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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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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


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

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Summertime is here, mamas! And while we couldn't be more thrilled about beach outings and pool days, both of those activities require one major thing—getting into a bathing suit. No easy feat when you're not pregnant (FYI: we tested many and these are our favorite five), but it's even tougher when you are prego and your body is changing daily.

To help, we've rounded up 15 super-cute maternity bathing suit options for you. From sweet one-pieces (like Old Navy's watermelon-pattered cutie that has matching options for dads, toddlers and girls!) to color-blocked bikinis that will ensure your bump gets nice and tan, we've got something to fit every mama's personal style and body. Because we want you to love your pregnant body and celebrate it—you know the saying: Suns out… bumps out!

The best part? They start at just $22! Happy shopping, mamas.

Motherhood Maternity ruffle front one-shoulder swimsuit with UPF 50+

Motherhood Maternity One-Shoulder Swim

Super flattering with a ruffle and in navy polka dots, this suit will be your go-to all summer long.

Price: $39.98

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Hatch Antigua maillot

Hatch Antigua

Did we mention we love ruffles? This beauty from Hatch is sweet as can be, and while it's on the pricier side, the quality is there and it will last you multiple pregnancies.

Price: $218

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ASOS Design maternity recycled glam high-neck swimsuit

Asos maternity high neck swim

Who says you need to be in a boring black bathing suit all summer? Let's embrace color (and some sexy drama!) with this high-neck suit that will have everyone asking where on Earth you found such a fun maternity look.

Price: Sale $33.50 (Regularly $48.00)

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Motherhood Maternity 'Beach Bump' maternity one-piece swimsuit with UPF 50+

Beach Bump Swim

This suit is anything but plain with it's adorable "beach bump" sign.

Price: $39.98

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H&M Mama swimsuit

H&M Mama Swim

Spice up your pool days with this super fun pattern that is also super flattering—after all, it's hard to spot flaws with all that leopard going on. The wrapped top, low-cut back and ruched siding all add to why we love this one so much.

Price: $29.99

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Hatch color-block bikini frutto

Hatch Colorblock Bikini

Show off the bump in this color-blocked bikini that looks like something straight out of the 1950s.

Price: $208.00

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H&M Mama swimsuit with ruffles

H&M Mama Swim

Bohemian perfection, this suit is perfectly on-trend for the season.

Price: Sale $24.99 (Regularly $34.99)

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A Pea in a Pod rib knit striped maternity one-piece swimsuit

A Pea in a Pod Striped Swim

Preppy but also a little bit sexy thanks to the cleavage-baring peephole, this suit screams "summer" in the best way possible.

Price: $98.00

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Summersalt Maternity ribbed voyager bikini top + bottom

Summersalt Maternity Ribbed Voyager Bikini

Summersalt is one of our favorite swimwear brands and they just released maternity options! Giving their ubiquitous high-waisted bikini bottoms the prego treatment, this is one suit that will grow with you from first to third trimester.

Bikini top price: $50.00

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Bikini bottom price: $45.00

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Pez D’or stripe one-piece maternity swimsuit for Nordstrom

Pez D'or Stripe Swim

Love you some stripes? Then you can't go wrong with this halter-neck option that is flattering and cute all at once.

Price: $98.00

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Old Navy Maternity halter v-neck swimsuit with UPF 40

Old Navy Maternity Halter V-Neck Swimsuit

We're obsessed with this suite for two reasons: One, that crazy cute watermelon pattern! Two, the halter cut with tiny peephole is perfection and there's lots of support thanks to an extra strap at mid-back.

Price: Sale $22.50 (Regularly $44.99)

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Gap Maternity tie-back print one-piece suit

Gap Maternity Tie-Back Print One-Piece Suit

This one-piece is as pretty as can be with it's tiny floral print! We love that the straps criss-cross in the back and that the sweetheart neckline drawcord is adjustable.

Price: Sale $58.99 (Regularly $69.99)

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Pink Blush ruffle trim ruched one-piece maternity swimsuit

Pink Blush Light Blue Ruffle Trim Ruched One-Piece Maternity Swimsuit

Oversized ruffle? Check. Removable straps? Check. Ruched siding? Check. Adorable baby blue hue? Check.

Price: $46.00

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Jojo Maman Bebe flamingo halterneck maternity tankini

Jojo Maman Bebe Flamingo Halterneck Maternity Tankini

Tankinis for the win! Perfect for pulling up when you want the bump to get some sun, but tugging down when you don't want to show some skin.

Price: $59.00

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PregO Maternity Wear roll waist dot bikini set

PregO Maternity Wear Women's Maternity Roll Waist Dot Bikini Set

We love how sporty chic this suit is and that you can wear it after pregnancy, too.

Price: $68.00-$72.00

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Babies love it when their mamas sing to them, and Carrie Underwood's son is no exception. But does he love his dad's singing? Not so much.

