Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - Dr. Mie

In case you missed it, I successfully defended my dissertation on October 18th, finally ending my official status as "grad student" that I've hung onto since 2005.  It took mie 7 1/2 years to get a Masters & Ph.D. while working full-time (with at least 5 job changes), giving birth once, adopting once, and parenting 12 others among many, many other life events (like identifying & working on infertility and everything that happened as chronicled in the "one year ago today" series).  

This whole process of finishing feels so strange in many ways.  I went through school for so long.  I had this goal of completing a Ph.D. for a LONG time.  I worked at it.  Several times I wanted to quit.  The process is so nebulous that aside from signing up for and completing the classes that are clearly defined (and not all are) the rest of it you have to figure out as you go so I've spent time wandering the lost forest of doctoral work never quite knowing exactly what the next step is or what it will take to finish.  When you start you know about the dreaded "Dissertation" and just like any final step it seems impossible and is equally scary.  It has been hanging over my head (along with the goal and all the work involved in completing the degree) for 7 1/2 years!  It has been a major stresser in my life.  I've desperately wanted to quit several times.  My husband and I have fought at times, not necessarily about school but as a result of it.  I've sacrificed sleep.  I've sacrificed time with my kiddos.  It has been hard.

I finished coursework in Spring 2011 and took about a year off just enjoying NOT doing schoolwork.  The stress of having school still hanging over mie was a heavy weight and combined with a peer's graduation it helped motivate mie to actively finish the rest of the degree process this past spring.  I got in gear.  In a matter of 4 weeks or so I finished my comprehensive exams (writing over 100 pages in 2 weeks while working full-time and parenting) and I proposed my dissertation.  For the next 4 months I collected and analyzed data then wrote the rest of my dissertation (ended up being approx. 145 pages).  It was a LOT of work.  Then after getting the approval of my major professor to proceed another professor on my committee said I needed to start over.  With 3 weeks left to my dissertation defense.  That was defeating.  For the next 10 days I tried to coordinate schedules (while working...) with a professor half way around the world in a different time zone with myself and another professor who was a stickler for her own schedule.  

I got really sick.  4/5 of my kids had birthdays in as many weeks.  I got sick again.  Twice.  I threw a mega birthday party and sent a kid home.  Twice.  I got almost no sleep.  My husband and I decided that if it didn't work now I'd probably stop the program (and give up on my dream).  We just couldn't do it anymore.

So Oct. 18th came.  I made my presentation for 10 minutes.  I answered tough questions for 40 minutes or so.  Then they kicked everyone out of the room to vote.  

They opened the door and said "Doctor?..." indicating I passed.  My committee greeted mie by shaking my hand, saying congratulations, and telling mie how well I did.  That all lasted 60 seconds, tops.  Everyone (school peers who were there to watch) came back in the room and said congrats.  We sat down to do an informal Q&A for another 45 minutes or so.  

....and it was done.  I was done.  School was done.  I was ready to graduate.  I was officially "Dr.".  

All that work, suddenly over.  

The relief and weight off my shoulders is something I can physically feel.  The stress of it all is gone.  My brain works better - it has one less thing to worry about.  I am generally happier.  I feel great.

On the other hand - it feels empty, like "that's it? It's over?"  I don't need or want to be celebrated by others (in fact the congratulations has made mie very uncomfortable) but it feels like there should have been trumpets sounding or some other fanfare to accompany the finale.  In other words, I just can't believe it's done and I'm finally on the other side of this long, long journey.

Usually I'm not really conscious of the fact that I've finished, that I'm now a "Dr.", or of all the hurdles I had to jump over to finish.  But every once in a while I sit back and think "yeah, I did it".  

I don't every want people to call mie Dr. unless it's appropriate for the professional situation.  I'm not someone who's going to walk around introducing myself as "Dr. G...".  I don't need a party or anything else.  This was a personal goal that I desperately wanted to finish and finally have.  

I am, however, looking forward to the first time I get to fill in an anonymous survey somewhere and can check "Dr." or under highest level of education completed "Ph.D." instead of "some graduate school".  

I. Can't. Wait. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - The "empty" home

Our home is now empty.  Of course it's not really empty - we always have our forever kids (God willing!).  (I need to stop and point that out from time to time for myself if not anyone else.)  As foster parents our lives can become centered on when kids come and go and not having foster children can make it feel empty or incomplete but the reality is that our forever kids are wonderful and not at all forgotten.  At all.  Ever.

(I say this while 3,000 miles away from my kiddos right now and I miss them terribly).

All this said - we no longer have any of our foster kiddos.  All of the 3 we brought into our home in August are now gone.  #13 (who I never added to my list of kiddos?  crazy...) left after 3 or 4 weeks.  #12 left in October.  #11 just left last weekend.  This last departure made us very sad.  Though our kiddo went to a good home that loved him very much, we loved him very much too and will miss him.  This family has offered to help us get our kiddos together so they can see each other again and our kiddos are looking forward to it.  I've heard this promise before so we'll have to see how it goes.

So then now our home is "empty".  We are not yet on the list for 2 reasons.  First, we appreciate a break from time to time.  It's nice to spend time as a core family and nurture the relationships with our forever children and between my husband and I.  For us this break needs to be about 2-4 weeks.  Second, this time, we are waiting until we get back in town - my husband and I are on a tropical vacation celebrating our anniversary and we can't take kiddos until we come back.  We'll decide exactly when to get back on the list after we get back home.

