In 2006, a few days before Passover, the phone rang. It was an employee of the State foster care agency. As a foster mother, I had previously taken care of two Jewish girls who had been placed in my home. I knew what to expect when the agency called, and stood with bated breath, waiting to hear what the "worker," as the employees are called, had to say.

"We're trying to place an eight-year-old Jewish girl," she began, "and you're one of only two Jewish foster parents within a hundred miles."

I remember the wonder in her eyes At first I couldn't imagine how I could take in a child at that moment, since I still had to finish Passover preparations. But I couldn't say no to a Jewish child who needed a home.

I remember the wonder in Nancy's* eyes when she was brought to me just two days before Passover. She looked around, wide-eyed but accepting, at a sight she had never seen before—a kitchen prepared for Passover with the cabinets, stove, refrigerator, and counters swathed in glittering foil to protect them from chametz (leavened grains or foods that are derived from them). I explained the kitchen's appearance to Nancy and told her the kitchen was kosher and that we wouldn't be eating any leavened foods all the days of Passover. Nancy knew about Passover, but, coming from a family that was not observant, she had never heard of chametz. I was impressed when she easily agreed and took it in stride.

My heart went out to her as we unpacked the few clothes that she had with her. As was the case with my two previous foster children, the clothes were in sorry shape. Though Nancy was eight years old, her undergarments and some of the other clothes were the size for a five-year-old and the various shirts and pants were blotted with stains and unwearable. This, I later found out, was the result of Nancy's grandmother's being mentally ill and unable to care for her properly.

The worker soon told me why Nancy was taken out of her home: Wanda, her mother, had gone to jail. The police had then investigated Nancy's living conditions to make sure they were acceptable. They weren't. Nancy's father was very ill and living in a hospice. Wanda and Nancy had been living with Wanda's mother, who could not care for Nancy by herself. With Wanda in jail, Nancy had to be removed from the house. The police took her with the few clothes that I found in her backpack, and she came under the jurisdiction of the foster care agency. That was when the agency called me.

Unable to sleep, she would grab me and rock in my arms After a couple of weeks, Nancy began to open up to me. Especially at night, after I tucked her into bed, she talked about her mother. She had a picture of her mother and her when she was a toddler. One night she wailed, "My Mommy's in jail!" She began crying in bed night after night, "Mommy, don't leave me!" over and over. It turned out that this wasn't the first time Nancy had been separated from her mother. Once, her grandmother had kicked Nancy and her father out of the house. He took her to the Midwest and then brought her back after a few months. Nancy had lived a chaotic life in her eight short years.

At one point, I asked her if she would like a Hebrew name. Would she like the name "Naama," which means "pleasant"? She said she would. Unable to sleep, she would grab me and rock in my arms. When I tried to pry myself away, she would laugh and say, "You're not going anywhere!" and hold on tighter.

I asked the worker if I could contact Nancy's grandmother, and it turned out that the woman was willing. Nancy and her grandmother or uncle would talk on the phone once a week and the child had weekly visits with her mother, who was allowed out of jail to meet her daughter at the foster care agency's office.

I decided that it would be best for Nancy to finish the year at her public school, a few towns away, where her friends were, instead of switching her to the school in my town. The agency had paid for transportation for a previous foster child who had lived with me to go to her school in the town she had come from some 15 miles away, so I thought they would do the same now. But this time, they wouldn't, so I set out to find a way to get her there and back each day. The public school agreed to pay for a van, but I would have to arrange it. I spent a lot of time on the phone at work trying to set up the van.

Then I had to enroll her in an after-school program that the agency would pay for and the van could take her to. My bus home from work wouldn't get back to my town until 6:00 p.m. each day, exactly when the after-school program closed. This meant that, once the bus dropped me off, I had to make a mad rush every day to pick Nancy up. And I was greeted with something I hadn't expected—severe temper tantrums. Every night I would race in my car to get Nancy so she wouldn't suffer from my being late, and, in return, I was often met by rage that she had no desire to hide.

She didn't like the after-school program. She came from a different background than the other girls, and she felt that she didn't have any friends there, but there was no other program that the agency would pay for. Nancy would get into the back of my car, and start screaming and kicking the back of the seats with all her might. I later asked a counselor at the after-school program to help Nancy make friends, but she was still unhappy and often played the same drama, even refusing to get out of the car once we reached home.

At home, Nancy would kick the wall or furniture or car with her shoes and scream at the top of her lungs, oblivious to anyone hearing. During one tantrum, my neighbor came downstairs and said it sounded as if I were hitting Nancy and threatened to call the police. I explained that Nancy was a foster child who was very emotionally distraught and I gave her the number of the foster care agency, so she could check. Thank G‑d, she was able to get in touch with them. Though it sounded violent, I was actually doing my utmost to take care of Nancy.

I realized that, though Nancy had problems, she was still a Jew, G‑d's treasured child, whom He had put into my hands to care for. I wanted to treat her as if she were my own child, so I sought help for Nancy. I spoke to Jewish Family Services and they said they would arrange for the foster care agency to pay for therapy.

Once we met the therapist, I told her about Nancy's severe tantrums, but every time I brought Nancy, she was very soft-spoken, so the therapist didn't seem to believe me. Outside of the office, the tantrums continued and got even worse, with Nancy purposely banging her head on a chair and once threatening to commit suicide.

