Advocate provides hope for foster care children

By Donna McCollum

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - "It's taken a lot for me to open up about my abuse and switching homes and how I felt," said  Ashley Rhodes-courter as she began to address a group of foster care children. Rhodes-Courter bravely opens up her emotional past to help children in the foster care system. Some of the teens have been shuffled from one foster home to another. Hopefully, not as many as Rhodes-Courter experienced. "I spent almost 10 years in foster care, during which time I had 14 different foster homes and I later learned that almost 25% of my foster parents were or became convicted felons," shared Rhodes-Courter. "So I was placed in foster homes with people who had problems with drugs, alcohol, violence, even pedophilia."

Ashley's memoir, "Three Little Words" shares the bureaucratic details that made up her childhood. "I had something like 44 case workers, 19 foster parents, 17 psychologists and I just went down this list and it ends with one CASA volunteer," said Rhodes-Courter. A Court Appointed Special Advocate provided the then 12 year old the vital link to an adoptive home.   "She did the most to get me out of foster care, believed me when I said I was being abused and found me the adoptive family that changed my life forever," expressed Rhodes-Courter. The 23 year old is now a CASA volunteer. On Saturday she spoke at the CASA of Deep East Texas annual fundraiser.

Her participation in a successful lawsuit has led to child welfare reform in her home state of Florida.  "It just started this whole wave of accountability," smiled Rhodes-Courter. Rhodes-Courter is helping foster children use their past to build a build a future.  "You guys have survived so much stuff already, so why not take that and use it for something really positive," advised Rhodes-Courter. Sound advice from a woman who knows. An essay about her past led to a national award. From there she met President Clinton. She later wrote a memoir, "Three Little Words". She attended college and is now applying to Yale University graduate school.