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With parenthood comes a newfound appreciation for the love and devotion raising a child takes. It can be heartbreaking to be reminded that many children, through no fault of their own, yearn for that kind of love and devotion.


Currently more than 400,000 children are in foster care across the nation, and the foster system is facing a crisis in many states due to a shortage of foster parents and foster homes.

No one knows the need for foster families better than 31-year-old Ashley Rhodes-Courter. With her husband, she has fostered more than 25 children, one of whom they adopted. Rhodes-Courter herself spent 10 years in foster care, bouncing around 14 different homes, including a group home, and suffering abuse and neglect before being adopted by Gay and Phil Courter at age 12.

Rhodes-Courter recounts her experience in the heart-rending memoir, New York Times bestseller “Three Little Words,” which grew from a New York Times Magazine essay she wrote as a teenager. While she admits being scared to write the book, she hoped it would inspire others. “I was terrified and felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but I also knew this could be a wonderful opportunity to help change people’s lives in some way. I hoped I would inspire other young people battling their own adversities or perhaps encourage adults to continue their work with youth and to give back to the community in some way.”

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Rhodes-Courter’s deep desire to give back continues in her work today. A fierce child advocate, this St. Petersburg, Florida-based mother of three boys, ages two, four, and five, founded The Foundation for Sustainable Families, a non-profit that connects families with resources in areas such as foster care and adoption. She also runs a social service agency called Sustainable Family Services, LLC, that provides counseling, family coaching, and crisis intervention for families in need. She has now written a second book, “Three More Words,” that chronicles her experience post-adoption, pointing out that adoption isn’t necessarily a happily-ever-after.

However, Rhodes-Courter is quick to observe that she was lucky. Many teenage foster children will never be adopted and will ultimately age out of the system at 18, something they begin preparing for when they are merely 12 and 13 years old with courses on independent living.

“There are so many teens who need homes and mentors,” she says, “so I hope people are willing to open their hearts and homes to these youths as well. They are often the most misunderstood and underestimated. I was lucky that a family took a chance on me, a 12-year-old girl most others had rejected.”

Maybe you’ve only just considered opening your heart and home to a foster child, or perhaps you’ve thought about it for a long time. In either case, Rhodes-Courter has offered her invaluable insight on points to consider before climbing onto the “crazy roller coaster” of fostering.

Fostering or adopting?

One of the most fundamental decisions you must make is whether you’re interested in fostering or adopting a child. While fostering may lead to adoption, that’s not typically the case.

“Can fostering lead to adoption? Sometimes,” says Rhodes-Courter. “But after fostering over 25 kids, we have one adopted child,” she adds, noting they adopted their five-year-old before he turned two and most of their fostering took place prior to having their two biological children. “The whole point of foster care is to be a temporary placement for children until their parents can regain custody or a suitable relative can be found.”

Only if the court has terminated the parents’ rights can a child in foster care be adopted. “If in your heart you know you want to adopt, fostering may not be for you because your heart will be broken many times over when you’re asked to reunify the children – perhaps even to the people who abused or neglected the child in the first place,” she cautions. “Families must simply be very clear about their intentions when starting the fostering or adoption process.”

Only you can know

Whether you’re ready to foster a child is only for you to decide. “Parents or individuals must assess if they are emotionally, financially, mentally, and practically ready for this crazy roller coaster of fostering,” says Rhodes-Courter. “I recommend people do their research, hop onto social media support groups or forums, and go into the process with open, yet practical, eyes and hearts. Only the individuals of a family can know their family dynamic and if this is right for them.”

She adds that you need to consider very difficult scenarios, such as whether you could handle a foster child hurting one of your biological children, pet, or spouse, or whether you could handle seeing the child leave at the end of the placement.

“It is never easy to see children go back to horrible situations. Parents become bonded and attached to these kids. We took great pride in helping to reunify a family or help a mother – often a victim of abuse herself – get back on her feet. But we also had kids who were reunified with their rapists and with parents who were active criminals. This was devastating, and we worry about these children constantly,” she says. “This work is hard, but we know the permanent, positive impact good foster parents can make. While in your home, you have the chance to shower them with the love, affection, and opportunities that might change their lives forever or give them the tools to overcome their difficult circumstances.”

Where to begin

If you think fostering may be the path for you, start with a simple online search. Most states in the U.S. operate foster programs regionally by county, says Rhodes-Courter, who encourages prospective couples or individuals to simply search “foster care” or “foster parent” along with their county or city.

