Maria Teresa Bates received a J.D. degree from Stetson University College of Law in 2007 and a B.A. degree from Eckerd College in 1997 in Human Development. Maria became interested in adoption issues after having volunteered at an orphanage for teenage girls in Bolivia in 1995. She started her professional career as a counselor at a juvenile justice addiction program and at a group home for teenage girls in Pinellas County. Maria went on to work in both the private and public sectors as a consultant in Florida, Arizona and California. Her work included strategic planning, nonprofit governance, fundraising, organizational development and process improvement. During this time Maria also spent much time traveling throughout the United States and Latin America and volunteering in the arts.
Determined to take her passion for kids to the next level, Maria earned her law degree and began working in child welfare, adoption, assisted reproductive technology, and family planning. After completing her degree, she founded the Law Offices of Maria T. Bates, P.A. in 2008. Maria also founded a nonprofit adoption agency, Project Patchwork, Inc. in 2007 until it closed in 2017. Maria has been through the ups and downs with her clients and through her own journey to parenthood. Through her experiences, her passion and love for helping people navigate these complex journeys continues to win out and she is steadfast in her commitment to quality and ethical practices.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the quintessential American success story. Born in 1985 to a single teen mother, by the age of 3 she was in Florida’s foster care system where she spent almost ten years being shuttled between 14 homes—some quite abusive—before being adopted from a Children’s Home at the age of twelve.
Ashley defied all odds and was determined to turn her pain into power. She graduated with honors and ahead of schedule from Eckerd College, earning a double major in Communications and Theater and a double minor in Political Science and Psychology. Ashley then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. After college, she and her husband became foster parents and have cared for more than 25 children. They are now raising three children and have experienced the adoption process first-hand.
Ashley Rhodes-Courter is the New York Times and International Bestselling Author of the memoirs, "Three Little Words" and "Three More Words" (Simon & Schuster). Recognizing that child welfare and adoption issues are universal, Ashley has spent time in Europe, South Africa, and China studying their practices, policies, and outcomes. Ashley is the Founder of her own non-profit, The Foundation for Sustainable Families (www.SustainableFamiliesFoundation.org); and Sustainable Family Services (www.SustainableFamilyServices.com). Ashley has been featured on CNN, Today Show, Good Morning America, GLAMOUR, Nancy Grace, USA Today, New York Times, and Teen People; to name a few.
Ms. Connie Going, National Adoption Advocate , Founder of The Adoption Advocacy Center and Adoptive Mom is dedicated to making a difference in the world. With over 25 years in Child Welfare and Adoption, Ms. Going has completed over 1000 adoptions. In 2012 Ms. Going was awarded the prestigious National Angels in Adoption™ Congressional Designation, for her outstanding advocacy efforts.In 2014 she received the Irene Sullivan Adoption Award and in 2015 she was given the very first “ Let it Be Us! “ Adoption Adoption Advocate of the Year Award. and in 2016 received the TampaBay Lightning Hero Award.
Ms. Going is a certified National Adoption Expert and is sought after as Inspirational Keynote Speaker, Child Welfare Trainer and Educator. Ms. Going created a weekly TV series called "Wednesday’s Child" allowing over 250 children to receive high level recruitment efforts. She is a co- founder of the Pinellas and Pasco Heart Gallery which was started in 2004 and continues to thrive as a catalyst profiling children waiting to be adopted. In 2013 a recruitment experience created "the Davion Effect" in which a young man who Ms. Going took to church to speak about his desire for a forever family, became an international news story, allowing mass media coverage worldwide.That experience resulted in the partnership and co-creation of an acclaimed Inquiry/Match system that ensures every inquiry for a child has an immediate response and process to be matched concurrently holding systems of care accountable for every child available for adoption.Ms. Going has created marketing and social media support for Adoption Agencies across the US , a weekly podcast highlighting Domestic and International adoption ,as well as multiple ongoing social media support groups for all members of the Adoptive Triad.
Ms. Going has appeared on many National and Local News outlets, "Daytime", "The View", "ABC Evening News with Dianne Sawyer" and " CBS Evening News, On the Road with Steve Hartman", " Fox & Friends" as well as "Woman's World", "People Magazine", "Huffington Post" , " Newsweek" and "O" Oprah's Magazine. Her dream is to one day appear on Soul Sunday with Oprah herself.
Ms. Going is the proud mother to 4 amazing children. Her life’s passion, Adoption became even more personal in 2012 when Ms. Going adopted her son Taylor who was then 12 and in 2015 when she adopted her son Davion who was 17. It is with love and determination that she strives to be the parent they need and deserve believing we are all " Good Enough" to make a difference in the life of a child.