Book Review: Three Little Words

This is a book that will make you wish you had the power to change the world in an instant.

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Three Little Words is the memoir of Ashley Rhodes-Courter, who was taken into the foster care system at the age of 3 and subsequently passed from place to place while supposedly under the watchful eyes of Child Protective Services. All the while, Ashley is longing for a home, a family and mostly her mother. She writes about the continued neglect, lies and abuse that she endured but also about the kindness of strangers (who ultimately saved her) along the way.

This book helps the reader (whether they are a social worker, prospective adoptive parent, etc.) “imagine.”

Imagine living in fourteen different foster homes in nine years–sometimes with your younger brother, sometimes never knowing if you will see him again. Imagine yearning for your mother but never knowing when you might be able to see her. Imagine living in tight, cramped quarters with other foster kids who often taunt you and destroy your belongings. Imagine the fear of not knowing if the next placement will have nice parents, or cruel ones. Imagine never being able to trust any adult because there’s never been one that truly cares.

Imagine how school can seem to be a safe haven—although you never got to stick around one school for any meaningful length of time. Imagine how difficult it is to tell the truth about experiences when no one seems to ever believe you.

Ashley’s courage to tell her story sheds light on the plight of foster children throughout the U.S. She has incredible insight and is a wonderful storyteller – both of which are even more impressive given that she finished the first draft of this book at the age of 20.

Occasionally, I guessed what the Three Little Words were as I read along. I was wrong, of course. After revealing the Three Little Words in the last pages, the power of this book comes full circle to remind us of the voice of the child.

Points this book helps drive home:

  1. The child’s perspective (they understand more than the adults think).
  2. An understanding of why a foster child might behave in certain ways.
  3. WHY the foster parent certification process must be so intrusive, so plodding.. so “bureaucratic.”
  4. WHY some kids act out or sabotage their own paths.
  5. Sometimes the system is not as efficient nor as effective as it needs to be for the sake of the children involved.

There are also parts of Ashley’s story which promote an unfair and negative stigma of fostercare system as a whole:

  1. NOT all case workers and social workers are negligent, incompetent and ineffective.
  2. NOT all foster parents are abusive, nor in it for the money.
  3. There are most definitely ineffective social workers and foster parents but NOT all of them.

Overall, Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s words paint an amazing story of fortitude and resilience. To make a difference in the lives of children – a positive difference – is truly a gift that no one should discredit. This story is a true example of how great tragedy inspires great works as Ashley is now a spokesperson for adoption and for helping others to have much better experiences in fostercare. I find it commendable that Ashley has used her talents to create a platform and a voice for foster children.

Readers will be touched by her unforgettable story and her passion. I recommend this book for any member of the adoption triad; including child welfare workers, foster and adoptive parents ~ and anyone else who has a heart for at-risk children.

~ Review by: Stacy Dinkel, M.A.

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