GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- – Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) held their 3rd Annual Superhero Breakfast of Champions on Friday morning. The ceremony consisted of a special keynote speaker who explained her childhood story and how CASA played an impact in her life.
Over 300 people attended Friday morning’s breakfast, sponsored by roughly 20 businesses.
Everyday, foster children move from house to house across the nation, and as Ashley Rhodes-Courter, keynote speaker for the event, explained, it is who helps these children get through life’s obstacles that can make all the difference. Rhodes-Courter said, “the key component to resiliency is always one caring adult.”
Rhodes-Courter spent almost 10 years moving between 14 homes, including some abusive, through the foster care system before becoming adopted by the age of 12.
At the age of 7, she received a CASA volunteer who helped her get to where she is now. She explained, “I grew up to go to college and get a master’s degree in social work. I served as a CASA myself for many years prior to my husband and I becoming foster parents and now we’ve cared for over 25 foster kids.”
Local Executive Director of CASA invited Rhodes-Courter to speak at the Breakfast of Champions to not only explain how the agency benefited her, but to above all, notify the community how CASA changes lives.
Janet Rowland, Executive Director of CASA of Mesa County, said, “I think it’s important that people understand child protection issues and most of us don’t come across those things in our daily lives.” Rowland added, “this breakfast is an opportunity for average citizens to understand better the child protective system and the roll that the community can play in that system.”
Rhodes-Courter has also written two books about her life, “Three Little Words,” which became a New York Times Best Seller and is becoming a motion action picture, and “Three More Words.”
Before she was a bestselling author, Ashley Rhodes-Courter realized the importance of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers.
“I grew up in foster care myself,” Rhodes-Courter said. “When I was a child, I had a CASA volunteer who was instrumental in getting me out of foster care…. She was a shining light.”
Now, Rhodes-Courter plans to share her personal story with volunteers and supporters of CASA of West Texas at an upcoming luncheon and style show.
“It’s really important to speak to a CASA group,” Rhodes-Courter said. “They’re such thankless jobs. They’re volunteers, so none are paid. They’re dealing with children in foster care who can be abused, neglected or underfed.”
CASA of West Texas and the Kappa Alpha Theta Midland Alumnae Chapter are hosting the guest speaker Feb. 23 at Midland Country Club.
Nationally, CASA is the official philanthropy of Kappa Alpha Theta. Elizabeth Moore, president of the Greek organization’s local alumnae chapter, hopes the luncheon speaker will make an impact.
“We’re hoping to educate the audience about the importance of CASA,” Moore said. “People will realize the significance and how CASA helps people on a daily basis because they’re hearing her success story and how she was helped by CASA.”
The event benefiting CASA of West Texas will recognize Sylvia Chavez, associate judge of the Child Protection Court of the Permian Basin. Chavez said she’s grateful that CASA will acknowledge her work.
“I appreciate that this being the first annual luncheon, they would select me,” Chavez said. “I feel quite humbled by the honor.”
Chavez, who was appointed to her position in 2001 after working as a lawyer, has developed appreciation for CASA workers and volunteers.
“I handled cases when I was in private practice and had experience working with CASA volunteers,” Chavez said. “Once I started this position, I had more admiration and respect for the work they do.”
Kathy Harmon, volunteer recruiter and marketing specialist for CASA, said Chavez aligns with the luncheon theme: The Power of One.
“One person can be such a powerful voice,” Harmon said. “In our case, we’re honoring Judge Chavez, who has been such a significant voice for children in our courts and shows how significant one person can be. It goes also with our volunteers who make a powerful difference in children’s lives.”
Want to go?
Power of One Luncheon and Children’s Style Show, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 23 at Midland Country Club.
For information on tickets, call 683-111 4 or visit casawtx.org.
The luncheon will include a style show featuring children’s clothing from Dillard’s and Kenzington’s Kloset, a children’s store in Odessa.
Rhodes-Courter will be available to sign copies of her two memoirs, “Three Little Words” and “Three More Words.” She tells her story through books and speaking engagements to give a voice to others who have been in the foster care system.
“It’s in part because not a lot of former foster kids do this,” Rhodes-Courter said. “Many end up homeless, addicted to drugs, teen parents or even dead. I’ve been blessed in my life and want to encourage people to take a chance on these kids.”
Harmon, who first heard Rhodes-Courter speak at a National CASA Association conference, hopes West Texans will appreciate the message. She thinks the event will highlight the need to help children locally.
“We want to honor the judge and bring awareness to the community about child abuse and other challenges children face,” Harmon said. “With the speaker, we show the resilience children have.”
There’s something very cool about receiving an invitation to dinner at Tiffany & Co. Well, it wasn’t actually dinner, but a small group of people was invited to the iconic luxury jewelry store for a preview party benefiting CARE House of Oakland County. The 21st annual Circle of Friends event took place on Thursday, kicking off with the cocktail reception at Tiffany & Co. the night before.
