Who she is: Ashley Rhodes-Courter, LCSW, St. Petersburg, FL-based founder of the Foundation for Sustainable Families, which educates, supports, and strengthens high-risk and high-conflict families by creating access to mental health, educational, nutritional, and other care opportunities.
Her story: After being born to a single teen mother, Ashley Rhodes-Courter was placed in Florida's foster care system. She spent nearly a decade living in 14 different placements before being adopted from a children's home at the age of twelve. Many of her foster placements were incredibly abusive, with more than 25 percent of caregivers who were, or became convicted felons. Her childhood experiences propelled her toward a career in social work and advocacy. Ashley went on to earn a master's degree in social work from the University of Southern California. By the age of 22, Ashley had become a New York Times best-selling author and has written three books: Three Little Words, Three More Words, and her debut picture book, Sam Is My Sister. Her books are used in classrooms all over the county and in First Year Experience collegiate programs.
In 2013, Ashley, an international child welfare advocate, created the Foundation for Sustainable Families as a way to bridge service gaps in her own community, and connect children and families to quality programs already in existence. Since its inception, The Foundation for Sustainable Families has served hundreds of families and professionals in the Tampa Bay area by providing them with access to educational opportunities, targeted case management, mental health care, food, clothing, school supplies, and academic support. Ashley knows first-hand the importance of having a strong community, family, or support system. By channelling her own trauma as a conduit for change, her work is helping to reverse the cycles of abuse, mental illness, neglect, poverty, and dysfunction that are costly to society and family systems.
Why she’s proud to be a Women of Worth honoree: "I am so grateful to be named a L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honoree. I hope my participation in this program inspires others to continue to serve their communities in meaningful ways, and shows survivors of adversity that they can achieve their dreams, despite obstacles they may have faced."