Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesdays Tears - Unspeakable Trauma

I have always had neglect cases.

So far I'm glad about that.

Last night one of my kiddos told mie about a past trauma that no one was aware of (well, at least not mie or my family).  It was an innocent conversation - I was telling my kiddos individually how good they were doing while we were driving in the car - and out spilled the trauma.  Though all my kids were "good", one child who I'd never heard of before, was "bad".  When I asked why so and so was bad, I was told of horrific things that were done to "my" child by this other kid, things that no one should ever know about and children of this age should not even be able to imagine in their wildest imagination.  Specific details of abuse at the hands of another child.  My child didn't act as if it were "traumatic" but calmly expressed her disapproval of that kind of behavior.

As any good foster mom does, I silently teared up, knowing this child couldn't see my face (I was driving), and calmly allowed this child to tell mie what was in his/her heart.  I questioned a little bit to see the extend of the abuse, who was involved, and where/how often it took place.  I tried not to be leading and tried to avoid placing shame on this child for the abuse but clearly expressed that what happened was not ok and reiterated what should happen if anyone tries anything like that again.

Then I scrambled to compose myself and figure out what to do next.  It was after hours, there was no present danger for my child, and we're in the middle of a caseworker switch.  I decided to tell my husband about the discussion (he wasn't there at the time, away with Logan, thank God) and then to call the caseworkers in the morning.

Clearly the worst part about this is that this precious child experienced something like this early on, but beyond that it brings up so much crap that most people (non-foster/adopt families) don't think about.

For example:

  • What if they think I'm making it up?  I can't imagine why someone would make something like this up, but still, what if they think that. 
  • The allegation is against another foster child (I think, I don't know the child's name from anything) at a previous foster home.  I don't know the foster family or this other child.  I didn't witness the abuse.  I do believe something happened because the details are not something that would/could be made up, but what if it didn't happen at the former foster home?  What if my child is confusing a memory with something that happened before her time in foster care?  What if my child is confusing a memory with something that happened at the hands of the foster parent, or another child, and not the child that was named?  This is such BIG stuff - it needs to be told and not kept with mie - but what if the information is not entirely accurate?
  • Fear - the abuse occurred in a closet (so I'm told).  Every Saturday morning the kids wake-up early and bring all their stuff from their bedroom to the closet.  They play in there.  What if the abused has become an abuser and has done similar things to my daughter who is too young to communicate that yet?  I've told them not to play in the closet (mostly because I'm tired of taking ALL their stuff back out) and I've never noticed anything that would make me think something like this has happened but what if...?
  • What if it leads to an investigation - like somehow they think we're involved or something...?  What if after this case ends this child remembers our home in place of her last and accuses us of something?
  • What if they just plain don't believe mie or want to protect the state (because this happened in a foster home) so they deny it and look past it?  Will our child get the appropriate help?  
  • What about the accused child - if this story is indeed true and the named child is at fault, how many other victims might there be?  Are they going to get the help?  Will the accused child get help?
  • What will be involved in the investigation about this?  Will there be one?  Will there have to be a physical exam or a psychological exam or even criminal interrogation?  What will our child have to go through as a result?  What will our family and our other children have to go through as a result?  
This all just breaks my heart.  

We've had a situation with a placement in the past where the child in a RADish rage started yelling at mie that I was a monster and that I can't beat him anymore (I never ever touched that child out of punishment or aggression and in that moment was very calm).  I remember asking a few foster parent friends for advice on how to handle it - they recommended reporting to our homestudy worker (FAD worker) and the child's caseworker - I told them and nothing ever came of it (thankfully).  We had another incident where my nephew was learning about different types of abuse and different ways foster children might act out in the home while their family was going through PRIDE classes - at that point he mentioned an acting-out behavior that this same placement had been caught engaging in (alone) several months earlier.  At the time he didn't know about acting-out so he just told him to stop what he was doing and didn't make a big deal about but after learning about things he thought he should say something.  I was nervous about that one too - it had been several months and I'd never seen that behavior - what do I do about it?

To top it off - this happened in a foster home.  Apparently there were concerns about this foster home anyway, though not THIS issue as far as I'm aware, probably about spanking or something.  It sucks that now there is this situation that I'm personally familiar with of the stereotypical "bad foster home" experience for this little child (and potentially others).  I have a feeling the foster family was aware of the problem based on some things that were said.  It's just wrong all around.

I hope this gets the attention it needs and our child gets the help needed to heal.  I hope our family is spared unnecessary trauma and that the truth is identified and handled appropriately.  I hope to never have to go through this again and that, more importantly, every child that comes into my home from here forward is always protected and safe in foster care, before and after they enter our family.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

15 More Responses Needed! - Please Take My Survey!!!

Hi Everyone - Thanks to everyone who took the survey last week.  There was a problem with the link  - for those who didn't take it I still need 15 more surveys today!  Thanks for your help.


I am asking for your participation in completing a 5-10 minute survey that will be used as part of my doctoral dissertation research project. The purpose of this phase of the study is to evaluate the instrument itself and your results will only be used for that purpose. This study begins today and I am providing the link below.

After you have completed the survey you will have a chance to voluntarily enter a drawing to win one of 5 iTunes gift cards. 

For more information about the study or to contact me, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message or contact me at (you all can use my normal "Contact Mie" information on my blog)

Thank you again for your participation!

Sincerely, Mie

Friday, May 25, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Guest Post: Breaking the RAD Cycle: Part II

Q: A reader asked mie to offer suggestions on how to break the "RAD" cycle beyond the normal parenting techniques like interrupting with silly things, re-directing, etc.  This reader shared the following:

"I have a foster (now adopted) preschooler who is "RAD"ish.  My husband and I have noticed that she seems to go into a defiant, manipulative (RAD) behavior when I (mommy) leave the house.  She has overcome so many RAD things, but this is one we are having troubgle with.  I'm sure it is related to her past - feeling abandoned...insert typical foster care story...but I don't know how to help her "reset".

A: In all honesty, I'm not the best qualified for handling RADlets, but I tried to give you my experience in last week's FPF post.  To give you a REAL answer to this question I've asked a guest - Laurie from Adopting Special Needs - to join us this week to share her expertise with you.    Here's what Laurie has to say:

One common piece of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in children from trauma is Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  It is so common in children from trauma, that most people consider it redundant to add OCD to a RAD diagnosis.

The more dysregulated a child is, the more ODD behaviors the child will exhibit.  Hence, the first step in tackling ODD behaviors is setting up the environment to help the child stay regulated.  There are several components to consider when doing this:

  • Physical Environment: A child with RAD needs an organized environment with a minimal amount of stuff.  They regulate themselves better, and as a bonus, it makes it easier to pick up quickly when something is stolen or destroyed.
  • Physical Activity: A child with RAD needs regular activity.  In good weather, climbing, biking, running, scooters are great activities.  In the summer, we schedule regular pool time.  When the weather is not good, we have hula hoops, a mini-tramp, a balance beam, and a swing.  The playroom has space for jumping jacks, gymnastics, and dancing.  Physical activity needs to be scheduled throughout the day.  For example, before homework comes out, twenty jumping jacks enables the child to sit down for homework.  It can also be used as an option with time out.  Given the choice of sitting for eight minutes or jumping on the mini-tramp, most of the time they choose the mini-tramp.  This is a win-win situation because they have choice of consequences and the more physical activity, the better their self-regulation.
  • Coping Strategies: The more strategies the child has for self-regulating and the more you practice with the child when they are regulated, the easier it will be for the child to use these strategies when they need them. In my house we use:

    • Strong sitting: is a technique used to calm the brain and help center the child. Check out this video by Christine Moers .  My girls strong sit regularly.  I find that when my RADlet is struggling, strong sitting three times a day is necessary.  
    • Controlled Breathing: We used controlled breathing exercises.  We breathe out slowly, threee times like a snake, three times as if we were blowing out a candle, and three times saying "shhhh".  I think the pattern and predictability is what helps them reset.
    • EFT or Tapping: Also called the Emotional Freedom Technique.  You can use one of the scripts already on the web or customize the script for what yourparticular child needs.  A good starting place for tapping can be found at my friend Lisa's blog.  
For particularly stubborn problems, I Prescribe the Problem.  For example, if I know a child will rage at a particular time, just before I expect the child to go off, I tell the child I want to see a really loud rage, with lots of mad, nasty words.  It prevents a lot of behavior the child is using to control.  The trick with prescribing the problem is to make sure you use a pleasant, kind tone of voice and act as if you don't care what the outcome is.  That takes the fun out of the behavior. (Mie here - I saw a good example of something similar here by CherubMama, expletives and all...this is my example, not Laurie's).  

