Points of Light: Former Foster Child Now Advocates for Child Welfare and Struggling Families

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Ashley Rhodes-Courter. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer, family or organization as a Point of Light.


“You just say yes and you figure it out!” That’s the mantra that has led 30-year-oldAshley Rhodes-Courter throughout her life as a college graduate, fundraiser, best-selling author and now the leader of her own nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Sustainable Families.

Ashley and her husband Erick Smith started the foundation in 2013. It focuses on a broad range of services to help educate and rehabilitate families in areas such as nutrition, breastfeeding, adoption services, mental health and more. The goal is to provide preventative care and expertise to stabilize struggling families before things get too bad.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the author of "Three Little Words" and "Three More Words."

Courtesy: Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the author of “Three Little Words” and “Three More Words.”

Though Ashley, a best-selling author of the book “Three Little Words,” has often been called upon to use her notoriety to help raise millions for other child-welfare organizations, she and husband Erick have bootstrapped her nonprofit – liquidating her savings to help those that need her services.

“I’m actually a really shy person and I tend to be super introverted,” Ashley explained. “It’s always been so much easier for me to advocate for other people [and] I have found it to be a personal challenge to advocate for myself and my own projects.” She’s now learning how to put herself and her organization first, to ensure its long-term success.

The Florida-based philanthropist is so driven to provide for others no matter the cost because she knows first-hand the type of pain that the children and parents she helps have experienced.

“I’ve been an advocate ever since I was a teenager because I grew up in foster care,” she shared. “And so I’ve always been very passionate about child welfare.”

After her own teenage mother succumbed to an abusive relationship and drug addiction, Ashley was taken by the state as a young child and spent nearly 10 years in the foster care system. Ashley went through 14 homes – some abusive – before she was uncharacteristically adopted at the age of 12.

“In my foster homes, I was beaten and starved … it was just horrible,” she said. Though she lives with scars from her past, Ashley said these experiences motivate her to help others who haven’t been able to succeed through it all, as she was.

These days, her motivation not only comes from her own experiences as a foster child but also from her time as a foster parent. Over the course of five years, Ashley fostered 25 children, helping to rehabilitate their families and reconnect them along the way. Ashley and Erick eventually adopted their oldest son out of the group. Ashley says her children fuel and inform her – she has since had two more children of her own and is now the mother of three sons.

“I think about my kids and I think about what their needs are and the kind of world that I want for them,” Ashley said.

By noticing the needs of her own family, she has a better ability to help others. She has taken her experiences from both sides of the system and applied them towards building an organization to help promote a rounded view of community welfare.

Read More at Points of Light….

Takepart: How One Best-Selling Author Is Changing the Holidays for Foster Kids

When it comes to childhood holiday traditions, people often think of hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree, lighting the menorah, or listening to seasonal tunes. But for some 415,000 kids living in our foster care system, the holidays in group homes aren’t always filled with merriment.

International best-selling author Ashley Rhodes-Courter is all too familiar with the experience, having spent almost a decade of her life bouncing between 14 different foster homes. Though she was adopted at age 12 by a family she says was perfect for her, the author still recalls what the Christmas season felt like before that time.

“The holidays are a struggle because it brings back these bad memories and makes us wonder what our parents and siblings are doing,” Rhodes-Courter told TakePart.

“After I was adopted, I started thinking about how great the holidays were, but then you think about the kids that were in foster care with you and wonder how they’re doing.” The author later discovered that many of her former foster siblings are behind bars, homeless, teen parents, or in abusive situations.

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5 MSW@USC Graduates Who Are Making a Difference

MSW@USC graduates leave our program ready to create significant change in their communities and throughout the world. Our rigorous curriculum prepares students to be leaders in social work, and the variety of our focused concentration areas allows students to individualize their coursework based on their own unique goals and aspirations. Graduates are passionate about making a difference, and the MSW@USC program gives them the tools to do just that. The following five MSW@USC graduates are great examples of how our students have used their education and experience in unique and innovative ways.

1. Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Concentration: Families and Children

Born to a single mother, Ashley Rhodes-Courter entered Florida’s foster care system when she was 3 years old. After moving between 14 different homes, she was finally adopted when she was 12. Despite her challenges, Ashley is a firm believer that “it’s not enough to complain about something if you’re not willing to be a part of the solution.” Now an MSW@USC graduate, Ashley commits herself to advocating for other foster children. She wrote a memoir about her challenging childhood,Three Little Words, which is now being made into a major motion picture. Her second book, Three More Words, was published in June and expands on life beyond the foster care system. Through her perseverance, Ashley has become an internationally recognized speaker on foster care, adoption, education, child welfare, human rights, families, youth advocacy, women’s issues and overcoming adversity.

It’s not enough to complain about something if you’re not willing to be a part of the solution.

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