Although states may differ as to eligibility requirements and training, prospective foster parents, generally, will undergo a background check, health screening, and home inspection, and they must provide references or letters of recommendation and take a certain number of parenting classes. You can stipulate as to the children you will consider fostering. “Foster parents can absolutely stipulate if there are certain ages, genders, or behaviors they do not feel equipped to handle,” says Rhodes-Courter.

If you’re considering adopting a child out of foster care, there are more than 100,000 foster children available for adoption. The Heart Gallery of America provides adoption information by state and features children from almost every state and Canada who dream of finding a “forever family.” Another resource is AdoptUSKids.org, which connects children in foster care with adoptive families.

Other ways to help foster children

Even if you cannot foster a child in your home, there are countless other ways to help. Volunteering with CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, is one way to have an enormous impact on the life of a foster child. CASA or guardian ad litem volunteers essentially are voices for the child – they inform judges and other adults of the child’s needs, including what will be the best permanent home for the child.

“My guardian ad litem was a woman named Mary Miller,” says Rhodes-Courter, “and she was the one who was the very consistent adult in my life. She helped get me legally free for adoption, she made sure I was getting school supplies and my hair cut and my teeth cleaned, and when there were foster parents who were mistreating me, she reported abuse, and she was just a really strong advocate for me and made sure that I wasn’t just falling through the cracks like other kids.”

Other ways to help include becoming licensed as a respite home to accept foster children for very short periods of time or mentoring foster children at a local group home, the importance of which cannot be understated. “How do you become a good student or good employee or, ultimately, a good parent if you have no framework for what that’s supposed to look like?” asks Rhodes-Courter. “So it’s imperative that we’re wrapping support systems and families and mentors and caring adults around these kids. Otherwise, they’re not going to really have a chance to be successful adults.”

Finally, organizing drives for toys, clothes, school supplies, or basic necessities for local non-profits is always welcome. Connecting with your state’s Foster Parent Association (such as this one in California) can help you determine what local foster children may need.

This piece originally ran on Mother.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

This article is sponsored by Nordstrom. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Ayesha Curry has a beautiful family. Her girls, 6-year-old Riley and 3-year-old Ryan, are so smart and adorable and youngest, 10-month-old Canon, is a beautiful, growing baby boy.

He's so cute it practically hurts to look at his sweet little face. So Curry was understandably shocked when an Instagram commenter suggested that Canon (again, he is 10 months old) should go on a diet.

Seriously.

The whole thing started when Curry posted a photo taken after her husband, NBA star Steph Curry, won the Western Conference finals with the Golden State Warriors. The group shot shows Curry holding Canon surrounded by friends and family. The problematic comments began when someone asked the mom of three if she was pregnant again.

That question is not cool. It's not okay to comment on a woman's body like that, even if she is in the public eye. Curry recently told Working Mother that she's had times since becoming a mom when she's been depressed about her body, and struggled with her reflection as she's gone from being an NBA player's wife to a successful woman who is landing magazine covers for her own work.

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"I'm not thin; I'm 170 pounds on a good day. It's been a journey for me, and that's why I want my girls to understand who they are—and to love it."

Despite this, Curry took the pregnancy speculation in stride, replying with "LOL" and stating she is absolutely not pregnant.

"My 30-lb. son is just breaking my back in every photo," she wrote.

That's when the comments about Canon came.

"30 at 10 months?? Sheesh," wrote one user.

"30?!?!? He's bigger than my 19-month-old nephew," another commented.

"Maybe portion control his food a little bit," replied another Instagram user in a comment that got Curry's attention.

While she had responded to the inappropriate speculation about her own body with grace, she was not about to take baby body shaming and unsolicited parenting advice from an internet stranger.

"Excuse you? No. Just no," she wrote.

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No is right. It is never okay to presume a woman is pregnant and it is never okay to comment on a baby's weight. Plus, Canon is adorable just the way he is!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every baby grows at their own rate, but usually by their first birthday, the average child triples their birth weight. What's important isn't measuring your child against any chart, but that they continue to grow at the same pace they set in the first eight months of their life, the AAP notes.

Many moms can relate to Curry's situation here. People (sometimes well-meaning) seem to think it's okay to comment on baby's weight, but it absolutely isn't. Every baby is different and growing at their own speed, and no one knows what is best for their baby like their mom and dad do so strangers on the internet or even relatives at a family dinner need to keep those comments to themselves.

