Category Archives: Uncategorized

Allow us to introduce you. Meet Sparrow Services Grants.

We started The Sparrow Fund with the specific purpose of encouraging and supporting families in the adventure of adoption. We did that exclusively through a grant program for families adopting internationally that covered their cost to enroll in programs that would give them preadoption support, counsel, and medical reviews of referrals. Those grants allowed us to meet a real need for families who might not get this type of support otherwise.

For nearly 7 years, we’ve been pressing on, continuing that original vision and growing as we’ve been led. We started offering training and connecting opportunities for foster and adoptive families including a marriage retreat Together Called to care for and fill up husbands and wives so that they can keep pouring themselves out and loving well. We also started leading teams to serve in orphanages in China with the primarily goal of building relationships and helping both children and staff more deeply experience relationships.

As our team grew in 2017, it was the right time to pause and ask if all we’re doing is consistent and reflects who we are and where we believe we should be. As we considered the grant program and our retreats and trainings both here and in China, the words caring for caregivers were imprinted on our hearts. That’s what we want to be about. We want to care for caregivers–caregivers who have committed to caring for life and caregivers who stand in the gap for a season. While the 101 grants we gave to families absolutely met a need and did real good for children and families, our team agreed that we could do a better job aligning those grants with the vision of caring for caregivers.

And, that’s how we arrived at our new Sparrow Services grants. We’re still going to help families pay the cost for those programs that will give them access to specialized medical professionals who will review their referral with them. But, we’re going to offer our grant families more than just that. We’re going to walk with them, cheer them on, offer individualized support including but not limited to marriage support, coaching to line up resources they may need once home, personalized suggestions for building attachment. There’s no itemized list of all that Sparrow Services grants will or could include because we don’t want there to be a list; we want to be more personal than that; we want to care for caregivers and help them become the caregivers they are meant to be.

We’ve updated our website and are ready to run with this. Do us a favor and spread the word. Our team and our Board can’t wait to see who we get to serve in 2018.

You can find general Sparrow Services Grant information here >>

You can find answers to frequently asked questions here >>

#GivingTuesday

Black Friday’s been around for 56 years; Cyber Monday for 12. Only 5 years ago, another day joined the others, a day with a very different purpose, Giving Tuesday. Last year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, through worldwide efforts to promote giving to help others, $177,000,000 was raised on that day alone!

Since the start of The Sparrow Fund in 2011, we’ve never done Giving Tuesday. But, 2017 is different, because 2018 is going to be different. We want to care for caregivers in deeper ways, bigger ways, world-changing ways. So, this year, we’re doing it; we’re joining the Giving Tuesday movement. Because we know that in order for us to give generously, we need others to give generously.

We’ve looked long and hard at where we are headed and long and hard at our projected and actual budget. All that has led us to the Giving Tuesday goal of raising $5,000 on Tuesday alone and $8,000 over the week following. Of every dollar that comes in, 2/3 will go directly to our new grant program for adoptive families and 1/3 will go to training.

We want to give too. After all, we’re about caring for caregivers. And, all of you who give are kinda our caregivers too.

So, we’ve put together what very well may be our special-est gift ever that we will be sending out to every donor who gives $50 or more.

For every donation of $50 or more, we will send you the gift of this notecard set . Each one of the 6 designs professionally printed on linen patterned cards (size 4.25″x5.5″) features artwork from a child at one of the orphanages in China where we serve. On the back of each card is a photo of the artist with a little information about him or her.

You may fall so in love with them that you want to keep them for yourself rather than give them away.

Don’t worry. Just in case you can’t part with the notecards, we put this together.

For every donation of $100 or more, the donor will receive the notecard set above as well as an exclusive invitation to join artists and Christian entrepreneurs Cassie and PJ Upton of Blush Design Co. in an online lesson in integrating prayer and art, specifically to create a gift like no other perfect to give to a child, spouse, or loved one this Christmas.

