A special way of giving back

December 18, 2015

By Betsy Friauf

Chandler Sparks and Family

Photo by Jill Johnson

This holiday season, an abandoned newborn boy has a loving home because medical student Chandler Sparks, 24, and his wife, Emily, feel called to serve humankind.

They are the foster parents of a baby born this fall whose mother left him at the hospital. He went into foster care immediately, and his mother hasn’t visited him since.

The Sparkses also have two biological children, a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. Santa Claus will be busy at the Sparks house this year; Chandler and Emily will care for an additional 5-year old during the holidays. They’ll be providing respite for the child’s usual foster family, which must travel out of the state.

During Sparks’ first year of medical school, the couple took the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ foster training and became licensed in May 2015 to care for foster children.

In addition to earning a degree at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Chandler Sparks is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and will serve at least four years after completing medical training. He also is a Rural Scholar, taking additional training to prepare him for practice in a rural community, and is earning a Master of Public Health degree in tandem with his medical degree.

It’s a busy schedule, but “I like to wear a lot of hats,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “I get bored if I do the same thing day after day.”

Sparks refers to all the kids living in his home as his children, not distinguishing between his biological children and the foster kids. The Sparkses’ first foster children were a toddler and an infant whose brothers and sisters were in other foster homes. They have since been reunited with all their siblings in a home able to care for their large sibling group – a rarity in foster care. “Of course we were sad to see them go, but foster care isn’t about us – it’s about them.”

Combining a rigorous medical education with parenting a changing set of youngsters is demanding. But parenthood enhances his education, Sparks said.

“I have a totally different perspective from students who aren’t parents,” he said. “I’m dedicated in multiple places. I have more challenges. It’s enriching, and it’s a juggling act, but it’s completely worthwhile.”

What makes a young person so dedicated at a time of life when many are overwhelmed by school alone and unsure of their career path?

“A lot of people influenced me,” he said. “I was brought up in a Christian home, and I feel that it’s our responsibility as people with education and privilege to stand in the gap for families in need. My wife cultivated in me a love for orphan care.”

Emily has a degree in social work and is currently a stay-at-home mom. “She has known since she was 12 that she would be a social worker and a foster parent,” Sparks said.

This Christmas, his first as a foster dad, has a new dimension. “It’s always about the birth of my Lord and Savior, but this year I’m blessed to share my family’s Christmas with children who wouldn’t otherwise have one.”

Sparks hopes his story will inspire more people to become foster parents.

“If you have room in your home and in your heart for a child in need,” he said, “please consider foster care.”

MET Building at UNTHSC
First TCOM alums accepted into prestigious pediatric cancer fellowship

By Alex Branch Two 2016 UNT Health Science Center graduates will begin prestigious pediatric cancer fellowships this summer in Dallas. Morgan Coleman, DO, and Chelsee Greer, DO, are the first Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) alumni to earn fellowships in Pediatric Hematology-On...Read more

Jun 24, 2019

default photo
International trip an empathetic experience for PT students

By Alex Branch   Treating impoverished people in Costa Rica gave UNT Health Science Center physical therapy students real-life lessons in compassion and the diverse needs of others. Nine first- and second-year students helped treat and provide health education to men, women and childre...Read more

Jun 20, 2019

Giving Fc
Day of service gives Medical Science students a sense of community

By Jan Jarvis   Before ever taking their first class, Medical Science students had donated 800 hours of service to the community at 11 area organizations. “In a single day, they made new friends and practiced all of our values,” said Carla Johnson, Executive Director of Student Ser...Read more

Jun 18, 2019

Music Fc
Musician saves her career, with a little help from UNTHSC

By Jan Jarvis   As a musician, Sarah Dunbar never imagined she would one day be leaning over a cadaver studying facial muscles. Yet, that is exactly where the University of North Texas College of Music graduate student found herself after years of struggling with severe pain caused by ...Read more

Jun 14, 2019