The more consistently these techniques are used, the better the results will be.  

I hope these techniques are more helpful than my therapeutic purge from last week.  If you are a foster/adopt parent or are considering joining the world of orphan care, I highly suggest you read-up on attachment disorders, particularly RAD, so that you are as fully aware of what you could be getting into before you find yourself in a therapeutic parenting situation unexpectedly.  RADlets and other hurting children need families too and I appreciate people like Laurie who are dedicated to advocating for children who need families.  For more information on RAD, check out and another post by Laurie here.

Thanks for joining us here today Laurie!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dissertation Research Request - Please Take This Survey w/ chance to win an iTunes gift card.

Hi Everyone - I'm in a bind and since I get 150-ish readers a day I thought I'd reach out to you all to get your responses quickly.  I have a much more interesting post for today here, but before you go check that out, please see my normal request below...


I am asking for your participation in completing a 5-10 minute survey that will be used as part of my doctoral dissertation research project. The purpose of this phase of the study is to evaluate the instrument itself and your results will only be used for that purpose. This study begins today and I am providing the link below. I need about 55 participants in the next 2 days so your prompt participation is very much appreciated.

After you have completed the survey you will have a chance to voluntarily enter a drawing to win one of 5 iTunes gift cards. 

For more information about the study or to contact me, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message or contact me at (you all can use my normal "Contact Mie" information on my blog)

Thank you again for your participation!

Sincerely, Mie

Thankful Thursday - Cuteness

It's things like this that make mie happy (and little concerned):

 Yesterday I spent the day with my Logie and his kindergarten class at a ranch in Northeast Texas.  We've been there before but it's usually for Thanksgiving and so the weather is much cooler.  This time we were able to go swimming, have a nice picnic, and the kids were able to play around in the open space.  My son chose to ride next to mie on the bus and I just soaked up all the love he was giving mie - I know as he gets older that might not be so common.

I had to jump in the pool to save his best friend from being forcibly drowned.  I am a natural swimmer, former lifeguard, and former swim instructor and so have begun teaching water safety & swimming skills to all of my kiddos since they were infants or at least as long as I've had them.  Logan knows the basics but also knows he can rely on mommy to hold onto if he gets tired.  I allowed Logan to go in the deep end with his friend despite the teaching aid asking him to stay in the shallow end.  I was planning to go in with him but it was a bit cold so I sat at the edge for a few minutes waiting until Logan asked mie to come in.  As it turns out I went in earlier than expected.  Logan and his friend started swimming across the pool - Logan slightly behind his friend - and Logie received a gush of water to the face due to his friend's kicking.  Logan responded by grabbing onto his friend to catch his breath.  Mommy could handle that - the friend obviously could not and ended up being held under water.  I was watching carefully so it didn't last long - I realized what was going on and dove in to help them both before the lifeguard and monitor even knew what was going on.  They were both fine - I'm sure it scared them both a little - but they were both able to move on and keep playing.

I told my son that when he comes back in the summer with his summer program he is not allowed to swim in the deep end since mommy won't be there.  I suspect there will be more kiddos in the pool and I didn't like the reaction time of the lifeguards - they were the only two kids in the whole deep end so they should have reacted quicker and I speak from experience as a guard.  I can't control whether or not he stays in the shallow end or not when I'm not there but hopefully my instruction will keep him from getting in too deep without mie there to save him.  By the end of the summer with more work he'll be able to swim just fine, but being that it's the beginning of the season I don't want to chance it.

Back to the letter above - a preschooler had given this card (It had a lot more decoration inside - this is just the front cover) to Logie's teacher and asked her to give it to him so when we arrived to go on the trip she did just that.  Logie was embarrassed and I probably didn't help that much when I took a picture of it and sent it to his dad and then insisted he put it in his cubbie.  When we came back at the end of the day and were gathering our things the card had disappeared and I later found it in the trash.  I dug it out though and promised Logan I wouldn't embarrass him any more with it.

Every girl is in love with Logan.  I can't tell you how many of their parents have told mie their daughters have come home to tell them that they were going to marry Logan.  I even went to a birthday party once and the kiddos grandparents said "so this is the infamous Logan".  Wow.  It's really cute at this age but at the same time it makes mie wonder where on Earth they come up with this stuff!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday's Tears - Overwhelming but Managed.

I've been a bit overwhelmed with life recently.  It hasn't been a bad overwhelmed like 2 years ago, but there is certainly a lot going on.  My hubby is feeling it too and its a great thing he and I are learning (in our 10th year of marriage) to communicate about these things now that we're home together every night.  It certainly has caused stress in our lives that we do not appreciate.

Beyond the normal stuff (work, etc.) we also have been:

  • preparing for our quarterly FAD worker visit
  • rebuilding part of our fence
  • re-landscaping the front yard
  • continuing to potty train Summer, who is a classic example of the terrible 2s
  • preparing for Logan's Kindergarten graduation
  • preparing for my new job & exiting my old one
  • collecting data for my dissertation pilot
  • leading a small group at our church
  • coaching & attending t-ball functions including a 2-hour game this past weekend and the world series this week and weekend
  • catching up on housework that was left undone while I did comps & proposal preparation
In the past 2 weeks I've also had to clean the carpets upstairs 4 times.  One of my kiddos has been suddenly having trouble not wetting the bed at night, something we haven't had trouble with until recently and it seems as if she's getting up to go on the carpet and then getting back into bed (which, by the way, means that both the carpet and the bed are soaked in the morning).  Last night was no exception.

One of our dogs is getting older and it seems is preferring to do his business, usually in the liquidy solid form, in the upstairs playroom.  (Thankfully we've managed to keep the toys picked up in there).  

Last weekend miss Summer decided she wanted to poop in the potty in the 6am hour.  #9 wanted to help her. Why Summer doesn't want to go with mie but she will go with #9 is beyond mie.  It was everywhere when I got up there (including in the potty, for which I was proud).  I won't go into the toilet paper.

(It was everywhere too.  As was the money from Logan's wallet).

Apparently it's time to get a door chime for the girl's room - the boys already have one.

So tonight I have to get home early for the home visit, do the normal night routine with feeding and baths and such, wash and dry the sheets, sanitize the beds, clean the carpet in the bedroom, and try to have some fun with the kiddos.  I'm really hoping the dogs don't decide today would be a good day to use the restroom inside (really, this hasn't been a problem until recently).  Oh, and a friend has asked that I help her decorate some mini cakes because I have cake decorating skills.  I'll have to fit that in somewhere.

