Three Little Words: A Memoir – Book Review

By Heather Baker & Marsha Taylor

Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter takes you into the world of Foster Care and Ashley’s journey from being taken away from her mother, and placed into the care of complete strangers.

Somehow, through it all she comes out the other side, a strong and resilient adult. Due in part to having a CASA Volunteer who truly cared about her well being and fought for her rights.

A truly mesmerizing and at times heartbreaking memoir. I highly recommend this book.  A definite 4 star read!

Ashley and her brother Luke were removed from their mother, Lorraine’s home and placed in foster care as very young children.  Ashley counted 8 foster mothers, plus her grandfather’s girlfriend, Adele, during her experience in foster care.  Adele was warm and loving to Ashley and Luke, though their biological grandfather was of questionable character, and was shot while the children were in his care.Other foster parents were indifferent, and sometimes cruel to the children in their care.   The Mosses, a couple a couple whose home Ashley and Luke were place, were malicious and cruel.  They used discipline methods that included forcing the children to swallow hot sauce, squatting under a counter for minutes at a time, and placing the children in an empty garbage can, then beating them as “punishment” for their misbehaving.  One of Ashely’s placements included 5 months in a home where the foster father was under investigation as a sexual offender.  Some of the foster homes placements were short and confusing to her when she was removed without knowing the reason.  When placed in an orphanage, Mary Miller was assigned as Ashley’s Guardian ad Lidem.  Mary took Ashley’s under her wing and worked to find her a forever home.

Fortunately, Ashley was adopted by Phil and Gay Courter, who wanted a daughter after raising their two sons. The Courters where patient and kind to Ashley, even though she tested their love at times.  When Ashley’s adoption was finalized, the judge asked Ashley if her wish was to be adopted by the Courter, Ashley answered hesitantly saying “I guess so”.  Her response related to her years of not fully trusting the foster parents she had known.  She had tested the Courters, fearing that Phil and Gay did not actually love her unconditionally.  The Courters supported Ashley in filing a suit against the Mosses, even though they knew it would be an extensive process, and probably would not end with the results Ashley hoped.

During the investigation of Ashley and her brother’s placement history, it was discovered that they had been placed in homes and not visited by social workers for months at a time. Also, it was discovered that records were non-existent when the children were moved from Florida to their grandfather’s home in South Carolina.  The casualness of inappropriate and dangerous placements of society’s most vulnerable, treated foster children as disposable and unimportant.

Fortunately, Ashley, who had always been a good student, was able to write an essay that brought the Child Welfare system to the attention of Americans. After winning the essay contest, she was invited to the White House by Hilary Clinton to speak about her experiences, which lead to other invitations to speak to other groups.  Ultimately, she wrote a book on her experiences with the support of her adoptive parents, the Courters.