was 4, her parents started noticing
things that worried them, like the way
she would grit her teeth and growl
when she got mad. She started having
accidents and sucking her thumb. “All
I could think was, here’s this person
that just wants to love life and now she’s
gonna have all these disabilities. ...She’s
gonna end up like her biological mother,”
Karla says. She thought about her older
girls. “When something happens to us,
they’re responsible for her.”
A geneticist at Children’s National
Health System tested Shai in April and
found that while she may have a mild fetal
alcohol spectrum disorder, she did not
have FAS, the most severe form. Karla was
so relieved that she cried. The doctor told
her and Jake that Shai would probably do
fine at a regular public school—she’s now
in kindergarten—but that she would need
an Individualized Education Program
(IEP). “Now I just have to find the right
therapy for her,” Karla says.
Jake and Karla are nervous about what
will happen when Shai and Kobe grow up
and the kids around them start drinking.
When the couple hosted Passover dinner
in April and a family friend handed Kobe
a wine cork to play with, Karla quickly
grabbed it from him. She was afraid he’d
put it in his mouth and taste the alcohol.
“He can’t have that,” she said.
Karla knows that if Shai had stayed
with her biological parents, there’s no
way she would have spent 90 minutes
with a specialist at a really good hospital, because nobody would have taken
her there. She doesn’t understand why
people tell her that what she and Jake
are doing is heroic—what she wants to
say, but doesn’t, is that children born to
addicts deserve a fighting chance, too,
and somebody has to be willing to give
them that chance.
“I would say 90 percent of the people
that I tell that I foster say, ‘Oh my God,
I’ve always wanted to do that,’ ” Karla
says. None of them have, though, and
she understands why. Everything changes
when you have a foster child, so they
contribute in other ways instead, volun-
teering and donating money. But at the
same time, she says, she can’t help but
think, if you want to do it, why don't you?
ON A WEDNESDAY EVENING IN
August, Karla grabs a jug of milk from
the refrigerator, pours it into a bowl
filled with Cheerios, and sets it down
on the island in the kitchen. “Dinner is
served,” she tells Shai, laughing, as if she
has cooked up something fancy.
The family rarely eats together during
the week, except on Fridays, when Karla
prepares a big meal and bakes challah for
Shabbat dinner. Most nights the younger
kids eat first. Kobe’s already had some
leftover pasta, Cheez-It crackers (his
favorite) and sliced strawberries, and
now he’s eyeing Shai’s cereal.
“Mine is delicious,” Shai says before
passing the bowl to her brother so she
can get back to her toys.
“Mommyyyy!” Kobe says as he takes P H O T
Kobe, and Hannah
used to insist on
helping their parents
with overnight feedings when Kobe was
a newborn. The twins,
13, now volunteer
with Comfort Cases, a
Rockville-based nonprofit that supports
children in foster
Danielle (left) and Hannah—pictured with Shai at a
Bar Mitzvah in 2011—started to think of the baby girl
as their sister soon after she came to stay with them.
They’d fight over who got to hold her.