Every single donor, regardless of amount donated, will also be entered into a giveaway, just for fun because we like fun. We’ve got the Seeds of Christmas cd, Seeds of Christmas DVD, Seeds of Christmas worship guide, Seeds of Christmas Bible memory cards, Seeds Christmas tee, a personal note from Seeds Family worship, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, 2 signed copies of 25 Days of Thriving Through Christmas: An Advent Devotional for Adoptive and Foster and Parents, a 2018 calendar from Rachel Kick at MiniPress, a one-of-a-kind sea green geode necklace from Guangzhou, China, and two nativity paper cuttings handmade in Beijing by a Christian artist–a giveaway worth well over $160!

Go ahead. Let’s start giving. Together. And, let’s make Giving Tuesday 2017 and our year of giving in 2018 more than we ever imagined.

Donate online by clicking the cute little yellow button below. It’ll take you right to our PayPal where you can decide how much you want to give via credit card and simply click to make it happen.




Wanna go all old-school on us and give via check? Make it payable to The Sparrow Fund and mail it to:

The Sparrow Fund
124 3rd Ave
Phoenixville, PA 19460

The Sparrow Fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization. What that means is that all gifts to The Sparrow Fund are tax-deductible as allowed by law. If you would like a copy of our 501(c)(3) ruling letter from the IRS, please contact us; we will be happy to provide you a copy.

If you are interested in donating stock, property, or other gifts in kind, please email us to discuss all the how-tos. The bottom line is that we’re all for it.

Recharging

The trees are full of color, and the air is crisp. It’s the perfect day to start recharging. Tonight, about 25 guys will be gathering around a campfire. Whether they are sitting on these benches enjoying the warmth of the fire, taking a walk around camp thinking about the message they just heard about knowing and experiencing God’s love for them, simply enjoying some rare quiet moments, sharing stories and laughing with new friends about whatever it is guys talk about, or roasting marshmallows (one never outgrows s’mores), we trust that every single one of those men will be blessed and recharged to be the man, husband, and father God wants them to be.

Our favorite classroom-friendly sensory tools

Trauma and the way children handle sensory experiences are intimately connected. Simply put, traumatic experiences are primarily handled in the same parts of the brain that process sensory input. And, when that part of the brain is affected by trauma, sensory processing can be affected too. As we support children in the context of relationship to navigate trauma, we can see significant changes in what had been challenging in terms of sensory processing. Likewise, as we support our children’s sensory processing, we can also set them up to better learn, meet expectations, and connect, mitigating significant symptoms of their trauma.

As you consider the way your child processes sensory input, we recommend Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss as well as all of Carol Kranowitz’s Out of Sync Child titles.

And, given how often we’re asked for recommendations for tools children could use in a classroom to provide opportunity for sensory input and, therefore, increased support for focus and learning, we’ve come up with a list of some of our favorites to share with you.


Stretchy bands for children to put around chair legs so that they can keep those feet moving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bouncy Bands is a brand personally recommended by an OT for how easy it is to take on and off.

 

 

 

 

Adhesive velcro strips to simply stick inside or under a desktop for little fingers to touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boinks marble/mesh toys are great quiet fidgets and our favorites of our teams to take to orphanages.

 

 

 

 

 

Stretchy toys are another quiet option that can meet the needs of some kiddos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A spiky sensory bracelet your kiddo can wear all day long.

 

 

 

 


An inflatable wiggle seat is a good option as long as a teacher doesn’t mind some wobbling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chewigem makes some great chewable necklaces that are incognito and come in oodles of colors and designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These sensory-friendly pencil toppers are moveable and reusable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite classroom-friendly sensory tool? Let us know what it is so we can share it!

Changes to China’s Program

Only a couple weeks ago, the new leadership of the CCCWA, the department in Beijing that handles all adoptions, published changes effective immediately for families applying to adopt from China. This morning, agencies started their work day with another announcement from the CCCWA, this time referring to agencies themselves.

The announcement was distributed in both Mandarin and English. Here is the full English translation.

