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.