Written By DeAnna Hemmings.
Perhaps it was the fiery, indomitable spirit so often associated with redheads. Or, maybe it was the tireless dedication of her own Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). More likely, it was a combination of the two that led Ashley Rhodes-Courter to overcome the emotional impact of the neglect and abuse she experienced as a child in the Florida foster care system and turn her heartbreak into hope. Today, she’s an international speaker, best-selling author and passionate child advocate. We’re grateful to have her as our keynote speaker at the annual Denver CASA Light of Hope breakfast.
Ashley’s foster story began at age three when she was removed from her home and placed into Florida’s welfare system. She would be shuttled between 14 homes over the next ten years—a tumultuous decade filled with abuse, fear and uncertainty. “I’ve since learned that 25% of my foster parents either were or became convicted felons,” says Ashley, highlighting the urgent need for CASA volunteers who monitor and advocate on behalf of the welfare of foster children.
“CASA volunteers are instrumental in filling the gaps in an overburdened system. They come from all walks of life and step in and tell the courts what these children really need,” says Ashley. “I was fortunate to have been assigned a CASA volunteer who made a tremendous difference in my life. She was instrumental in helping remove me from homes where I was being abused. When she saw that I was languishing in the system, she determinedly set out to convince my biological mother to surrender her parental rights. This permitted me to be released from the instability of the foster system and adopted into a permanent home. I was finally able to begin a new life at age 12.”
Despite her challenges, Ashley excelled in school and her academic achievements landed her Eckerd College’s Trustee Scholarship. She graduated with honors, earning a double major in communications and theater and a double minor in political science and psychology. From there, she followed the call of her heart and went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California.
By the age of 22, Ashley had become a New York Times bestselling author. Her first book, Three Little Words, is a memoir detailing her experiences in the foster care system. The book is an international best seller, and her story will soon be a major motion picture. Ashley’s second book, Three More Words, debuted at #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list. A sought-after speaker, she is now married with kids of her own and has fostered twenty children.
Through our caring volunteers, Denver CASA hopes to positively impact the lives of children in the foster system so success stories like Ashley’s become the norm—not the anomaly. But, more help is needed.
“It’s important for people to understand that resiliency and stories like mine can’t happen unless someone intervenes,” says Ashley, “we have the power to change lives. My books and my personal story are a call to action. We need many more advocates for these vulnerable children trapped in the system.”
Come hear Ashley share more of her inspiring story at our annual Light of Hope Breakfast on May 3, 2019, at the Denver Hyatt Regency Convention Center. And, if you want to know what three little words her memoir Three Little Words refers to, you’ll have to get the book—no spoilers here! The Bookies Bookstore will have copies available for purchase at the event. A percentage of the proceeds from books sold will go to support Denver CASA and our mission. We hope to see you there!
RSVP to [email protected] today.
If you’d like to learn more about Denver CASA’s important work or about becoming a CASA volunteer, email Dustin Thomas at [email protected] for more information.