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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.”

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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It's a girl for Chanel Iman!

Iman and her husband, New York Giants football player Sterling Shepard, welcomed their daughter into the world on August 10 and called her Cali Clay Shepard. "You were worth every push [and] every contraction," the proud mama captioned an Instagram photo of the happy family.

The popularity of the name Cali has declined since the name peaked in 2014, when it was ranked 201 on the Social Security Administration's list of the most popular baby names. It's since fallen to 288. (The alternative spelling made popular by a character on Grey's Anatomy, Callie, ranks higher, at 188, but also peaked in 2014).

The popularity of her name may be waning, but little Cali herself is already very popular online. She's four days old and her Instagram account already has 7,600 followers.

It makes sense that Cali is already active on Instagram (well, her parents are active on her account) as her mama announced her pregnancy on the platform back on Mother's Day.

Congrats to Iman and Shepard on baby Cali's arrival! We can't wait to see more beautiful baby pictures on Instagram. 🎉

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Most moms claim to be wine's biggest fan but often admit to knowing little about what's what (or even how to buy wine they like). And while you don't have to be a sommelier to buy a great bottle of vino, having a few wine smarts in your back pocket can mean the difference between a substandard cork pop and the perfect sip.

That's why we partnered with the wine pros at Winc, a subscription service that creates and curates wine from all over the world, to develop this simple primer that will help you identify the flavors you like best—and get them delivered to your doorstep.

Where to start

The simplest place to begin is between red and white.

In general, most people have an idea if they prefer one or the other, which is why Winc lets their members start the selection process with that simple question. Red wines tend to be more full-bodied, higher in tannins (more on those later), and are typically served at room temperature or slightly chilled. Whites are often lighter, crisper, and are typically served chilled.

But the great thing about the wine world is that there are always exceptions to the rule, which is why Winc refines monthly suggestions based on user feedback. "If you enjoy the wine and want to understand why, go on our site and look at how earthy it was, where it's hitting on the flavor scale to help you learn more about your palate," says Brooke Matthias, Winc's Director of Product.

Light vs. Full-bodied

Remember those tannins we mentioned? They're a naturally occuring compound in grape skins, seeds, and stems that give wine a more dominant, heavy flavor. (Think about steeping a tea bag for too long. That bitterness? That's essentially the same effect tannins have.)

While some people dislike the drying sensation tannins cause when drinking wine, they also help create wine that marries well with food because the wine won't disappear on your palate after eating something meaty or fatty.

If you're looking for something lighter, reach for a wine with a higher acid content. Acidity can be compared to tartness (think of biting into a lemon wedge) and typically produces the same "puckering" response of drinking something slightly sour, like lemonade. In wine, it tends to give your pour a crisp, clean sip without a lot of aftertaste or heaviness on the tongue.

Sweet vs. Dry

Many newbie wine drinkers often prefer something with a sweeter taste until they've had a chance to diversify their palate, but sweetness in wine isn't the same as sweetness in dessert.

"There's a difference between residual sugar and something that has a higher fruit concentration," Matthias says. "A lot of people think their wine is sweet, but it's actually fruity. And just because it's high in fruit flavor doesn't mean there's residual sugar content in the wine."

Sweet-tasting wines often taste strongest on the front of the tongue (where the majority of sweet-sensing taste buds occur). Drier wines can be either higher in tannins (for a more bitter flavor) or higher in acidity and tend to have less fruit concentration.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Of course, the best part of figuring out which wines you prefer is experimentation! That's where Winc comes in.

When members first sign up, they take a flavor quiz to determine their current taste preferences. From there, Winc puts together a customized box of four wines based on your preferences—and delivered right to your doorstep. (Note: Someone 21 years or older must be present to sign for the box.)

With each monthly delivery, you can look up your wines to learn more about what you like about them (are they earthy? fruity? full-bodied?) and rate what you like best. Those ratings help Winc's experts to carefully select your future deliveries to cater to your specific palate.

Prefer to take charge of your own destiny? Winc also lets you sub in bottles of your choice (the perfect opportunity to try the wine with the cool label or the funky-sounding name).

With each delivery, you get a more and more personalized experience targeted to your own taste buds—and learn more about what makes your perfect pour. Now that's something we can raise a glass to.

And just for Motherly, enjoy two complimentary bottles (a $26 value) when you order from Winc. Happy shopping, mama!


Currently, Winc does not ship to Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Utah.

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


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In many ways, having a baby in Alaska is much the same as in Alabama: All babies need food, love and care. And all parents are responsible for navigating the life transition. But the expense associated with welcoming a baby? That sure does vary widely based on where in the United States the baby is born.

After assessing 26 key metrics—including infant care costs, child care centers per capita, delivery charges and more—data analysts from WalletHub determined Vermont is the most ideal state to welcome a baby in 2018.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents in Mississippi were disadvantaged by the state's higher infant-mortality rates and lower distribution of midwives or OB-GYNs per capita. (Although folks in southern states generally saved the most on average infant-care costs.)

"If local authorities want to attract families in their area—and for a host of societal reasons, it would behoove them—they should continue to strive for greater public safety and more family-friendly environments," Jeff Wallace, a business advisor and assistant professor at Snow College, tells WalletHub.

To make the rankings as credible as possible, the experts at WalletHub divided the 26 measures into four categories: cost, health care, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness. Then each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing favorable conditions, such as low costs or better delivery outcomes.

While the list is focused on the best places to have a baby, experts who weighed in on the findings said there are much longer-term implications. "Children are more likely to be successful when they grow up in communities that feel safe, have families that are connected to each other, and offer support services if the family needs them," says Steven Meyers, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Psychology Programs and Initiative for Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University. "Local authorities can establish these as priorities when they decide how to allocate resources."

Here are the 10 states we should look to for examples:

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