Did I mention that my hubby and I also started a fitness contest last weekend?  So we're also trying to eat healthier and exercise a little each day.

We love our life but sometimes its a lot to manage and there isn't much flexibility for "extras".  We try to plan fun time with the family and friends regularly, consider some of the things that could go wrong (like dog poop) when we plan our days, and attempt to go with the flow, but the reality is living the life we do doesn't allow for too many extras.  

Did I mention we got a letter in the mail saying that our regional child care licensing folks are now going to do real, honest-to-goodness unannounced visits just for the fun of it?  No?  Yes well there's that too.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Breaking the RAD Cycle: Part 1

Q: A reader asked mie to offer suggestions on how to break the "RAD" cycle beyond the normal parenting techniques like interrupting with silly things, re-directing, etc.  This reader shared the following:

"I have a foster (now adopted) preschooler who is "RAD"ish.  My husband and I have noticed that she seems to go into a defiant, manipulative (RAD) behavior when I (mommy) leave the house.  She has overcome so many RAD things, but this is one we are having troubgle with.  I'm sure it is related to her past - feeling abandoned...insert typical foster care story...but I don't know how to help her "reset".

A: In all honesty, I'm not the best qualified for handling RADlets so to answer this question I've asked a guest - Laurie from Adopting Special Needs - to join us for a guest post to share her expertise with you.  I will post her response next week, but before I do, I wanted to share my experience with RAD with those of you who are not (yet) familiar with it.

In our experience as foster parents we have had only 1 RADlet out of the 10 kiddos we've had join our family in the past 2 years.  I'm hoping this is encouraging to those of you who are considering becoming foster or adoptive parents and who are "lucky" enough to hear about these challenging behaviors first.  The reality is that most children in care have some sort of attachment issues stemming from lack of quality parental care from their birth family and/or the break in attachment caused by removal from the home.  Many, many kids can heal with quality parenting from foster parents and quick, healthy permanency, but there are some children who experience such trauma in their young lives that leads to more moderate-to-severe attachment issues and disorders.  Before becoming a foster parent I had a solid understanding of attachment, not from our PRIDE classes but with my educational background, but I was completely blindsided by RAD.

When we got the call for our one placement I was told they were being moved because the behavior of one of the two siblings was overwhelming the single foster parent who was simultaneously trying to work full-time and go to school full-time while raising her two older (teenage) children.  I can sympathize with how difficult it can be to do all that stuff WITH a partner, so I completely understood how a preschooler and a toddler can really be challenging for all that as a single mom.  I didn't blame her for her decision, but I did find it a little bit odd that she couldn't handle the behaviors the placement worker described. She said he did things like turn the lights on and off and argued when he didn't get to do what he wanted to do.  They said they suspected she had spanked him and the decision to move the children was mutual.  I remember telling the placement worker "that sounds like normal stuff (for this age) to mie" and we agreed to take the placement.

Over the next week or two we quickly learned that this behavior was anything but normal.  There was no honeymoon period.  I read through the note the birth mom had sent when they entered care and it said stuff like "make sure you cuddle with him when he wakes up otherwise he'll throw a fit", "he only eats macaroni and cheese, dinosaur chicken nuggets, and french fries", and "Watch Out! Have an extra plate ready for him because if he doesn't want to eat something he'll vomit on it and he does it in time out too".  That information and the information I knew about the case made it clear to mie where the behavior challenges were coming from.  I was sure that with good parenting and extra love our kiddo would be on the right track in no time.

I was wrong.  Over the time we had this placement we observed the following signs of RAD:

  1. Is unable to give and receive love (Mild)
  2. Is oppositional, argumentative, defiant (Moderate)
  3. Is emotionally phony, hollow, or empty (Moderate)
  4. Is manipulative or controlling (Severe)
  5. Has frequent or intense angry outbursts (Severe)
  6. Is an angry child inside (Moderate)
  7. Unable to cry about something sad (Mild)
  8. Avoids or resists physical closeness and touch (None)
  9. Cannot be trusted (Moderate)
  10. Has little or no conscience (Moderate)
  11. Is superficially engaging and charming (Severe)
  12. Lack of eye contact on parental terms (Severe)
  13. Indiscriminate affection with strangers (Moderate)
  14. Not affectionate on parents' terms (Mild)
  15. Destructive to self, others, and property (Moderate)
  16. More disobedient toward mom than dad (Moderate)
  17. Cruel to animals (None)
  18. Steals (Moderate)
  19. Lies about the obvious (crazy lying) (Severe)
  20. Is impulsive or hyperactive (Severe)
  21. Lacks cause and effect thinking (Severe)
  22. Gorges or hoards food (Moderate)
  23. Has poor peer relationships (Moderate)
  24. Preoccupation with fire, blood, or violence (None)
  25. Persistent nonsense questions or incessant chatter (Severe)
  26. Inappropriately demanding and clingy (Moderate)
  27. Sexually acting out (Mild)
  28. Bossy with peers (Moderate)
This child vomited any time he wasn't getting his way as a form of manipulation, no matter where we were (though we learned to help control that).  He would scream at you from the top of his lungs.  He would throw wild tantrums.  This things were amazing to see and could push your buttons but the things that got under our skin the most were the incessant nonsense talking and asking questions, the lack of cause/effect thinking and ability to control his impulses, the stealing and lying about the obvious, and the lack of eye contact on parental terms.  Dealing with these things on a consistent basis, especially if you're not familiar with what is going on (RAD), can be grating and confusing.  It was indescribable.

On top of that there was this superficial charm and indiscriminant familiarity with strangers.  With people who only saw him for a few minutes at a time (people in the grocery store) or for an hour or so a week (friends at church, as an example) - he was amazingly sweet and charming.  They would see his behavior in mild forms and think it was cute and absolutely normal (remember my opinion of his flipping the light switches on and off?).  In small doses he seemed like a child with spunk who was fun and loving and caring and just a joy to parent.  The truth wasn't that at all - as a parent to a RADlet you not only get the worst of the behaviors but you get them nonstop (afterall, you are the parent).  Then I had a "wonderful" teacher at school who insisted on telling mie every bad thing he did at school (which, you know, was the same thing day after day).  It was like living in a crazy cycle.

It wasn't until at least half-way through the placement that I knew what was going on.  I'd come in contact with and got a lot of tips and suggestions.  I knew it wasn't mie but also learned a lot of tips to help him start the process of healing.  I didn't have him get tested.  I explained my concerns to the caseworker but we discussed waiting to get him evaluated.  He was receiving play therapy (it was a joke, really) and more than that he was showing signs of improvement.  If he had been diagnosed with RAD he would likely have to be moved to another home because we're only licensed as basic and that would likely have moved him up (rightfully so) to a higher service level.  I didn't want him to be moved, yet again, when we had the skills to take care of him and his case was where it was at the time, so what we agreed was that we'd keep working with him until it was decided what would happen to his case and then we'd get him tested once permanency was in motion.  Shortly afterward it was determined reunification would be imminent and at that point I insisted he receive a full psychological evaluation before he go home so that I could work with the therapist rather than his birth family who, understandably was eager to get him home and may not have been quite as familiar with his behaviors or the fact that they were a problem.  I was concerned that his behavior, left untreated, could be a trigger for the parents as they worked on their own healing, especially if his condition weren't diagnosed and treated prior to him going home.

