Ashley Rhodes-Courter is an advocate for adoption. She has delivered speeches on Capitol Hill and given keynote addresses at conferences about adoption and foster care. She has been featured in The New York Times, USA TODAY, and Glamour, as well as on Good Morning America, Nightline, Today, CNN and more. Her first memoir, THREE LITTLE WORDS (Atheneum Books for Young Readers), began as an essay, which won a writing contest for high school students, and was published in The New York Times Magazine. A graduate of Eckerd College and a champion for the reformation of the foster care system, Ashley speaks internationally on foster care and adoption. Visit her at Rhodes-Courter.com.
Ashley’s is the quintessential American success story. Born in 1985 to a single teen mother, by the age of 3 she was in Florida’s foster care system where she spent almost ten years being shuttled between 14 homes—some quite abusive—before being adopted from a Children’s Home at the age of twelve. Despite her ordeal, she excelled in school because she believed that, “my education was the one thing nobody could take from me.” Early in her life she felt compelled to advocate for herself and the other children she lived with, particularly in the abusive foster homes.
Her efforts and academic achievements landed her Eckerd College’s Trustee Scholarship—the school’s most prestigious full-tuition award. She graduated with honors and ahead of schedule earning a double major in Communications and Theater and a double minor in Political Science and Psychology. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.
During her undergraduate studies, she was one of 20 college students selected for the USA Today All-USA Academic Team and was named one of GLAMOUR Magazine’s Top Ten College Women. She was also named one of the four Golden BR!CK Award winners for outstanding advocacy for community change by Do Something. As part of their campaign, she was featured on 25 million bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. She was the Youth Advocate of the Year for the North American Council on Adoptable Children, has received the Kids to Kids National Service Award from the Child Welfare League of America, and was the recipient of two Angels in Adoption Awards from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.
On June 1, 2003, the New York Times Magazine published her grand prize winning essay about her adoption day. She expanded her essay into a memoir, Three Little Words, which was published by Simon & Schuster in January 2008 and quickly became a national bestseller. The book has been adopted by schools and communities as part of One School, One Book initiatives across the country.
Ashley currently serves as a National Child Welfare Ambassador for the American Humane Association as well as on several national and international boards including, OrphanAid Africa, Ghana; Children Without a Voice USA; and Family Focus Adoption, USA.
Recognizing that child welfare issues are universal, Ashley spent time in Europe, South Africa, and China studying child welfare and social policies. Locally, she serves on the board of the Pasco/Pinellas Heart Gallery, PEHMS (Personal Enrichment Mental Health Services), and consults with many local and international agencies and groups that work in the mental health, human rights, education, and child welfare fields. She has also been a volunteer Guardian ad Litem (or CASA) and is a licensed and active foster parent, as well as biological mother to two children.
Since the age of 14, Ashley has advocated for the half-million children still in foster care in America by giving speeches throughout the U.S. She has spoken on Capitol Hill, has been invited to the White House, and has taught at numerous colleges and conferences for elected officials, judges, social workers, policy makers, and families.
Internationally recognized, Ashley has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Nancy Grace, ABC Primetime, Montel Williams, and other national media outlets. She frequently appears in local television and newspaper markets when she travels for her speeches. She hosted a television program called “Explore Adoption” which was produced by the State of Florida to raise the public’s awareness of foster children in need of loving and permanent homes. This segment won an Emmy in 2009. Three Little Words, published in 2014 in the UK (Ebury/Random House) was an instant London Times bestseller.
At the age of 26, Ashley ran a very close race for the Florida State Senate. Ashley has turned her pain into power and has a passion to share her story with those who have experienced adversity. Ashley strives to encourage education, compassion, community involvement, and positive outcomes for youth and families.
In late June, 2015, Atheneum released the long-awaited sequel to Ashley’s first memoir, THREE MORE WORDS, in which she details her life as an adult: her marriage to her long-time boyfriend, her sometimes stormy relationship with her biological mother, becoming a biological mother herself to two children, and a foster mother to many. Her efforts to initiate change to better the lives of foster and adopted children continues, and the stories she tells of her interactions with some of these children are at times poignant, humorous and heartbreaking.