No one should be judging Canon's weight or Curry's parenting. Canon is 30 pounds of cuteness and his mother knows exactly how and what to feed him.

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When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I attended a party where I ate the better portion of a wheel of Brie cheese. If you've ever had a baby, are thinking of having a baby, or know someone who's had a baby, then you might know that soft cheeses are strictly forbidden when you're expecting—according to most Western doctors, at least. (It's a pasteurization thing. Raw milk ups your chance of ingesting harmful bacteria.)

But what can I tell you? The notion that cheese can be dangerous just seemed ridiculous to me, especially given that when my mom was pregnant with me, they expected I'd be born with a brandy in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

I ate the Brie.

An hour or so later, though, when my stomach started to hurt, I became hysterical: Oh, no. Something is wrong with my baby! What have I done?

I called my doctor, a lovely, sane man who would go on to deliver all four of my children. He listened and then very patiently explained to me that my baby and I were fine. What I had, he told me, was a case of mother's guilt.

"Let me tell you," he said, "it starts the minute you conceive that baby and it will not stop until the day you die."

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Truer words have never been spoken.

As aden + anais, our then-fledgling baby-goods company, continued to grow by leaps and bounds, so too did the size of my family. And though I'd always been a working mom, even before I started my company, the struggle to manage work and family life did not get any easier.

Once while I was out of town on business, my husband decided to take the girls out for ice cream. He stepped up to the counter, flanked by four little girls, giggling and chattering and ogling the display case. The cashier looked down at them, looked back at my husband, and in a small voice asked, "Do they have a mother?"

My husband took it in stride: "Of course, mate. She's just traveling for business."

But when he recounted the story to me later, instead of scoffing at this person's ridiculous question, it was like someone reached into my chest and ripped out my still-beating heart.

Once again, I wasn't there. Once again, I had been away from my girls because of the business. It should go without saying the obvious and insidious double-standard at work here: I have never once been asked, on the days when I'm out and about alone with the girls if they have a father.

Women share a common anguish over juggling their responsibilities. No amount of starry-eyed optimism over the things that women can accomplish in the business world will soothe the guilt of the mom who feels she should be in two places at once: at home, with her children, and at work, doing what earns her a paycheck and what she (hopefully) finds meaningful.

Each of these—children and work—can feel like a calling, we can feel devoted to both. But which one takes precedence moment to moment? What is the cost to our children when we give our career priority in a given moment? These are questions all parents grapple with on a daily basis, even if unconsciously.

Mommy guilt shows up in different ways for different women. It can show up at the grocery store when our kid starts screaming in aisle seven and we think we should have it all under control.

It shows up when we work nights or weekends to finish that project—the one we worked so hard to land—which takes precious time away from them.

It shows up when we don't know how to make the changes they need or we lack the emotional energy to do so.

It's there when the "perfect birthday party" doesn't go as planned and ends in tears and tantrums.

It shows up when we don't have the space to be emotionally available to them, because, well, stuff happens.

For many of us, it starts at pregnancy with pressure to give birth vaginally like some heroic warrior goddess, surrounded by candles and people chanting.

It starts with the phrase "breast is best," which brings with it a heavy load of guilt for those who physically can't produce milk (I couldn't, despite trying for months), or have to return to a workplace with no lactation rooms, or simply prefer not to breastfeed.

It's there when we crave time to ourselves but feel as though we should be giving time to our families because to do otherwise is considered selfish.

Instead of seeing the conundrum for what it is—a Chinese finger trap which keeps us struggling instead of accepting our reality—we strive to do it all. We think we can be a superhero mom and superhero career woman all the time, every day. Not surprisingly, this leads to an incredible amount of burnout.

What I struggled with most, especially trying to juggle a full-time job, growing a side business, and raising an expanding family, is the societal belief that working moms are somehow failing because we choose work, rather than to be with our kids day in and day out.

Women are up against commonly held beliefs that we don't want to work, that we value our careers less than men do, and that huge swaths of us will ultimately leave our jobs to care for our homes and children. (I would guess that every mother reading this was asked at least once during her pregnancy whether she would be returning to work after she gave birth.) The fact that we've had children is often given as the reason that so few women have snagged boardroom or C-suite spots.

The judgment about women's career choices probably won't stop anytime soon. Most of us would say our choice to work is not, in fact, a choice. Most of us either need to work to support ourselves and our families, or we need to work to feel fulfilled.