If your mom has a voice like Carrie Underwood's, chances are your lullaby standards are a bit higher than most. And, if a recent video from the singer is any indication, even Dad's singing may not quite make the grade.

The country singer shared a cute video clip of her son, Jacob, reacting as her husband, Mike Fisher, sings him a song. Let's just say the little guy isn't having it: Jacob cries throughout his father's mini-performance...That is until Mama steps in to sing the same song.

The clip shows little Jacob calm immediately when he hears his mom's voice (relatable, right?). Mike takes that opportunity to step back in and resume his vocals...but Jacob begins to cry again. "Everyone's a critic," Carrie captions the adorable video.

But don't take this to mean you have to be a recording artist in order to sing to your children! Even the most tone-deaf among us can (and should!) sing to our babies—not just because it's fun, but also because singing to your babe comes with some pretty awesome benefits. The act may even improve your baby's attention span and increase positive their reactions towards you, as we've previously reported.

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While Carrie and Mike opt to belt out the song "I Still Believe" by singer Vince Gill, you don't have to get too fancy. Singing a good old-fashioned lullaby to your kids is a great idea (they work for a pretty good reason). We are fairly certain that most babies out there love the sound of their mama's voice more than just about any sound (with the possible exception of the "Baby Shark" video), so keep up the family singing sessions even if you don't have a hit song on the charts.

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I am generally not considered a sentimental person, and I do not keep a lot of junk. When I moved to college, everything that wasn't part of my closet fit into a single trunk. By the time I got married, I had shrunk those keepsakes down to a single box. When I got pregnant, the box had shrunk down to a tiny container I shoved under my bed.

Then we had kids.

The sheer amount of stuff we received from well-wishers was overwhelming. I figured that we needed most of it—babies are high maintenance, right?—and took comfort in the fact that when our child got bigger, we could ditch the bassinet and the bottles and shrink down our lives again.

I could not have been more wrong. The stuff continued to pour in, and it became impossible to throw anything out. Some of it was useful and consumable, like diapers, and some of it was thoughtful and small, like a special stuffed animal, but most of it was simply too much…like the 1,398 toys that began a procession through our lives over the next three years.

It was nobody's fault. My children have four grandparents, two great-grandparents, and five aunts and uncles within a 20-mile radius. Many of them express their love through purchases. Constant purchases. For Christmas, birthdays, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, your regular Saturday. There was bound to be a build-up.

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The problem was that my children received so many presents the gift-giving itself began to lose meaning. Every time a family member came by the house, my 3-year-old expected a treat.

The amount of stuff piling up in our house started to grate on me, but I didn't know what to do. My oldest child has the memory of an elephant: the other day he cried because he couldn't find a specific drawing that he made in preschool 12 months ago. And my family was constantly checking up on their gifts: "Where's the special bear I gave you, little guy? Do you play with it a lot?" I didn't want to offend anyone.

Then I had an evening that changed my life as a mom. We went to a friend's house for dinner; they had young kids too, about a year or so ahead of us. We walked in and I was shocked at how completely their house had been taken over by their kids' belongings. You couldn't see the living room floor because there were toys everywhere—not in use but stacked up to the ceiling. They apologized for the mess, and it didn't seem to bother them, but I was panicking on the inside.

Was this what was in store for me as a parent? Were my children going to accumulate so much that I wouldn't be able to find my own life under all the mess?

We went home that night and put the kids to bed. And I ransacked. Three years of accumulated playthings, old "special" clothes, and my concerns and ideas about disappointing our relatives, were all ruthlessly sorted through.

If I was going to be a good mom, it would have to be on my terms, and my terms included the right to dispose of accumulation. It included the right to gently but firmly inform relatives that we may not have room for the stuffed bear as big as a house as a Christmas present this year, could there be a special place at their house to keep it? It included the right to shape my family's values, even when they clash a little with those closest to us.

I love our extended family very much, and I am glad they shower my children with affection, including gifts. But every mom has her own way of keeping her sanity, right? And for me, the key to a happy household now includes the occasional purge, when the kids are looking away, and knowing inside that your family will love you anyway.

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If you buy Parent's Choice baby formula at Walmart you need to check to see if your product is being recalled.

The manufacturer of Walmart's Parent's Choice Advantage Infant Formula Milk-Based Powder with Iron, Perrigo Company, is recalling the product because it may be contained with metal. There are no reports of babies experiencing adverse effects, but the company says it is proceeding with the recall out of an "abundance of caution stemming from a consumer report."


If you buy this formula look on the bottom of the tub to check the lot code and use by date. If it is lot Code C26EVFV with a "use by" date of February 26, 2021, it is part of the recall. Don't use it and take it back to Walmart for a refund.


These tubs retail for just under $20.

The FDA suggests "consumers with any health-related questions should contact their healthcare provider", and you can also call Perrigo Consumer Affairs at 866-629-6181.

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