Embracing Strategic Change: How Spaulding for Children Rebranded as Arms Wide Adoption Services

By Vikas Mittal, Jonathan Fisher and Bo Bothe


A not-for-profit organization with a 40-year history, Spaulding for Children is dedicated to building and sustaining strong, nurturing adoptive families for children—newborn to 18 years—who have endured abuse, neglect or abandonment. The organization also has nearly two decades of experience with foster care services and has placed more than 2,000 children with “forever” families. Spaulding differentiates from its competitors by specializing in placing older children, sibling groups, minority children and children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities.

The vision of Spaulding for Children is to become the premier provider of adoption, foster care and other related services in Texas. The core values of the organization are focused on children, family, inclusiveness, collaboration and innovation. 

Spaulding for Children rebrands as Arms Wide Adoption Services

Strategic Goals

Spaulding undertook a strategic review of the organization to raise awareness and increase the pool of prospective families. Vikki Finley, the President & CEO at Spaulding for Children, approached BrandExtract to help articulate the strategic goals of the organization. A mission and vision workshop with the board members and the executive team helped articulate Spaulding’s major goals and how they wanted to express their brand.

To effectively communicate the extent of services provided and the need for those services, the organization also decided to embrace a rebrand to enable Spaulding to re-invigorate its staff, volunteers and families. Spaulding also wanted to reach out to other key constituents—regulators, community partners, agencies, universities, and donors—so they could differentiate themselves from key competitor agencies such as DePelchin, Pathways, Arrow, and even Child Protective Services (CPS).

Rebranding Process  

Re-branding is sometimes mistakenly regarded as an exercise in creativity predicated on artistic talent. Working with Spaulding’s board and key members of the executive team and in conjunction with our data-science advisory, we developed a rebranding process that quantitatively tests and validates Spaulding on a variety of criteria. Rather than jumping into brand concepts, we applied a rigorous approach that utilized a four-step process.

Step 1: Qualitative phase 

We used in-depth, qualitative interviews with Spaulding employees and families to surface the institutional context of the existing brand, and how the re-brand would fit in the context. These interviews use a set of open-ended questions that guide each participant to describe their interpretation of the brand, institution and their understanding of customer needs. For instance, these quotes reveal three recurring themes, as summarized in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Qualitative Themes

The interviews revealed the potential for confusion around the organization’s name. The name Spaulding evoked the basketball brand.

"When you say Spaulding for Children, they say 'oh, like the basketball'. I want them to say the adoption and foster care. If the name needs to change, I'm okay with that." 

-Spaulding for Children Employee

Step 2: Develop initial brand names and concepts for quantitative testing 

Consulting with members of the board, employees and clients, our team developed a set of names. As part of the vetting process, our team checked each name for potential duplication and trademark violation with existing brands, availability of domain names, and other related logistical issues.

Using an iterative process, the team narrowed its choices to four names.  These names had initial acceptance among the team members and were thought to correspond to the key brand attributes identified during the in-depth interviews:

  • Supportive 
  • Personal Touch
  • Successful
  • Credible 
  • Memorable 

Step 3: Quantitative testing of alternative brand concepts 

We developed clear and actionable goals for the quantitative phase and tested four brand concepts, including two existing brands. The questions we sought to answer included:

  • How familiar are people with each brand name?
  • To what extent does each brand name evoke the five key attributes? 
  • To what extent does each attribute drive a brand's likelihood of use? 

A web-based survey was designed using Qualtrics® software to be administered to a national sample of adults. The final sample consisted of 264 participants as shown in Figure 2.

Step 3: Qualitative Testing

This sample enabled the team to quantify answers to the questions asked earlier:

  • How familiar are people with each brand name?
    • As seen in Figure 3, familiarity with each brand is relatively low in this national sample. On average, 10% of the respondents or fewer were somewhat/very familiar with any brand. Over 80% rated they were somewhat/very unfamiliar with each brand.
    • While disappointed with the overall low familiarity, we realized the large opportunity available for the rebranding exercise.

Figure 3: Familiarity with Brand Name

  • To what extent does each brand name evoke the five key attributes?
    • As seen in Figure 4, the two brands that successfully evoke each of the five key attributes include “A Match Made in Heaven” and “Arms Wide Adoption Service”. Specifically, 80% or more respondents reported a successful brand attribute evocation.

Figrue 4: Does this brand evoke this attribute in your mind? (Percent saying

Additional conclusions included: 

  • The brand “Lucess Adoption Services” was rated relatively low. Though it initially considered by Spaulding’s key team members, the quantitative analysis convinced them to forgo the name.
  • The team was surprised at the relatively low performance of “Spaulding for Children”, relative to the new brand concepts and its competitor DePelchin. The quantitative analysis supported the need for rebranding.
  • Heartshine Adoption Services was also considered a viable contender as a possibility for the rebranding effort.

Step 4: Finalize rebrand concept and provide recommendations 

These results were presented to Spaulding’s board and members of the executive team. After a series of facilitated discussions, the team decided to adopt a new brand—Arms Wide Adoption Services.

Our team developed several different concepts for the rebrand, as seen in Figure 5. Among these, the adoption agency decided to use the angel concept for two reasons. First, it reflected the core values of the agency: children, family, inclusiveness, collaboration, and innovation. Second, it reflected the key brand attributes of support, personal touch, and credibility.

 Figure 5: Initial Logo Concepts

We crafted the story and the concept in a way that was memorable and successful. Figure 6 displays the final brand concept adopted by Arms Wide Adoption Services. 

Arms Wide Adoption Services launched their new brand to its employees, volunteers and key stakeholders this May. To support the brand launch, a fresh digital experience, video and collateral were developed. 

Arms Wide Brand Concept Recommendation

Key Takeaways 

Validating and testing different elements of a brand strategy will reduce the risk of failure and enhances the chance of success, which builds confidence in the outcomes of the branding initiative among various stakeholders. In the case of Arms Wide Adoption Services, our team crafted a brand concept around its core values and mission statement, which will help achieve the vision of becoming the premier adoption services and foster care provider in Texas. Now, Arms Wide has a strong story to communicate with its key stakeholders. 

To learn more about Arms Wide Adoption Services and how they're achieving their mission of transforming the lives of children in need of safe and nurturing adoptive families, go to armswideadoption.org.  

"We could not be more pleased. The thoughtful combination of in-depth engagement, quantitative rigor, and outstanding creative support from BrandExtract led to results that far exceeded our expectations."

-John Seo, Former Chairman of the Board 

Arms Wide Adoption Services