties and 12 South Carolina counties. The recruiters’ sole responsibility will be to find the best homes for children using the program’s proven practices and tactics.

The children served by the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program are typically those who have been waiting the longest for an adoptive family and home. By the time they are referred to a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter, nearly 70 percent are older than age 8, and 30 percent have had six or more placements. Fifty percent have been in foster care more than four years.

In earlier years, the Endowment awarded a grant to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina to support “child-centered recruitment.” Through this process, the Society’s child-specific recruiters worked with small caseloads to spend more time with each child to help them:

  • Understand why and how they came to be in state custody
  • Consider and define the type of adoptive family they desire
  • Make connections with potential families who meet the child's criteria

Children in the Child-Centered Recruitment program become active participants in the process. They work with their adoption specialist to create their own recruitment plan, develop an online "Adoption Chronicle" interview for potential adoptive families to view, create a "Life Book" (a record of the child's life, thoughts and feelings), and take advantage of other pre- and post-adoption services. Children also are given the opportunity to attend events with their adoption recruiter where they can meet and interact with waiting families face-to-face and experience activities they might not have the opportunity to do otherwise (waterskiing, indoor rock climbing or swimming in the ocean).

Participating Sites in North Carolina:

  • Children's Home Society of North Carolina
  • Burke County Department of Social Services
  • Cumberland County Department of Social Services
  • Durham County Department of Social Services
  • Harnett County Department of Social Services
  • McDowell County Department of Social Services
  • Wake County Department of Social Services


Area of Work

  • Out-of-home care for youth

Program Area

  • Child & Family Well-Being

Grantmaking Status

The Endowment is continuing to work through current grantees and is not accepting new applications.

Areas of Work

  • Prevention and early intervention for at-risk children

    To equip children and families with skills to ensure that children reach developmental milestones to lead successful lives.

  • Out-of-home care for youth

    To drive child welfare systems toward greater accountability for child well-being.

  • Quality and safety of health care

    Improving the quality and safety of health care delivery

  • Access to health care

    Improving health by increasing access to comprehensive care

  • Prevention

    Expanding programs to promote health and prevent disease

  • Academic excellence

    Enhancing academic excellence through program and campus development

  • Educational access and success

    Increasing educational access and supporting a learning environment that promotes achievement

  • Campus and community engagement

    Promoting a culture of service, collaboration and engagement among schools and communities

  • Rural church development

    Building the infrastructure and capacity of United Methodist churches to enhance ministry and mission

  • Clergy leadership

    Strengthening United Methodist churches by improving the quality and effectiveness of church leadership

  • Congregational outreach

    Engaging United Methodist congregations in programs that serve their communities