We found a great therapist.  Within minutes of being in her office for the evaluation she told mie something to the effect of "you sure have been dealing with a lot huh?", acknowledging his behavior without letting him know it - I started to well up - she could see it, immediately.  Later that week I spent 90 minutes on the phone with her so she could talk about his behaviors with mie without him present.  This was such a healing phone call for mie.  It wasn't a therapy appointment for mie - in fact all she did was ask mie to describe his behaviors and asked follow-up questions to understand my concerns - but she validated what she saw in the office as supporting my concerns and my suspicion of RAD, a severe case, she said.  I didn't really need other people to agree with mie - I knew what I was dealing with - but it really helped to have an independent professional acknowledge what I had suspected, and, to know that he would receive follow-up care after he left.

It would have helped the healing process if I had been able to know what his fate in the case was earlier on - if he was going to be adopted by us (we were facing Summer's adoption so he heard us talking about it) or if he was going to return home.  I think it helped him to know he was stable in our home but the uncertainty of what was going on with his future was a lot for him to handle.  It would have helped if I knew more, at the time, about dysregulation and how to help him regulate himself.  In the end he was much better than he was when he'd arrived - I'm fairly sure his first foster home was detrimental to his healing, not helpful.  In the end I was sure that he'd been demonstrating RAD-ish behaviors prior to entering foster care and I was certain that it had caused stress that contributed to the factors around his removal.  Details about the case that I'll leave unsaid supported the fact that his attachment issues were caused well before his removal and I did extra to reach out to his parents to support them during the transition, to know they had someone else to support them as their kids came back home.  They needed that.

I no longer fear RAD but I am much more sensitive to the impact of its ugliness can have on everyone involved in foster care and adoption.

We foster and/or adopt anyway.

Stay tuned next week for Laurie's guest post with some very helpful suggestions on how to break the RAD cycle.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Sane & Helpful Caseworkers

I haven't talked much about my current case because frankly its been one of those cases where nothing has happened the entire time.  I'm not saying that nothing has happened on the part of one or both parents - there may or may not be any activity on their part - it's just that nothing has happened in the case.  There is no sign it will be going this way or that way any time soon, except for that a hearing is scheduled in a few weeks and it is supposed to be the last hearing before the case is dismissed and I expect at that hearing for something to be proposed in regards to permanency.  I don't expect reunification to happen that day.  I don't expect termination to happen that day.  I just expect for someone to announce their support for one or the other at that hearing with the intention that then when the case is supposed to be dismissed it will be headed in that direction.  We'll see.  I do expect fireworks over this case in the end.

This weekend I was surprised by a call from CASA who was politely asking that mom get to talk to her kiddos on mother's day.  I'll admit, my flesh was slightly irritated by the request and I may have lamented to a fellow foster parent about how you kind of lose the priviledge of talking to your kiddos on mother's day when you do the stuff involved in this case and subsequently have them removed from you (and then subsequently continue to do some of the things you did in the first place).  Don't get mie wrong - I have sympathy for any mother not able to love on her kiddos on mother's day, it's just one of those things AS a mother I have less sympathy for when you make certain choices repeatedly rather than choosing the health and safety of your children.

My sympathy (and God's grace) won and I offered to go ahead and call mom with the kids so that she could talk to them (mind you they are 1 and 3 - there's not much talking going on especially since #10 is not really talking at all yet).  I used my Google voice account setup just for foster care and provided mom with the number to text mie if she had questions about the kiddos or was worried about them some times - she could get a hold of mie and feel that connection.  She promised she wouldn't bother mie much but thanked mie for the number and we went about our day after a short, successful call with her kids.

She texted mie a few times that day to say thank you for the call and to wish mie a happy mother's day.  And to promise not to bother mie.

This is where the normal mie is sometimes surprised by the behavior of others, particularly those involved in the foster care system.  I continually falsely believe that moms and dads have a level of common sense that many of them appear to not have.

Apparently "not bothering mie" or "contacting mie to often" means something less than 24 hours because lo and behold Monday night I find a voicemail on my mobile Google voice app that says mom called to ask if she could say good night to the kids and that if she could that would be great but if she couldn't then sorry to bother mie.  I didn't get the message until 9pm because when she called we were upstairs getting the kids ready for bed and thoroughly cleaning the playroom so I didn't hear the phone ring.  So, in fact, she couldn't talk to her kids because they were already asleep and she didn't bother mie because I didn't hear the phone. I felt bad explaining to her that I couldn't allow her contact with her kids without the court or caseworker's approval and she took it to mean that she was bothering mie and she "wouldn't be doing it again".  I tried to explain to her that she wasn't bothering mie, it's just against the rules and I'd have to talk it over with the caseworker.  I really do want to have an open line of communication with the birth parents and I really don't mind her contacting mie, but expecting to be able to talk to her kids, daily no less, seems a bit unreasonable to mie.

You bet I talked to the caseworker.  The next morning I contacted the caseworker who apparently was in on the deal to let her talk to the kids on mother's day.  I told her about the attempt to talk to the kids before bed and she said "Oh, you gave her an inch and she ran with it".  Yep.  I told her I wouldn't mind letting the kids talk to their mom on occasion, as in the case plan, but needed her to talk it over with the mom because of the rules in the foster parent agreement.  CW assured mie she didn't see regular communication happening any time soon and we both agreed it probably wouldn't be healthy for the kids.  Her strong reaction made mie wonder if they weren't going to be moving toward TPR at the next hearing...we'll see.

In the end I was able to be the good guy and let mom talk to her kids on mother's day, I was able to establish an "open" line of communication with mom, and I was able to let the CW be the "bad guy" limiting contact with the kiddos rather than taking the blame for that myself.  I'm sure mom will blame mie a bit anyway, afterall I could have let her talk to the kids without saying something about it, but the caseworker took responsibility for that decision and having that conversation and it makes my job that much easier.

I'm really grateful there won't be many phone conversations too - you know how hard it is to have phone conversations with a 1 and 3 year old in our crazy schedule when you also have 2 other young kiddos to manage?  It's nearly impossible - the only reason it worked out so well this Sunday is that my son and daughter decided they  needed to go home with their Auntie after church with my 2 year old telling mie "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya..."

On mother's day.

I did get a LOOONG nap out of the deal. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday’s Tears – Death and Destruction in the News

Occasionally I will take a few minutes to myself as I eat lunch to check news online.  I’ll do this in a way that favors mass consumption – I typically click one interesting article and then another and another and another – reading 8-10 articles in a sitting.  Usually I quit not because there’s not more news out there but because I’m feeling so gross after having that much contact with the outside world.

I hardly live in a bubble.  With all the things I “do” I come in contact with the “outside world” fairly frequently.  Add in my husband’s work stories and communication with people related to the world of foster care and I get plenty of external influences.  That being said I do tend to be sheltered a bit.  I listen to a Christian rock radio station most frequently ( – streaming on the web if you’re interested) and I have very little time for other socializing besides a handful of church activities and family commitments.  I typically turn on the news in the morning or night but I’m usually doing other things so I tune out the majority of what’s on – I’m usually waiting for the weather report.  I try not to ignore the needs of this world but I also try not to get wrapped up into the drama of the latest celebrity gossip and other pointless “entertainment”.  

I also try to keep my kids protected from certain things that blare out there in the media.  (Can I get an Amen?)

These little binge sessions on real-life news stories keep mie grounded in how bad this world really is sometimes.  Yesterday I read about a newborn found in a freezer, a mother convicted of raping her infant daughter, a boy who killed his sister while in foster care, a boy who killed his caregivers, and many, many others.

