Foster kids struggling during the pandemic are getting much needed support from a CNN Hero

Since 2008, Danielle Gletow and One Simple Wish have been granting wishes to kids in foster care. During the pandemic, she is making sure they have the support they need.

Posted: May 29, 2020 12:41 PM
Updated: May 29, 2020 12:41 PM

For many children in foster care in the United States -- there are more than 400,000 -- life is often difficult enough. During a pandemic, it only gets more challenging.

Some don't have access to technology needed to continue distance learning. Those who've aged out of the system often don't have a support network to fall back on -- and they already face a higher risk of homelessness.

"For so many of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a lot of confusion and fear," said Danielle Gletow, a 2013 CNN Hero. "But for those in foster care, and particularly those who aged out of foster care, this has been an exceptionally difficult time because a lot of their support systems have been removed."

Gletow, a foster and adoptive mother, started the non-profit One Simple Wish in 2008. The organization grants wishes to children in foster care across the country and those who've aged out. Last year, the group reached 20,000 youth.

Each wish is posted online, and anyone can cover the cost to make that wish come true -- from tangible items like a bicycle, a varsity jacket or school supplies, to an experience such as music lessons or a trip to the theater.

But when Covid-19 hit, Gletow knew this population would have much different needs.

"We immediately created a Covid-19 response fund and started focusing on the things that we knew our young people were going to need," Gletow said.

The biggest request the organization has seen is for laptops and other technology for children's remote learning. And often, these laptops are important for more than school.

"Kids were doing weekly visits with siblings and biological parents, but once the pandemic hit this was no longer possible," Gletow said. "Now, the only way for them to do these things is virtually through tablets or laptops."

For young adults who've aged out of foster care, job loss or furloughs can be devastating. And those in college no longer have the housing they relied on. So, Gletow's non-profit is assisting former foster youth with rent and utility assistance, along with food and other essentials, during the pandemic.

One college senior in New Jersey is among them. Living with her eight siblings, they all help take care of each other.

"As one of the oldest in my family, I have many responsibilities such as helping provide food, money, time, and basically raising my younger siblings along with the help of my older siblings," the student said.

With support from One Simple Wish, the family has been able to keep up with necessities such as food and gas.

"They've been providing us with ShopRite gift cards, Target gift cards, gas cards to help us pay for our groceries and everything," she said. "It's greatly appreciated."

Former foster youth Amber Whitaker has also received support from the organization during Covid-19, including tuition assistance for her graduate degree.

"I really hope to be able to help children in a similar circumstance as to what I was brought up in," Whitaker, 31, said. "And One Simple Wish helped to make that happen."

Gletow said her group has seen more than a 300% increase in needs coming from foster children and former foster youth during the pandemic and the organization is able to fill these needs very quickly without a lot of red tape.

"It's important to us that nobody ever feels like they are not being seen or heard," Gletow said. "We're able to reach out to those cases that don't necessarily perfectly fit into larger programming."

Gletow wants to make sure this population knows they can come to her organization for assistance with anything and they will be met with zero judgment.

"We just want to make sure that everybody is safe and protected," Gletow said, "and that everybody has a sense of support at a time when the whole world feels completely out of control."

Want to get involved? Check out the One Simple Wish website and see how to help.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48201

Reported Deaths: 2693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11624683
Lake5146242
Elkhart328546
Allen2762129
St. Joseph194366
Cass16389
Hamilton1552101
Hendricks1403100
Johnson1278118
Porter72837
Tippecanoe7158
Madison65864
Clark65144
Bartholomew58544
Howard57557
LaPorte57326
Kosciusko5464
Vanderburgh5226
Marshall4924
Noble47828
Jackson4703
LaGrange4708
Hancock44835
Boone44243
Delaware44250
Shelby42525
Floyd37944
Morgan32931
Grant29426
Monroe29428
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Dubois2736
Henry26315
White26310
Decatur25032
Lawrence24425
Dearborn23623
Vigo2348
Warrick21429
Harrison21322
Unassigned193193
Greene18832
Miami1822
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1607
Daviess14317
Wayne1386
Orange13623
Steuben1292
Perry1279
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1167
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Huntington812
Gibson802
Randolph794
Jefferson722
Wells721
Fulton701
Jay680
Washington671
Knox640
Pulaski641
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown391
Posey390
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Tipton321
Fountain312
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57150

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10271422
Cuyahoga7724373
Hamilton5924197
Marion273238
Lucas2723302
Pickaway219141
Summit2131206
Montgomery198126
Mahoning1825232
Butler157644
Columbiana130360
Stark1107112
Lorain102167
Trumbull93965
Warren83921
Clark7659
Delaware56815
Fairfield55916
Tuscarawas55210
Belmont54622
Medina51632
Lake49718
Licking47712
Miami46331
Portage44058
Ashtabula43344
Wood42151
Geauga40542
Clermont4006
Wayne36251
Richland3375
Allen31540
Mercer2818
Greene2519
Darke24825
Erie24222
Holmes2313
Huron2152
Madison1958
Ottawa14323
Crawford1355
Sandusky13414
Washington13220
Putnam12815
Ross1243
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Auglaize1064
Coshocton972
Monroe8917
Jefferson872
Union851
Muskingum831
Hancock781
Hocking788
Preble731
Guernsey703
Lawrence700
Williams702
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Carroll593
Wyandot586
Athens561
Brown561
Knox511
Defiance503
Fayette460
Highland451
Champaign401
Scioto380
Perry341
Van Wert340
Seneca332
Henry290
Jackson230
Paulding230
Pike230
Adams221
Vinton222
Gallia171
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 93°
Angola
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 91°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 91°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 91°
Heat Continues Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events