In this Power Week conversation with Rita L. Soronen, CEO and President of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, she shares her insights into nonprofit leadership, board engagement, and the foundation’s impactful work in the field of adoption. As the foundation celebrates its 25th year, it continues to make strides in its mission to find permanent homes for children in foster care.
Rita begins with discussing her 22-year tenure with the foundation and how it allows her to elevate her passion for child welfare and advocacy. She also highlights the importance of board recruitment, emphasizing the need for board members who are not only professionally skilled but also personally passionate about the organization’s mission. She offers, “We want to make sure on our board that we have folks who have either adopted, were adopted, have fostered, have some connection, if not directly to themselves, through extended family.”
Continuing, and discussing board engagement, Rita details how the foundation has managed to engage more than 80% of its board members actively, attributing this success to a focus on committee work and regular check-ins. She also shares strategies for promoting self-care among staff, emphasizing the importance of creating a supportive and inclusive work environment. She says, “We try and encourage that as much as possible…cancel whatever’s on your calendar and make sure that we’re flexible enough to acknowledge that weeks are tough.”
When asked about the foundation’s impact on adoption, Soronen mentions the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, which is embedded in 17 states and aims to be present in all 50 states by 2028. She acknowledges the progress made in improving adoption rates but also highlights the need to address myths and misperceptions surrounding vulnerable children and families. She states, “We’ve been able to do that now in 17 states with the goal of 28 states by the end of…all 50 states by the end of 2028.”