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Episode #128: Autism and Adoption- A Discussion with Rita Soronen
Rita Soronen is a National Child Welfare Advocate working with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA). She advocates for the abused, neglected, and vulnerable children in the foster care and juvenile justice system.
There are 117,000 children in the United States who are available to be adopted. The DTFA’s adoption program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids works with children most at risk of aging out of the foster care system—teenagers, sibling groups, and those with special needs. Of those youth, 77% have some sort of medically identified need, including autism.
During this conversation, Rita not only explains the wonderful work done for these children but also shares a story of hope. CJ is a child with autism who was adopted at age 9 by a loving and caring adoptive mom, Dee. Now 20 years old, CJ, who was nonverbal at the time of adoption, is now a thriving and productive adult.
1 in 36 children has autism, and there are many children in the child welfare system with an autism diagnosis or other special needs that need support and care. You can learn more by visiting the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption website or calling their information hotline.
For more than 30 years, Rita Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children, providing leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe and permanent homes for North America’s children.
Leading the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity, since 2001 and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada since 2004, Ms. Soronen works to find forever families for the more than 140,000 waiting children in North America’s foster care systems. Under her leadership, the Foundation has significantly increased its grant-making while developing strategic initiatives that act on the urgency of the issue. In 2021, the Foundation dedicated more than $40.9 million to grants and award-winning programs, such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, Adoption-Friendly Workplace™ and National Adoption Day. Additionally, through public service announcements, social media campaigns, articles, events, sponsorships and more, the Foundation is building awareness around the growing need for foster care adoption.
Ms. Soronen is a nationally recognized child welfare advocate. She has testified before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee on the importance of foster care adoption. A requested national speaker on the topics of children, the child welfare system and social innovation, Ms. Soronen has been a featured presenter at events for the Adoption Exchange Association, Center for Adoption Support and Education, Children’s Home Society of America, National Association of County Commissioners, National CASA Association and National Council for Adoption, among others.
Ms. Soronen is a founding board member and past vice president of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and is a current member of the advisory board. She also serves as a member of Barco’s Nightingales Foundation’s advisory board and is a past member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children’s board of trustees. Ms. Soronen is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the National CASA Association Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association Statewide Leadership Award and was a 2013 recipient of WSNY’s 20 Outstanding Women You Should Know. She is a fellow of the Jefferson Fellowship for Executive Leadership; was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Community Leadership from Franklin University in 2016; was named a YWCA Woman of Achievement in 2017; was named a National Number One by the Columbus Foundation in 2018; and was honored with Smart Business Network’s 2019 Smart 50 Program Award for Impact, Giving Back to the Community.
A graduate of the University of Louisville, Ms. Soronen resides in Columbus, Ohio.
- The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.
- An initiative for children most at risk in the child welfare systems.
- CJ’s Story: A story of hope for children with autism awaiting adoption.
- Advocating for special needs children in the foster care system.
Mentioned In This Episode
—Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
—Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption on Facebook
—Join our Start Communicating Today Live Course On June 20th and June 21st from 7-9:30 pm est. Register here.
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