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12th Annual Jannie P. Hayes Adoption Awards Gala

Published on October 23, 2013 By Nicki Sanders

Coalition of Adoption Programs
12th Annual Jannie P. Hayes Adoption Awards Gala
“Celebration of Champions”


Saturday, November 2, 2013
Bay Ridge Christian Church
1071 Bay Ridge Road
Annapolis, MD
7:30 PM
Semi-formal attire
Purchase tickets here


Previously called the Annual Academy Awards of Adoption, the event has been renamed after the founder, Mrs. Jannie P. McNeil-Hayes, to capture the spirit, heart and effervescence of the founder. Mrs. McNeil-Hayes is a tireless champion for adoption and adoptive families and we will honor her 20 years of hard work and dedication to adoptive families.


Senator Ben Cardin selected Jannie P. McNeil-Hayes as a 2013 Angels in Adoption™ awardee for her outstanding advocacy of adoption and/or foster care issues. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in Adoption™ program. Mrs. McNeil-Hayes was celebrated at an awards ceremony on October 8 and gala on October 9 in Washington, DC. Each year, more than 140 Angels are honored through the Angels in Adoption™ program.


Keep Siblings Together In Foster Care

Published on April 15, 2013 By Nicki Sanders

I was unaware that April 10th was Siblings Day I did not know that the Siblings Day Foundation believes that establishing Siblings Day will benefit of families, communities and the nation just like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  This new knowledge got me to thinking…thinking about siblings separated by foster care. 


According to the Foster Care Alumni of America website, over 2 million American children live with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them. When relatives provide foster care (known as kinship care), siblings can often stay together. Kinship care also improves stability by keeping displaced children closer to their extended families, their neighborhoods, and their schools.


Generally speaking, significant relationships for children in foster care are broken and often their siblings are their only important attachments.  When siblings enter care together, they can feel a greater sense of stability and experience less grief and anxiety than when they are alone.  Siblings can be each others’ caretakers, comforters, protectors, and role models.  Studies show that when siblings in care are separated from each other they experience trauma, anger, and an extreme sense of loss.

Foster Care Is About Family

Published on April 6, 2013 By Nicki Sanders

Every child deserves a loving supportive family.  I believe that the ultimate goal of the foster care system is to keep children and teens in a safe family structure. 


In honor of family and my birthday on April 8th, I am sharing with you my 8 favorite quotes about family.


  1. Family is not an important thing. It is the only thing. –Michael J. Fox
  2. I don’t think anyone has a normal family. –Edward Furlong
  3. My family is my strength and my weakness. –Aishwarya Rai
  4. In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. _Alex Haley
  5. The family is the nucleus of civilization. –Will Durant
  6. I find the family the most mysterious and fascinating institution in the world. –Amos Oz
  7. Parents need all the help they can get. The strongest as well as the most fragile requires a vital network of social supports. –Bernice Weissbourd
  8. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. –David Ogden Steirs

To Be Loved, Appreciated, and Supported

Published on February 13, 2013 By Nicki Sanders

Survive = to continue to exist or live after

Profanity, nonchalant attitudes, defiant behavior, substance abuse, unprotected sex, sexting, lack of motivation, seclusion, running away, and a dozen other actions by teenagers can be symptoms of serious health and mental health conditions.   These behaviors should not be ignored but they may also be coping mechanisms utilized by a young person who has endured trauma, uncertainty, and disappointment.   I’m not making excuses for any of the negative behaviors listed above.  What I want is for you to put yourself in the shoes of a teenager who may be filled with fear, anger, and loneliness.  Take a second to try and recall a time when you looked at someone’s situation and said to yourself “I couldn’t have done that” or “I don’t know how they made it”, or “I really feel for them”.  The strength and perseverance in many teens in foster care is to be encouraged and celebrated.  We can express joy and gratitude when youth survive life’s challenges but it is time for our young people to thrive. 

Foster Care, Family, and Football

Published on February 8, 2013 By Nicki Sanders

I didn’t watch any of the Super Bowl this past Sunday! No, I didn’t even tune in for the high priced commercials or to see Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, or Jennifer Hudson.  I don’t live under a rock; I’m just not a football fan.  I am a fan (advocate) of youth in foster care, however.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that in addition to Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens, Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers was also a successful foster care alumnus.  After a little more research, I learned that the two men facing off against each other in Super Bowl XLVII were good friends and former teammates at the University of Mississippi.  That excited me.  No matter who won the football game, Michael and Patrick’s triumphant stories scored a win for youth in foster care.


“Did you know there are two former foster kids and a handful of adopted players playing? There are even a few players that have foster care related foundations. Could this be the Foster Kid Super Bowl?” –Chris Chmielewski, Foster Focus Magazine

I Am Unable to Adopt or Foster, Now What?

Published on November 27, 2012 By Nicki Sanders

#Fact: The more birthdays a child celebrates in the foster care system, the less likely they are of being adopted. Older children need families too.


Foster care statistics according to the AFCARS Report for FY2011 (July 2012):

  • 400,540 in foster care on 9/30/11
  • 252,320 entered foster care during FY2011
  • 104,236 children and youth waiting to be adopted
  • 31,101 seventeen year olds in foster care
  • 29,264 sixteen year olds in foster care
  • 24,220 fifteen year olds in foster care


Raising awareness about the need to help teenagers in foster care ‘secure’ a forever family through adoption or to help them develop a support system of caring adults who will assist them after their foster care services end is essential to improving their quality of life.


I’m unable to adopt or become a parent what else can I do?


So glad you asked that question.  There are so many ways to get involved to support teenagers and young adults in foster care.

Surprising Foster Care Role Model

Published on October 2, 2012 By Nicki Sanders

A few years ago I was delivering a workshop to a large group of young ladies in high school.  The topic was “Empowering Ladies In the 21st Century”.  I asked the group who some of their female role models were and a very spirited young lady answered Keyshia Cole.  At that time, Keyshia Cole‘s reality TV show on BET was very popular.  I had watched a few episodes of the show with my daughter and I felt that BET was spending too much time showing the dysfunction of Keyshia’s relationships with her mother and sister.  I asked the student what she admired about Keyshia Cole and her response was that she and Keyshia Cole had been through a lot of tough things including foster care but they were both still pressing on.  Awesome answer which then allowed us to discuss strength, forgiveness, support systems, and self-advocacy.