“Something I have found among every girl in foster care that I’ve connected with, the one thing we have in common no matter how much I accomplish, is deep down inside there is always a voice saying, ‘You weren’t good enough. You aren’t wholly loved. The person who was supposed to love you more than anything or anyone in the entire world, gave you up.’” – Jasmine Sanders
Jasmine Sanders is the co-host of the top ranked and nationally syndicated radio show, The DL Hughley Show. She dominates airwaves daily in almost 60 markets across the country. I had the utmost privilege of speaking with her for an exclusive interview; Jasmine exudes warmth with her down to earth personality.
Jasmine is an award-winning media maven who has broken barriers to become a multimedia powerhouse, mentor, and soon to be author. “Success” is written all over her titles, but the path was not paved for her–she has worked hard and moved mountains.
Jasmine’s story starts in the throes of tragedy, the depths of loss. She had three foster families which she vaguely remembers; the fourth foster family became her adoptive family at the age of four. But she didn’t know any of this until she was 12.
“I didn’t find out I was adopted until I was 12, when my brother told me. He was also adopted. I started doing some of my own snooping and discovered that yes, I was adopted. I started acting out, I felt as though I had been living a lie. Who were these people who said they loved me and were my parents, but weren’t my biological parents?”
I asked Jasmine about her relationship with her parents growing up. “I always wanted with my [adoptive] mom what I saw other mothers and daughters had, something special. But, we had a challenging relationship. Before they adopted my brother, they had a biological daughter who died when she was a week and a half. They adopted a boy, but weren’t ready for a daughter; about a year and a half after he was adopted, that’s where I came into the picture. My mom must have still been grieving the loss of her first daughter. Our difficult relationship has affected me my entire life and still does to this very day. I always felt like an outsider; I still grapple with that.
“Once I discovered I was adopted, I needed to know about my biological parents. Why didn’t they want me? Why did they give me up? I started searching and when my [adoptive] mother found out, she was very upset. We had a lot of arguments about it. So I stopped searching for my biological family until my [adoptive] mother passed away. I waited about six to seven months before I started doing the search and found my biological parents about a year later. In total, it took me 15 years.”
Discovering she was adopted, searching for her biological family, experiencing heaps of shame regarding being adopted, and feeling out of touch with who she was, led Jasmine to a life of serving and uplifting the foster and adoptive community.
“I want to do what I can with the little time I have to uplift each of them.”
Jasmine does a lot of work with kids in the foster care system. Initially, she planned to return to her home state Tennessee in February around Valentine’s Day to visit a specific Youth Villages home, a place for girls in foster care who are about to age out. She thought about how kids in foster care often don’t get noticed, how they too want flowers and chocolates, to be told they are special and loved. Jasmine planned to offer them a sweet Valentine’s evening.
Weather made the trip impossible and her flight was cancelled; she instead sent them flowers, chocolate, and a video promising she would visit. May is Foster Care Awareness Month which seemed to be the perfect time for a visit. She will be boarding a plane to visit the girls at Tennessee’s Youth Villages May 12th.
“I’m going to spend the day with them. I don’t believe so much in talking at them, but instead having conversations with them like a big sister. I won’t be talking about myself, but instead hearing about their story. I want to do what I can with the little time I have to uplift each of them.
“I also made keys –the idea came from the Giving Key–to give to each of them. Each key has a word, like strength or faith or love; when you run into someone who is struggling with that issue, you give them the key. I have been gifted some of these keys and I want to gift them forward. They can also gift them forward.
“People who are in shelters make these keys. Once you give a key away, you can go online and share your story, share what you were able to give someone. It can be a stranger. You give them the gift of what you have.”
Jasmine started an initiative called #AdoptedandWinning. This was birthed out of the immense shame she has carried around with her, regarding being adopted–the shame placed on her by society. Adopted and Winning helps bring a greater awareness to the incredible need of loving homes.
“They could have taught me what love actually was, which is based in truth and honesty.”
#AdoptedandWinning has given people permission to share they are adopted and that there is no shame in being adopted. She shares, “Just because you were adopted doesn’t mean you can’t win, doesn’t mean you are a dirty little secret, doesn’t mean you have to walk in the shadows of other people. I still have full grown adults, 45-years-old, who email me sharing they are adopted but there is still too much shame to say it out loud.
“I am on a mission to destroy the shame and stigmas surrounding adoption.”
The shame surrounding Jasmine’s identity as an adoptee stemmed from it being a secret; she didn’t feel safe to talk about being adopted or ask questions, everyone knew this giant piece of her identity except her. She didn’t know.
I asked Jasmine, “If you could sit across the table from a potential adoptive or foster parent, what would you tell them from an adoptee and foster kid’s standpoint?”
“Don’t be afraid of the truth.
“The whole thing that the truth will set you free is real. When you hide the truth, keep it under a cloak of darkness, you do a tremendous disservice to your child. You lie. Your children need a platform of trust, but if you have lied to them even a little bit, it is impossible to land on that platform. It isn’t there.
“You owe it to your children to be honest; being truthful and available to talk about these things makes your relationship stronger, unbreakable, unflinching. All of the years I missed knowing that piece of my story–I never doubted they loved me, but I always felt there was a crack. Something was missing. Now that both my [adoptive] parents have passed, I hate that I wasted so many years trying to reconcile what was real and truth, and what was a lie.
“I wish we had started on the note of truth so all we had to do during our time together was just love. They could have taught me what love actually was, which is based in truth and honesty. Even to this day I have issues with abandonment, trust, relationships. I could have avoided these things if they would have just been honest.
“Tell the truth.”
Jasmine and I talked about her experience as a woman of color in America. She is widely successful and has had to break barriers that people who are not people of color don’t have.
“This is what I think–I think that it is very unfortunate these things are just not fair. When you are okay and accept it as ‘the way it is’ that just because someone’s skin is different, their education is worse, that is horrible. If you are a certain hue, you don’t get the good books or updated computers–you get the leftovers. How am I expected to compete in a 21st century world when we are starting off with education from the 17th century? We start off in the trenches. It is so hard and difficult for people of color to succeed.
“Once we as a whole country can get to a point where we are okay saying it out loud–that being a person of color is hard and difficult, we are faced with more challenges and this is unfair–without buts, we can maybe move on. If you can say, ‘Yes, I am a part of this oppression,’ then we can breathe a little bit. We know all white people are not responsible. But when you wake up time and time again seeing black children slaughtered in the street, when you look at economics, education, everything… You cannot possibly wake up, see the world as it truly is, and say that it is equal and fair. You cannot.
“It does my heart good when you say to me, ‘I see the oppression and the injustice and I don’t like it. It makes me angry.’ That is powerful. Don’t lose that. You do so much good in just believing, validating, and being appalled by it. That provides electricity to the powerhouse to change the issues.”
And on behalf of all children in foster care and waiting for their forever families, Jasmine says with kindness:
“I want to reiterate this: do not forget about us. People go through their lives, they buy fancy houses and get pet dogs, and they forget about us. About the foster kids. Sure, once or twice a year is adoption or foster awareness month, society remembers us then; but we are waiting all year. Please don’t forget about us. Yes, the commercial about the puppy waiting for you, but so is Johnny. I will always be a member of the crew–I’m a foster kid; I was lucky to be adopted. But don’t forget about us. We are waiting for our forever homes.”
Read more from our interview about the DL Hughley show, her backstory, and more, here.
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Jasmine Sanders is a Co-Star Of The Nationally Syndicated The Dl Hughley Show, Media Expert, Radio & TV Journalist, Motivational Speaker, and Author.