About 50 people gathered at the store inside Somerset Collection on Wednesday for the preview event. Plum Market served up wine and champagne with trays of ahi tuna bites, a basil pesto cucumber aperitif, chèvre, date and pecan bites, and curry chicken tarts. Dynamic speaker, author and child welfare advocate Ashley Rhodes-Courter, who was a foster child, addressed the crowd, speaking about some of her experiences in the system.
The lunch the next day was at the Townsend Hotel with 250 guests. Event proceeds support CARE House’s intervention and therapeutic services, advocacy, education and prevention programs, including its Court Appointed Special Advocates program. The CASA program annually assists 100 neglected and abused children who are wards of the Oakland County Circuit Court. It trains, teaches and supports volunteer advocates who are court-appointed to child neglect cases. She spoke of her amazing journey through 14 homes in 10 years as a young girl in the foster care system and her life-changing adoption and education.
“One person can make a difference in a child’s life,” said Rhodes-Courter, who is also a foster and adoptive parent. “I’ve witnessed firsthand what a CASA advocate means to a kid when they’re at a point of vulnerability and loss of hope.” She is the author of the book “Three Little Words.”
One of the CARE House board members, Tamara Rambus, who was chair of this year’s Circle of Friends luncheon, told her story of serving as a foster parent as part of her introduction to Ashley. It was powerful and poignant.
Ticket prices for the Circle of Friends benefit started at $120 and included lunch and a copy of Rhodes-Courter’s book, “Three Little Words.”
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The CARE House of Oakland County on Thursday will hold its annual Circle of Friends Luncheon at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
The event, slated for Thursday, Jan. 26, will feature comments from Ashley Rhodes-Courter, speaker, author and child welfare advocate, about her life and struggle in the foster care system.
The nonprofit, located at 44765 Woodward Ave. in Pontiac, works to intervene and prevent child neglect and abuse in the foster care and adoption system.
• Proceeds from the event will go to benefit the CARE House’s intervention and therapeutic services, education and prevention programs and advocacy programs such as the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
• The special advocates work with about 100 neglected and abused kids annually who are of the Oakland County Circuit Court – Family Division, according to a release. They work as activists, mentors and friends to the children while receiving training on how to do so.
• The event will also honor retiring Oakland County Circuit Judge Joan E. Young.
Rhodes-Courter, who will speak at the event, was in foster care for 10 years as a child living in 14 different foster homes.
“About 25 percent of my foster parents were, or became convicted felons. It wasn’t ideal as a young child, I was exposed to abuse and neglect,” Rhodes-Courter said. “A lot of people will look at my story and say ‘it’s different now’ but we became foster parents ourselves, 25 kids in a five year span, and their stories show us there is still ample work to be done.”
About 13,000 children are in foster care in Michigan at any point in time, Rhodes-Courter said.
“I think that people don’t want to believe that there are children that are hungry or abused or even dying in their own community, but we’re also in an age where information is so accessible…you read about this or that agency but if you look past the headline, you can see a lot of those (support groups for children in foster care) don’t exist anymore…That’s why it’s important to get involved at the grass roots level. It won’t get better unless we take a community approach,” Rhodes-Courter said.
As a child of the foster care system, an adoptive parent and foster parent herself, Rhodes-Courter said that supporting the children of foster care is critical to breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
“If we don’t deal with them now then we’ll deal with the when they’re on welfare. A huge percentage of foster kids become teen moms, are roped into sex trafficking. They perpetuate the abuse, they become homeless. They don’t just magically go away. If we’re not investing in these kids now their outcomes are detrimental to our communities…we have to stop the cycle somewhere,” Rhodes-Courter said.
Rhodes-Courter is the author of two books about her experiences with foster care, “Three Little Words” about her time as a child in the system and “Three More Words” about her experience as an adult working with foster children and life after foster care.
Tickets for the event start at $120 and include a copy of “Three Little Words” as well as entrance to a book signing after the lunch. Circle of Friends takes place at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26 at The Townsend Hotel, 100 Townsend St. in Birmingham.
The image of foster kids stuffing their belongings into garbage bags inspired Laurier Brantford social work students to develop a new campaign, says associate professor Nancy Freymond.
“It started with an autobiography our class was reading called, “Three Little Words: A Memoir” by Ashley Rhodes-Courter,” said Freymond. “The author tells the story of having to move 14 times as a foster child and each time being handed a garbage bag to pack up her belongings. Those garbage bags became symbolic, representing her growing sense of worthlessness.” Continue reading
By Avery Anderson on October 15, 2016
She used her education, experiences, and story to give students and staff an insight on how they can improve not only the outcomes their lives, but also the lives of others around them. Ashley Rhodes-Courter took time in her speech to reflect on specific parts of her memoir as well as answer a few questions from the audience.
“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. Continue reading
The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Ashley Rhodes Courter as the 16th Lightning Community Hero of the 2012-13 season. Rhodes Courter, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco, and Eckerd Youth Alternatives.