Saturday, January 7, 2012

three little words [that aren't i love you]

Still waiting. 

We've been doing a lot of that during the last couple of years, but there is one perk:


I LOVE reading adoption books, and the wait certainly gives us ample time to do so. I've recently read some really great books regarding Ethiopian adoption, including No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Melissa Fay Greene), From Ashes to Africa (Josh Bottomly and Amy Bottomly ) and I'm in the middle of There is No Me Without You (Melissa Fay Greene).

Books on adoption in Africa haven't been hard to find, but I hadn't come across any memoirs from the perspective of a U.S. foster child... until we went to our agency meeting over Christmas break. One of our agency's directors recommended the book Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter.  After beginning this book one evening, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to finish it.  

Wow. This girl is only a few years younger than me and her story of strength and survival is inspiring, informative and heartbreaking.  There were times I wanted to walk away from the words on the page because her story was so emotionally draining and I couldn't face it anymore.

She writes her story with the naivety of a child, allowing us to view the world through her adolescent eyes.  Her thoughts are raw and uncensored and honest.  There are heroes and villains along the way, but unlike a fairy tale, this story is true and close to home. Although we often like to believe our system serves the youth far better than any orphanage or other country's system, there are flaws and far too many of them. As I mentioned, the author is only a few years younger than me, so we are talking about a time in our very recent history that failed to help this struggling child and her younger brother.

Regardless of your interest in adoption, this book is a must-read, if only to open your eyes about our foster care system. Because I am desperately urging you to read this book, I don't want to give too much away, but I cannot help but share some of her words...

Her mother's words to her as a young child being put into foster care: "Sunshine, you're my baby and I'm your only mother. You must mind the one taking care of you, but she's not your mama."

A statement about her birth mother when she was a young child: "Naive and trusting, I always believed her, and in some way - even now - I still do."

After being placed in a new foster home, without her brother: "What had I done that was so terrible that I had to be taken away from my mother? I had no idea why she hand't been able to get me back. You think someone would have explained it in words a child could understand. Yet nobody did. I believed they were keeping secrets from me- but supposedly, they thought they were protecting me."

Upon leaving yet another foster home, and yet again without her brother: "I felt as worthless as the junk in my trash bag. Once again, I was the one being tossed out and thrown away."

A reflection about her mother's parental rights being terminated: "Until the court papers were finalized, there had been a chance that the tides would reverse, the world would stop spinning, and I would be my mother's Sunshine again. Until the judge signed the documents, everything else had been temporary. Once the judge ruled, I was an orphan. I had no parents, and no possibilities were in sight."

Upon entering a group home: "During the entrance tests, they gave me some sentences to complete. After I am afraid..., I wrote: I will never see my mother again; and after My mother..., I added: is on drugs. After My Father..., I answered: I really don't know my father. Finally, beside I need my parents..., I finished with: when I'm alone, feeling blue, and need someone."

Quoting a speech she gave in which she quoted french playwright Molière: "It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable."

Looking back at her years in foster care: "There was a time I didn't think I needed anyone; now I wondered how could I need these people so much." 
I'll let you read the book to discover "these people."

Another reflection: "Broken promises crippled me for many years. As the Courters kept their pledges to me, my faith in others expanded. Day after day, they were there for me; until one day, I not only felt safe, I did not want to leave. Maybe that is the definition of love."

From a Note to the Reader: "I represent thousands, probably tens of thousands of children who have been lost in the system. We are a chorus of voices that need to be heard."

Read the book to follow her heroic tale and discover what those three little words are [which aren't I love you].

Links and resources related to this courageous woman:


  1. Wow! Sounds like a great and tragic read.

    I just finished From Ashes to Africa. It was really good! I love reading adoption books, too!

  2. I loved her book. I also read her adoptive mom's book written before Ashley was adopted called I Speak for this Child by Gay Courter. Wonderful read.

  3. Yes Lindsey. I think you would really enjoy this book!

    And to tashapork- thanks for the info. I was wondering about Gay Courter's books. Glad to know that one is worth the read and will definitely pursue it!