Everyone wishes for something. Our October hero Danielle Gletow’s organization One Simple Wish works to fulfill the wishes of foster children, at-risk youth and vulnerable families around the country. Founded in 2008, One Simple Wish helps others become heroes as well, by letting them make children’s dreams come true. One Simple Wish donors contribute everything from tickets to sporting events, iPods, prom dresses and even money for braces. Danielle and her husband are the parents of daughters Lily, Mia and Duncan the dog.
Danielle was gracious enough to have a conversation with us about her experience as a foster parent, the state of foster care today, and other important topics.
What gave you the idea for One Simple Wish?
After fostering for a year, my husband and I felt like we wanted/needed to do more to make life a little brighter for these children that were entering such a tough and confusing system. We saw so much unique need and a lack of knowledge among the general public about how to help kids. We created One Simple Wish as a way to make it easier for people to get involved with supporting kids in “the system” without having to become part of the system themselves.
What are the most important things people should know before they become foster parents?
Be prepared! One thing that foster parenting offers that traditional parenting does not is good training classes. Take them. You will network with people who could become good support systems down the line. Be flexible and ready for changes. Caseworkers miss meetings, reschedule appointments and don’t always have all the answers you want when you want them. You have to be able to roll with the punches as a foster parent. Be loving. The most important thing you can do is unconditionally love the children you are caring for. They need to feel safe, and this is your chance to show them the best side of people.
What advice do you have for new foster parents?
My advice is hang in there and remember why you are doing this. Navigating the foster care system can be overwhelming and frustrating for the kids and the parents. But hang in there. Love the kids. Support them. Make sure they know you are there for them, now and always.
How has being a foster parent changed your life?
In every way possible! Becoming a foster parent helped me find my passion in life, which is caring for, nurturing and supporting kids. I think there is nothing more beautiful than the innocence and potential of every child. With a lot of love and support, I believe every kid can reach greatness.
What are the biggest issues you see in the foster care world right now?
I think we need a broader pool of foster parents who do not need or care about the money. I think it’s nice to add an incentive but really, we need more foster parents who want to do it and who can do it solely out of love and kindness. There are a lot of people in the world that fit that profile. We need more people to be part of this village so they can offer ideas, solutions and thoughts about how to improve the system.
How have you seen your organization impact foster youth? Do you have any favorite stories about children whose wishes were granted?
Every wish granted is my favorite story! I love the uniqueness of each wish so I don’t really have any favorites. I think it’s great that our program doesn’t assume a need. We ask the kids what they want and we deliver. It’s very personal. It’s not charity; it’s support. To date we’ve reached over 25,000 kids and we now partner with 500 agencies in 42 states.
On your website, you mention your bulldog, Duncan. What has Duncan taught you that you’ve been able to use in your interactions with people?
I am obsessed with my dog. Duncan taught me that sometimes people just need you to be quiet and still and be there. I talk a lot and try to fix things. But when I’m sick or stressed, my dog senses it and just sits beside me. His presence calms me, and I know he’s trying to just be there. I think we can all learn a lot from that. We don’t always need to fix things. We can just show someone that we’re there.
One Simple Wish – a simple idea, simple to fulfill, which has brought joy to thousands of children and youth all across the country. That’s why we salute Danielle Gletow, our October Foster Care Hero.