Leslie Gladstone’s house is a busy place – especially around the holidays. Her warm seaside home bustles with activity as her extended family gathers around the table. There’s her 22-year-old biological daughter, Jessica. There’s Selena, the 17-year-old daughter Leslie adopted after fostering her as a toddler. Leslie also includes Patrick, Selena’s biological father, and Anna, his 24-year-old daughter from another relationship. “I always say that the more people who love the girls, the better,” says Leslie.
Leslie has been involved with Angels Foster Family Network since its early days. She began in 2002 by fostering Selena, and continues to contribute through committee work and board service. “I’m one of the dinosaurs on the board and am with Angels for life,” she says. “To say it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done is an understatement.” Her current focus is directional planning and foster parent recruitment. “People can be fearful about fostering, but knowing how much you can make a difference is important,” Leslie says. “You can change a child’s path; even if you don’t retain the child, you’ve saved a life.”
Today, Selena is a high-achieving high school senior waiting for her college acceptances and teaching spin class at a local studio where her sister Jessica is the coordinator. She says being adopted isn’t really a big deal in her life, just something she’s always known. As for foster care, she shrugs and says it’s not anything she thinks much about. The family is, however, active with Angels, always attending its annual gala. “We actually got Pluto from Angels,” Selena says of the family’s cocker spaniel, one of two dogs, who share the house with two guinea pigs and a cat. Leslie and her daughter Selena laugh, recalling that they won Pluto at the Angels live auction eight years ago.
Whether she is sitting at the table in her dining room or the Angels board room, Leslie adds her much-needed voice of experience and wisdom, enriching the lives of children and adults alike. And she’s just getting started. “I want to help make Angels a household name,” she says. “There’s much more awareness of Angels than there was even a few years ago, but with so many children in harm’s way, we need to help people understand how great the need is, and how it really doesn’t take much to make a big difference.”