February 26-28, 2017 • Atlanta, GA


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Nancy Sager

It's with great admiration that I nominate Nancy Grosz Sager for the Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence. Nancy has been well known as a major advocate for deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) children and their families for many years. I first met her when my Deaf son, Dylan, was 10 years old. Living in rural far northern California, there were not many services available and I needed advice and guidance. When I called the department and talked with Nancy, I felt renewed and ready to advocate for my son's needs.

One of Nancy's projects that had great impact was the development of the Guidelines for Quality Standards for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Nancy brought together a stakeholder's group to develop a 206-page book containing so much information for children and families that it continues to be the "go to" book for parents and professionals across the state.

In 2012, Nancy was instrumental in creating another guidebook for families who have children who are D/HH; The Resource Guide for Parents of Infants and Toddlers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. With her knowledge, experience, and understanding of the complexities and diversity of the state of California, she formed an all parent stakeholder's group and facilitated the group's work. She ensured all parts of California were represented. In our Parent Links work today we send every family we encounter this document so they have a wealth of information at their fingertips. A former professor once said "Nancy has the ability to draw people together with very strong, different opinions and come to a consensus that results in better services for deaf and hard of hearing children. She has a keen sense of how to work within the system to get the best results." Nancy also developed Guidelines for Quality Standards for students who are D/HH and worked with California State University, Northridge to realize her vision of creating a professional, welcoming, and warm video for parents (Through Your Child's Eyes: American Sign Language).

Nancy was instrumental in ensuring that all stakeholders were aware of and understood the intention of legislation (AB 210) in California which supports a more data-based approach to language development of children, with specific regard to the expected cognitive, physical, social, emotional and cultural growth and hence further optimization of approximately 17,000 children who are D/HH in California.

In August of 2016, Nancy retired from the California Department of Education. It was a worrisome time for the many of us who have been inspired and transformed by her work. Fortunately, she continues to volunteer her time as a stakeholder on the AB 210 committee, secretary of the California Hands and Voices board, and the annual Northern California DHH Family Camp. Nancy's passion for this work brings her relentless energy, knowledge and experience into these arenas, where she will continue to make meaningful differences for children who are DHH and their families.

Until her retirement, Nancy was the single point-of-entry to early intervention through the California Department of Education (CDE), a referral program she developed. Because of this system, California has one of the lowest loss-to-follow-up percentages in the country. Nancy has also overseen funding to the Parent Links program to provide appropriate parent-to-parent support to families of infants identified through the NHSP. To date, Parent Links has provided support to more than 1,500 families of infants identified through the NHSP. Nancy ensured Parent Links worked closely with the new California Hands & Voices chapter to help its growth and development.

Since the California NHSP was implemented in 2000, the number of DHH infants referred to their local educational agency early intervention programs before one year of age has grown from 51 to 439 in the 2012 school year. The total number of DHH children, birth to three, in the Part C program has increased from 416 to 1,772.

There is not a more worthy candidate who has so profoundly impacted a statewide system of services and resources available for families with DHH infants and toddlers. Her achievements are more noteworthy given the size and diversity within the state of California.