It makes my heart heavy.  My family lives a life dedicated to helping others.  We’re not perfect but we’re actively trying to love and help.  It is so hard for mie to understand how such evil exists and how the world seems to reject the idea of good and evil. I heard a report the other day about how some individuals lack the moral center of the brain (physically) and therefore can’t be held accountable for their murderous (etc.) acts because they can’t control themselves – the reporter was inherently advocating we accept the behavior and not punish or try to control it because the perpetrators can’t help themselves – and it was clear that this world is leaning more and more at accepting evil as normal rather than fighting against it.

I don’t advocate burying my head in the sand but I do know my limits.  It is good to stay grounded in reality but I choose to spend the majority of my “mie” time on more positive activities.  I read your blogs – I see the good you are doing and it encourages mie.  I do good things.  I pray.  I love – at least I sure try!  I’m convinced that despite the evil that has somehow veiled itself in this world we can make a difference as we continue to actively love each other.  

I pray for those who are struggling after the events described in those stories.  I pray Christ comforts them and others who are hurting.  I pray they are drawn closer to Christ through these experiences and that those who are faced with administering justice are given wisdom to handle the situations correctly, whatever that may be.

We can make a difference.  We can be a light to the dark world.  Thank you for sharing your light with mie.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Moolah Monday - Purpose of Wealth

I’ve seen a few blogs today that spurred mie to write on this subject.  Before reading more here, go check out SmallTown Joy, Farmgirl, and Wendy, each who’ve posted on a different aspect of financial responsibility in the Christian walk.  Though I’m definitely over-summarizing, one of the main themes through these posts is that though there may be benefit to aspects of financial peace as proposed by Dave Ramsey and his 7-step plan to building wealth, particularly living debt-free, there are reasons to question whether we should be pursuing the security of financial freedom at all.

I’m not here to teach you about Dave Ramsey’s plan or to argue with my fellow bloggers about the merits of the plan but I do want to respond with my perspective – it is Moolah Monday afterall.

If you get nothing more from this post, hear this – none of us should be worried about whether we are judged by our peers on how we handle money.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  If you’re sitting back today worrying about whether your parents or sister or neighbor or Dave Ramsey himself are going to approve of your spending habits – let it go.  You don’t owe any of us an explanation and you are not responsible to proving your financial responsibility to anyone.  Some of you face parents who scrutinize your every decision.  Some of you are wealthy and wonder if it’s ok.  Statistically many others are scraping by trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, either with accumulation of stuff OR demonstration of financial prowess.  If you're concerned with any of this - let yourself experience the freedom from dropping it.

The flip-side is that you do need to be concerned about what God thinks.  He alone will be judging you.  In the end no one else’s opinion will matter, not even your own.  If you need an example, check out the Parable of the Three Servants – where money (often interpreted as talents) is given to various “servants” (us) by a “master” (God) with each servant having different results.  Those who turned their provisions into something more through investment of some sort were rewarded.  The one who hid his money as to save it for when the master returned was rebuked and punished.  The point?  We are all given a variety of life situations – maybe money, maybe talent, maybe opportunities – and these things are to be put to use in a way that is consistent with the master’s purposes for what was given.  We are not all given the same things in the same amounts.  The only thing we all get are time and chance and even those are dolled out in different measure but we are given the choice on how we will react with what we’ve been given.  

With this in mind, the question is not whether you have piles of cash or piles of debt and frankly isn’t the specific quantity of time or money you are giving or saving each month.  Here’s the real question – are you pursuing your will with (your stuff – money, talent, time) or are you pursuing God’s?  That is the only question that matters for money – for anything.

Let’s take things out of the financial context for a moment and into the other favorite topic around here – orphan care.  Many of us are judged incessantly for our efforts to help orphans.  We’re told by some we’re saints because we give “more than they can” to help children in need.  We’re told by some we’re crazy because we have a revolving door and/or we have large families.  If you’re like us at all, you’ve had the discussion in your household about how many kids you should take in and whether or not you should be continuing down this path.  These are good conversations to have, but should we get into the comparison game?  Probably not.  You’ve got folks like Dawn and Sophie with 9 kids each – should I feel “less-sacrificial” because I only have 4?  I know some people who “only” have a license for 1 or 2.  Does that mean they are not giving enough of their time and resources to help the Kingdom?  

None of us can answer that for each other.  Only God can answer that and hopefully when we’re having those family discussions THAT is the primary consideration – what does God want us to do?  Personally in our home we’ve opened up to as much as the state will allow for us at this time and so far we’ve ended up with 4.  Does that mean we’ll stay this way?  Who knows – I suspect we’ll end up maxed out with 6 at some point and maybe will move beyond that – I have no idea what the future holds but the point is not to be focused on where we will end up but on being open to what God may bring our way – and seeking that out on a continual basis.

Isn’t that the same with financial resources?  Some of us have more, some of us have less.  Some of us are seen as financially wise for piling up cash, others see that as excessive hoarding of resources that could be used to further the Kingdom (or, in lay-terms helping feed the poor, take care of orphans & widows, etc.).  The truth is, none of us can look at each other’s financial situation and determine whether or not someone is living according to God’s financial will purely by looking at someone’s personal balance sheet.  Noah stored up resources in the form of building an ark that He was called to build – I’m purely speculating here but I’m sure there were some who wondered if his efforts and those materials could not have been better served by caring for the poor around him.  Alternatively, those wondering in the desert were “punished” for collecting extra manna – I’m sure they could have collected extra and distributed to those who didn’t collect enough, if they’d been allowed.  So who was right?  Noah for storing up or the Israelites for only taking their daily bread?  I’m hoping by now the point is obvious – we are “right” when it comes to finances when we are wholly and completely seeking God’s will for the resources we’ve been given.

I’m especially sensitive to this issue because at the current moment God has pushed us in the direction of having more financial resources rather than less.  We own two homes.  We could purchase more.  We could purchase luxury cars.  We could live in a shack in a bad part of town (we don’t) and either save or give thousands of dollars every month to the poor.  We have a lot of financial options and with that we have to be responsible (meaning prayerful & wise) about what GOD wants us to do with the resources He’s given us.  We’ve bought a larger home at least in part to accommodate more children – children we believe we’ll be adopting rather than birthing or temporarily providing a home for through foster care.  Do we have to have a larger home?  No, but with the larger home we know we need to be using it for God’s purposes, not our own – which means it’s not for our enjoyment (though we’re blessed with the ability to enjoy it) and we need to be open to how God might use it in the future.  We have a 2011 minivan we bought new in 2010.  Should we have spent $40K on a new minivan when a used reliable one would have cost much less?  Maybe.  We often get into the conversation around our house about luxury sports cars – will we ever have “enough” money to justify spending 150K on a car?  I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on a car no matter how much money I had in the bank when I could be using that money to give to others in need but far be it from me to say that God wouldn’t use a fancy schmancy sports car worth that much money for His will.  Living debt-free seems to be a valid principle too – though maybe there are times where God calls us to go into debt for something?  Far be it for mie to say that He wouldn’t do that.  I can say I certainly understand the burden of the “slave” much better than I would have otherwise having been slave to creditors.

So what is the right amount of money to have in the bank?  What is the right income?  What is the right amount to give away and what is the right level of sacrifice?  We should sacrifice all as if it belongs to Christ himself – he gave his life far be it from Mie to sacrifice any less – to Him all belongs and if He provides mie with resources, financial or otherwise, far be it from any one else to tell mie what I should or should not be doing with them less I fall trap to losing sight of His will by turning my eyes to those around Mie.  I have no idea what my financial future holds – daily I will walk with Christ and as I take each step I’ll get to see the outcome of His plans.  I may die with billions in the bank – to be passed on to my children who are supposed to setup funds to provide for the needs of millions of God’s people – I may die alone in the desert, having lost everything and wandering for my next morsel of food or water.  I don’t know what will happen in the future – what I know is that today he has given mie a particular resource and I will seek to use that resource for His glory today.  Tomorrow I will do the same and and the next day and the next ending only when He gives Mie no more tomorrows.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Introducing Your Children to the Public

Q: How do you introduce or refer to your new foster child when you are out in public? Meaning, when people want to know your relationship to the child, what do you say?

