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Ashley Rhodes-Courter, author of the New York Times best-seller, “Three Little Words: A Memoir,” will be keynote speaker for a half-day workshop for mental health professionals and foster care workers and agencies, as well as the public.

The event, May 29 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Buffalo, is being held in tandem with a dinner. Both will address “the forgotten child” and the need to improve the mental health system for children. The Mental Health Association of Erie County will present both events and has teamed up with Baker Victory Services on the workshop.

Born to a single teen mother in 1985, Rhodes-Courter ended up in the foster care system when she was 3 years old. She spent the next 10 years in 14 different homes, some quite abusive. When she reported her abuse, a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer was assigned and advocated for her permanent adoption.

With the support of a caring family, she excelled in school, eventually earning degrees in psychology and social work. Today, she is known internationally as an advocate for “the forgotten children.”

“In Erie County, there are more than 800 children in foster care,” said Ken Houseknecht, executive director of the mental health association. “Worse yet, there are nearly 2,000 abuse and neglect petitions filed every year in our county, and those numbers only capture a fraction of the children who suffer at the hands of those who should be caring for, protecting, and loving them …

“When children struggle with mental illness, as do one in five, the pathway to stability, security and success is filled with even more obstacles for them and their family,” he added in a press release. “Ignoring and neglecting these children comes with a terrible human and financial cost.”

The morning workshop will run from 9 a.m. until noon. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The fee is $20.

Sponsorship packages are available for the dinner. Individual tickets can be purchased for $50. To register, call Kelly Morgan at 886-1242, Ext. 324, or email kmorgan@eriemha.org. Tickets can also be purchased at www.eriemha.org.