Andrew Eghbalpour has been teaching SketchUp at our Portland location since Stephanie Thornton Plymale became the CEO in 2015! If you’ve been in any of Andrew’s classes then you know he is a wonderful instructor, but what you might not know is his story of being a Foster Parent.
As Stephanie grew up in Foster Care, she is passionate about raising awareness and supporting organizations that advocate for our Foster Youth. In honor of National Foster Care Month, Stephanie interviewed Andrew to learn more about his experience of becoming a Foster Parent, and now a Dad! Continue reading our interview with Andrew below to learn about his inspirational journey.
Why did you want to become a foster parent?
We realized that there were so many children who could benefit from the stability of a home that we could provide during such an uncertain point in their lives. We had a great setup to welcome a foster child into our home – stable careers with a steady income, a comfortable home with a rarely used guest bedroom, and the support of close friends.
What are the biggest challenges of being a Foster Parent?
One of the biggest challenges about being a foster parent for me is knowing that I can’t help every child in need. Over our years of fostering, we’ve had cases where the help needed was beyond our capacity. We’ve experienced cases where the child goes back into the situation that they came from with no guarantees of any change. And, we’ve seen cases where the best interest of the child seems to be overlooked– and there is nothing we can do. In these instances, the system can make you feel powerless to help.
How have you overcome some of those challenges?
It’s very easy to focus on the bad, but when you take a moment to focus on the good, you realize that all these kids need is an adult in their lives who wants to, and is able to, care for them. Sometimes the interaction between the child and foster parents is short and sometimes it’s long, but every positive experience that child has can help to offset the negatives. Often these experiences can be life changing.
Sometimes, the feeling of not being able to help that child with everything is overwritten by being the adult in their lives who cares enough to keep trying to fight for them.
Do you have a support structure?
When we first became foster parents we had a small support system, but it was nowhere near what we have now! It is so beneficial to have friends and family to help and support you through this journey.
What is the most rewarding part about being a Foster Parent?
For me the most rewarding part of being a foster parent is when you see a positive change. That could be a child starting to do better in school, a child understanding how to process and understand their strong emotions, a parent or family member trying their best to do everything they can to provide for that child in the future, etc. For us, we love that we were able to adopt our son, see all of the positive progress he has made in every aspect of his life, and see him maturing into the best version of himself.
What advice do you have for people who may want to Foster?
For anyone interested in becoming foster parents, I suggest that you reach out to a wide variety of foster parents to ask them questions and learn from them firsthand– as there are so many different experiences that foster parents can have. There are also many different ways to foster: some foster parents only care for the child the first few days they come into foster care, some are longer term placements, some have multiple kids at a time, and some only have one. It’s important to do thorough research to gain a better understanding of what being a foster parent entails, and what aspect of fostering might be the best fit for you and your family.
How can other people help Foster Kids?
There are so many ways to help foster children without being a foster parent. Our son’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) was always looking out for his best interest; his attorney was phenomenal the entire time; and he has had some great teachers, teacher’s aides, and school staff who are have all been instrumental in getting him to where he is today.
There are so many non-profit organizations and programs that people can donate to or volunteer with to make an impact on the life of our foster youth. Some of these children lose all of their possessions except what they can carry with them (sometimes carried in a trash bag because that was the only thing available). The biggest way to help these children, teens, and even adults, is to show them that there are people who care: whether that’s by donating, volunteering, becoming someone who has a positive influence on them, or by becoming a foster parent. For some of these kids, the only real request they have is that their foster parents are happy to see them when they come home from school.
Andrew, thank you so much for sharing your story with us in honor of National Foster Care Month!
If you would like to make an impact on a foster child during this last week of National Foster Care Month, consider researching organizations and selecting one that you might be interested in donating to or volunteering with in the future. Or, you can join us in helping Project Lemonade, an organization that inspires self-esteem in our foster youth, reach their donation goal of $30,000 by May 31st!