“Foster care and adoption saved our lives.”
Fifteen years ago, Stacey Gagnon was working as a teacher when a new student in her class had an emotional and mental breakdown. When she took him aside and asked what was wrong, he replied, “I was taken from my home last night, and I don’t know the woman I’m staying with and I don’t know what bus to get on.”
This interaction started Stacey on a journey that would lead her and her husband, Darren, to become a licensed medical foster home. Stacey left her teaching career to pursue a nursing degree and care for the children in their home with medical needs, sometimes as many as nine at once.
Several years into their fostering experience and three adoptions later, Stacey came across information about orphanages in eastern Europe where statistically most children born with medical issues or special needs die by the age of five. Stacey and Darren visited an orphanage in eastern Europe with the intent of bringing home one child, but their hearts broke for the thousands left behind.
“We left with a promise to be the voice for the voiceless,” Stacey said. They started a ministry, Lost Sparrows, to combat the orphan crisis by working with foster and adoptive families, both domestically and internationally, by coming alongside families to equip and bolster them.
In many of the eastern European countries, mothers who give birth to children with medical or special needs are encouraged to surrender them to an orphanage. Mothers who refuse this advice and are met with insurmountable challenges and little support. Lost Sparrows prioritizes the “first family” and comes alongside these families to lend practical, emotional, and spiritual support to enable families to stay together and thrive.
Internationally Lost Sparrows provides education on the long-term effect of institutionalizing a child and how that trauma shapes their brain. Domestically they provide training to all involved in the child welfare system on the neuroscience behind trauma and how it affects a developing brain. Stacey said, “Children are most vulnerable when we presume them the most resilient.”
Lost Sparrows also provides training in churches and through conferences. “We are living in society where there is a breakdown in family,” Stacey explained, “Satan is attacking families, and we see this ripple effect across society.” Their training provides pastors, leaders, and church attenders the understanding that changes an interaction with a person who experienced trauma from, “What’s wrong with them?” to “What’s happened to them?”
“God has been so faithful in the good and hard stories,” Stacey commented. Both her and Darren were career-driven, pursuing worldly finances and success. Following the Lord’s leading through their foster care, adoptive, and ministry journey, saying to Him, “Whatever You want us to do we will do,” has changed their goals, hearts, and lives. Two years ago they moved their family of nine to Winona Lake, Indiana, to pursue the ministry of Lost Sparrows full time.
The Gagnon family attends Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church (Kip Cone, lead pastor) in northern Indiana. Find more about Lost Sparrows on their website here and send Stacey an encouraging note here.