Announcement
July 18, 2017

Relevant government departments and adoption agencies in receiving countries, Following the enactment of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-Governmental Organizations within the Territory of China (hereinafter referred to as Administration Law) since January 1, we would like to notify as follows on relevant issues about the programs carried out by adoption agencies such as the One-to-One Assistance Program, Journey of Hope Program, and Summer/Winter Hosting Program based on the regulations of the Administrative law and conclusions of competent authorities:
I. All activities concerning the One-to-One program, Journey of Hope Program, and Summer/Winter Hosting Program will be terminated. For children who have been assessed by adoption agencies through the One-to-One program before the enactment of the Administrative Law and whose reports have not been submitted to CCCWA, if their reports are submitted through the provincial department of civil affairs to CCCWA before December 31, 2017 (subjected to the approval date of the provincial department), CCCWA will post these files to the specific list of the original adoption agency. Agencies are requested to look for children within required deadline, otherwise the files will be withdrawn by CCCWA when the deadline is closing.
II. Foreign adoption agencies should abide by the business scope specified in the registration when working in China. No activities with inter-country adoption as the purpose are allowed when agencies work in welfare and charity related activities.
III. Adoption agencies should look for adoptive families according to the requirements outlined in the Review Points for Decision on the Eligibility of Foreigners Adopting from China and avoid hasty placements without discretion within the deadline.

China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption Center

What we know from this announcement is that the 1:1 partnerships between agencies and orphanages that has been established for years will end at the end of this year. Also, group trips to orphanages by agencies for the purpose of advocacy and hosting programs bringing waiting children to the US for advocacy will not be allowed. What we do not know is how agencies will receive files for waiting families once the rush to secure files from their partnership orphanages this fall ends. Agencies have already submitted that question to the CCCWA today as well as suggestions of alternate matching processes to all files going to one shared list as it had been done years ago. What we are also waiting to hear is if agencies will be permitted to “work in welfare and charity related activities” if adoption is not the purpose. Point II seems to make that a distinct possibility which is very good news. Of course, if advocacy is not officially allowed to be part of those efforts, many agencies may not as interested in the work as they have been. We still are. And, we will continue to pursue how we can care for caregivers and the children in their care. Clearly, this is not without challenges; but no significant work is. We’re all putting our heads together as are our friends in China to figure it out.

China remains the largest international adoption program in the world and has been the most stable and predictable for years. We know that any change to a well established program can feel unsettling. However, we are confident that the program will continue and, quite possibly, be managed better than it has been as the new director of the CCCWA and governing leaders work hard to come up with a program that will benefit children and Chinese orphanages and best ensure the long-term success of those children in families.

Big Dreams {The Sparrow Fund’s New Space!}

It was on a dining room table, a coffee table, and a small desk in a little den where The Sparrow Fund has functioned for 6 years. But, as The Sparrow Fund grew from a little nonprofit giving grants to a handful of families to a bigger team effort to include training, counsel, a marriage retreat, and short-term trips to orphanages to care for caregivers and the children there, it became pretty clear that leading this effort from wherever it could fit would no longer work.

Big dreams led to bigger dreams as encouragement from our community confirmed that a designated space wouldn’t just be nice; it was actually needed for our team to not only continue what we are doing but to grow.

About one year later and more than a year’s worth of effort from our board and the community cheering us on, we officially have a space!

Stay tuned. We’re pretty sure we’re just going to be dreaming even bigger now that we’ve got a space to do it.

Super Sparrow Big Game Football Pool

It’s that time of year. Chicken wings, chips, and guacamole abound. Super Bowl Sunday is not an official holiday, but maybe it should be given that it’s the second largest day of food consumption in the United States after Thanksgiving. Oh, and there’s a big football game everyone watches as they eat, by the way.

We’re having a little fun with it ourselves this year with our own goal of scoring $2,000 that will go directly into our grant fund to support adoptive families. It’s called a block pool, and here’s how it works. We’ve created a 10×10 chart with a total of 100 blocks (simple math, keep tracking with us). With every donation of $20 before midnight Friday, February 3rd, you will get to put your name in one of those blocks. Before the big game, we will randomly assign each row a single digit and each column a single digit. So, for your cell, you will have two single digits, one for the Patriots [insert cheers and boos here] and one for the Falcons [insert cheers and boos here]. After each quarter of the game, if your two numbers match the last digit in each team’s score you win! And, when we say you win, we mean you win. We’ve got 4 donated gift baskets worth over $100 each of Lancaster Stroopie Co. magic (and by that we mean, the most amazingly addictive sweetness that we love so much we may declare them our personal mascot).