Was it a choice to work, or to start my business? Not so much. Working was not only financially important to my family, but it was important to me. When I moved from Australia to New York and initially couldn't work for lack of an appropriate visa, I learned that I could not be idle for long without suffering the consequences of lethargy, depression and a total lack of interest in life.

My career is fulfilling, and I'm convinced I would be a terrible mother if I were a full-time stay-at-home mom. Even though I once had to use my whole salary to pay for quality childcare, investing in my career has always been worth it.

Excerpted from What It Takes: How I Built a $100 Million Business Against the Odds by Raegan Moya-Jones with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Raegan Moya-Jones, 2019.

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In recent months there has been a growing awareness about the tragedy of maternal health care in America, specifically how much more dangerous it is for black women to become mothers. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die during or right after pregnancy than white mothers and racism and the implicit bias of health care providers allows this to happen.

This week, Sen. Kamala Harris reintroduced the Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act to address this issue."The health status and the well-being of Black mothers should concern everyone," she wrote on Twitter. "I re-introduced my Maternal CARE Act to ensure women are listened to in our health care system."

Implicit bias is basically the ways in which we stereotype people, even unconsciously, and how these stereotypes impact our actions. When it comes to maternal health care, the implicit bias of providers can mean black mothers' concerns go unheard, even when they're paying for the best medical care money can buy.

This is happening to moms at all income levels and is something that Serena Williams has been very open about, and even Beyonce felt the effects of.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "implicit bias may affect the way obstetrician–gynecologists counsel patients about treatment options such as contraception, vaginal birth after cesarean delivery, and the management of fibroids."

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Harris's Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act would create grants to ensure black mothers have access to maternal care and that healthcare providers are trained to avoid the kind of bias that results in black moms losing their lives, and babies losing their mothers.

Harris has seen this in her own state, where black women make up 5% of the pregnant population, but 21% of the pregnancy-related deaths. California's Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act is seeking to change that on the state level, and Harris is hoping to do the same on a national level by passing her federal act (and winning the Democratic primary).

Her future in the Presidential race remains to be seen, but with Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act she's trying to ensure that black mothers are seen and no longer overlooked in America's healthcare system.

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We've said it here at Motherly many times: The majority of moms just don't feel like society supports them. Our 2019 State of Motherhood survey found a whopping 85% of mothers feel this way, up from 74% last year.

We've wondered if anyone is listening, but the race for the Democratic primary proves many politicians are.

This week Kirsten Gillibrand, a mom of two herself, announced her new economic policy platform known as the Family Bill of Rights.

In a Medium post published Wednesday, Gillibrand explained that she believes Americans have the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy, the right to give birth or adopt a child, the right to personally care for those children in their infancy and access health care for them, the right to a safe and affordable nursery, and the right to affordable child care and early education before kindergarten.

She's proposing a lot here. Like Senator Elizabeth Warren before her, Gillibrand points out that the "U.S. has the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the industrialized world, and black women are 3–4 times more likely to die during or after childbirth than white women."

Like Warren, she plans to make America a safer place to give birth. She also plans to "require insurance companies to cover treatments like IVF" to make sure that reproductive medicine isn't out of reach for families. She wants to make sure all families, regardless of sexual orientation, race or income level can welcome a child.

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That's why one of her promises is to ensure taxpayer-funded adoption agencies can't discriminate against potential parents, and why she plans to "provide a tax credit to ensure that a family's ability to adopt and provide a stable home for a child isn't dependent on their wealth."

That tax credit would help parents who are adopting older children, and Gillibrand's plan for safe and affordable nurseries would help parents who are coming home with newborns. She plans to provide baby boxes that contain a small mattress and can be used as a safe sleep surface but will also be packed with "diapers, swaddle blankets, and onesies."

And of course, like so many politicians in America right now, she's got a plan for paid family leave, but she's also tackling children's health care in the same breath. "It's past time we create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, so that everyone can take the time they need to be with their loved ones without having to worry about how they'll pay the bills. And I would ensure that every child has the right to health care, by making the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) universal," she explains.

From there, Gillibrand is committing to universal pre-K and an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care tax credit to help families with the cost of childcare.

With more than 20 competitors running against her and a poll numbers suggesting she's nowhere near the lead, many may not take Gillibrand's announcement seriously. There are a lot of promises in her Family Bill of Rights, but that fact alone reminds us just how much American families are missing right now.

Time will tell how far Gillibrand will get on this platform, but we hope other politicians (in both parties) are listening. Because she was listening to us. And she's got our attention.

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