Post submitted by Sula Malina, HRC Children, Youth and Families Program Coordinator
HRC recently sat down with Ashley Rhodes-Courter and Erick Smith, members of HRC Foundation's Parents for Transgender Equality Council from Florida. Ashley and Erick are the proud parents of three young children -- the oldest of whom is transgender -- and are the founders of The Foundation for Sustainable Families. Their non-profit provides direct services to children and families, and works with other organizations to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
What inspired you to join HRC's Parents for Transgender Equality Council?
Advocacy has always been a cornerstone of our family. Ashley grew up in foster care, which inspired her to become a social worker. As foster parents, we have cared for more than 25 children. Our daughter, Skyler, was also adopted from foster care. Skyler began her social transition at four years old. We joined the Council to be a voice for transgender children and families, and we hope to help bring about more awareness and best practices when working with LGBTQ children in foster care or those who come from high-risk situations.
What part of HRC's work do you connect with the most?
As the parents of a transgender child, we are so thankful for HRC and the many ways they support children and families. HRC’s comprehensive Welcoming Schools resources have been invaluable to our family and schools in our community groups. We also continue to advocate for more open adoption practices, which is an important part of our work as allies.
This November, we celebrate National Adoption Month. Why is this month important to you as parents of a trans child?
National Adoption Month is special to us because adoption saved Ashley’s life. Young people in the foster care system are disproportionately impacted by homelessness, addiction and intimate partner violence -- Ashley watched this play out with most of her peers and even her own brother. Our daughter, Skyler, was almost murdered prior to entering foster care, and we were able to adopt her just before her second birthday. We want to ensure that every child has the chance to find a safe and committed family to love them unconditionally and indefinitely.
What’s one message you have for other parents of transgender children or who are considering fostering or adopting a trans child?
Being a parent means loving your child unconditionally and constantly seeking ways to help them thrive. It’s also important to understand that being LGBTQ is not a choice. Children can’t choose who they are any more than they can choose the environments they are born into. Foster children face often insurmountable odds without a support system that loves, educates and cares for their entire well-being.
HRC Foundation's Parents for Transgender Equality Council is a group of 24 inspiring parents of transgender youth from across the country. The council serves as a coalition of the nation's leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people, with the intention of connecting, mobilizing and amplifying many of the most powerful voices of love, inclusion and support for transgender equality.
To learn more about All Children – All Families’ work to promote LGBTQ inclusion in child welfare, check out hrc.org/acaf. For more information about Rhodes-Courter’s work, including her international best-selling books “Three Little Words” and “Three More Words,” check out her website.