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Fannie Miller is an angel, at least according to national adoption officials.
Though she couldn’t make it to the ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Miller, a resident of Pleasureville, was among 140 people from all 50 states honored for their work in the adoption process.
Kathleen Strottman, executive director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, said Miller was chosen for the honor because of her dedication to adoption and positive child welfare practices.
“She [Miller]had expertise in her field and the willingness to work long hours for the sake of children,” Strottman said.
Strottman cited Miller’s humility, integrity and compassion and “always placing the interests of children above her own,” as qualities deserving of the national Angel in Adoption Award.
“Her job was a life calling,” she said.
That statement is doubly credible, because Miller, who retired in June after 16 years as the Kentucky deputy interstate compact coordinator, is planning to open her own adoption agency that she plans to operate out of her home that is situated on the Henry/Shelby County line.
“I’m going to call it Amazing Arrivals,” Miller said.
When asked why she wants to pursue another time-consuming, challenging endeavor at age 63, when so many people are content to take it easy after a full career, she laughed in her soft-spoken way.
“A lot of people have asked me that,” she said. “All I can say is that is I feel like it’s my calling to make sure that babies get the best possible start in life that they can. When I’m able to do that, it just makes my heart swell, not only with love, but with pride, too – so much pride.”
Miller said she was “overwhelmed” to discover she had been nominated for the award.
“It went to Washington and went through a screening process; they go back and find out what this so-called angel has done, has she has helped enrich lives for babies and adoptive parents and birth moms and dad, and they selected me,” she said.
An angel was chosen from each state, and the reason there are more than 50 names on the list is because organizations are eligible, too, and sometimes more than one person is chosen per agency.
The CCAI is a nonprofit agency dedicated to raising awareness about the tens of thousands of orphans and foster children in the United States. This award was established in 1999 as a Congressional press conference to honor outstanding individuals in that field and has evolved into a 2-day gala and celebration.
This year’s honorees include Korie and Willie Robertson of the A&E reality show Duck Dynasty and internationally acclaimed actress/producer Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman. Former angels have included First Lady Laura Bush, Patti LaBelle, Jane Seymour, Muhammad Ali, the late Dave Thomas, Steven Curtis Chapman, Bruce Willis, Alonzo Mourning, Rhea Perlman and Kirstin Chenoweth.
Miller, who is originally from Louisville, said when she found out three weeks ago that she had been named as a recipient, her family went wild.
“They were ecstatic; they were just over the moon,” she said, laughing. “They are used to me coming home and taking about my babies. I would always come home and say things like, ‘You wouldn’t believe what happened today; I got three babies!’
“They’d say ‘Mom that’s so cool; good for you.’”
Her husband, R.Z. Miller, said the name of the award suits his wife perfectly.
“She is truly an angel; there’s no other word for her,” he said.
Kym Rice, former principal at West Middle School and current principal at Western Middle School in Jefferson County, said she is very proud of her mother.
“She is so deserving of this,” she said. “She was always so dedicated to her work and the children. She often took on more than she should have, but she always took great pride in helping the children, and we are very, very proud of her.”
Miller said the pride that her husband and four children – Kym, Lisa, Tracee and Richard – are feeling is very mutual, and she includes her grandchildren in that category.
It’s not difficult to understand why she was chosen for the award when talking to her, as she spoke of her “babies” with the same love and pride in her voice she displayed when using her grandparent’s bragging rights concerning Miles, a freshman at Campbellsville, Myah, a cheerleader at Collins, and Elia, a kindergartner at Simpsonville Elementary.
Miller oversaw the placement of an average of 500 newborns each year, and what makes her capacity for caring even more amazing is that her maternal instinct was so strong that she did it all without ever being able to hold even one of those infants in her arms, she said.
“I never got to meet any of the babies personally, but their adoptive parents would sent me pictures of the babies – I had a whole wall of photos of babies,” she said. “There were so many that were so endearing over the years, but this one little guy was very special to me because he was born with a multitude of heart problems. Everybody wants a normal healthy newborn, and I thought ‘This baby is going to be hard to be placed,’ but no, he was not.”
The child who touched her heart in such a special way was what Miller called an “interstate baby.”
“That means that his adoptive parents came from another state to pick him up,” she said. “He had three surgeries while he was here in Kentucky, and they stayed, and when he was strong enough to travel, he went back to his home state. He is now fifteen months old, and he is such a ball of energy!”
Miller started her career at the state working in alcoholic beverage control, then transferred to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
“Then I started out working with private child caring facilities, where they would house children that had problems, not babies, but older kids, and then a position became available and I applied, and I got it, and I was there ever since, until I retired,” she said.
“I did all of the adoptions for the state of Kentucky; that doesn’t mean adoptions just done in Kentucky, it means that my babies went to all of the other states all over the United States. So we were the liaisons between the states to make sure that, say, Kentucky’s laws would fit Massachusetts’s laws. We had to coordinate those laws and those boundaries with the checks and balances to make sure all regulations had been met in both states for a baby to cross the state lines.”
A positive start
Now that she’s retired, she’s just picking up speed, she said, with a good-natured chuckle.
“Over the years, it become my passion,” she said. “I am so exciting about opening my own adoption agency – I’ve gotten all the paperwork, and I’ve been through all the hoops and dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t,’ so I hope to be fully operational within the next month or so.”
Miller said she could not adequately explain why she feels so strongly about doing her part to facilitate the adoption process.
“I just feel like it’s my calling to make sure that every baby gets the best possible start in life that it can possibly have,” she said. “There are so many good people out there, both adoptive parents and birth parents, through no fault of their own…
“I don’t mean to get emotional, but I just want to say that my part is helping them begin their story. My part is placing a baby with them so they can start that chapter in their lives. These little babies, they didn’t ask to come here, and they come under circumstances that are not always ideal, and I try to do what I can to make their start in life as positive as it can be.”