A: Due to requirements around privacy and confidentiality, foster parents usually don’t go advertising their foster children’s status to the public.  This is easy to do when the child has the same ethnic heritage or when there are relatively few children in the family.  It becomes much more difficult when there are many children or when children and parents are of different races.  At that time, foster parents have a variety of creative ways to explain the situation to others – many are snarky.

We have always had children who closely resemble us.  All of our children have been Caucasian.  My husband has green eyes and I have blue eyes – all but 2 of our 10 foster kids have had bright blue eyes like mine.  Ironically, our biological son has my husband’s green eyes even though my eyes are extremely pervasive in my family.  Out of about 50 people, less than 10 didn’t get the blue eyes.  Anyway – because my kids have all had light skin, hair, and eyes that seem to match my husband and I, I don’t really get those kinds of looks or questions from the general public.  Furthermore, I frequently do trips to public places without my husband and so even if my kids didn’t look exactly like mie people don’t say much because they don’t know what my husband looks like.  This does become an issue when I’m out with my niece and nephews – I’ll get to that later.

I most frequently get weird looks or questions about my children in public because there are so many of them and they are all young.  I’ve almost always had 2 or more that appear to be twins even though they are unrelated and that typically draws the “are they twins” question.  With this placement and the last it has appeared as if maybe I have two sets of twins and that REALLY gets people excited.  Beyond that though, people are floored that I have 4 little kids.  Many times I’m out with my 4 and any or all of my sister’s 3 who are older (7, 10, 12) or with friend’s children that I’m watching for a few hours.  Having 4-7 kids is just highly unusual for people to see, I guess, and when I take them out by myself I’m really a rarity.  Inevitably I get lots of questions, which I highly prefer to the stares.  When I went to home depot two weeks ago with my 3 youngest and my friend’s 1 and 3 year old people just stared and stared.  One lady even followed mie around – I think she was trying to see if I was going to beat one of them or if I could keep them all safe at the store.  More than anything people are fascinated and curious. 

The most common comments that begs an answer from mie is whether they are twins or telling mie that I “sure have my hands full!”.  Sometimes people will give complements and tell mie how well I’m handling them but most people are basically telling mie how crazy I am.   

Uncommon Answers:
  • Easy – “No, they’re not twins just close in age” to which they’ll say “Wow!  You sure have your hands full” and to that I always say either “Yep!” or “It’s not so bad”.
  • Snarky  - I have several options:
    • “Nope, they’re 3 months apart” – then I walk away
    • “Yep!  I have 4 kids with 4 different dads!” – then I walk away.
    • “They sure are (twins), all three of them!”

Common Answer: Usually when someone engages with mie about my kids I’ll respond by telling them that we’re foster parents.  This will send them into telling us how great we are, etc., and will distract them from asking more about the kids themselves.  I like this approach the best because it helps mie to get the word out about fostering – showing that we are normal people with normal kids doing normal things, and we’re foster parents so maybe they could be foster parents too.  I’ve had countless conversations with people where I’ve been able to share my blog or other resources with random strangers who are in the process of considering adoption or foster care or who are going through the pain of infertility and they needed a friend to come alongside them at that moment, just because I was willing to be vulnerable.  Using this approach I refrain from pointing out which of my kids are foster children or adopted or biological.  On rare occasions when I feel led I might bring up that we were infertile after having our son and so we point out that he is biological or at least that we have one biological son.  I’ll also rarely talk about our kids cases in very general terms, talking about how all of our foster kids have come to us because of neglect and how reunification is usually the goal but we’ve had the opportunity to adopt before.  Thankfully, most of these conversations stay very surface level so as not to expose our kids in the public as “foster kids”. 

People who see us very frequently like friends, family, church, and a handful of very frequently shopped stores’ staff know that we are foster parents because they see our kids change out from time-to-time.  They know our story because over time we’ve shared it with them and we have a long-standing relationship where we trust with some, but not all, details.  For example, we might share that we got new kids and therefore they know they are foster kids.  Many times they’ll ask if the kids will stay permanently or short-term and we’ll explain if there are relatives waiting to be approved or basics of the case like that but we don’t share specific names or other details related to the case.

I promised to talk about going out with my nephews and niece.  I love doing that.  They happen to have dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin and it is apparent that either my husband is multi-racial or there is something else going on.  This always makes the situation fun.  Sometimes I’ll be nice and say I’m a foster parent and point out that I have my niece and nephews with mie but other times I choose to have fun. Sometimes I’ll ask them to guess which ones are “mine”.  The truth is that aside from my biological son, my nephews and niece are more blood related to mie than my milky-white, blonde, blue-eyed daughter.  That’s fun.  Then there’s the time I was out to eat with my 4 kids, my sister and her 3 kids, and her neighbor’s 2 sons.  In total there were 2 moms and nine kids, ages 18 months, 18 months, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11.  We were at a restaurant and not one that had a play-place.  They sectioned us off in the back, as you would expect, and finally the waitress asked if we were babysitting.  We explained that we had 2 extra and my sister pointed out hers.  Then my sister told the waiters “yeah, her kids all have different dads” after she made a comment about how she couldn’t figure out who went with whom.  Her reaction was priceless “aww…that’s not nice”.  I said “It’s true!”.  She just sat there trying to recover herself until my sister pointed out that I’m a foster mom.  It was hilarious!  We had been joking around with her during our stay so it was part of the relationship we had with that waitress, not something I’d do all the time, but needless to say we do have fun with our situation from time-to-time.

My sister recently received her foster care license and is waiting for her first placement.  She and I often take our kids to Costco together, both just she and I or with one (but not both) of our husbands.  We joke around that people must think we’re in a “sister wife” kind of relationship and can’t wait to see how people react when she has foster kids too and our group expands.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday = Thankful Thursday

Tuesday I promised to post a Working Mama Wednesday piece about changes at work.  However, this change happens to be super cool and definitely worthy of a Thankful Thursday spot, so I’ll pretend that I intentionally held off until Wednesday.  I most certainly did not forget to get this blog out on time on Wednesday.  Nope.  That wasn’t mie.

You all know I’ve been whining about my job situation. I say whining because frankly I have a really good job that affords our family with lots of possibilities including flexible schedule and a very large paycheck but I haven’t been content where I’m at.  Frankly I’ve felt overpaid and underworked in this role and that’s not something I’m comfortable with, not to mention my feelings toward project management in general (which is what I’ve been doing for the past year).  It was a good move at the time due to some really bad circumstances in my previous role and I love the people I work with – I just felt underutilized.  If I’m honest, I also felt a bit bitter about the circumstances in my last role which continue to be proven less and less “my fault”, though I do take ownership for my pieces.  In the last year I’ve had 5-10 significant role changes/promotions fall through and it was beginning to be pretty frustrating.  I didn’t understand what God was doing but I knew I just needed to press forward, work on contentment in my role, and continue to serve in this role to my best capacity.  

Two weeks ago I was called in by my boss.  Turns out it was annual merit pay increase time and he was rewarding mie with my 3+% pay increase which was nothing to sneeze at, especially since I already felt overpaid.  Keep that in mind.

