A special way of giving back
By Betsy Friauf
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.”
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