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Three Little Words    by Ashley Rhodes-Courter order for
Three Little Words
by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Ashley Rhodes-Courter's home life in South Carolina is one of chaos. She remembers her mother cooking dope in the kitchen of their trailer and her stepfather beating his pregnant wife, with her in the room. When Ashley is three years old, her family moves to Florida where her parents are arrested for reasons not known to Ashley. 'I come get you soon,' her mother screams as she is put in one police car while Ashley and her little brother Luke are loaded into another.

Ashley and Luke go from one case worker to another until it is decided that they will go back to South Carolina to live with their grandfather. Ashley doesn't remember him, but he and his wife Adele take them in. Adele loves them like her own children. Ashley has nice clothes, attention, and a doll house with a clothes line for her doll clothes. Then her grandfather quarrels with a man outside their trailer and is shot right in their front yard. He doesn't die, but the social workers begin investigating and learn that he is an alcoholic. Adele agrees to leave her husband if she can keep custody of the children. Although Ashley and Luke are happy and well cared for, since Adele is not related to them she isn't allowed to keep them. There is some disagreement about whether Florida should have allowed them to be moved to South Carolina and suddenly they are back in Florida.

Ashley and her brother are often separated as they are bounced from one foster home to another. Her treatment in each home differs, ranging from tolerance to indifference, humiliation, and even physical abuse. With each move there is a change of schools, another hardship for a child with so much to offer. Seen through the eyes of a child, the foster care system is impossible to understand.

Ashley's story has a happy ending. After nine years in fourteen different foster homes, Ashley is adopted at age twelve and allowed to finally enjoy a normal childhood. She grows into an intelligent, hardworking activist for reform of the foster care system. Her inspiring memoir is intended not to provoke pity, but draw attention to the children who are currently in the system. Readers will find her words memorable.

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