Soon we will be waiting for another call, wondering what will happen, who will come to our family, and what that story will look like in the long run for our family.  It's an exciting time.  I'm looking forward to it.

Today though, I'm happy in our wait.  I'm not quite ready to get back into the crazy.  I'm enjoying the time with my hubby and when we get back I assure you I'll be happy to spend time with Logan and Summer.  I can't wait. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012


Letting Go of Mie has hit an amazing milestone.  I have been long-anticipating the 100th follower joining my little corner of the blogosphere and over the past couple months, surprisingly as I've been gone more than I've been here, the number has crept up slowly so that I now have 100 followers!

Thank you to everyone who stops by regularly to read my blog.  I really do hope that it is a blessing to you as it is to me and more importantly that it helps spread the word about adoption and foster care in the lives of normal people like us.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Foster Parent Friday - Notice before removal

Q: How much notice do you get before CPS moves your children in foster care?

A: This is such a big deal for us!  As with all things foster care, it seems nothing is guaranteed but I can provide you with information from our experience.  Seeing as how we're on the eve (?) of an interesting removal, it seems apropo to discuss.

Notice before removal really depends on the case cirucumstances and the reason for removal from the foster home.  I'll bucket them into three types: Emergency, CPS initiated, or Foster-Parent initiated.

In an emergency situation there is no notice.  A situation could be considered an emergency if there is a situation in the foster home that requires immediate removal, if there is an emergency with the child that requires removal, or if the judge orders immediate placement with a relative or birth parents (as in when a case is dismissed, especially unexpectedly).  I know a foster family where the dad broke his neck in an accident - in that case, depending on the circumstances of the placement, CPS might request immediate change of placement.  A foster family might have an inspection or allegation followed by investigation that might require immediate removal of the child (See this for an example).  I suppose there could be situations with the child that requires immediate removal - I can't think of an example but its possible.  Basically what happens is someone dictates there is a need to move the child and then in a few minutes to a couple hours the child is gone.  Sometimes the caseworker simply says to pack there stuff up and it will get picked up or shipped to the child later.  Emergency removals suck for all involved, in my opinion.

CPS initiatied
All of our removals have been CPS initiated.  This is, in my opinion, the best type of removal ou can have, even though it sucks at the time (usually, but not always).  This type is a non-emergency removal.  It is usually driven by a decision to move the child to a kinship placement (relative's home) after an approved homestudy or a return to the people the child was removed from after a successful visit.  In our history, we've had anywhere from  2-10 days official notice prior to removal in these cases.  It *could* happen more quickly than that (especially if the foster parent wants it to).  You *could* have longer official notice, but its not likely.  The reason its not likely is that in this type of situation CPS is saying the child's placement would be better to be with someone else (family usually) and therefore there is a bit of an obligation to get the child to the best placement ASAP.  There are cases where CPS will decide to move the child to another foster home in a non-emergency situation.  I've never experienced that but it would generally be a situation where the foster child has requested to be moved (if they are older), the ad-litem expresses concerns about the current foster home, or CPS generally has concerns about the home.  It also could be caused by a desire to move the child to a foster-to-adopt home rather than a foster-only home if the child is expected to be adoptable at some point in the future.

In our current scenario, #11 is expected to go home sometime soon.  I got word from the ad-litem on Monday that his kinship placement had been approved but even today have not heard from the caseworker.  For reasons I won't get into, we would like him to be moved before Monday if he is going to be removed and therefore we're sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for word of when he'll actually be moved.  It's not looking pretty right now.  I expect we'll either hear that he won't be moved before Monday (which will not be good for him or our family) or that he will be picked up with 30 minutes notice.  Neither one is good.  :(

(Edited to add - after CW threw me under the bus with the ad litem who proceeded to call me on every number she had with an extremely urgent message only to tell me the CW said she couldn't get a hold of me after I had answered her phone call on the first ring...I digress...we arranged for me to transfer #11 to the kin placement tomorrow (Sat) at 10.  We'll miss him greatly but are glad we finally have it worked out.  If you count the time from when the CW told us he was going home until the time he will actually go home it will be 24 hours.)

Foster Parent Initiated
There are times when foster parents initiate a move.  It might be caused by a need for a break.  It might be due to a child wihth behaviors or conditions that the foster parents were unaware of prior to the placement or have come to elarn they are unable to handle.  Maybe the foster parents are quitting foster parent-dom altogether.  In these times foster parents have the ability to request a child be moved to a newhome.  In these cases though, the foster parents usually have a long wait unless all the stars align just right for the CW to move the child quickly.  Usually the contracted agency or the state itself will have rules governing how long they can wait to respond to moving a child (usually 14-30 days) and a foster parent asking for a move can expect to wait the maximum time.  I will say that we experienced this, inadvertantly, one time.  We told the CW that we would need to have the kiddos moved "months from now" when Summer's brother was to be born because we would be outside our ratio.  With that in mind, our caseworker decided it would be better to move them quikcly rather than let them get bonded to us and then have them moved.  It was ony 7 days later that they were moved from our home.  I suppose that is kind of a CPS initiated move and kind of a Foster-parent initatied move.

So there you have it.  A summary of how much notice you get.  On one hand, its not much.  On the other, in foster care land you're always (usually) very aware that the children could be moved at any time.  It;s a constant reality we face.

I pro ised to tell you more about the doctoral stuff and I will.  Just have to get back into the habit of being on the computer for non-work events and that has been difficult.