Ashley Rhodes-Courter was born in North Carolina in 1985 and entered foster care in 1989. Over the next nine years, she lived in 14 placements before being adopted at age 12 by Phil and Gay Courter of Crystal River, Florida. By law, she had all the rights and privileges of any other American child, but her circumstances put her in a position where she had no parents, no home, and no voice for almost ten years. Many of her 14 foster homes were illegally overcrowded, one was extremely abusive, and two were modern orphanages serving troubled and dangerous children. When she was seven, she landed in a very abusive foster home where 16 children shared a three-bedroom trailer. They were underfed, beaten, forced to swallow hot sauce, run laps in the blistering sun, and crouch in painful stress positions—similar to the ones used on the prisoners in Iraq.
Since she was 14, her speeches have encouraged children still waiting for permanent homes, inspired more parents to adopt older children, and helped change the hearts and minds of those in power so today’s foster children won’t get lost in a system that is failing them. Ashley has made it her mission to be a voice for the thousands of children who are neglected in foster care each day. Ashley gives inspiration to troubled youth who feel like their lives, actions, and ideas don’t matter.
From kindergarten to the third grade, she changed schools at least twice a year. Yet for her, academic institutions were sanctuaries where she was rewarded for her hard work and given the encouragement and support to succeed despite the horrors that were happening in her “home” life. Even when she was stripped of family and possessions, she knew that she would have a safe place to spend the day and ultimately gain an education she would have for the rest of her life.
Because of this, Ashley gives thanks and a wide variety of motivational speeches to schools and colleges, educators, administrators, volunteers, Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA’s, Guardians ad Litem, and other foster care and adoption organizations. Ashley will make you laugh, cry, but most importantly, will motivate you to overcome your adversities and make the world a better place for yourself and others.
In recent years Ashley has broadened her messages to support a wider range of motivational applications, including overcoming personal challenges and succeeding with educational goals.