“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey.” Ashley Rhodes-Courter sung those words from “You Are My Sunshine” in her head every night, as she closed her eyes—counting down the days until she could see her mother again. Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in and out of more than 14 foster homes. Her mother, Lorraine, was heavily on drugs and was unfit to care for her children. At the age of 9, Rhodes-Courter entered the foster care system—and its impact would forever change her life.
Rhodes-Courter describes being a bright child in her book—often earning straight A’s in school but struggled with making friends. She always feared that they would leave her and never come back—like her mother. So, Rhodes-Courter focused more on her schoolwork than making friends. Most of the time, the foster homes that she stayed in were abusive towards the children and caused more harm than good. Rhodes-Courter recounts several memories of having to squat for hours at a time or being forced to swallow hot sauce as punishment for “bad” behavior. She went from foster home, to foster home—with nothing but a black garbage bag that held her belongings.
“Two days compete for the worst day in my life: The first is the day I was taken from my mother; the second is the day I arrived at the Mosses’ foster home four years later,” said Rhodes-Courter. She was in foster care for such a long period of time because she was failed by many social workers. They would often visit her and her little brother, Luke, and would ignore the obvious signs of abuse that the children exhibited.
“I was stunned that he was not more suspicious. The doctor wrote on his pad: Fell down and bit the right side inside of mouth,” she wrote.
Clearly, the social worker and doctor knew that she really did not fall. She was pushed by her foster mother.
Rhodes-Courter was lucky enough to have a happy ending to her story. Her mother never gathered herself, so Rhodes-Courter did not want her to be involved in her life. She was eventually adopted by a nice couple, Gay and Gale, who treated her like their own, but there was a long road to recovery for her. She still suffered from nightmares about her many stays at various foster homes.
Rhodes-Courter’s story is one of the millions of accounts regarding the United States foster care system. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, in 2018 an estimated 437,283 children were in foster care, 262,956 entered foster care, and 250,103 exited foster care. The alarmingly high numbers of children who have been through the foster care system is unmistakably sad.
While this book is a touching read, it is a true recount of one child’s journey through the foster care system. This is highly recommended for those who would like to know more about This young woman’s journey or about the foster care process as well.
by Kyra Lampley