Dave Thomas Foundation working to get most vulnerable children out of foster care

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There is a big push to get kids who are at-risk of aging out of the foster system into a forever home.

“I remember when I was first starting through the process of adoption,” Robbin Brydges said. “One of the wonderful workers said ‘sometimes it feels like you’re searching for the unicorn, but you’ll find it.’”

Brydges adopted her two sons, Dalton and Dawson, several years back through the Dave Thomas Foundation, a nonprofit public charity adoption agency.

“You just need to know that there are kids out there that they want nothing more than a mom and a dad -- or two moms or two dads -- or whatever the combination looks like, but they just want a home,” Brydges said. “They want parents to care about them.”

The coronavirus has presented many hurdles for adoption, but it’s also made some things easier. In 2020, Zoom adoptions became “a thing,” making it possible to include more adoption hearings on the docket. On the other hand, in-person visits were off the table and there are some concerns about abuse in foster homes.

“Because kids aren’t in school as regularly as they used to be, or perhaps not seeing those healthcare providers as usual as they used to, we’re seeing incidences of abuse decline,” Rita Soronen said. “I’m not certain that’s because abuse has declined, but because the reporting mechanisms aren’t in place.”

Soronen is the President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. For more than 30 years, she has worked on behalf of abused and neglected children, in an effort to get them into loving homes. Soronen said many parents looking to adopt look for younger children. Those with disabilities, teenagers, and sibling pairs often get overlooked.

“I didn’t think I was going to be a mom for a child with challenges,” Brydges said. “But, I couldn’t imagine my universe any other way.”

Both of Brydges sons are older, siblings and Dalton has several health issues.

“Our oldest son Dalton has special needs,” Brydges said. “He is the greatest gift that I was ever given. I could not of asked or given birth to better children.”

Soronen said not every child is as lucky as Dalton and Dawson. Many kids age out of the foster care system, which can pose significant threats to development.

“They’re more likely to be at risk of homelessness or being under employed or under educated,” Soronen said. She’s encouraging people to help our more vulnerable children.

If you’re interested in being a foster parent or adoption, you can learn more through the Dave Thomas Foundation. Even if you’re not ready to be a guardian, there are other ways to help. You can sign up to be a mentor or donate gifts to kids during the holidays. You can also volunteer with Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Florida’s First Coast to be a Guardian ad Litem, which is a court-appointed special advocate whose job is to serve the voice of the child in the courtroom.