At a recent meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, television newscaster Christine Devine and her team at KTTV 11 were recognized for the 25th anniversary of Wednesday’s Child, a weekly segment featuring Los Angeles County foster children seeking a permanent home. That program has led to 455 adoptions of children from the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), with 75 more in the process.
“The reach of a television station into the community is more than we could ever hope to accomplish as a government organization,” said DCFS Director Bobby Cagle at Tuesday’s meeting. “And without them, there are many children that I am convinced would never have achieved a loving adoptive home and would never be able to enjoy the joys of being a part of a family like these children here today.”
Every Wednesday night for the past 25 years, Devine has highlighted the stories of foster children waiting for adoption on the 10 p.m. newscast. The goal of the short news segment has been to feature children in care who may have some difficulty finding a permanent home, including foster children who are older, part of a sibling group or who have special needs. Devine accompanies each child on a “dream day” involving fun activities across the city. That gives Devine the chance to show the unique personalities and talents of the children, rather than just the struggles they may have experienced.
Wednesday’s Child is not unique to Los Angeles. Starting with the NBC 4 television station in 1992, the Freddie Mac Foundation provided financial support for a weekly adoption segment on the evening news for 20 years in five cities across the country: Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. All of them followed a model that included featuring a child from foster care with a popular local newscaster and provided the audience with information about the process of adoption. The segment expanded to other markets, including CBS4 KCNC in Denver, KSNV News 3 in Las Vegas and KSL5 in Salt Lake City.
In 2014, The Dave Thomas Foundation on Adoption took over administration of the Wednesday’s Child program before formally winding it down shortly after. But, according to county officials, LA’s Fox 11 channel has continued the program without any sponsorships since 2015.
For county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who presented Devine and her team with the honor, the impact of Wednesday’s Child extends beyond the children featured on the program.
“This means more wonderful children are brought into loving homes,” Barger said. “And it often sparks an interest of viewers who may need an extra nudge before considering adoption.”
For Devine, the long-time television news anchor, her involvement in Wednesday’s Child is more than part of her mission to change narratives around foster care by bringing a dose of inspiration and positivity. She’s got a personal connection to this world, as she details in her book “Finding A Forever Family.” Growing up in Arizona, her parents were foster and adoptive parents. Soon after she accepted a scroll from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Devine talked to The Chronicle of Social Change about how her upbringing has influenced her work.
What does this recognition mean to you?
It’s really special. The best part was both of the kids who came today [who were adopted as a result of Wednesday’s Child] are now all grown up and parents themselves. To see them growing with their own families was really a beautiful thing. The lessons they’ve learned are now being passed onto their own children. As one of them said, “I want to raise my kids not how I grew up,” That moved me so much, I felt the pain in that sound bite. Now he’s a father and living his life and that’s beautiful to me.
You grew up in house with siblings who came from the foster care system. How has that impacted your work?
My parents were adoptive and foster parents. I knew the challenges with adoption and fostering so when I was given this assignment I was well aware of the challenges for parents but I was also well aware of the journey of the children, and I think that’s why I had a connection with the kids. Like I told one family today, trust me, I know what you’ve been through. I know it.
I’ve actually gotten a lot of personal healing doing this segment because we had a little bit of a rough time with my adoptive brother. And his social worker really helped me understand where these kids have come from. They’re in the foster care system through no fault of their own because of abuse or neglect or abandonment.
What have you learned from the young people who have been part of Wednesday’s child over the years?
I’ve learned truly what a painful journey it can be to have been in the foster care system. Remember, you’re removed from birth families and put in homes with strangers. You’ve probably been bounced around several different homes. And now if you’ve been adopted, you’re going into another stranger’s home. How frightening that must be for a child. How lonely that must be for a child. We can’t think that adoption is a magic pill. It’s still part of the journey of growing past all the trauma to some real healing.
What do you think the impact of Wednesday’s Child has been?
We’ve had 455 adoptions, but I like to think about the spillover effect, of someone who adopted a child who wasn’t on Wednesday’s Child segment. It has also helped erase the stigma of the foster care system. We’ve been able to show kids as also being kids with hopes and dreams and career goals who smile, laugh and jump up for joy.
I had a foster girl come up to meet me at an event I was at last week. She was so excited to meet me. That showed me that even though she wasn’t on Wednesday’s Child, it gave her hope, it gave her inspiration. It shows that someone gives a darn about kids in foster care.
After 25 years of doing this, do you think the public is more aware of foster care now?
I hear “I love Wednesday’s child” all the time. To me, that’s amazing because most of these people are never going to foster or adopt. What do they love about it? It’s because there’s hope, and inspiration, caring for a community that could be underserved or ignored or pushed into the dark corner. We’re all on this planet trying to make a difference in some small way, wherever we are in our corner and to see that we’re in this together.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.