Here’s the game plan:

  • Head over HERE and fill out this simple form with your name, email, and how many cell blocks you want to claim.
  • Make your donation for $20 per cell
  • We’ll let you know what the next play is after that.

Go team!

Celebrating 2016 and Anticipating 2017

future-and-hope

It’s what we’re about.

Magnifying the good. Whether we’re walking alongside families here or children and caregivers on the other side of the world, we want to focus on the future and the hope that is written all over it and encourage others to do the same.

In 2016, we blessed 13 adoptive families through grants so they could get the counsel and support they need as they grow their families through adoption. We also started a new grant specific to families adopting children domestically, the Avery Madison grant, and awarded our first 2 grants to families building their families through domestic adoption. We cared for over 100 couples at Together Called and many more throughout the year. Our board became further trained and equipped so we can better care for those families. We took a team of 14 to an orphanage in China to train caregivers to help them see the importance of relationship and use opportunities to build relationships with children and each other. And, we have loved hard. We’ve loved our team well. We’ve loved the One who called us to this work. And, we’ve sought to love well all those He has placed before us.

2016 was a good year.

And, 2017 is filled with hope and anticipation of more beautiful things.

Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.

***

She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

Beauty 1

I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

Beauty 2

Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

BEauty 3

In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

Beauty 4

So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at http://www.ihopkc.org/PRAYERROOM/ for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at http://jonandkinsey.com/ 

But What About Our Other Kids?

“But what about our other kids?”

 

I hear that question all the time. I’ve asked it myself. And honestly, I think that’s part of being a good parent. We want what’s best for our kids, and we wonder what adding children to our families through foster care or adoption would be like for them.

 

Although I can’t speak for all families or children, I want to tell you a little about our experiences over the last two years. Although our youngest son was adopted, we received him as an infant, and our oldest was only two. As far as we can tell, the adjustment for everyone in that case was much like if I’d given birth for a second time. Over the last year, however, things have been very different.

 

When our 4 ½- year old daughter came to our family in November of 2016, she’d been in several families and had experienced things our boys never have. She comes from a place of hurt, just as many children in this country and around the world do. We didn’t know what it would be like for the boys to have a new sister with a different background, different race, and different behaviors. And those were legitimate concerns.

 

It’s been rough. They have struggled to love her, and at times, to even be kind to her. They’ve felt jealous and angry by the amount of attention she has required from us. They’ve been annoyed and confused by some of her behaviors, and I’ve heard several times, “I just wish it could be like it was before.”

 

I’ve had days where I’ve felt like I was in a constant counseling session… with my own children. I went from one room to the next listening and empathizing and talking and praying. But we’ve seen the light.

 

Do they still fight? Yes, like most kids probably do. Do they still get jealous? Absolutely. Sibling rivalry is alive and well. But now, they function as three siblings, not as two brothers and a stranger who moved in one Friday.

whitson

I was looking at Project Zero’s website a few months ago, and my kids came to sit by me. They saw a sibling group of five and another of two and asked about them. I explained that the kids needed a family, and do you know what they said?

“We can do that! Let’s go get them.” Then they tried to convince me that having two (or five!) more kids wouldn’t be a big deal at all. Bless ‘em.

 

God is working in their hearts.

 

Last year, our oldest son brought home an assignment from school that God used to show me He’s already redeeming our daughter’s pain and the difficulties we’ve all experienced through these years.

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IMG_8192

Matt and Becca write about marriage, parenting, and life through the lens of a married couple, parenting team, and pastor and professional counselor. They share hope and restoration by giving a glimpse into their lives- the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. You can read more of their writing at WhitsonLife.