Lynda Sparks has faced her share of adversity, but the San Diego County foster mother is using the lessons she’s learned and a big dose of unconditional love to make life better for nearly two dozen special needs children.
Sparks has taken care of over 20 foster children in the past eight years – most of whom are medically fragile, traumatized or come from situations where their birth parents abused drugs.
This Mother’s Day, she has five foster children in her home including 1-year-old twins (one of whom doctors doubted would live to see her first year) and a set of three siblings ages 3, 9 and 10.
“When you experience the pain they go through and you see their grief and pain, it’s a different kind of bond,” said Sparks. “They’ve attached themselves to my heart.”
The single mother also has three grown children of her own.
Things have not always been easy for Sparks, but she knows she has plenty of love to give and that’s the most important gift you can give someone.
“I’ve always believed with enough love you can achieve anything,” she said. “I just really believe that and I’ve seen it over and over.
“I just know with the right amount of help these children can be great adults.”
Watching the transformation of one of her own children led Sparks to become a foster mother.
“I’ve raised my own three children and one of them had a lot of behavioral and emotional issues and it was tough but he’s turned into a great adult,” she said.
She’s also faced her own trauma. She lost her home to the 2007 wildfires. That forced the relocation of her, her children and the two girls she had taken in at the time.
She’s had as many as six foster children at a time. She started out wanting to take care of children from newborn to 5 years of age, but the need for homes for sibling groups tugged at her heart.
“The children have all had some sort of trauma and I just can’t say no to sibling groups,” she said. “It makes life kind of crazy, but…”
Being traumatized, the children usually require a lot of attention, patience and love but the rewards can be something immeasurable.
The medically fragile 1-year-old twin that wasn’t predicted to see her first birthday? She’s been in Sparks’ home since November and she’s crawling and scooting now, according to Sparks.
“She’s doing pretty well,” she said. “She’s exceeded everything they thought so far and she responds to sounds and singing as well as moving all around.”
The tough part comes when it’s time to say goodbye and the children get placed in a permanent home, but Sparks knows that’s the ultimate goal.
“They’re going back to family and the parents have really worked with their programs and changed their lives,” she said. “No matter what, kids have a bond with their parents and if there is any way to reunify them, that’s the best and I’m happy for them.”
But the bond with Sparks is also strong and she’s been able to stay a part of most of her foster children’s lives.
“I stay in contact with a lot of them that have moved on and it’s great to see what they have accomplished and the progress they’ve made.”
Sparks gets to go to a lot of birthdays and other family functions with many of her former foster children.
As for Mother’s Day 2015, she’s not sure what the children have planned, but she knows one thing – she’s not cooking.
In 2013, San Diego County also launched the Exceptional Families Adoption Campaign to recruit families to meet the needs of children in foster care, particularly those considered hard to place. These children range in age from infants to teenagers, come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, and belong to sibling groups who need to be placed together. Some children may have medical, physical or emotional needs that require special attention.