One evening when we were sitting in the therapist's waiting room, I said "no" to Nancy about something and she began to have a tantrum. She started screaming, dropped to the floor, clamped her arms around my ankles, and wouldn't let go. When the therapist heard the commotion, she came out and saw, and she finally believed me. I told her that this happened almost every day. I was so grateful when she made an appointment for Nancy to see a child psychiatrist so she could get anti-depressants. Within a few weeks, the medication started working and Nancy was like a different girl, calmer, with even moods. I was very grateful.

On my birthday in 2006, I brought Nancy to the Ohel, the resting place of the Rebbe. When I come out of the Ohel, I always watch the video of the Rebbe speaking and giving advice. We sat down and watched the Rebbe, and I was awed to hear him say that when a Jewish woman establishes a home, she should be a shining example to women and girls who are her Shabbat guests, girls who did not have an observant upbringing, so they will observe it in the same spirit. I knew that the Rebbe was talking to me, since Nancy came from a non-observant home! How did it happen that this particular video played when we were there? It happens all the time when I go to the Ohel, that what I'm going through in my life the Rebbe talks about on the video.

Shabbat was an oasis of calmOne night, Nancy and I were driving in the car. She asked me if the Rebbe had said that a Jew should not hate someone, but that he can dislike him. I said, no, that the Rebbe had said we must love every Jew as ourselves. That night, late, I was very tired, but pushed myself to read the next day's Torah portion with Rashi, as I did every day. In verse 19:18 of the Torah portion, (Acharei-Kedoshim), I read the words, "V'ahavta l're'acha kamocha," "Love your fellow as yourself," which was what we had just been talking about in the car. I felt as if G‑d was revealing to me that He makes everything happen, that He made Nancy ask me about this on the same day that I read it in the Torah portion, as a reward for my pushing myself to learn my daily studies, even though I was exhausted.

Shabbat was an oasis of calm and it was amazing to see Nancy adjusting to it without missing a beat. Early on, I had explained to her that we have a beautiful Shabbat meal every Friday night, and we walk to shul on Shabbat day, go to Torah classes, and spend time with friends. We don't turn the lights on and off, or go in the car, or cook. She just accepted each new mitzvah as if she'd been doing them all her life. I explained to her the importance of keeping kosher and how the dairy sink was only for dairy dishes and the meat sink was only for meat. She never protested and kept the kosher laws very carefully. I gave her a kosher lunch and snacks to take to school every day.

On Fridays, her classmates would have pizza and I would send her to school with double wrapped kosher pizza that they could warm up for her. We explained to her teachers that she was now keeping kosher, and Nancy was happy to tell her classmates all about her new "diet." In fact, she took to keeping kosher so well that once, when we forgot to put the pizza in her backpack, she called me from school to ask me to bring it to her. I was so proud of her that she didn't give in and eat the non-kosher pizza! I drove all the way to the school, and brought the pizza right to her classroom. She glowed with happiness when she saw me. She was thrilled that I was really there for her! I, in turn, was delighted that she was proud of being Jewish and didn't want to eat non-kosher food.

My rabbi, who lived in another town, kindly invited the two of us to stay overnight at his home for a Shabbat. Nancy behaved well at the Friday night meal. We continued going to the rabbi's home for different Shabbats and I would take Nancy with me to classes at our Chabad synagogue there some evenings. I knew that Nancy had connected when one Shabbat morning we went into the shul and she kissed the mezuzah and said, "Home sweet shul."

That summer, Nancy's mother got out of jail and, therefore, Nancy could go home. This was good news, because it's always best for a child to live with her parents as long as they're healthy enough to take care of her properly. I packed up her things, and after camp the worker took her. I was moved by mixed feelings about her leaving, but reminded myself that I was a foster mother to help Jewish children, not to give a gift of a child to myself.

I called Nancy's mother to try to become friendly with her and to keep Nancy in touch with her Judaism. Wanda was very appreciative that I had taken care of her daughter, and fortunately we hit it off. Wanda was often at work, so later I called Nancy's grandmother and asked if they would like to put Nancy in our Chabad Camp Gan Israel for the rest of the summer. She asked Wanda, who agreed. The grandmother needed help filling out the financial aid forms, so I went to her home to help her.

She asked me to drive with her and Nancy the first day of camp, to show her the way so she could take her in the future. I met them at the grandmother's house. In the car, along the way, Nancy explained to her grandmother what kind of kosher food she needed for camp, as if she had been keeping kosher all her life!

Nancy kept in touch with me that summer, calling me every so often. I invited Wanda to a Friday night Shabbat meal and she came, dressed up with respect for the holy Shabbat. Neither of us said a word about her having been in jail. At the meal, it was moving to hear her talk about being Jewish, how much it meant to her.

The following year, Wanda wanted Nancy to come to Camp Gan Israel again and she called and asked me to help her fill out the financial aid papers. As she was filling out the application, she told me that Nancy's Hebrew name is Naama. I told her that was the same name that I had given her when she lived with me.

That year, before Chanuka, I called Wanda and invited her and Nancy to the Chanuka party at the shul. What a sweet, calm girl Nancy was when she came to shul with her mother, and she had chosen to wear a dress, to be modest, and out of respect for the shul and the holiday.

It has been three years since Nancy went home to her mother. I haven't seen them for a long time, but I think of them, and hope that they know that G‑d has been watching over them all along. I've never given up on them, and I recently called Wanda and asked if she would like to come again for a Friday night Shabbat meal—and she said, "Yes!"

* Not her real name. All names in the story have been changed.