Then came last week.  I was offered, and accepted, a new director role.  It hasn’t been announced yet and I don’t know if anyone from work reads my blog so I’ll stay a little vague, but needless to say it’s a role that will be PERFECT for mie in so many ways.  It will challenge mie intellectually, it will put mie in the position to be leading people again, it gives mie a big area of responsibility for the company, and I’ll be working for people who really wanted mie to work for them.  Needless to say I’m super excited.

I’m also excited that this whole phase is finally “done”.  This opportunity was presented to mie in early March as a possibility and everyone else around mie has seemed to know what was going on more than I did.  I actually had 3 opportunities as “possible” positions for the past 6-8 weeks and yet nothing seemed to be moving – it was hard waiting to know how everything was going to work out.  I also knew in my heart that if something DIDN’T work out, no matter how much I tried to prepare myself for that, it would have hurt my heart and caused further frustration.  At one point in a conversation not really related to my opportunities I found that one of the positions was no longer an option for mie, despite the fact that just days earlier it was presented as a definite option and no one had told mie that changed.  I’m definitely learning to be flexible.

I’m supposed to begin this new position at the beginning of June.  I was presented with an offer and to my surprise on top of my 3+% pay increase I’d received the week before I will now be receiving a MUCH more substantial pay increase.  In a few weeks I’ll have been here for 10 years and now I can say that my pay has increased 500% from where I was when I started.  Seriously I’m blown away.

I’m also very grateful that God continues to teach mie and use mie where I am.  I hope I’m able to speak into the lives of those I work with and can honor Him in my new role.  One of the things my husband and I am SO excited about is that with this new income we will be able to help SO MANY PEOPLE!  We have a few things to take care of “in our own house” first, but then we will be in a position to bless others in a way we would have never thought possible.  We’re super, super excited.

And very, very thankful.  And honored.  

(And I get to hire a housecleaner.  Yippee for mie!  Boohoo for all the germs that may have taken up residence in my restrooms.)

So, in the last two weeks I received a merit pay increase, I was offered and accepted this position, that day I received word that I passed my comps, I received my daughter's new social security number, and then I presentedand passed my dissertation proposal.  It’s been a good two weeks to be mie.  As I approach the 2 year anniversary of one of the low seasons of my life, I’m reminded that life is cyclical and God will do what He will.  I’m glad to be on this ride.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


My life in the past week has been crazy good.

I've had some amazing changes at work - but since working mama Wednesday is only tomorrow I'll let you all wait for those updates until then.  Today I will focus on my education.

A few weeks ago I was working on my doctoral comprehensive exams.  It was stressful and I was very much ready to give up and be done.  Thankfully my husband swooped in next to mie and gave mie the encouragement and environment I needed to finish and turn my 80 pages (x 6 copies) in 4 days before the due date. I was so happy to turn them in that I didn't bother asking how I'll find out if I passed.

For those of you unfamiliar with the doctoral process, it typically goes something like this:

  1. Admittance, acceptance, & enrollment
  2. Coursework - my program had 72 units, 60 of which is considered my coursework.  60 units = 20 classes and that took mie 3 years to complete.
    2a - Residency - my program required that for 2 consecutive semesters I HAD to go full-time, which meant 3 classes per semester.  I did that in 2008 to 2009, my first year in the program.  Because I was doing residency, we delayed any fertility testing and treatments until spring 2009 - subsequently that is when we began learning the true nature of our infertility and was the beginning of our journey into foster care & adoption.
  3. Comprehensive exams - each program is different, but I had 2 weeks to answer, in essay form, lots and lots of questions.  Many times students will do comprehensive exams toward the end of their last semester of coursework - that is the first time you are eligible to complete them.  I on the other hand worked full-time and was caring for 4 children under 5 years old and was going through the drama of waiting for Summer's brother, so I just said no to comps in Spring 2011.  I ended up waiting an extra year before I completed them.

    When you complete your comps successfully you are promoted to "doctoral candidate".  Then you are able to pursue the last step of obtaining a doctoral degree - the dissertation.  A dissertation is a major research project that should be publishable and contribute to the body of knowledge in your subject area.  It's a lot of work and professors will tell you it's the hardest part because no one is pushing you to complete it - you have support but are on your own in motivating yourself to get it done.
  4. Dissertation Proposal - Before you can do your research you have to put together, and defend, your dissertation proposal.  You can start doing this during coursework but can't officially make progress until your comprehensive exams are done.  The proposal involves writing 3 of 5 chapters of the final dissertation, including all of the introduction to the study, an analysis of existing literature, and then defining HOW you are going to do the study (in painful detail).  Once you are done writing this piece (mine is 45ish pages long, not counting references and the appendix) you then get to present the "proposal" to your doctoral committee, a group of 3-5 professors who are officially chosen to work with you during the dissertation process.  The proposal is public and so anyone can go including other students, other faculty, family, and friends, but it is in an intimate setting.  You present your information and then the committee members (and other faculty, if they are there) grill you about your proposal, pointing out all of the flaws and making suggestions to make it better.  At the end you either pass or fail.  When you pass you are free to move forward with the dissertation process.
  5. Conduct Dissertation Research - After you have an approved proposal you start collecting data however you said you would and then you do the statistical analysis and write up the findings.  In the end you have 5 chapters worth of information that is referred to as "the dissertation".  
  6. Dissertation Defense - When your dissertation is complete you then come back before your committee to present the results.  You have to be able to answer their questions again, similar to the proposal, but if you do it right through the process the dissertation defense, though big and scary, is fun and celebratory.  If you pass, at the end your committee congratulates you by calling you "Dr." for the first time.
  7. Graduation - All the regalia of a graduation ceremony, complete with a "hooding" ceremony (no joke),  at the end of which you are FINALLY done.  Like all the way done.
So my friends, last Wednesday I got word that I had passed my comps.  Literally I got a few words, in an email, from my professor.  After ALL that work and tears, the email read "You have passed your comps.  Congratulations".  I joked with him yesterday that it was pretty anti-climatic and I really expected some fanfare over completing that step.  Most students get all freaked out about the dissertation process but the comps is what really got to mie.  At the time I took my comps my dissertation proposal was almost completely ready for presentation and I was not at all afraid of that process.  Aside from just needing a break from school, the REAL reason I delayed comps for a year was I was afraid I'd fail - so passing for mie was huge.

The goal in getting my comps done when I did was to be able to propose my dissertation this semester. I was able to arrange for my committee to meet yesterday, the first day of finals week, for my dissertation proposal.  As I said I had most of it done during comps and so I didn't have much to do besides put together the powerpoint and make final corrections.  

Yesterday I defended my dissertation proposal.

As I walked into the room to get ready my major professor told mie that I he was going to be taping mie.  He runs a website for doctoral students to understand the process and had examples of all the other stages EXCEPT the dissertation proposal defense, so he prepped it so that I would be the example.  He didn't want mie to freak out so he didn't tell mie in advance.  I didn't mind but I probably would have done a better job prepping for the presentation.  My hubby attended my proposal, which made it extra special.

As I got up to begin my presentation I started seeing the familiar blindness of aura.  Those of you who experience aura with migraine are familiar with what I'm talking about.  I don't get them that often anymore, but I have a history of wicked migraines and wouldn't you know I was fortunate enough to get one of the worst in a long time right as I stood up to present.  I mean literally - I was just fine all the time up to the time I stood up.  Then I couldn't see, almost at all.  I knew what it was and tried to play it off but when I was done with the presentation and ready to sit down for the questions I just let the committee know that if I gave them funny looks bear with mie - I couldn't see them.  The thing about aura is that though it is annoying and can be disturbing, the pain and other effects of migraine don't really start until the aura goes away - I had time to finish but I knew what was coming.

Overall the process went really well and I PASSED!  I was later told that behind closed doors I had great kuddos for my work and many of the questions were purely for the camera so other students could see some of the questions they should be prepared for.  Migraines make my intellectual processing flow pretty slow, so it's wonderful that the example for students at this large university will be mie, not being able to see, surely looking and sounding a bit "slow".  

Bottom line though - I passed.  In the past week I passed my comprehensive exams and my dissertation proposal.  The last major step is to pass the dissertation defense, which I plan to do in September, then I can graduate in December.  I CANNOT WAIT!!!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Foster Parent Friday – The Honest Truth

Thank you to everyone who gave mie questions to answer.  I will answer them soon.

Now that National Foster Care Month is upon us, several blogs and media snippets have struck a chord with mie and I’m left wondering whether our community has two very different personas when dealing with those within and outside of foster/adopt circles.  Some of us are pretty transparent when it comes to our blogs and what we share within the community, but I’m starting to believe we are trying to pass off lies to the outside world about what it’s really like to be foster/adopt parents.

Case in point – what is your reaction when someone says “I could never do that” upon finding out you’re a foster/adopt parent?

We have two very different responses to this phrase depending on who our audience is.  When we’re talking to each other, we share our frustration about how this makes us feel – how it grates on our nerves because people must assume that while we are cold and heartless, they are too sensitive to risk losing a loved one.  I think we feel free to share with each other because we know we have a sympathetic audience and by sharing honestly we’re not going to discourage each other from renewing our license.  It’s not like hearing one of my foster/adopt friends tell mie how hard it was to send their recent placement home is going to make mie call up the CW and demand #9 & #10 go home now. 

Contrarily, because I *know* a lot of my foster/adopt friends, I doubt we consistently share that frustration with those on the outside (other than what’s shared on our blogs).  In other words, when someone says that to my face, I don’t usually respond by yelling expletives and going on a rant about how hard it actually is.  Instead, I tend to minimize the painful times and emphasize the positive.  When a friend says those words I roll my eyes internally but externally I smile and say something like “I understand, but we’ve found it’s not that hard to let them go but it’s so rewarding that it’s worth it”.  We tend to be optimistic, hoping as they leave us they’re going to be in their permanent home, and we begin to look forward to our next placement, so it really hasn’t been that bad.  I guess I believe that more people COULD do it if they just tried and I don’t want to discourage them for that reason. 

Where I think we fall short is in in talking to prospective foster and/or adoptive parents about everything else about foster parenting/adoption.  We are all so passionate about caring for orphans and we fear being misunderstood so I don’t think we share the daily challenges we face.  Challenges with the system, challenges with schedules, challenges with behaviors.

Another case in point – How many of you were familiar with RAD before getting your first RADlet?  What about ODD?  When you were pursuing foster/adopt did anyone (other than the brief mention in PRIDE or MAPP) tell you about what it’s really like dealing with attachment issues and Medicaid and birthparents and everything else? 

I’m not blaming anyone here – some things you just have to learn through experience.  I also know that we try to defend our kids and their potential by sugarcoating the realities in the system – we don’t want other people to discount what our kids (or those yet to find permanency) are capable of in the future.  It's as if we’re fighting against the foster child stereotype – you know the one that says foster children are violent, disrespectful, out of control and generally damaged goods – and in doing so we fail to say that all of our kids display some of these characteristics from time to time because of their history.  The truth is foster children struggle to make sense of the world in light of their past – Can they trust?  Should they attach?  Will they heal? – and as a result we foster parents are not afforded an easy life.  We end up parenting differently, using different discipline techniques, carefully choosing activities and therapists and doctors and schools and these differences are not just us being crazy they are essential to giving our children the best chance to heal and live a healthy life in the future.

So no – it isn’t easy.  If you plan to foster and/or adopt you cannot expect to have a “normal” parenting experience.  Our kids are not all permanently damaged beyond repair, but they do carry scars and those scars hurt.  They come to us in various stages of injury (physical and developmental) and in various stages of healing.  Some can heal “easily” with the soap and bandage approach provided by a stable, loving family.  Others have deeper wounds and less-developed immune systems that later require an entire wound management clinic in the form of residential treatment.  Some days are easy and happy and you go to bed smiling.  Other days you’re grasping at straws, counting the milliseconds to bed-time, eager for a new day. 

And yet we take the next placement – happily, gladly – in anticipation of all the challenge and all the potential the child will bring because at our core we understand the real truth that we need to communicate.  How much greater the testimony if we were completely honest.  Maybe "outsiders" would see we aren't substantially different than they are and that they too could experience what we have.

It is hard, sometimes uncomfortably, and often WE TOO feel like “we can’t do it” – WE DO IT ANYWAY.  Because saying yes is better than the alternative.  We know that the little joys we celebrate are worth it – the times when our non-verbal children say their first word or when our RADlet chooses better behavior and ends the rage just a bit more quickly than she usually does.  And we know that when we say yes that’s one (or 2 or 3 or 5) more children who have the chance to heal instead of being left on the side of the road of life as damaged goods.  We believe that it’s worth it.

It is worth it.

So that is my new truth: WE DO IT ANYWAY.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Social Security

Though it has been 6-months since our daughter's adoption day I had not yet taken the trip to the social security office to get her new social security card complete with a new number.  I had plenty of excuses all supported by the fact that there aren't very many reasons a 2-year old would need a social security card.  Her old number worked well enough for the things I needed it for and lazy ol' mie just didn't feel like going through the trouble to get a new one just yet.

That is until this past Monday.  I gathered all my documents including her ginormous folder with her entire file from CPS, her adoption decree, and her new birth certificate with none other than yours truly as mother, and found the courage to go down to fight the good fight.  I'd heard so many stories of social security office workers not cooperating in issuing a new number that I really didn't want to deal with the hassle.  Unfortunately our tax situation has become extremely complicated and to fix it I need to get her name changed on her card, and so the journey began.

The first office the website directed mie to was in a really bad part of town.  The second was 35 miles away.  I was sure there was a closer one in a neighborhood where I had a better chance of surviving and sure enough after a little digging and playing with the tool I found the best of both worlds.  After a short drive I found myself sitting in the waiting room with all of 3 other people ahead of mie.  Yet another reason we love Texas instead of California.

I was nervous sitting in that waiting room and when I got called out of the special waiting area to the main lobby I was even more worried that I would find one of the dreaded naysayers rather than a helpful, friendly face.

"I need your identification and your daughter's"
"Will the birth certificate work? I forget which one is the identification.  The adoption decree?"

I start to hand it to her...

"The adoption decree will work, or the immunization record, or (insert 10 more things here)".

"Uh that's ok - here's the adoption decree."

After answering lots of questions and giving her more support she asked the critical questions I was waiting for:

 "Does she know she's adopted?"
"Are either of her adoptive parents her step-parent?  Grandparent?"

Then some more documentation and more typing on her end.

Then she asked two more important questions:

Do you realize the information you are providing will be used to obtain a new social security card for your daughter?

Under penalty of perjury do you attest that the information you are providing is accurate to the best of your knowledge?

Then she gave mie my receipt and said:

"Because you answered no on those questions (the first two) your daughter will be getting a new social security number."

And that was it!  No arguing, fighting, or hopping from window to window to find a helpful individual.

I thanked her profusely.

I should get her card in 2 weeks, they said.  We'll see if it actually has a new number...

a punk, a pumpkin and a peanut

I'm linked up today with Thankful Thursday at a Punk, a Pumpkin, and a Peanut.  Come and join the fun!